Sunday, June 1, 2014

May Reads

14. The Grand Babylon Hotel by Arnold Bennett
Comedic yet filled with intrigue due to the element of a murder mystery | Grand Budapest Hotel definitely took some notes from this novella (in addition to Stefan Zweig's memoir) | British-American relations in early 20th century is always entertaining  – aristocratic traditions versus the emerging capitalist millionaire 

15. An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro
Evoking memories from a bygone era as told by an aged fictionalized Japanese painter of repute in which ideologies either made or broke your career. | Interesting to hear Japanese perspective following the aftermath of World War II

Took fair amount of mental effort and re-reading to get through certain passages, but glad to have plowed through. | Working out Kant's arguments via diagrams helps. | Lewis Carroll's Four Rules for Digesting Information and Mastering the Art of Reading applies here.

17. Amerika by Franz Kafka
Train reading en route to Prague to pay homage to the Czech writer. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Exploring Ferenceváros

Nighthawks, 1942 (120 Kb); Oil on canvas, 30 x 60 in; The Art Institute of Chicago 
Hopper, Edward (1882-1967). American painter, active mainly in New York.
Paintings such as Nighthawks (Art Institute of Chicago, 1942) convey a mood of loneliness and desolation by their emptiness or by the presence of anonymous, non-communicating figures. But of this picture Hopper said: `I didn't see it as particularly lonely... Unconsciously, probably, I was painting the loneliness of a large city.' Deliberately so or not, in his still, reserved, and blandly handled paintings Hopper often exerts a powerful psychological impact – distantly akin to that made by the Metaphysical painter de Chirico; but while de Chirico's effect was obtained by making the unreal seem real, Hopper's was rooted in the presentation of the familiar and concrete.
It's been a little over three years since I studied this painting during an art history survey in college. It's ironic how unattached I was to it back then. Just another date to memorize for the blue book and a few thematic sentences of the era it evoked. I couldn't appreciate the value of the painting at the time because I lacked the aesthetic sensibility to perceive its meaning. There was a glimmer of the idea, but the capacity for me to appreciate, or experience, the painting wasn't fully there.

Hopper's painting loomed in my head after walking around the IX district of Budapest yesterday for several hours. There was no other purpose to my walk other than the fact that I needed some fresh air and it was a lazy Saturday afternoon. Basically, I was revisiting the idea of walking for walking's sake.

From my flat, I headed in the opposite direction of the Parliament and kept walking. I spend the vast majority of my time in Belváros, or the city center, so I decided to give my eyes a change of scenery and by happenstance, I explored Ferenceváros – the ninth district. It's "up and coming." I walked towards Kálvin Tér and then I alternated streets, weaving back and forth along the alleyways of Ráday and Lónyay Utca. The architecture of these buildings, and throughout Budapest, really, is fascinating. Ráday street has an interesting vibrance, different from other popular areas in Pest. It's not as touristy in feel as Gozsdu Udvar, Vaci Utca, or Andrassy Út, which is probably just as well because it means that sör (beer) and gyros is around 100 Forints cheaper than your usual fare.

Confession: I compare neighborhoods in Budapest by the price of its gyros and shawarmas. It's a great economic indicator. In my neighborhood, the gyros is 680 Forints. At my workplace near the Basilica, it's a whopping 750 Ft. In the IX district, it was 600. Does this illuminate the socioeconomic situation a bit?

The most distinctive landmarks for me in Ferenceváros: cafes, pubs and restaurants along Ráday Utca, St. Francis of Assisi Temple (neo-Romanesque), Museum of Applied Arts (Art Nouveau – has the most beautiful emerald tiled roof similar to Market Hall; also has the largest Turkish rug collection outside Turkey), and Corvin Mozi.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Navigating Barcelona

Barcelona, as a city, didn't feel too big or unmanageable in size, but we definitely picked a few key landmarks to help us orient ourselves from time to time. The Christopher Columbus statue near the sea, for example, to remind us to turn left for our hostel in the Gothic District. 

We were able to utilize the metro system through a 48-hour pass. This was the perfect amount of time for us, since we also walked around quite a bit and would only use the metro when it would take a good while to get somewhere on foot. I loved how each stop would light up, so you could never mistake where you were.

  Some iconic Gaudi architecture influenced by the art nouveau movement.

His architecture feels quite organic and curvilinear. It's a clear departure from the boxy buildings you see in most cities. We didn't go inside the museum since we had already been to La Sagrada and went up the tower. 

Looking up at the unique windows.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


I will always be in favor of taking daytrips to see natural landscapes. 
In mountains, you experience something unparalleled by human efforts.
No matter how unique their attempts to tackle the thing.
Before taking the cable car up to the monastery, we had a brief lunch.

La Sagrada Familia

Can You Dig Spain?

 Spring break reunion happened in Spain this year – it's funny how I still operate on an academic calendar, both in my personal and working life. I'm a life-long student, what can I say? :) My two college best friends and I decided to meet in Barcelona's international airport. We were arriving from Budapest, Washington D.C. and San Francisco. Our reunion was a comedy because I was in another terminal, and Dani and I kept missing each other taking the bus to the other terminal to try and find one another. If only it could have been captured as a film: "The non-reunion-union." The bus ride to the other terminal takes more than 10 minutes, it was pretty ridiculous. Ishita came in later, and we all made our way into the city.
I took the elephants as a good omen for our days to come together. 
 We stayed in El Barrio Gotico – the Gothic neighborhood – and our hostel had such a Moroccan feel to it with the tumeric colored walls and the cozy lights casting lacy, incandescent shadows.
 We were located right near La Rambla, which beckoned us with such magnetic force every time we got lost, which happened quite frequently the first couple nights.
 We unpacked our bags and made way for tapas. 
 Lots of Barcelona pride to be seen! It really is interesting to hear about the Catalan independence movement. The language sounds like a cross between French and Spanish, and all I have to say is that at first I thought my high-school Spanish was really rusty, so I began feeling guilty for not brushing up on my language skills. But then Dani, who is a native Spanish speaker, turned to me and goes it's crazy how it sounds, right? Which then made me realize that people were speaking Catalan and my Spanish isn't so horrible after all.
As always, time to stop, linger and smell the roses. This was on our way to Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

I am because of her. 영원히 사랑해.