One of my favourite things about visiting San Francisco is simply walking the streets and part of the attraction of the streets is the street art found on buildings all over the city. Mission District is the most famous and probably has the most murals but I stumbled on these contrasting efforts in the Tenderloin and Haight areas, respectively.
This weekend I/we:
- Booked a flight and hotel for San Francisco. Barring volcanic ash, I leave Thursday.
- Started building the wooden drummer model kit I picked up at the Science Museum in London. I like the idea of these and like having them in the house but can’t help feeling a little concerned that it means I’ve just got too much spare time on my hands.
- Wandered into town on Saturday and discovered another crazy Zurich shop, dedicated coincidentally to modelling but paper modelling. Paper planes, paper model houses (entire model towns, in fact), paper theatres depicting well-known scenes from popular plays, even paper coffee pots. I was very tempted.
- Watched a late-night showing of “Mulholland Falls”. I’d seen this before, one very very late night at someone’s house just after finishing a run of a musical, however I fell asleep towards the end and have never known what happened at the end. Having now seen the complete film, I’m none the wiser. Some wonderful scenes but overall it wasn’t a repeat of the “Magnolia” experience (also at Xenix – great cinema) I’d hoped for and walking home in the rain at 2am wasn’t much fun, either.
- Enjoyed lunch with friends/colleagues at Bohemia.
- Checked out the design and fashion weekend in and around Langstrasse. After a monster brunch we only had time to explore one small stretch of Josefstrasse but did uncover some very cool shops, like einzigart, that I might never have otherwise found. They’re the kind of places I’ve been visiting based on the Prime Zurich Guide but I reckon now there’s far more of them than I thought. Great for idling away a Saturday afternoon and with the prices it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever actually spend any money. Though I’m sure it means society will soon crumble (the seventh day in Switzerland is for church, family, quiet reflection and skiing), it was very nice having some shops open on a Sunday.
- Visited the Rieterpark’s “Fiesta Mexicana”, an outdoor festival dedicated to everything Mexican. This was presumably scheduled to tie in with the Mexican exhibition at the museum that I visited last Sunday. Funnily enough, I did vow to return once the weather improved but, unfortunately, today the weather was even worse. We had one very nice cocktail before deciding the whole thing was a little ridiculous (tragi-comic, perhaps) and trudged home through the rain.
I still did not cut the grass, though I did finally find the lawnmower in the basement. With my upcoming trip to San Francisco, I now have a deadline (of sorts – maybe they’ll kick me out and I won’t have to worry).
This May Day (Labour Day) weekend,
- I saw Dianne Reeves at the Tonhalle. If I had to sum her up in one word, it would be “energy”. A wide range of styles, from skat through gospel through standards. She sings her band introductions, she recounts (with great fondness) being directed by George Clooney in “Good Night and Good Luck” and recounts some of the odd things she’s seen in Zurich. The band was excellent, too, especially their opening number.
- I enjoyed the “holiday”, which unfortunately fell on a Saturday this year; Switzerland is unique among civilised countries in not bumping holidays falling on a weekend onto the following Monday. 2010 is the worst year this decade as 2nd January, May Day, 1st August (Switzerland’s National Day), Christmas Day and St. Stephen’s Day are all lost to the weekend. 2011 won’t be much better.
- Mostly stayed in because of the miserable weather. This meant I avoided the riots on Helvetiaplatz, which I was really curious to see. This subject sparked a few conversations at work; a co-worker mistook our chattering for concern and thought it funny that “a couple of Irish guys are afraid of a Zurich riot”. Maybe next year I’ll be more energetic but I can’t help feeling the most dangerous activity will be little more than somebody crossing the road at a red light.
- Attended a friend’s housewarming party. This was very enjoyable. I was more than a little impressed by his interior decoration skills and vowed to (finally) hang up my pictures.
- Installed Ubuntu 10. It’s black and purple but at this stage I’ve basically completely stopped following what’s changing beneath the desktop so I’m just happy that it installed without incident in 15 minutes flat and every piece of hardware works fine; beyond that, I don’t know what else to say.
- I still did not cut the grass…because of the rain. It leapt about 50cm while I was away from Zurich and is now threatening to rise over the hedge, alerting the housing company to this rogue tenant. Perhaps it will continue to rain all summer and I won’t have to bother.
- Against all expectations (that’s another story), I really enjoyed the “The Time of Angels” Doctor Who double episode. I like the new doctor and really like the new assistant but still thought the first few episodes were pretty dull; these two episodes, however, were excellent. I chanced upon this blog post from The Guardian which makes me want to chase down a couple of other episodes from the same writer.
