Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Global Charley Horse

Ever wonder what they call a Charley Horse in other parts of the world? Me neither. But, since I inadvertently found out today, I thought I'd better share:

UK: dead leg, granddaddy, chopper
Australia: corked thigh, corky
Germany: Pferdekuss (horse's kiss)
Norway: lårhøne (thigh hen)
Sweden: lårkaka (thigh cake)
Netherlands: ijsbeen (ice leg)
France: béquille (crutch)
Portugal: paralítica (paralyzer)
Japan: komuragaeri (cramp in the calf...good one, Japan)
NE Italy: lopez (no translation on this one, not sure I completely believe it)
W Italy: vecchia (old woman) or dura (hard/tough one)
S Italy: morso di ciuccio (donkey bite)
Cen. Italy: opossum

My vote goes to Germany. Pferdekuss. Awesome. "Thigh Cake" is a close second.

I wanted to end this post with some kind of YouTube video or equivalent with that guy from Bill Nye the Science Guy saying, "Did you know that? Now you know!" If such a thing exists, I couldn't find it. I did, however, find one of my all-time favorite articles from The Onion. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tony Hawks or My Life's Philosophy

Those of us behind The Armchair (me) have recently suffered a defeat. I wanted something deeply and with my whole heart. I competed for it, and I lost. I was prepared for disappointment and heartbreak. What I wasn't expecting was a crisis of faith. After all, I'm from Massachusetts.

I suppose it's something that even the least religious of us experience over time. Certain ideas hold a particular magnetism. You're drawn to the same concepts over and over again until, in spite of yourself, you've created some kind of individualized belief system. Physics class with Mr. Langlois. Listening to Ben Folds' Philosophy in my high school boyfriend's basement. Reading The Alchemist in my dorm room sophomore year. Coming to terms with sentence fragments. It's all resulted in some kind of wacky personal philosophy I barely knew I had, complete with rituals and tenets and the sacrificing of virgins on the vernal equinox.

Like any system of faith, mine is full of convenient shades of gray and a few glaring inconsistencies, the details of which would probably bore you. For simplicity's sake, and because it doesn't completely stray from the topical bounds of this blog, I'd like to focus on the most important work in the literary canon of my philosophy: Round Ireland with a Fridge, by Tony Hawks.

So who is Tony Hawks? Well, he is not Tony Hawk, professional skateboarder and video game personality. He's a British comedian, writer, and object of my affection. Admittedly, my crush on him is staggeringly age-inappropriate (even for me), given that my father is only senior by about 8 years. But what can I say? It could be worse. I have a friend who lusts after John Cleese:

Around Park City - 2009 Sundance Film Festival Day 2

Anyway, as to the premise: Our hero Tony and his constant companion The Fridge document a hilarious hitchhiking adventure around Ireland. Miraculously, The Universe opens up to accept Tony and help him in his ridiculous endeavor. In the midst of irreverent comedy, you discover a deeper faith in humanity, a deeper love for Ireland, and the realization that you can accomplish any manner of crazy feat if you maintain an open heart and mind. Whether or not you come away with a complete and total schoolgirl crush on Tony Hawks obviously depends on your personality, sexual orientation, and drinking habits.

My dream is London, with or without a fridge. My goal was 2010. So what do you do when The Universe doesn't seem to open up and accept you and your crazy plans? Well, if you're anything like me, (a well-loved, well-fed, well-educated 20-something cliché) you cry, drink, blog, and decide to move to New York, knowing that at some point in the near future, you'll try it all again. And when it doesn't work out that time, you'll cry, drink, blog, move in with your parents, and die a slow death surrounded by cats and old photos of yourself covered in dust and regret. Just kidding.

Just as Tony must have had some rational reasons for wanting to hitchhike around Ireland with a fridge, (perhaps the possibility of writing a best-selling book?) I have plenty of rational reasons for wanting to live in London. I'm a classical musician. Culture. Opportunities. Proximity to continental Europe. Yadda yadda blah blah blah. But really, the nuts and bolts of it is that I just want to. I just really, really want to. And why can't that be okay? Why does my psyche equate desire with guilt? It's a loaded question and believe it or not, one that Round Ireland with a Fridge has helped me to deal with. Shamelessly declare your crazy intention and people will come out of the woodwork with help and support. Trust to The Universe and it will provide for you. Things will, of course, most certainly go wrong. Proverbial s*** will hit the proverbial fan. But with love, trust, hope, friends, beer, and a great sense of humor, dreams can come true. So even though I'm stranded on the metaphorical highway with my metaphorical fridge waiting for a metaphorical ride that might never come, I'm still carrying with me the insane hope that eventually, everything will work out in my favor. Thanks, Tony.

