Monday, March 31, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008
I'm no sociologist, but it seems as if assimilation issues in the United States are far less complex than in Britain. While in London I witnessed fierce Irish nationalism, followed the ongoing debate over incorporating Sharia into the legal system, read anti-Polish rhetoric in newspapers and experienced tension in Brixton. An ugly incident at the Tower of London was most shocking of all. A couple dozen French-speaking hooligans so brutally tormented a guard that he had to be relieved lest he use his bayonet or rifle. The gist of the taunts questioned not just the manhood of this flustered young man but the very existence of England.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Public Transportation Is Sexy
Since I began reporting on my recent visit to London, I've heard several people profess their enthusiasm for London's cab drivers and fabulous restaurants. I wouldn't know anything about that. The devastating exchange rate rendered luxuries like taxis and fine dining out of the question. A significant portion of my trip was spent in grocery stores and on underground trains. I loved it. Leave it to a Kansas boy to find the Tube exciting. As this representative image suggests, the locals didn't seem to share my enthusiasm.
This Means War
I'm embarrassed to confess that I have yet to check out Kansas City's new National World War I Museum. But I did visit the London branch of the Imperial War Museum last week. And an associate who's been to both institutions tells me that in terms of World War I coverage, Kansas City's museum is no less impressive than London's. The site at the Liberty Memorial, of course, has the advantage of focusing on just one war, while the Imperial War Museum attempts to comprehensively document an entire century of horror. Even so, kudos to KC.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Five Times August Versus the Sci-fi Club
Ladies, unless you're at the Record Bar at this moment, you may end up kicking yourselves.
Brad Skistimas of Five Times August did an in-store at a Borders in Overland Park earlier tonight. Nine women and three men showed up. It was a shockingly pitiful turnout for a guy who has over 30,000 MySpace plays during the past 22 hours. The rising star looks a little bit like Owen Wilson and sounds a lot like John Mayer.
As the singer-songwriter began playing in the store's coffeeshop, members of a science fiction club- a group that outnumbered Brad's fans- fled to the literature section. He never quite recovered from the snub. There were both technical problems and intimacy issues. Teenage fans were too awed to properly interact with the artist. Conversely, he had to deal with wisecracks from the men.
It's not really speculative fiction to imagine an alternative history in which hundreds of Five Times August fans will claim to have attended.
It sometimes seems that every adult in Europe is a smoker. That's what makes England's absolute indoor smoking ban so remarkable. As in Lawrence, Kansas, there are often more people crowded outside a pub than in its interior. The proposals currently before Kansas City's voters may be flawed, but all Americans need to realize that smoking bans are invevitable.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
I've spouted countless absurd opinions at Happy In Bag, but this might be the most unlikely statement ever made in this space- I prefer the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art to London's Tate Modern. Maybe it's just my disappointment at discovering that the Tate displays a meager collection of Francis Bacon, my favorite 20th century painter, but my recent visit to the gargantuan British institution left me cold. Even though the Tate must be well over a hundred times larger than the Kemper, it's less welcoming and more pretentious than its Kansas City equivalent.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
I Saw Dead People
I have yet to attend the Bodies Revealed exhibit at Union Station. But carcasses and tombs were impossible to avoid on my visit to London. Dead people dominate the city. Hundreds of monarchs, politicians and artists are buried at Westminster Abbey. After the Elgin Marbles and the Rosetta Stone, the biggest attractions at the British Museum are corpses. My favorite is Lindow Man. The shriveled Egyptian flesh in this photo is in the institution's massive mummy wing. Statues and plaques commemorating people of note seem to be on every city block. It's a wonder that the place doesn't sink into the sea under the oppressive weight of its history.
Friday, March 21, 2008
The Ugliest Americans
I won't be able to resist posting about my trip to London, but I'll attempt to do so in a way that relates to life here in Kansas City. Naturally, I'm obligated begin with a signature Happy In Bag topic, the contemptible American squirrel. This amazing story explains that Britain's native red squirrels are endangered by the aggressive behavior of these nasty imports. London's dazzling public parks are overrun with the pests. I looked on with incredulity as locals lovingly catered to their wicked ways.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Free Junction City
Before I recount my spring break adventure in future posts, here's an anecdote about an unsettling incident I experienced at KCI yesterday.
An anxious man approached me as I loaded my sedan in a bus lane at the American Airlines terminal. "Pardon me," he apologetically said in stilted English. "Junction City." He handed me a sheet of thin parchment by way of explanation. An address in Junction City, Kansas, was surrounded by Chinese manuscript on the official-looking document. "How?" the bedraggled man pleaded.
I hadn't slept in almost 24 hours and I was desperate for my pillow. And now a Chinese official was turning to me to help him get to the center of Kansas? Gee whiz. Apparently maps and travel agents don't exist in China. Instead of screaming "Free Tibet!" at the poor man, I explained that he'd need to rent a car, catch a bus or take the train to get to Junction City. But the guy barely spoke English. I led him to the unmanned ground transportation area of the terminal and wished him luck.
I'm horribly afraid that the poor sap is still standing there.
(Image of queue at airport not captured in Kansas City.)
Monday, March 10, 2008
Sunday, March 09, 2008
There was scarcely room to breathe at Raglan Road on Friday night. Although the establishment is the size of Kilkenny, it seemed like all 15,000 people holding tickets to see Michael Buble at the Sprint Center were attempting to squeeze into the new Irish pub and restaurant before the show. I nabbed shots of the riotous mob, fine traditional musicians and delicious-looking bar food, but I prefer this evocative shot of the street scene from Raglan Road's interior.
Friday, March 07, 2008
Is 66207 In Alaska?
I regret beating a dead reindeer, but honestly, this has been the most brutal winter I've experienced. This morning's snow is sticking and the sun is a faint suggestion. I used to think that old folks retreated to Arizona and Florida to die. Only now am I beginning to realize what the geezers knew all along- these taxing Midwestern winters can shave years off your life.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Sometimes bumper stickers aren't nearly enough. Why not attach a riot of pop culture detritus- much of it in inscrutably modified form- to the roof of your car? And while you're at it, scrawl slogans about politically sensitive issues across your vehicle. Completely unhinged and utterly perplexing, it's the best kind of folk art.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
If it's good enough for the President of the United States, it's good enough for me. That was my reasoning for finally dining at Eggtc. on Main Street. I'd deliberately avoided the restaurant because I really miss the sweet potato fries and dark atmosphere of Jake Edwards Barbecue, the modest joint that prospered for years in the same space. I discovered that Eggtc. offers two key elements missing from the ubiquitous First Watch chain- namely a non-institutional feel and spicy food options. Bush was long gone by the time I made it to Eggtc., but I was pleased to spot Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II, also enjoying the room's bright ambience.
Monday, March 03, 2008
Aguas de Marco
Drastic temperature swings. Animals peeking out of their winter lairs. The smell of thawing earth on the gusty wind. Spring training and March Madness. The promise of spring. It's tough on kites, though.