Friday, July 30, 2010

pet peeve of the latest lexicon

disclaimer: the following post is sexy.

as of late, i've heard a particular word being used in a wider context than ever before. hooray for artistic freedom and bending grammatical and lexical rules for creativity's sake, but boo for creating a bandwagon that removes all meaning from a word because it simply becomes trendy to use it.

sexy.

the evidence:

  • jeff goodall's incredible and disturbing article about the gulf oil spill in the latest issue of rolling stone. from the poisoning: "...BP has favored the use of chemical dispersants in the Gulf: Skimmers are slow, dull and prone to breakdown. Dispersants, on the other hand, are fast, sexy and usually delivered by specially equipped planes..." i will refrain from making a lubrication joke. the whole article is here: the poisoning

  • a ny times article on advanced degrees in statistics quotes google's chief economist hal vairan as saying, "I keep saying that the sexy job in the next 10 years will be statisticians and I’m not kidding.” lucrative? yes. rapidly developing field? indeed. sexy? umm...

  • there's a nonprofit organization called sustainability is sexy. sexy people can have sustainable lifestyles. but can sexy people put their sexy corn husks into sexy compost heaps to create stinky, nutrient rich, sexy soil?

  • an alternative energy news source declaring that "...sooner or later all automobiles are going to be either hybrid, electric, or hydrogen-powered. The one drawback...is the overall appeal of the cars. Very few models that are being put out are really all that attractive...That is about to change in a big way. BMW has recently hit the board with their prototype that is just flat out sexy." sexy like you want to have sex with the car or sexy like it reminds you of someone you want to have sex with? or both?

what is sexy anyway? sexy lingerie? strike a sexy pose? sexy sadie? obviously the most common definition has to do with exuding sex appeal, being risque, or arousing. much to my dismay, however, the dictionary lists the final definition as "excitingly appealing; glamorous," making all of the cases in point above technically (albeit still questionably) correct.

the (over)use of sexy may be closely linked to the "(non-sexual topic) porn" phenomenon. basically it extends the use of porn to describe tantalizing pictures of things that are not intended to be sexual.

examples include (and these are definitely safe for work, though i don't advise trying to search for different kinds of non-porn porn online):
i guess i can deal with a dose of non-sexual "sexiness" every now and then. amateur linguistics geeks can easily accept the fact that many words assume different meanings over time. for example, awful used to mean what it sounds like, "full of awe." the daily kos provides some theories behind how and why words change meanings over time along with a thorough list of changed words. sexy is being transformed right now, but will it lose some of its inherent allure as more and more nonsexual things are labeled as such?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

wild wild west part VII

lucky #VII - vegas to RVA

we headed into vegas on a saturday morning, making our way through traffic on the strip. the vegas mix cd made some of the traffic bearable as frank and dean steered us in the right direction. the strip loses much of its allure in the daytime and i was looking forward to dusk and the start of glittering neon vistas. i couldn't get the ocean's movies out of my head as we crawled our way past the bellagio and its famous fountains. we finally reached our hotel, the aria resort, which is part of "city center" - a new complex of hotels and an extremely high-end shopping mall, sandwiched between the bellagio and monte carlo.


the inside of the aria was stunning. in the end i much preferred our non-themed hotel/casino and its subtle yet plush interior to the over-the-top usual suspects. once we dropped off our luggage at the room, we stopped by todd english's faux-britpub to catch the second half of the US's final game against ghana in the world cup. too bad US.

we made a small loop on the strip on foot, checking out the inside of several casinos and tourist spots. neither of us are big gamblers, so we decided to wait and take our chances in the evening when the mood seemed more appropriate. excalibur was perhaps once grand in the heyday of gaudy-faux casinos, but it seemed stale and somehow a bit sleazier than the rest. new york new york and paris have true theme park feels with miniature versions of their namesakes inside. there was something about the MGM grand that i liked inside, it was dark and bold, though i didn't much care for the whole lions in a glass cage thing. dan and i both really liked the tropicana as well, as it's one of the oldest casinos on the new strip, complete with a beautiful art deco ceiling in the main area of the casino. finally, there was the obligatory stop to the bellagio to see the venetian glass ceiling sculptures.

las vegas practices what it preaches. their ad campaign of "what happens in vegas stays in vegas" comes to life every single day, as it has created a facade of reality for visitors, a disney-esque park whose themes are money and sex. it just is what it is. the facade is so blatant, however, that it's amazing how many people get so caught up in it. for all of the deconstruction of las vegas you can handle, las vegas: the social production of an all-american city is available in its entirety online.