Tony Hawks' Wikipedia Page
Official Website
Round Ireland with a Fridge
Playing the Moldovans at Tennis
A Piano in the Pyranees
One Hit Wonderland
The Fridgetrust

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Haiti Resources

As we all know, the situation in Haiti is still grim more than a week on. The international community is giving in record numbers but aid is still not reaching people in need due to complications on the ground. I can't speak for everyone, but I know that for me, sending money out into the bureaucratic void doesn't always feel like much of a contribution. Still, as far as I can tell, continuing to give what we can is immensely important. So, I've compiled a few resources in case anyone is still looking for a way to help.

Give with confidence:
BBB Accredited Charity List
Mercy Corps
Red Cross
ChildFund International (formerly Christian Children's Fund)
Direct Relief International
Oxfam International
The Salvation Army

Local resources:
Monroe County Red Cross
IU Hoosiers for Haiti Relief Campaign
IU Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies
They Recommend:
Lambi Fund
International Firefighter Association

There is a "forum and call to action" tonight, Thursday January 21st, in Alumni Hall in the IMU on the IU Bloomington Campus.

The IU Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) has been accepting material donations but warn they won't reach those in need quickly and still recommended cash donations above all else. Their website says:

"CLACS has designated itself as a Bloomington-based collection site for in-kind material contributions. However, we have since learned that such contributions will not be immediately transportable or usable, and that monetary aid to organizations on the ground in Haiti is most urgently needed. We expect to send the items we have collected to an organization directly serving Haiti within the next few months.

Thus, during our normal business hours (8–5), in our Center at 1125 E. Atwater Ave, we will continue to receive materials to be sent to Haiti. For your own sake, please try to notify us ahead of time (855-9097), and if you must park temporarily, do so BEHIND the Center, in the parking lot between Ballantine and Hawthorne Ave.

Helpful items include: Wound dressings and bandages; rehydration packets; Chloroquine (antimalarial); nonperishable foods (Peanut butter, crackers, etc.)"

Also see the BBC's comprehensive coverage of the disaster at BBC News.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Little Something About Graz

Arnold Schwarzenegger is from Graz, Austria. Ok, technically he's from a nearby village called Thal. But since I've never been to "Thal" (which sounds a little made-up to me anyway), I'm going to stick with Graz. I will, however, show you a picture of Arnold's (ridiculously Austrian) boyhood home:

Schwarzenegger's Childhood Home

They call that color Schönbrunn Yellow (Schönbrunner Gelb), after Vienna's most famous royal palace, the Schloß Schönbrunn:

Just kidding, that's my parents' house. Here is the palace:

This wee Habsburg summer palace was first painted yellow under Empress Maria Theresa, who also happens to have given birth to Marie Antoinette. Eventually, the Habsburgs took to painting all of their official buildings in this yellow, sparking a trend across the empire. The Schönbrunn website gives a nice explanation.

Back to Graz. A city of 257, 898, it lies in the southeast of Austria in a beautiful region (as though there's a region of Austria that's not beautiful) called Styria (Der Steiermark). Everyone will tell you it has "old world charm" in spades. I would have to agree.

If there is such a thing as "new world charm," I think Graz must have that, too. Take, for instance, this "island" in the river Mur. It's called the Murinsel and I seem to remember it mainly being a bar:
Or the nearby Kunsthaus Graz, a museum of contemporary art. It is sometimes referred to as the "friendly alien":My trip to Graz in 2006 happened to coincide with the Lange Nacht der Museen, a night when all of the museums in the city stay open until the wee hours of the morning. Let me tell you, the contemporary art museum was frightening in the middle of the night. We also came across sword fighting at some point. Cool idea, right? Berlin did it first in 1997 and dozens of cities across Europe have jumped on the bandwagon since. Too bad we can't do it in the States. We all know what happens at night in our museums...

Don't let the fact that these are Arnold's stomping grounds mislead you. Graz is a hotbed of higher education and has been since the founding of its first university in 1585. Today there are six universities that call the city home. The next Tesla or Kepler could very well be among Graz' 44,000 odd students. And yes, all 44,000 of them are odd. It certainly explains the vibrant mix of old and new.

Let's put Graz on the map, shall we?

View Larger Map

Some tidbits:

-The city's major football arena was called Arnold Schwarzenegger-Stadium until 2005 when the execution of a California prisoner sparked a major debate among the city's citizens. Ultimately the name was changed.
-As of 2001, there were 32,575 buildings in Graz.
-The city's colors are green and white, just like my high school's.
-Baron Roman Ungern von Sternberg was born in Graz. Among other things, dude was dictator of Mongolia for 6 months in 1921.

Further Reading:

Stadt Graz
Virtual Tourist
University of Graz
RoboCup 2009