The “Inequality within the Toe Hierarchy?  A Little Toe Speaks the Truth” lecture will be in four weeks.

As you can see, the website has a new look.  Yep.  That’s simply because I wanted a new aesthetic, not because I couldn’t figure out this coding thing and then asked my friend Jon what I should do and he suggested changing the theme. Nope.   It’s not this at all.  Not at all.  Just wanted a new look.

So, welcome, to the first day of your exciting journey into Stoylstivek University’s Graduate MBA two year program specializing in Orthopedic  Medical  Footware Sales.  For our first day, I’d like everyone to go around and introduce themselves.  Say a few things about who you are, where you’re from.  Please try to not get off track.  There are 170 people in this class and we only meet for five hours once every six weeks, so let’s use our time wisely, guys, okay?

I’ll go first.  As you know, by looking at my stylish glasses, and my professional-yet-cool outfit, which consists of jeans, black boots, a white shirt and this my only fitted suit jacket and possibly by these large circles of sweat under my arms, I’m your professor. Also, you will know I’m your professor by how many times I say use the words “inherent tension” and also by how many times I tell you that you don’t have to call me Dr. but you can use my first name.  And, also how many times I talk about the PhD program that I was in for last twelve years of  my life. Also, you’re probably thinking, she’s not just any professor, she’s a cool professor.  And, yeah, I can’t deny that!

You can’t wear cool orthopedic/academic-chic clothes in Iceland, guys.

So, I guess to really understand me, you’ll probably like to know about my recent trip to Iceland.

Oh, you in the first row, do you have a question?

No? You’re just reading your textbook on arch support  Ah.  Okay. Oh you have a question about arch support?  That’s gonna have to wait.

I thought you might have your hand up because you wanted to know why I chose Iceland. So, I’m sure others have this question too, so it’s simple really: the WOW airline flight from Toronto was pretty cheap.

It ended up being an awesome airline.  On the flight, you lose a little bit of a weight because there is no food or drink included in your ticket.  This is obviously a large benefit.  Also, the seat leather is this really beautiful pink. I spent the flight sleeping because I was kind of hungry and didn’t have a lot of energy to do anything else.

So, when I woke up, I perused the in-flight magazine and noticed the ads were really progressive about body image: all different sized people.  I took this as a sign that my trip was going to be awesome.  And it was!

Oh, nope, I’m not quite ready for the next introduction, Shelly, just give me another few half hours.

Van at farm in Svinafelli.  Camping is about $15/person/night.  So, it’s much cheaper than hotels or airbnbs.
I gave a fellow traveler his hiking boots here when he forgot them. That’s just the kind of thing I do.
Lava fields
Van parked in morning coffee spot near Þingvellir park.
Van can’t go on F-roads, but the ring road loop has really smooth roads and you can pull off to hike into the crater-like terrain.

So, as you probably know, Vincent and I booked a camper-van.  I have posted some photos here on this powerpoint for your viewing pleasure.  This is actually our first objective on the syllabus.  So, you may want to take notes.

I can’t quite explain how awesome the camper-van experience was.  Really, like many of Vincent’s and my common decisions, we did this to save money on food.   We knew that food in Iceland is pretty expensive, so we reasoned if we could bring granola bars, beef jerky, chocolate covered blueberries, tea, coffee and nuts, we’d be okay.  We were right!

One day we did go out to a restaurant.  We were in a seaside town called Hofn and ordered a langoustine sandwich.  When we found out the price, $20,  we felt shock mixed with the  genetic cheapness we inherited from our war time grandparents.  Obviously, we shared it.  The other tourists in the restaurant ordered one each and a beer.  This is like $37.  We assumed they were billionaires.

So, we were still hungry.  We decided we could never go out to dinner after this and the only time we could spend money at restaurants was on beer during happy hour on our last day.  We reasoned that this would be a good cultural experience because we knew pub/cafe life was a cool thing in Iceland.  It was a similar reason to why we went to a hot spring every single day.  Both allowed us to get a feel of Icelandic culture and the hot springs gave us a warm shower.