the heat from the electricity and concrete and lack of greenery started taking its toll on me as we walked around, so we headed back to the room where i dosed up on cold meds and fever reducers. i wanted to at least be able to feel well enough to head to fremont street later that day.

after scouring our guidebooks for buffet reviews, we decided that the buffet at the main street station hotel/casino on the old strip would be the best bang for our buck. perhaps its wasn't the $35 selection of french regional cuisine available at paris, but for $15 i'd say dan and i both enjoyed ourselves making the rounds like kids in candy stores. we selected samples of mexican food next to steamed shrimp and oysters, antipasta next to spring rolls, and bread pudding next to coconut cake and soft serve ice cream. the goal was to not overdo it on any one item, as there were so many we both wanted to try, an exercise in self-control to reach an end goal of gluttony. since we've been home, there have been several times in which i've had sudden cravings for a vegas buffet. strange?

we wandered around the old strip where casinos like the gold nugget, golden gate, and four queens have withstood the test of time, and provide more character and depth than any places on the new strip. we ogled cheap souvenirs, saw people pose for photos next to showgirls, watched the light/sound show on the covered walkway of fremont street, and tried patiently to get clear photos of the old neon signs on display. i even had my palm read. we patiently watched blackjack tables, trying to work up the nerve to play, but our beginners' jitters got the best of us and we both ended up playing video poker instead. i did get lucky and won about $10, and after a few rounds, we came out $2 on top between the two of us. could've been worse.

here is a chapter from the anthropology text hosts and guests: the anthropology of tourism, which goes into great detail on gambling as a tourist attraction.

the next day we walked to caesar's palace where the plan was to watch the argentina vs. mexico game at the sportsbook, but by the time we got there, all of the seats were taken. so we settled in and watched at a cafe/bar instead.

it took over an hour to get back and get our car back from the valet at aria and we headed to another guidebook suggestion for lunch - the cafe heidelberg. believe it or not, there are plenty of choices in german food for the non-meat eater (even though i've yet to see a veg version of weinerschnitzel...richmond, i'm looking at you. though i did find a recipe). cucumber salad, spƤtzle (sans gravy), rye bread, among other things. unfortunately, i still wasn't feeling up to drinking, and had yet to imbibe since we left the grand canyon, so no german beer for me.

by the time we got back to the hotel, i was exhausted and hoped to feel better after a nap. not so. the rest of the day was a wash as i just didn't have it in me to go out. fortunately i had a caring travel companion who went out in search of meds and food. the flight out was early the next morning (we had to be at the airport around 5:30) and i knew i wouldn't make it past 10:00.

before we knew it, we were back in richmond by 6pm the next day, smacked in the face by the humidity upon exiting the airport. welcome to virginia!

Monday, July 12, 2010

wild wild west part VI

part IV - tusayan, az to las vegas, nv

though we hadn't decided where we'd be staying the night we left the grand canyon, we planned on making as many strange stops along the way as possible. the first was the flinstones' bedrock city, a sort of life-sized reconstruction of bedrock. though we didn't pay the admission price to get in to the actual attraction, the giant fred flinstone sign outside and flinstone-mobile was enough to sate the immediate need for roadside kitsch.

en route towards las vegas we decided to take old route 66 for as much of the trip as possible. it only passes through a handful of small towns now, but these towns thrive on the fact that passersthrough are trying to recapture the nostalgia of the old route. many of these places reached near death when the interstate bypassed them, but many are holding strong to their ability to offer a piece of almost-gone roadside americana.

the most fascinating story comes out of seligman, arizona. though we were both pretty unfamiliar with the town's history, the tale slowly unfolded through the places we visited and the people with whom we talked. perhaps you've seen a little pixar/disney film cars? we discovered that seligman was an inspiration for the story. but i'm getting ahead of myself...

many of the places in seligman and similar towns have the same outward appearance - an abundance of 50s signage, vintage gas pumps, and elvis and marilyn memorabilia. we ate at a little crazy diner called "delgadillo's sno cap," a take-out burger joint. though the vegetarian fare was sparse, and dan said the burger was just okay, the entertainment factor and the role that this place and its owners have had in the community made the visit worthwhile. the staff heartily plays jokes on customers. for example, dan asked for a straw and received a piece of hay, one employee asked if i wanted mustard and squirted a fake mustard bottle of yellow string onto my shirt, and another patron asked for a small coke and received a thimblefull of soda. the chocolate malt was delish and we would soon find out how the ower's family, the delgadillos, were perhaps known as the saviors of seligman.

we made our way down the tiny strip of souvenir shops and went into one that had a small annexed room with a solitary barber's chair inside. dan had mentioned getting a haircut and shave and after we inquired at the shop counter, a quick phone call was made and we were told to wait for a few minutes. soon enough, an older man arrived and asked around for who wanted the haircut. just before dan made his way into the room, two older japanese tourists asked to have their photograph taken with the barber. strange, we both though.

angel delgadillo's shop walls are plastered with business cards of people who have visited his shop and newspaper articles about him and seligman from all over the world. who was this witty old man who was trimming dan's scruff into a james dean-like coif? we asked him questions and he readily answered, describing his father's role in the town's commerce, following in his father's footsteps and becoming a barber, his brother juan's opening of the sno cap, and sitting down to talk with producer john lassiter about seligman's history and how it could be translated in the movie cars. the gift shop website has a great history of the family written up here and this site has a lot of good photos of the town.
after leaving seligman, we made our way west, reading burma shave signs aloud as we savored the last miles on 66 before we would turn northwest towards vegas. unfortunately that afternoon, i started feeling a little ill, so we skipped making an extra loop to check out a few ghost towns and kept going towards the hoover dam. we didn't stop to do a tour, though i did keep thinking about the griswald vegas vacation, "welcome everyone. i am your dam guide, arnie. now i'm about to take you through a fully funtional power plant, so please, no one wander off the dam tour and please take all the dam pictures you want. now are there any dam questions?"
i got my first taste of stale casino air when we stopped just inside the nevada border for a bathroom break. welcome to nevada. we decided to stay in boulder city, nevada, about 45 mins. outside of vegas for the night and found a great hotel, the boulder dam hotel. though we thought boulder city might be a bust, it turned out to have a nice little downtown. but the next day we didn't spend any time there, as it was time to make our way to the mecca of facades...

Friday, July 9, 2010

wild wild west part V

part V - the grand canyon and surrounds

i'll unfortunately have to do the last couple of posts sans personal photographs, as i haven't been able to upload pics from dan's camera yet.

from durango, colorado, it took almost all day to reach our hotel just outside of grand canyon national park. one of the major stops along the way - the four corners monument - was closed. it was a major disappointment as i had fantasized about sprawling atop the marker, legs and arms in an X, as if being drawn and quartered into four different states. instead, there are pictures of dan and i making sad faces in front of the sign stating that the monument is temporarily closed.

the landscape in northeastern arizona was quite alien, complete with mesas and jagged rocks jutting suddenly out of the red earth. we passed through several tiny towns including kayenta, where the only radio station for miles was playing reggae, and tuba city, where we visited the "explore navajo interactive museum." the museum didn't look like much so when we inquired about ticket prices and the guy at the desk said $10, we started to walk away. he said he would give us the native american ticket price, $5 each. now i can finally say that i've used that 1/32 cherokee for something...the museum was informative and included a strange, lo-fi graphics computer animated video of the navajo creation myth, which has to be one of the most strange i've ever heard, and an exhibit about the contributions of the navajo code talkers in world war II.

after leaving tuba city, it was more desert driving as we passed the painted desert to on its western side and entered grand canyon national park. fortunately, i remembered to put aaron copeland's grand canyon suite sunrise as the first song on one of the many roadtrip mix cds. though we were tired and hungry, i talked dan into pulling over to one of the first overlooks we came to and what i saw, as i'm sure many have said before me, was truly spectacular. it is true what they say - photographs simply don't do this natural wonder justice. we finally arrived at our "resort" hotel, which was in dire need of interior renovations from its early 80s decor. but hey, after long days, a clean bed is all you really need.

the next day, we got out early to do the 3 mile cedar ridge hike halfway down the south rim of the canyon. forewarned about the dangers of hiking in high temperatures, it took a while for us to gather all of the necessary hydration equipment (read: we only had 1 liter bottle of water and eventually collected another, a powerade, a gatorade, and some trail mix). the trail was hot, mostly in the sun, and is completely downhill, followed, of course, by a completely uphill second half. luckily, we both felt pretty good and were able to complete it in a couple of hours.

after listening to a very entertaining ranger talk on canyon history tales, we went back home for a rest and collected more supplies to head back into the park for a sunset picnic. our gourmet feast consisted of pb&banana sandwiches, chips and salsa, and beer, and we found a quiet overlook where we enjoyed our dinner. we almost missed the actual moment of sunset looking for a parking space at a busier overlook with better views. we parked illegally to quickly join a mass of international tourists (we were the only english speakers within earshot) to watch the orange sun cast its final shadows inside the canyon before melting into the horizon.


the next day we made our way from tuyasan, arizona westward towards las vegas without a plan for the night's stay in mind. along the way towards nowhere in particular, we found several places well worth the wandering.

not to mention...
  • in tuyasan, just outside of grand canyon national park, i saw my first elk. in spite of the yellow warning signs for mountain lions next 10 miles and all of dan's fingers being crossed for a mountain lion encounter, we never saw any of the big cats.
  • somewhere between durango and the grand canyon is a town called "mexican water." the founder must have had a clever sense of humor.
  • an interesting short history of the grand canyon here.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

wild wild west part IV

part IV - durango, co and mesa verde

as we headed out of santa fe and into southwestern colorado, the landscape again shifted from desert shrubs to alpine-like forests and mountains. we had packed a picnic but it was difficult to find a good place to stop for lunch. we ended up eating on table outside of a new mexico visitor's center and had a very windy picnic, sitting on napkins and slices of bread, cheese and tomatoes under our elbows.

between northern new mexico and southwestern colorado, the land there is ranch country, with both horse and cattle ranches (and occasional goat and sheep farms) dotting the fields along the way. chimney rock was conveniently located on our route and we stopped to take a few snapshots. it was there that i unfortunately noticed a large black blob appearing on my camera screen (as seen in the pic below). i tried cleaning the lens to no avail and thought it best to seek out the first camera store we could find.
we did find a camera store at our next stop, durango, colorado.
durango was founded in 1880 as a train depot for the mining district in which it is located. the town's railroad influenced history is still very much alive today with the famous durango-silverton narrow gauge railroad line (now a tourist train, and what many consider to be one of the most beautiful and/or terrifying rail rides in the country).

we stayed in one of the nicest hostels i've ever sojourned at, the durango hometown hostel. cheap ($24/person), clean, convenient, safe, comfortable - everything a hostel should be. our first night in durango was spent orienting ourselves, checking out the camera shop (where i reluctantly admitted that i'd have to use dan's camera for the remainder of the trip as my problem could only be fixed by sending the camera away for weeks), and eating dinner at a himalayan restaurant.

the next morning it took almost 2 hours to reach mesa verde (it normally takes 1 hour, but there was road construction inside the park that caused major delays). along the way we stopped at one of the countless "indian trading posts," this one complete with tepees and enormous arrows sticking out of the ground.


in case your middle school history is a little hazy...mesa verde is a massive community of cliff dwellings built by the anasazi people (ancestors to modern day pueblos and hopis) about 800 years ago. it takes a while to decide upon a plan of action once in the park because some of the sites are very spread out and the ranger-led tours that give you more access run on strict time/# of people limits.
we first headed to the museum, mailed some postcards, and saw one of the smaller sites, then went on a packed ranger guided tour of canyon palace, the largest and most famous dwelling in the entire park. though the national park service adamantly warns of some difficult hiking (3 ladders over 10 ft. high! narrow walkways! rocky paths!), the hike was about 1/4 mile long and not quite as treacherous as they had made it out to be. what we saw on the hike, however, was well worth it.

our ranger, wendy, did a great job of getting us lazy, advanced technology-addicted folks to imagine what life would have been like living inside the cusp of a cliff with nothing but our shared knowledge of how to use our immediate surroundings for survival. the place is considered to be sacred ground by some native peoples today and their left offerings of statues, foods, and goods served as a link between a shared past and the present.

by the time we got back to durango, the time to shower and eat had come and passed, but we pressed onward and filled ourselves at one of durango's brewpubs, steamworks brewery (where dan insists he's had one of the best hefeweizens this side of deutschland. tasted pretty good to me). the next day would be a lengthy drive from durango to the grand canyon, so it was an early night for us...

but wait, there's more...
  • the beer probably tasted just a little better at steamworks because i was trying to wash down the fact that i had discovered that afternoon, thanks to my roomie for informing me asap, that my car had been towed from outside of my house, for street cleaning.
  • towing, $95. daily rate for having the car sit, $35. hefe at steamworks brewery, $7. getting my parents to rescue the hyundai from the impound lot, priceless.
  • i need to get the pictures from the rest of the trip before the next update!