First morning in Istanbul

The view from the restaurant on top of the hostel I'm staying at.

So I’m here in Istanbul, Turkey. I got in around noon yesterday, and I’m meeting up with Ashley and Marissa tonight. Istanbul is just as beautiful as everyone has said. Just look at that picture! If I turn around from that position, I see the Hagia Sofia two streets away!

The hostel I was at last night (Istanbul Hostel) was really great. Not the nicest, that goes to the hostel in Shanghai, but it has the best feel to it. Breakfast is included, and I woke up this morning to a cup of coffee, a plate with a block of feta cheese, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, olives, a hardboiled egg, and all the French bread I wanted. And I ate it on the roof.

Fun story. You know the saying “It’s a small world.”? Well, traveling makes that saying sound dumb. Cities have similarities, but the time it takes to get everywhere and the vast differences in cultures make America seem very removed from the rest of the world. That is, until you realize that there are four other USC Class of ’11 grads staying at the same hostel you are in Turkey. It’s a small world.

Mos Def redefined the rap live show last night

Mos Def: making avant-garde hip hop appeal to a mainstream college audience

I’ve been to a few hip hop shows in the past. Not nearly as many as punk, indie rock, or electronic shows, but still, a few. Mos Def’s show last night at USC’s Springfest ’11 was like nothing else.

I’m about as knowledgeable about Mos Def as the average guy off of the street; that is, I know “Ms. Fat Booty,” “Sex, Love & Money,” and I’ve seen a movie or two he’s been in. I can’t comment on how many of the songs he played – or flowed through – last night are his, but whatever it he was playing couldn’t have sounded more like the high-brow rap innovator that he is in my mind.

For the first fifteen minutes, I was waiting for a song I recognized to come from the DJ (we’d just finished a set by MURS who covered Rage and The Bangles). But when songs blended together and lasted ten minutes with extended interludes of Mos improvising over muddied beats removed of any mid or treble tones, I just went with it.

An anecdote: During the dead pause between two songs, someone in the crowd was repeatedly yelling, “Ms. Fat Booty.” Mos turned to face the guy and said, “Hey, this ain’t a jukebox show.” That pretty much sums it up.

The word to describe the set: weird. It wasn’t fun, but I loved it. I’m not sure if this is the best comparison, but it was what Portishead would do if for some reason Beth wanted to rap. It was fantastic.



After having visited the various museums around LA (the Getty, Norton Simon, Huntington, and the various museums here at Exposition) over the past couple years, I finally made it to LACMA. Visiting museums presents a mild catch-22 for me: I don’t like going without a group of other people, but I don’t like to walk around with that group. I’d much prefer to go on my own and sit in one spot for a half hour if I want to without worrying about if the rest of the group is getting annoyed. Luckily, I’ve found that plenty of people feel the same way and don’t really care if we stick together as a group or not.

On another “freshman outing” coordinated by the grad Radomir, about 10 of us headed down to check out the latest addition to LACMA: the BCAM (Broad Contemporary Art Museum). We started off the night at Souplantation, which turned out to essentially be a step up from college cafeteria-style dining. After wondering why a Frank Lloyd Wright quotation was on the wall and having our fill of soup, salad, bread, and desserts we embarked on the traffic-packed journey that was 3rd/Fairfax/Wilshire to LACMA.After 5pm, everyone gets in free, so being the cheep college students we are, that’s exactly what we went for.

Starting off, the BACM goes top down (kinda like the Guggenheim I guess) and each of the three floors is massive. The first floor (which is actually the third) opens up to the exhibition that all the press in focusing on. The pieces are very large, metallic, incredibly shiny, balloon-shaped objects by Jeff Koons. These include dogs, an egg, and other things that are just big and colorful and reflective. Also in this exhibition are a few pieces by Andy Warhol. After spending a good part of a month focusing on Pop Art last semester, I’ve done a bit of reading on him and was very surprised to see his Elvis at LACMA. While only one copy was on display, it reminded me of the fact that they used to be displayed repeatedly overlapping across an entire wall. Very Pop and very gay, as was Warhol.

Of the three floors, the first had the largest pieces, the second had the most pantings/photography, and the third was all (I think) Richard Serra pieces. Again, last semester we spend quite a bit of time on installations and public art. Serra’s Tilted Arc was the focus of our discussions, but his two pieces at LACMA are far more interesting in my opinions. While Tilted Arc is clearly a prime example of how public art can be received by its audience (and I agree that it was very intrusive), these two were not out in public, and I think that their place in a large hall is perfect.  Both pieces rise up about 10-15 feet and are made of rusted steel. One piece is a massive figure eight and the other (which we didn’t spend much time at) was similarly contoured, but I’m not sure what its shape is.

After we left the BACM, we headed over the main part of LACMA, but our time was limited. In about an hour and a half, I saw some great Southern Californian pieces, a Rothko, two Pollocks, some Picassos, a Braque, and countless others. At 9, we were kicked out and LACMA closed. Naturally, we spend another hour driving aimlessly around LA and eventually wound up back on campus. It was a good night.

USC Libraries blow me away

Books ThumbnailSo I’m sitting in AFA (Architecture & Fine Arts Library) doing some research for the art history paper that is due next Monday, and I need to get a book. So I open my laptop and head to HOMER (the library catalogue database) to see if we have it. First try: score. USC just happens to have a copy of Modern Art and Modernism: A Critical Anthology by Francis Frascina and Charles Harrison from 1982. Lucky me, I can continue my quest to link Robert Morris’ “Notes on Sculpture Pt. 1” from Artforum to the two pieces of art I have yet to select. That the book was in the library was a pretty sweet coincidence that winds up happening about four more times until I’m fully confident that – here at USC – every book in the history of the universe is/was/will be located in one of our libraries. I say “was” because books get stolen. It always sucks when you do a search it is comes back as being due two years ago… But I stand firm, somewhere in the vast (and horribly creepy) bookstacks of USC lies the meaning of life.

