Monday, May 31, 2010

Evanston, Illinois

Paris in the jungle?
This appears to show the Pyramids at Giza, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Eiffel Towere in a jungle.
mural by L bridge
castle mural by L bridge

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Auckland Triennial & Parnell

heart graffiti on fenceChinese lantern in parkThe next day was nicer - well sporadically, at least, the sun appeared. I decided visit the inner-city suburb of Parnell, which the guide books laud for its shopping, and café culture, and the art galleries. I didn't like Parnell as much: it looked cute, but was actually pretty chichi, and the prices were extreme. It was rather Yorkdale. Though, there were some great little galleries (where I will never ever be able to afford to shop, but can happily browse) and design shops. I didn't get any good photos. These photos are from either side of the neighbourhood.

wheatpastetui sculpture Next, I proceeded to the Art Gallery, which happened to be having major renovations. Some of their collection, luckily, was nearby. I followed the signs to where exhibits were temporarily being held. The nice young man (with thick Japanese accent - it was a real pleasure to speak with someone who did not remark on my accent) explained that the exhibit was very contemporary with installations and video work, in case I wanted more traditional art, I would have to go to another building. This was said in such a way, it was clear that visitors were sometimes vocal about their disappointment with contemporary art, when they expected pretty pictures, but this was fine with me. It turns out this was actually the Auckland Triennial, and there were exhibits in several galleries and buildings around town. So, I let that set my agenda for the day and explored the city by going from venue to venue. Apart from the first venue, run by the Auckland Art Gallery, other venues were free. The art struck me as of variable quality, but I did enjoy some of it a great deal. After all my walking, I was happy to sit and watch several short films in various places.

redAlbert Parktree Albert park

This is Albert Park - very formal and English, except for crazy local flora. Also, one cannot name everything after Queen Victoria. Occasionally Albert needs to get a nod.

K road
K roadgraffiti near K
graffiti by shedsgraffiti by sheds
graffiti by shedsgraffiti by sheds
Queen St Auckland

After I had viewed the exhibits, I had some time, so I went in a few shops. I had a 9:30 pm flight so I thought that if I left the hotel at 5:00 pm I would have plenty of time. No such luck. It took me one and a half hours to drive to the nearby airport, due to a) crazy traffic for a smallish city and b) the most bizarre route to the airport I have ever seen. I followed the road signs all the way and the little airplane symbol lead me on a most circuitous route, through big streets, highways and residential areas. I couldn't figure it out, but it got me to the airport. The airline requested I be there three hours in advance for an international flight (which seemed extreme, but I didn't want to press my luck). The car rental place was closed, so it took some doing to figure out what to do. The information people at the airport were a great help though, and I left my keys with them.

I had to go through security and then wait, of course. But, when it came time to board, apparently that meant it was time to go through yet another security. It's been a long time since I've flown to the US from a country other than Canada - apparently this is normal now. It was a long wait, but to get through two sets of security, I more-or-less did need to be there three hours in advance. The flight was reasonably comfortable: I approve of Air New Zealand. The seats were large and the staff were friendly... unlike most airlines.

In LA, I got myself to the United terminal where I had to deal with the distinctly unfriendly United staff. They made me check my bag. Then, the flight was delayed for an hour. So, I got to Chicago pretty late... and then had to wait for my luggage. I took a cab to Evanston and got in by 2 am, to be greeted by Sammy the cat. I've been here since then, visiting Lady Redjeep and exploring Evanston, Skokie (by accident) and Chicago. I fly home tomorrow. But now, Lady Redjeep and I are headed downtown.

Auckland Museum, K' Road & Ponsonby

cyclops grade I arrived in Auckland about 3:00 pm. I got myself a hotel room downtown where I could park the car, and get internet access, to catch up with the world. I went out on foot, in the evening to get my bearings and some food. In the morning it was overcast and rainy, so I thought I would go to the Auckland Museum. I thought I would take in the Maori Cultural Performance. I didn't make it to Rotorua, where you can participate in a traditional feast and see the long houses, so I thought even if it were contrived, in a museum, it would be a chance to learn and see something I wouldn't elsewhere. So, I walked over to the Domain, a large park where the museum is found. I had an umbrella, so I was okay. If I learned anything living in Victoria, BC, it is to carry an umbrella. Though, the rain and the gloom wasn't ideal for shooting photographs.

swan Maori architectureAuckland is built on some 50 odd extinct volcanoes - and is not far from possibly active ones. It is very hilly. You can recognize it because the buildings all have the awnings I saw throughout New Zealand, and are on a steep grade. You are perpetually walking up and down. It is ringed by inner-city suburbs. Technically only the downtown core of skycrappers is Auckland proper, but the city effectively spawls as far as is possible on an isthmus, and houses a quarter of the country's population (about 1.2 million).

Maori architecture Auckland museumAt the museum, I paid for the tour, which I could have skipped, but also the Maori performance. The museum contains exhibition halls for Polynesian culture with beautiful wood carvings, natural history, volcanoes (of course) and a war museum. After going through all of these quickly with a tour, I saw the performance, which was actually quite good. They were excellent singers. It was song and dance, and demonstrations of traditional games with poi (balls on strings) and various types of sticks, with banter and information. It ended with the Haka, a postural dance traditionally used before entering battle to intimidate one's enemies. It involves chanting, slapping limbs, stamping feet, stiking out tongues and bulging eyes. A version of the Haka has been co-opted by the national rugby team, the All Blacks. So, while not entirely authentic, it has entered the culture as a whole, regardless of heritage - and I have to say it's quite effective. There were images of New Zealand troops performing the Haka during WWII and the Vietnam war in the war museum upstairs. I bet it even serves its purpose on the rugby field. Variations on the Haka had more peaceful uses.

view from Auckland museumview from Auckland museum
the Domain033032

in the Domain lily padI left the museum and checked out the Wintergarden in the Domain before continuing along the funky Karangahape Road, known universally as K' Road. It was a pretty ethnically diverse neighbourhood with also sorts of different shops, cafés and bars, and it lead to Ponsonby, one of the inner-city suburbs. I quite liked Ponsonby. There was great fashion, interesting shopping, a few little galleries, and lots of restaurants.

K roadgraffii character
awnings + cookie
The Cookie Time monster was everywhere.


New Zealand is proud of their traditional anti-nuclear stance. Aotearoa is the Maori word for New Zealand, the land of the low-lying cloud. Aotearoa is supposed to be the greatest creation of the god Maui. The North Island is a fish, with Wellington harbour as its mouth, and the South Island Maui's canoe.

Auckland architectureviewAuckland road
Ponsonby, Auckaland
libraryAuckland mural + tower
ghetto blaster monkey AucklandAuckland skyline

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Chicago, yesterday

Art Institute Lion with Blackhawks Helmet

So this is out of order, because I haven't told you about Auckland yet, but I found this pretty hilarious. This is one of the lions outside the Art Institute of Chicago wearing a Blackhawks helmet in support of his team. On the el, men were discussing selling a kidney for tickets to Game 7.

Lion & Hawks