Icelandic bathing culture is fascinating.  They are so clean.  They don’t look at the sign that says “Please wash without a bathing suit” and assume it doesn’t apply to us, like we do at American hotels.  They actually wash and get really clean.  Also they don’t have a puritan shame of naked bodies, like we Americans do.  This was refreshing.

I will say again, how progressive I think Iceland is in terms of gender.  I read that it’s the number one country economically for women.  They have the lowest pay-wage gap.  This was great news and I really felt it when I was in my bathing suit and not getting annoying weird-vibes from other bathers.  This was a great feeling.

We boiled water for coffee on the stove from the van.

So, our life consisted of getting up at 6am, driving to a different spot, making coffee on the stove and eating some packets of oatmeal or Skyr.  It should be noted that we used our coffee packets from Japan.  Among many other things, the Japanese understand design for coffee.  We felt totally awesome because we not only were in Iceland but we were using items from a recent trip to Japan.  BAM.

So, the van was fun to drive.  I drive a stick-shift here in Buffalo and I was really excited to drive a stick-shift van.  I am really allured by large vehicles.  I have a alternate fantasy version of myself where I drive a pick up truck and am a contractor for home repair.

Was I a little scared to drive the van?  Yes, McKenzie Marlett ’19.  I was.

My strengths in this world are 1. talking to people i don’t know, 2. crow dissection, 3. and of course, an intricate knowledge of feet.

Nope, McKenize, we’re not quite ready to get to the lecture called “Inequality within the Toe Hierarchy?  A Little Toe Speaks the Truth.”  That will be in four week.

So, yeah, I felt kind of scared about driving the van, but then by the time we were in Vik, I felt pretty good about driving.  I felt like the van and I were spiritually connected.  I felt like it understood my need for comfort and wildness.  I felt like it sent me that little arctic fox that I saw while I was skype-ing with my parents.  I felt like the van was on my side.  Always.

Glacier at Svínafellsjökull Glacier. The only rule of this class is: do not go on the glaciers without a guide.

After breakfast, we drove to a cool natural landmark.  We’d hike, take tons of photos, feel the steam of waterfalls on our faces.  We’d eat some beef jerky and then drive to our next town and have a two hour bath in the geo-thermal pools.  Then, later in the day, we’d get to our campsite and make some powdered soup or drink half of a beer.  Or eat some shrimp and cream cheese and gluten free crackers from Bonus.  Then we’d read until about 8pm, when we’d fall asleep dreaming of glaciers whispering sheep-wool secrets of Viking parliaments to one another.

Okay, class dismissed.  We’ll get to your introductions next class.  Don’t forget to follow me on twitter guys!  I just posted a fascinating article on “Post-colonial Ankle Theory.”

If you go to Iceland and want to try a van, get it from Northbound.  You really won’t be disappointed by this small company with a heart of gold.  Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions about what it was like or what you should pack (thermos!)  I’m happy to help.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Oh Já.

Ah góðan daginn, there.  I didn’t see you there.  I’m just practicing some useful Icelandic phrases in my car.

Why did you ask?

Or wait did you just say, “bye?”  You are getting in your car and going to work?

Wait! Let me tell you anyway!  Here I’ll button up your last button of your Nordic sweater and also strategically death hold your cardigan so you cannot escape until I finish this story.  Is this wool?  This is nice .

I’m practicing Icelandic because I’m going to be traveling around Iceland for seven days. What hotels are we staying in?  I know you didn’t ask that but it feels like you want to know from the way you keep unlocking your car as we’re talking.

Well, here’s the trick my love, we aren’t staying in any hotels!  Because our Campervan is a hotel.  Bam!  I’m dropping your keys as if they were a mic.

Oh sorry.  Was that fob expensive?  Eh.  I don’t give a fob.  It was worth it.

Wait, don’t leave–your button is a little tricky, let me just unfasten it and fasten it again.  Your breath smells of  almonds.  Are there almonds around?  I need to eat some of those.  We’ll probably bring a lot of almonds in the van and also beans and rice because it has a cooler and a stove.  Yeah, no big deal.  And we can look up how to go cold water snorkeling in Þingvellir National Park using WIFI!