- Watched the remainder of the snooker world championships.
- Visited the Mexican exhibition at the Rietberg Museum, along with some of the permanent exhibition. I felt the exhibits were very good but there was very little in the way of explanation, so I had a ton of questions. I really hate when audio guides cost extra (especially when you’ve already paid a 16 CHF entry fee) because I err on the side of caution and avoid, as I don’t like carrying them around and almost always lose interest with them anyway. I especially liked the Mexican fire god, a grumpy hapless character squatted with a coal bucket perched on his head, the Chinese ink drawings and some of the African statues and masks. I didn’t even see half of the permanent collection or the (fantastic looking) grounds, so will have to return.
- Finally updated this blog.
Before I wrote this is it felt like just a long and uneventful weekend (which was fine, considering it’s been a few weeks since I was in Zurich) but I guess it wasn’t so bad.
Man walks out onto stage, sits down at the keyboard, plays the entire Goldberg Variations from beginning to end, gets up and walks back in again.
At least, I imagine that’s what happened: I missed the first couple of variations and, being new here and all, opened the wrong door into the church in – of course – the noisiest manner possible. A lovely church, great playing, no asking price; a good night! Part of a little-advertised Bach season at the Bühlkirche that I only learnt about because I walk past it every morning and spotted the poster in the nick of time.
A little bundle of joy appeared on the doorstep this morning minutes before leaving the house for a weekend in Amsterdam. Sure, the management company charges 50 CHF for a few postbox and doorbell name tags but then they go and do this.
I hope to slowly work my way through my copy of “Prime Guide Zurich 2008/2009″, which I picked up at Pile of Books (#92) a few weeks back. This afternoon, thanks to an early furniture delivery – which unexpectedly included delivery – I had time to visit a couple more:
- #1 – 1000 Objekte
A nice shop to wander about for a little while admiring the design (both of the shop and the objects) but the prices are stereotypical Zurich “who on earth buys this stuff?” material. Of course, while I was there, somebody was actually buying this stuff.
- #30 – Chocomotion
A beautifully designed small chocolate shop with a central circular display of well chosen chocolates from around the world. There’s also a tiny café which I was devastated to discover serves only the “real chocolate melted in hot milk” variety rather than the true pure melted chocolate variety; albeit, the best I’ve ever tasted. When I ask for some chocolate with ginger in, I’m presented with at least four totally unrelated options: ginger pieces rolled in chocolate, ginger paste in chocolate bars, raw cocoa flakes mixed with ginger…
Again, I’m reminded that there are some beautiful streets here in the old part of town, such as Spiegelgasse, dotted in the guide with about a dozen markers for cute interesting little independent shops like the above pair. Of course, being interesting cute little independent shops like the above pair, they close at 4pm on Saturday. Next weeekend: get out earlier.
If, like me, you grew up watching bad (albeit classic) 1980s genre movies like “Robocop”, Detroit was the ultimate dystopian city of the future: gangs of marauding vigilantes roamed the streets; ordinary people eking out an existence hoping to avoid the trouble around them for one more day; mega-corporations peopled by amoral executives in glassy offices get rich off the chaos.
Now, the future looks a lot different. Could there be a clearer example of how the energy-strapped 21st century will turn out than that swathes of vast industrial power-house Detroit is reverting to agricultural use? Transport yourself back to 1945 and compare Detroit with Hiroshima: one of America’s largest and richest cities behind much of the industrial might that won the second world war vs. a city literally lying in ruins. Jump forward 60 years to 2009 and Detroit is de-evolving to the agricultural era while Hiroshima is a thriving mini-metropolis with bullet trains arriving every 15 minutes from Tokyo, world’s largest city.
Richard Heinberg devotes a chapter in “The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies” outlining a seemingly-prophetic future in which energy concerns precipitate a drastic fall in population levels: a self-correction mechanism providing a more realistic counterpoint to predictions of never-ending population growth.
Rather than the doomed combination of an inexorable rise in numbers and cultural vacuum depicted in the movies, perhaps Detroit as the biggest (138 square miles vs. San Francisco’s 47) and earliest is simply the first real-world example of the eventual, benign, fate of many large cities: smaller, compact, partly self-sufficient cities. A number of excellent articles have recently appeared to discuss this “shrinking cities” movement, with Detroit as the study – worth reading: