Tuesday, July 22, 2008

London Calling

We spent last week back in the English-speaking world wandering around London. I had a conference/birthday celebration in London, so it was the perfect excuse to take a little holiday. We'd previously toured London was in 2002 with Chris's brother Aaron, so we could be selective about the tourist sites to cross off our list. That trip ended in Chris getting sick (what the American doctors wanted to diagnose as the newly spreading SARS) so the cold Chris got the week before we left was not exactly appreciated, but thankfully was never debilitating. We arrived early Monday morning, and the next two and a half days (my "days off") were filled with sun. Monday we hit up the Tate Britain and then took a beautiful boat ride down the Thames to the Tate Modern.

Tuesday we wandered around Portobello Market - stopping at a few record stores (something that was more thoroughly investigated after I was working, as I really think I had my fill of British record stores in 2002).

We enjoyed the parks - picnicing in Hyde Park and laying out in the sun later in the afternoon. We also enjoyed the coffee (no offense, Tea), especially since the milk in Great Britain comes refrigerated and in plastic jugs - it almost tasted "normal." And the food throughout our stay was absolutely delicious, perhaps because it was all so expensive or because it was unusual. We dined on Indian (the new British cuisine) and Ethiopian, ate delicious vegetarian gourmet meals, filled with vegetables we hadn't seen in over a year. We even joked about transporting leafy greens back to Köln. And then there were the English bitters, that sadly only one of us could appreciate.

The conference I was attending was to celebrate Miles Reid's 60th Birthday. The two and a half days were filled with interesting talks, and I got to see quite a few Seattle folks. While I was immersed in minimal models, canonical singularities and cone theorems, Chris was knee deep in movies at the British Film Institute, where he could sit at a private console and watch classic British films and documentaries on post-punk record labels for hours on end.

All told, lots of art galleries and museums, lots of good food, lots of maths, lots of coffee, and lots of looking at words that were written in English.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Kelly Rennt (well a little bit anyway)

I haven't been running as much recently. I have lots of excuses, but in the end I always just feel lazy. And as Chris can attest, my whining about feeling lazy is still on the top five list of things to complain about. This evening, though, I decided it was about time to head on out to the beautiful Stadtwald. Besides, I'm still enjoying relatively new pink running shoes and a bright pink ipod shuffle, (exclusively for running, as told by the inscription "Kelly Rennt") that I treated myself to a few months ago (and that were so nicely delivered by guests from the states). And I don't feel too sad about the fact that I purchased them with thoughts of training for a German marathon at the end of the summer, something that now is not going to happen. I was also sporting a new tank-top that I picked up this weekend. This is a new thing for me, but my usual summer running attire involves a bare tummy and I'm just starting to get a little self-conscious about the bulge that is forming. About 10 minutes into the run, the humidity starts to take it's toll, and the tank-top is sticking to my back. I start wondering how this top deserved the label "Sport," and the best I can come up with was that it has a razor-back cut. Then I remember that the German idea of "Sport" is sometimes a little different than mine. Take for example page 36 of the February 2008 issue of (german) "In Touch" where they show a photo of Gwenyth Paltrow in jeans and Converse All-Stars, holding a cigarette, and give it the label "Sportlich." I guess if that is sporty, then sure, my not coolmax tank-top is sporty.

About the time I'm done pondering German sporty-ness, two wonderful things simultaneously occur. The first is that Ace of Base's I Saw the Sign starts playing on my ipod. (By the way, Lisa, I'm truly sorry I made fun of you for liking Ace of Base in 1993.) The second is that it starts raining. Nothing too drastic, but certainly pleasant, and with it the humidity seems to drop a little. Now, even though all the songs in my running mix are hand picked and wonderful, there are times when I really can hit a groove with the music. Ace of Base is followed by Ghostface's Be Easy, and as the rain picks up, I pick up the pace a little too. Then I start passing other (male) runners, and d0 my little "You got passed by a girl" dance in my head (which, by the way, is now more dramatic and should be called "You got passed by two girls!!").

As I'm enjoying the rain, I remember a great tv commercial for Seven Up in the late 80s. After a warm sunny day of playing tennis, a guy cracks open a Seven Up and it starts raining. This ad is truly etched into my memory (probably due to the fact that it aired with something we had taped off of tv), though a youtube search yielded no proof that the ad actually did exist. As I round the lake, the rain stops, and a beautiful rainbow appears.... ahh. I get a burst of energy at the end, and manage to sprint the last few blocks home. As usual, at the end of a run, I can't remember why I had been putting this off for so long.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


This last Sunday we headed out early for a day trip to Münster. We were only a year late for the once-every-ten-years Skulptur Projekte Münster, but with the city full of remnants of sculptures from years past, there was still plenty to see. As the weather prediction was sunny and 80, it seemed like a beautiful day to get out and walk around (I even wore my running shoes instead of the standard summer flip-flops). The two hour train ride Sunday morning was peaceful and quiet, though as we left Köln city limits, gray clouds started to gather above us. Arriving in Münster with no map, we quickly found the open Tourist information and got loaded down with brochures about the sculptures. Münster is one big bike friendly city, and it would've been very easy to rent bicycles once we arrived but, since we had no idea where we were going, we stuck to exploring the city on foot, getting lost more than once, but at a slower speed.

One of the first sculptures we saw was from last year - Hans-Peter Feldmann's WC-Anlage am Domplatz. In the mid 1950s, during the reconstruction of Münster after the war, there were public restrooms installed below one of the main plazas. Frequently used, these restrooms were in poor state, not having a renovation since 1987 (when the pope visited). Feldmann's project was to redesign the bathrooms. Art meets public bathrooms - now that's something I can get down with. I felt weird photographing the toilet I used (though it was pretty snazzy), so instead I just have the entrances, and a picture from the official website.
We checked about two dozen sculptures off the list, while getting acquainted with the layout of the city. Here's one adorning the side of the Westphalia Landesmuseum, by Otto Piene.
Not far from there is Tom Otterness's busy Superwoman, peopled by numerous little figures working, drinking, and playing.

Kim Adams built a would-be house/office space out of a grain silo, placing it above a cafe that itself used to be a gas station. I'm thinking I need to work on getting such an office.
Further outside the center of town is a fountain by Piene's colleague, Heinz Mack.
We lucked out and dodged rain altogether. The gray skies never left, but it was warm. As for Köln, we found out the next day that we'd missed a blue-skied scorcher. But that hardly mattered, as we've been basking in warm weather all week.