So,  first we were going to stay in a camper van that did not have any heat or wifi but then I e-mailed Screenshot 2017-07-27 at 9.32.35 AMa company called Northbound and my view of Iceland, campervans and Northbound immediately skyrocketed.  I began to e-mail with the Co-Founder, Arnar, and he allowed me to fulfill my dream of writing a blog in exchange for a nicer van.  This is huge because it gives me purpose and makes me feel valued.

So, I obviously began referring to Arnar, not as the co-founder of a great company, but rather as my “friend from Iceland.”  I would just casually say things like, “Vincent, did you see Arnar’s van?  The duvet looks super nice!  And we can have running water!”  or since I am currently staying in a cottage with my family,  I  would run into an anonymous family member in  the kitchen while making coffee and comment, “Could you hand me the Nespresso cup?  Thanks.  Oh I got an e-mail from Arnar in Iceland, you know my contact slash friend, today.”  This would lead to questions about the campervan.  I conveniently had my computer nearby so I could show them the photos. They were amazed. They thought the van looked cozy and warm.

Screenshot 2017-07-27 at 9.46.00 AMMy  dad seemed most curious about this button–“does it control the heat?”  I don’t know.  But, I will find out.

A million good things have already happened because of this transaction.  For instance, I was speaking with my bank today and said I needed to use my card  to rent a van in Iceland but didn’t want foreign fees.  The representative, Shauna/Shelia, was like “Wow.  Iceland.  Awesome!”  I felt as if I grew closer to Shauna/Shelia in that moment.  Like she was someone I could really trust.  Also, there were no foreign transaction fees.

Oh my gosh, your sweater is being pulled away from my hands!  Oh, I see, you are walking towards your car.   Where did you get this sweater? Iceland?  It looks warm and cozy like something you could crawl inside and roam around glaciers in.

To find out more about campervans in Iceland check out these sites:

Northbound: https://www.northbound.is/

Grand Iceland: http://www.gi.is/

This song will be on our iceland playlist for the trip.  Please let me know of other good Icelandic bands.   Takk fyrir!

The Art of Competitive Travel

Konnichiwa.  I write this to you from a traditional style Japanese room in Kyoto.  You look lovely, as usual.  I like how you have enough hair to put it in a ponytail.  I admire that.  It implies patience.

So, as I was saying, on this, our Skype phone call where I am presenting an informational monologue about my trip: there is an art to travel.  It is the art of strategic competition. The goal is to be the best traveler in your group–the best out of your family, your friends, the best.  If possible, try to be the best traveler at the restaurant, in the shop, in the entire hotel.  People should continuously be impressed by you.  In little ways.  Delicate yet fierce assertions of dominance.

I give you an example:

Yesterday, my traveling party and I went to lunch at a Japanese sushi place.  It was a two fork Michelin restaurant.  I’m not sure what the fork system means.  Maybe stars?  Or possibly maybe it is a different category, like “Hey, here’s the deal, you’re not quite star level, but you are definitely two forks!”

So, this restaurant required an extensive knowledge of Japanese culture.  Going into the event I was prepared to win.

First, I have been studying Japanese on Memrise for three days before the trip.  I can say “Konnichiwa (hello), Arigato (thank you), Domo Arigato (thanks a lot) and Sayonara (goodbye, but no one says this as I found out the awkward way).”  Second, I read a Japanese graphic novel, half of a 2016 travel guide, watched the Netflix show Terrace House and interviewed my Japanese students during their presentations about their homes (this was a trick.  I just wanted to know travel tips.  Ha.  Suckers! The class was just a way for me to find out cool activities to do.   I got you good students. Je rigole ou peut etre pas!).

Upon entering the restaurant, we took off our shoes and put on slippers.  I didn’t handle this very well as I forgot my socks and I currently have a small foot odor problem that I’m trying to figure out.  So, starting off, I was in last place.

Next, when we walked down the hallway I went into the eating room with my slippers on.  The waiter kindly told us that we weren’t supposed to wear shoes in here. Ah! Non!  I was falling behind quickly, fastly.  Was I the worst traveler?  Oh mon dieu.  No.  C’est impossible. The rest of my traveling party was killing it.  They all wore socks.  They didn’t go into the room with their shoes on.  Their feet smelled normal.

IMG_4153 (1)
Seiza sitting

But, then let me tell you about a little thing called Seiza.  At the traditional Japanese table, you can sit with your legs curled under you or you can do the cheat way of putting them in the cut out square below the table.   Guess who did Seiza for 75% of the time?  That’s right.  Yours truly.  I could feel my heart racing with impeding glory as the waiter definitely noticed how I had stayed seated like this the entire time he was in the room (25% of time I was not in position was used strategically when he left).  I also used arigato repeatedly, with a polite bow and also learned from the other members of the traveling party chopstick etiquette (don’t point them at someone).  Again, a trick.  I asked them information, only to use it against them.  The points were racking up. Victory spread like the early sting of wasabi on my tongue.  Sweet, hostile, intoxicating.

At the end of the delicious meal, I had to use the bathroom to attend to some personal matters.  Here, was the final sprint: I knew to change from my hall slippers to the bathroom slippers.  I was very quiet.  And on the way out, I saw the waiters.  They were standing in a line at the door.  I bowed and said domo arigato because it was really a good meal.

This is when the waiter pulled his hands from behind his back and presented me with a trophy postcard while giving me a special smile, “Yes.  It’s confirmed.  Out of your whole traveling party, maybe the whole last six months of our restaurant, you were by far the best!  It is so obvious.  We are humbled by your knowledge and appreciation of our culture.”

Anyone who’s ever won something like this knows it’s important to be modest.  So, as I walked outside to meet everyone, I held the postcard in my hand, tenderly, nearly hidden but just enough exposed so everyone could so that I was given this gift.  I didn’t need words.  The postcard spoke for itself.

However, in walking to Himeji Castle, I casually mentioned the postcard to Vincent.

He was looking at the google map, “Yeah, everyone did. They were super nice–standing outside with us thanking us.”

Thanking them, giving them the postcard too?  While I was inside the bathroom figuring out if I could manage to wash my feet in the sink.  What?  How could this be?

Anyway, I didn’t wash my feet in the sink. I decided against it.  Obviously, I’m much too sophisticated for something like that. IMG_4131

France is your nation.

Well done, France!  I recently watched your new president, Emmanuel Macron, as he invited innovative Americans who are worried about climate change to come to France.  You don’t have to ask me twice, EM!  Allons y!  Et vous allez me donner un travail, non?  J’adore les forêts du Costa Rica.   I just taught a class about eco-criticism.  I can do this Monsieur Macron.  Je peux!

I really identify with the term “innovative.”   For instance, recently, I have had many highly impressive innovations:

  1. I innovated a paper bag into an exciting cat adventure park 
  2. I innovated a dress my sister wore when she was 16 into an adult tank top
  3. I innovated a dinner conversation card game, which has such thought provoking questions as “why do men’s haircuts have a little V at the bottom?”, “why do humans have emotions?” and “how does our new understanding of tree communication influence our understanding of capitalist vs. socialist systems of rule?”
  4. I innovated a system where I no longer buy shampoo but instead just use all the free ones from hotels.  This also goes for soap

    IMG_3176
    innovative eco-bird sculpture
  5.  I innovated a paper maché bird made out of recycled newspaper by sculpting it over a stone from my sister’s garden

  6.  I innovated an incredibly useful labeling system for all the salads at my recent pétanque party out of old art tape I had from college (oh sorry to cut you off, President Macron, you were just about to invite Vincent and me to play pétanque with you and the first lady, ah oui, I think we are available.)

  7. I innovated a two handled bag into a fairly comfortable (if not traveling long distances) back pack 

As you can see, I think I am precisely the kind of innovative American that President Macron is looking for.  None of my innovations required money.  They all used recycled objects and I am very serious about climate change.  

The future is not coal.  It is not oil, not diesel cars.  It is not new clothing, not war, not destruction of land for stupid profit.    It is using our resources (the most valuable one being our minds) in a smart, effective way.

It is government incentives that encourage conservation.  We can create macro (Macron!) and micro environmental change this way.  We absolutely can.  By using togetherness, that beautiful kind of global cooperation where we could all come together and to find ways of progressive change.

For instance, right now, Lake Ontario is flooding with clean, fresh water.  This is bad for upstate New York, but if there were a way to take this water and give it to countries who could use it to improve health, then why not! Could we use this water’s power to create electricity?  Could we redirect it to water the farms in upstate New York?  Possibly to even make fresh water swimming pools to combat childhood obesity? Come on. There must be a way.  The answer is not conflict.  The answer is not showing off.   It is not arrogance. It is not nuclear.  It is not isolation.  It is creative, communal, scientific, hope.  

Oh, désolé!  C’est mon téléphone avec le code pays “+33.”  Ah, parfait.  I should take this.

Literal French Laundry

IMG_3575 (2)
The assertive note. 

I’m in a bad mood.  Yeah.  My stomach hurts. It’s kind of cold and the window is open. Although it’s five inches from me, it feels much too far to travel for comfort.   Also, I have a pain in my neck.  This isn’t a metaphor. I’m not talking about someone being a pain in the neck.  If I were, I would be like “Prioritizing peace is a pain in the neck.”  But, I’m not talking about a pain in my neck; no, this is about laundry.

So, first, in this blog, Le Poisson Nage, you may have noticed I have a deep respect for France.  Why?  Mostly because I like their yogurt.  I like their dating show about French farmers looking for love. And, I like this French tattoo artist, Faustine D.R. Tarmasz,  who I follow on Instagram (link at bottom of page).  Yeah.  I like France.  I like that the French aren’t afraid of darkness, of sadness, and of death.  Sometimes it’s relaxing to not have to be cheerful.

I also like that a common French response to political chaos is to pin a photo of Marine Le Pen on our dartboard after central left globalist Emmanuel Macron won the first election and then to stand in our backyard and then realize we are both really bad at darts.  And then inviting all of our friends over to see how good they are at sending darts into this photo.  Some of them are really good at this.

I like Emmanuel Macron.  He finds his own path. He married his French high school teacher; I married my French tutor.  He is concerned that fascism may take over our world.  Me too.  We have a lot in common.  It’s obvious.

Anyway, I don’t know what’s going to happen in France, but last Sunday when the results came in at 5pm (US time) things looked pretty hopeful and as an American, I haven’t felt that kind of hope in about seven months now.  Maybe that’s why my neck hurts all the time.

Anyway, I’m getting off what’s really important: my complaint about French laundry techniques.  In my experience, the British do this too.  The French air dry their towels instead of putting them in the dryer. Yes, sure.  Certainly, it is more environmental to air dry your towels.  Of course.   But, I was recently at a meditation retreat and I composted a tissue; I’ve regretted this for four weeks now.  Sometimes being environmental requires being even smarter than just pretty smart.

So, two days ago, I wrote a very assertive note to Vincent addressing his laundry method of hanging up the towels instead of putting them in the dryer.  I wrote that American designer, J. Ross Moore, from North Dakota didn’t invent this awesome technology so we could have these horrible sand paper towels. That we, here, in America, used our heads to figure out how to avoid scratchy towels.  That’s why we invented this machine.  Obviously.

But, then I looked into it more.  Around 1799, a French person, Pochon, invented the ventilator–a kind of rotating bin with holes in it that circled over the fire.  But, then this caused a lot of fire problems.  So, later, in 1892, an African-American, George T. Sampson, got the patent and figured out that the heat from the stove was better to dry the laundry than the fire.  Smart.  Then in depression era America, along comes the  North Dakotan and figures out a way to sell it for about $250.

The point: we need each other to make things better.

So, maybe, it’s good for the skin to be scratched up once in a while, maybe it’s good to feel kind of shredded.  Maybe this kind of discomfort is good for me, for us.  Because maybe there’s an even better way to dry towels–maybe the Dutch book designer, Irma Bloom or South African, Elon Musk can offer their thoughts.  Maybe there are some great laundry ideas we don’t even know about.  Maybe these new innovated laundry techniques might just be able to save us all.

