Travel Log

Murakami vs. Verseilles

One of the coolest things we saw on our trip was Takashi Murakami’s installation at Verseilles. The pairing of Murakami’s kawaii aesthetic and the classic work in Verseilles has been quite controversial. As you can imagine, I think it’s fucking brilliant.

The Verseilles website has a nice overview of Murakami’s pieces and there’s a facebook page where you can read the battling opinions on the exhibit. I’ll be posting photos that we took soon as well. It’s not the same as going there in person, but you only have until December 12 of this year to check it out.

9 Things They Don’t Tell You About Paris

Paris, France is absolutely as gorgeous and romantic as you’ve heard. It also smells like pee.

Audrey and I had a magnificent time on our much belated honeymoon. Paris is wonderfully walkable and I took a metric fuck ton of photos which I will upload to the Flickrs sometime this week. I love the architecture of the city. It’s a wonderful mix of old and new which is demonstratively personified at the Louvre Museum with the great glass pyramid standing in the courtyard of a stately palace.

Paris is a city for lovers. It is also a working city which means there are lots of things that you will encounter that none of your friends have ever bothered to mention. So here’s a list of 9 random things that your friends haven’t told you about Paris until now:

  • If you’re a dude, you can pee on the sidewalk.
    Apparently, there’s no law against public indecency when it comes to urinating on the sidewalk. If you’re a man, you get to pee wherever you want including at the guard station at Montparnasse Cemetery where Audrey and I witnessed a dude just pissing on the sidewalk. If you’re a lady, no sidewalk peeing for you.
  • Toilets and sinks are in different places.
    At most of the restaurants, brasseries, cafes that we ate, the toilets where you do the business and the sinks where you wash up after the business were in different rooms. Typically, there’s a door that says “toilet.” This leads to a room with a sink and a mirror. There’s another door in that room that leads to the actual toilet. Sometimes there’s more than one door. This means that both men and women can use the toilets at the same time and share a sink. And even if there are separate men and women toilets, if there’s a long line for the ladies, sometimes the ladies can just sneak in and use the men’s toilet.
  • Parisians hate you.
    I think the American view of the French people is actually formed by the American experience in Paris. Most of us experience France in Paris and find the people somewhat rude and almost confrontational. This has lead to the American stereotype of French people being snooty and rude. However, once you get outside of Paris, the French people are rather pleasant and quite awesome. They, too, find Parisians to be rude and confrontational. The lesson here is that Parisians hate you and each other. And you shouldn’t take it out on the whole of France.
  • The Paris Metro works super well. Unless…
    The Paris Metro is like clockwork. It shows up when it says it will. You don’t have to wait terribly long between trains. The platform is the length of the train so you don’t have to guess where you can stand. However, if there’s a national strike like there is right now, you’re fucked. Paris is a walkable city so for tourists, walking around from place to place may be exhausting, but it’s doable. However, if you live on the outskirts and have to commute to the city, you are going to have a miserable day. Thankfully, we missed la greve and didn’t have to deal with the strikes.
  • Don’t have metro fair? Hop the turn style!
    The French pay wicked high taxes and many feel that public transportation should be free. We witnessed a lot of locals following people through the turn styles or hopping them altogether. We also saw people getting on busses without paying the fairs. And the officials don’t seem to give much of a fuck. The metro station workers never said a word as they watched people hop the turn style. The drivers never said anything to the people who didn’t pay. So if you’ve run out of pocket money, hop that turn style.
  • French Coca-Cola is served in made with sugar and served in glass bottles.
    YES! Now the formula does taste slightly different, but the real sugar gives the Coca-Cola a clean, crisp taste. Pepsi, also served in glass bottles and made with sugar. Fuck yes, France!
  • French comics kick quite a lot of ass.
    French comics are called bandes dessinées. They are more expensive than our floppies. They are also larger in format, come on nice glossy paper, and are hard bound. We found a B-D in Paris and I almost fucking fainted. Bandes dessinées are freaking gorgeous. All these glorious hard bound comics on the shelf just waiting for me to drool over! They are so much better than the floppies and I think if more comic creators were exposed to bandes dessinées, they wouldn’t ever want their work printed on shitty little newsprint paper ever.
  • There’s a lot of American TV dubbed on French TV.
    Not that we watched much TV, but when we did flick it on before falling asleep, there were an awful lot of American shows dubbed in French. Many more than I was expecting which is to say I wasn’t expecting any. But there was Bones speaking in perfect French.
  • Asian restaurants are probably owned by Chinese.
    There are many Asian restaurants in Paris which surprised the hell out of me and a shit ton of sushi joints. These are all owned by Chinese immigrants. Even the ramen joint we went to on our arrival was owned by Chinese people. The waiter and cook were yelling at each other in Mandarin. This is actually quite fun because you can get a nice steaming bowl of szechuan-style mapotofu at a ramen joint which I did one rainy night.

Jamie Vs. White Water Rapids

Over the weekend, Audrey and I went white water rafting in West Virginia at the New River with River Expeditions. I had been rafting before, but it was years ago. A few weeks ago, a Groupon popped up for River Expeditions offering half price rafting trips. We jumped at the chance!

Yummy Chips

The offer was for two nights of camping and one day of rafting so we headed down Friday with a caravan of friends, me and Audrey, another couple, and our friend who organized the trip. It was his idea to spend his birthday weekend on the river. Along the way, we stopped at the Route 11 potato chip factory and picked up some massive bags of potato chips (sooooo goooood). Their operation is surprisingly small in terms of manpower and they hand-season every batch of chips. It’s amazing to think that every Route 11 chip has been inspected and seasoned by a person, not by some fancy machine. They ship everywhere so the factory is sometimes open six days a week. If you’re interested in going to the chip factory, first, call ahead to see if they’re cooking, and second, only go out there if you’ve got somewhere else to go. Cause there ain’t shit else out there.

It was around 6 by the time we got down to the camp site and checked in. We pitched out tents and headed in to town for some dinner. Ended up at the local Bob Evans which served these horrifying apple pie fries, sliced of apples fried up with some caramel sauce on the side. They are un-good and not to be ordered ever. We got back to camp and just sacked out. We made the mistake of choosing the noisy camp site which meant we were surrounded by loud ass frat boys who spent the entire night drinking, yelling, and burning things. But I sleep like a corpse so I missed all that.

Split Up

We woke up Saturday and headed down to check in. Unfortunately, Audrey and I were booked at a later trip time than the rest of our crew. It turned out to be okay in the end, but I was a little worried. I was looking forward to rafting with my friends and despite appearances, I’m not terribly good at meeting new people. We waved to our friends as they headed out on the first trip out and hung around until our trip was called.

The 9:15 trip was called and we got lined up to get our gear; helmet, vest, and oar. They call the vest a PV[something I forgot] and not a “life preserver” because it won’t preserve your life. It’ll float, but it won’t save you from a vicious, undercut rock. They gave us the safety speech on the bus ride over to the launch site. Now the last time we went a few years ago, they showed us a safety video which told us that if we fell out of the boat, we float on our backs, aim our feet down river, and let the current take us until the boat reached us. Now, they tell you to haul your soaking ass back into the fucking boat! If you pop out, swim your ass to the boat as hard as you can. Water good, rocks bad. Words to fucking live by.

We got to the launch site and hooked up with our guide and team. It was Audrey and me, another couple, three other ladies, and one dude. All of us were from the DC area. Got our boat in the water and headed down the New River.

SPLOOSH

We made it through our first few rapids without a problem. Apparently, our paddling rhythm was pretty good. So our guide asked if we were wanted to take the wild way down or the standard way down the river. Boosted with confidence, we all said we were in for a wild time.

There were two ways to approach the next rapid and since we wanted some wild action, he took us down the hard way. We all ducked down into the middle of the boat just as we hit the drop. As we hit, I flew out of the boat and down under the water. The water just sucked me under. I tried to swim up but it pushed me down right as I thought I reached the top. Finally, it spit me back up to the surface. I somehow managed to hold on to my oar the entire time I was under. I also found my left shoe that popped off in the rapid. I swam my ass off to the boat and hauled myself in. The climbing strength really helps when it comes to hauling yourself into something.

It felt like I was under for minutes. I was so disoriented and horribly frightened. I tried my best not to breath out all of my air. I was starting to panic right when I popped up. When I saw the video of the whole thing afterwards, I was only under for a few seconds. I’d like to say that the experience gave me a new taste for extreme adventure. But honestly, I was shaken for a good long while. Each time we headed towards a major drop, I braced myself a little extra expecting to go back into the drink. Fortunately, that was the only time. And I was the only one on my boat to go out.

Drying Off

The rest of the ride down the river was amazing. Even though I was still a bit scared, I had such a great time. The scenery is magnificent and the weather was absolutely perfect. The water was nice and warm and we had ample time to hop out of the boat and swim around. Living and working an urban environment, it’s easy to forget how gorgeous unfucked nature really is.

We got back to the saloon to meet back up with our friends who had gone on the earlier trip. Turns out that they got dunked as well. We swapped boating stories and watched the replays of our videos. It was only about 3:30pm when we got back in, but we were fucking starving. By the time the onsight restaurant opened at 5pm, we were ready to eat dinner. It was steak all around. I don’t know if any of us really tasted the food since we all wolfed it down in a matter of minutes.

We headed back to camp and lit our fire. The guy who organized our trip invented the greatest hot dog ever which I will talk about when I have a chance to draw the ingredients and all that. But it was a truly amazing dog. Audrey and I went to find our boat crew to say hey. They all came down together. We found them chilling with our boat guide all getting good and drunk.

It was time to turn in. And even though there were some assholes shooting fireworks into the trees, Audrey and I slept like logs.

15 FT WATERFALL

Gauley season is coming up in September so if you’re looking for some class 5 rapids and a really wild ride including a 15ft waterfall that you go over, the Gauley is the river for you. I’m not so sure I’m brave enough for a 15ft drop. Okay, if I’m tied into a harness, yeah, climbing I have no problem taking a 15ft whipper. But I think I’d need some convincing to take on the Gauley.

If you’ve never tried white water rafting or if you’ve always wanted to try, I highly recommend River Expeditions. They really take care of you. I would go again in a heartbeat. So get your friends together, get your tent ready, and head on out to West Virginia.

Frogs, Frags, and the Fourth

Lil Peeper
“Foolish giants covered in hair! We may be small, but you cannot resist our mighty powers of CYOOT-FU!”

Last Friday, Audrey and I hopped on a Jet Blue flight up to Boston to spend the weekend with Audrey’s aunt and uncle, ten year old cousin, and another one of Audrey’s aunts. Pictured above is one of the mini-frogs we found sneaking around their basement. So cute. So deadly. Deadly cute if you will.

Not pictured is Audrey’s ten year old cousin’s score in our death matches of Halo 3. Although I did manage to eek out one win, he completely destroyed me the other two games of death match. This is either proof that ten year olds are just better equipped to play video games or that you should probably never listen to another video game review I ever write ever.

Also not documented were the Roman candles somehow mysteriously lit off in the back yard. No officer, we have no idea how those Roman candles were lit. Maybe it was those alien Lite Brites from a while back.

Much love to Jet Blue. I really hate flying but they somehow made it bearable. The seats were nice and comfy and actually roomy. Both the flight up and back I was put next to giant behemoths whose large bodacity would have spilled into my tiny space on other planes, but on Jet Blue, I was free from their gravitational pulls. I loved the personal little TV that came with every seat even though our flight was a mere hour and a half. And we got Direct TV channels. Word is that Jet Blue will be closing its doors sometime soon which will suck balls. But until then, we’ll be booking with them some more. Until, of course, they piss us off. Then we’ll start taking paddle boats.

As for Boston, what little we saw was full of mighty awesomeness. For example:

  • Toscanini’s – There’s a quote from the New York Times hanging on the front window proclaiming that Toscanini’s has the country’s best ice cream. Indeed, I have tasted none finer. This place made me happy and sad at the same time. Happy that such a fun place existed. Not only was the ice cream crunchy pants worthy but it seemed like an awesome place to hang out. Free wifi. Neat electronic quote board that you can send text messages to (if you saw “greetings programs!” and “I got blisters on me fingers!” there Sunday afternoon, that was me). Sad that there’s nothing like that here in Rockville. Poop.
  • Newbury Comics – The first thing I thought when I walked into this place was “Fuck, where are all the comics?” The second thing I thought was “Fuck! I–I don’t have enough pants!” Okay, try to read this without making your pants extra crunchy. Start with a comic shop; throw in an import, urban, sci fi toy store; mix in a healthy dose of CD, DVDs, and video games; and you’ll get something that looks a lot like Newbury Comics. *FAINT* HOLY FUCK STICK! First, why has no one told me of this awesome place? And second, WHERE THE FUCK IS MINE? I want one near me right now! Unfortunately, time would not allow a full and detailed exploration of all that this mecca had to offer, but rest assured, when we return to Boston, I shall be spending many, many hours and much, much money wandering Newbury Comic’s bountiful aisles.
  • Million Year Picnic – Down the street from Newbury, nestled in some basement, right there in Harvard Square is another comic book shop, Million Year Picnic. Where as Newbury assaults you with all sorts of stuff that is freaking awesome, Million Year Picnic concentrates on comics. This is the place you go for hard to find back issues, indy graphic novels, current titles, and people who know comics. Loved the place so much I had to walk out with some swags. I picked up Scott Pilgrim 3 and 4 because they were about the only things that would fit in my carry-on. But I’d love to spend more time in there digging through the back issue bins for hidden awesomeness.

We had a great time in Boston and we’re looking forward to returning sometime hopefully in the near future.

Otadramas

Wouldn’t you know it. After having relatively little cons teh dramas the entire weekend, Sunday suddenly exploded with security calls and crisis. Here are the top three:

  • One of our artists displayed some parody spoilers of the new Harry Potter book, things like “Harry and Ron, oh yes they did!,” “Voldemort is a Nazi,” and “Hermione is a man!” The signs were fine with Ota-staff and security so there was no problem from our end. Heh, don’t tell that to raging otaku. Apparently, one attendee was so incensed that he threatened said artist with physical violence. Said artist is a former Marine and if you know anything about the Marines, you know that there’s no such thing as a former Marine. Yeah, we had to call security to calm that noise down straight away or we would have seen an artist represent the hardcore.
  • One of our gofers got a bit overzealous when he followed an attendee who went up the wrong flight of stairs to berate and threaten her. Said gofer lost his shit due to a chemical imbalance that might have been normalized had he taken his meds. We called security on him.
  • Twenty minutes before the closing of The Alley, two artists came up to us accusing another artist of selling work that was not his. They had proof and pointed us to a DeviantArt page whose author said that he was Chinese and had just come back from a trip to Japan. The man selling the print in The Alley was clearly not Chinese or any type of Asian other than Caucasian. A quick look at the work at his booth indicated a variety of styles from different hands with, get this shit, different signatures! We asked him to pull the prints in question, but with twenty minutes left in the show, the damage had already been done. He’d already made over three thousand dollars in sales. The only thing we could do is make sure he’s banned from next year’s alley. So yeah, fuck DeviantArt.
  • One final note of caution. If you travel the convention circuit, you’ll soon become fast friends with your fellow artists and con-goers. You will also run into the same people over and over. Should you choose to date on the con circuit, be aware that you do so at great risk. Should anything amiss happen in your relationship, everyone will know. And if you’re the one who fucked it up, everyone will hate you. And you’ll know. Businesses usually have policies against dating co-workers. You should probably treat the con-circuit in a similar fashion just to be safe. I’m not saying that con lurv isn’t a good thing. It’s just a very risky thing.

    Overall, I had a great time. Cons are a lot of fun when you don’t have to pretend you give a shit about making money. Honestly, I enjoy drawing for people and hanging out and I had the chance to do that while being helpful. Well, trying to be helpful. I don’t know if I’ll go again next year, but I think this was a good way to end the con season for me. Who knows, maybe I’ll see you all next year.

    The People That You Meet Each Day…

    There will be a much more extensive post with more linkage, but I wanted to point out the two AZM readers who stopped by The Alley HQ to say “hey.” Yesterday, BAMikeD came by with his cast for me to sign. Looks like you got a lot of fun sigs on that arm. I hope they cut the unsigned part so you can hang on to it. And Cowhat Ninja stopped by with some Kamen Rider gashapon for me as well as a Zabee phone charm! CHANGE WASP! I <3 my readers! She's got a webcomic as well that updates much more often than mine does. Go check it out! Waiting for the pizza. Will post more when I get a chance.

    Overheard on the Con Radio

    The top three that I heard today:

  • “There’s woman screaming that I’ve attacked her and I’m not touching her!”
  • “There’s a man here who refuses to show me his badge and is calling the cops!”
  • “What do we know about the yaoi videos?” *squak* “They’re gay.”
  • Someone should be recording this shit!

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