 

Notes:

  1. Totally cool French tattoo illustrator: http://tarmasz.tumblr.com/
  2. More about Emmanuel Macron: http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/04/25/emmanuel-macron-is-everything-hillary-clinton-was-not-french-elections/?utm_content=buffer923d0&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer
  3. More about Laundry Techniques: http://www.ehow.com/about_5081538_history-clothes-dryer.html
  4. Irma Bloom’s books: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/16/arts/design/irma-boom-bookmaker-vermeer-prize-amsterdam-library.html?_r=0
  5. The featured image is a Japanese bonsai that has been in training since 1625 and is at the Arboretum near Washington, DC.  It survived nuclear war and was tended by the Yamaki family who then gave it as gift for The United States of America’s 200th birthday.  We are a young country and I’ve always found it important to have older friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As They Say

FullSizeRender
Kara Walker (American), Pop-up Book, 1997

Recently, I was an influential member on a docent tour in a lovely art gallery in Naples, Florida.  I tried very hard to ensure everyone on the tour knew that, yes, I know a lot about art.  I did this by nodding my head enthusiastically with key points or smiling widely  at the mention of an artist’s name, as if that artist were a personal friend of mine.

For example, the docent would say someone like, “Kara Walker” and I would rapidly nod my head and then make an insightful comment to my traveling partner/arts patron/mother, “Oh her work is awesome.  She was at the Albright.” My arts patron looked at me with the sheer awe of watery eyes that seemed to say, “The student has outdone the master.”  Or maybe that was just my art patron’s eye contacts giving her a hard time.  It’s unclear and I was too busy showing everyone that I was taking lecture notes on my cellphone to clarify.

While in the elevator to the second floor of the museum, the docent said something like “Don’t worry, we can all fit on this elevator” and then she added, “As they say.”  The elevator occupants smiled.  My head perked up. That phrase “as they say” was of exceptional value and I quickly added it to my English vernacular.  Obviously, as a personal friend of the country of France, herself, I knew I would also need it in French, so I looked it up “comme on dit.” This phrase is so valuable because it can be used to authenticate any statement, regardless of whether this statement has even once been said.  The “they” is vague and thus useful, as it infers a committee or a large group of trusted people.

Here are a few possibilities, but please feel free to comment with your own:

In spin class in America, “Why does our gym insist on playing Fox News all the time?  Well, I guess you can’t eat the chess pieces, as they say.”

In a cafe in a foreign country where no one really knows you or is unaware that you have never actually published a book or a poem, “Je suis le mieuller écrivain dans le monde.  Connaisez-vous Simone de Beauvoir et Gertrude Stein? Allors, moi, je suis quatre fois meilleur, comme on dit.”

To the condescending leisure biker on the walking path who acerbically said, “Excuse me.”

And I said, “Oh sorry” and moved over.

And then she said, in sharp little cocktail knives, “Uh, you’re right in the middle of the path so . . .”

I could have said, “Wow, some people are really a waste of human life aren’t they? As they say!”

And then walk away and point to the gigantic yellow sign that said “Bicyclists please walk your bicycle” that was standing behind me.

But, I didn’t notice this until it was too late, so instead just froze up and then walked away muttering improperly constructed insults that included the word bitch and the word rich, over and over again.  And, then I felt bad for containing such cruelty and felt rotted inside.

Or, to your lovely friend in the cafe who is visiting from France, “I miss you very much and wish we could continue run club and cook club every week, but you know, life is a voyage and we are all ships on the sea finding our own winds, comme on dit.

So, as you can see.  This phrase is extraordinarily handy.

Okay, so I must go and find another art tour that I can conquer.  I think I’ll make sure to use the 100 foot walking-only section of the path with my leisure bike.

nota bena: the photos here are ones I have taken at the Baker Museum  (Kara Walker above and Dale Chihuly  for the feature photo (red glass).  Photography without a flash is allowed at the Baker, however, if the artist feels this is copyright infringement, I will immediately take them down.)