Ultimate frisbee is a serious sport, who knew?

Ultimate FrisbeeIt all began last week. I stepped out onto the field where there were people warming up to play Ultimate Frisbee. I walked over to be one of them. Little did I know how serious they are about their sport.

I’ve played Ultimate in high school plenty of times. After the swim season ended, ultimate was all we played during 6th period. The teams were about 20 on 20 and we played on a huge soccer field wearing some sort of a combination of Rainbow sandals, running shoes, metal cleats, and bare-feet. It was Fallbrook, give us a break.

Just as a quick note, I do deserve a small break for my ignorance. My idea of intramural sports was inter-tube waterpolo. Swimming around in a pool with plastic life preservers around your waist didn’t sound so hardcore to me. I guess intramural sports run the full gamut of intensity, and I picked an upper tier one.

I was in for a rude awakening Monday last week. Little did I know that we’d be actually practicing good throwing technique and things like offensive formations. Seriously, everything that a sport like football or basketball has in terms of strategy, Ultimate has parallels for it all. It was pretty evident last week that the majority of my team were freshman who had about as much experience as myself. The few retuning players we had were noticeably better than the rest of us. Our first game, we got beat pretty badly. By half-time the score was 7-0. Hope was not lost though, at the end, we had scored a few times for a final of 13-4. Not much of a catchup, but somehting nonetheless.

This Monday was a different story. From the get-go, we realized what our playing style is. We play it slow and don’t rush any decisions (we have a minimum of 10 seconds to make any decision at all). At half-time, the score was 7-3, which was better than the first game, but still losing. We played an awesome second-half in which I pulled the frisbee onto the next field. Embarrassing to say the least. But I scored, so maybe that makes up for it. By then end, the final score was 15-13, us. That’s right, we came back and went back and forth twice to grab the win. Victory is sweet, but even sweeter when you have to work for it.

Ira Glass is the best story teller in America

Ira Glass

Tonight I was reminded why I love listening to people talk. I don’t mean that in the sense that I’m unique because of it; rather, that I can become so helplessly engulfed in a story, but that I know some people who can’t grasp that concept.

I’d like to thank Ira Glass for reminding me of that fact. For the past two hours I sat in Bovard Auditorium listening to him tell story after story related to his radio talk show This American Life and seamlessly weave in the nuances of why we enjoy the stories. From the downfalls of the teachings of writing schools to Arabian Knights, Ira Glass conveyed humor, awe, and nostalgia to the entire audience.

As a quick background, Ira Glass’s radio show takes on a simple premise and builds. The foundation is that ordinary people can be interesting. While true, there are thousands of other various pieces of art whether they be plays, movies, or TV shows that try to found themselves on this concept. Glass addressed this point saying that they aren’t really interesting in the whole story. What makes their show so intriguing is the small corners of stories or events that give it character.

So throughout the entire show (?, maybe it was more of a speech, or maybe a monologue) Glass stressed the importance in story telling of the action and the following reflection. By breaking down and getting rid of the complexities that could possibly be extracted by studying the thousands of classic stories, it becomes blatantly obvious why you love the stories you love. Whether it’s a personal experience that you can relate to, or just some universal comprehension that brings us together, the best stories hit home.

To me, this is why I love the podcasts I love. It’s why they are the top ranked podcasts.

It’s why some TV shows are amazing while others are cancelled after the pilot.

It’s why his event (that’s what I’m calling it) received a standing ovation.

Catholics at The Grove

Maggiano’s Little Italy

Kind of an odd title, but fitting nonetheless. Last night the USC Catholic Center got everyone together bused us to The Grove, a high end outdoor mall in LA (you might have heard of it…).

We started (and ended) the night at Maggiano’s Little Italy Restaurant. While the plan was to originally to go to dinner and then move out to shop for a bit, store close at 9 at pretty much every mall. 9 is just a tad earlier than the 10:30 at which we finished dinner.

In case you are wondering why we were eating for so long, there are a number of reasons. One is that there were about 50 people total eating in our party, so even family-style dinner takes a while. Another reason is that there were three full courses. We got our pizzas, salad, and calamari as appetizers, the fettucini alfredo, lasagna, and salmon next, and some amazing chocolate cake and tiramisu for dessert. Amazing all around.

The kicker? The man who owns The Grove, Rick Caruso, also happens to be Our Saviour’s (Catholic Center) biggest donator. Word is that it’s because of his generosity that we are building a new center next year! Looks like it’s a great time to be at USC! So we all had a great time out away from school, and I discovered where the closest Apple Store is to USC (I think).

Ron Paul @ USC

Ron Paul
ron paul @ usc in front of tommy trojan

“He’s so Republican, it’s like not Republican.”

That’s my favorite quote of the day that I overheard some other kids saying. Is it true? Kinda. His policy does stay very true to Republican party lines, but no other GOP candidates like him. It’s complicated.

So this was my first political rally. It was what I expected to be: tons of people who already are gung-ho for Dr. Paul and ready to cheer at his every word. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with much of what he says, but I’m not the type to eat up whatever someone says… Even if they are the best candidate running on the Republican ticket.

The state of the GOP right now is very unfortunate. To have a situation where a candidate doesn’t back the president of his own party, but stands behind exactly what the party defines itself as is pretty pathetic. What is even worse is the response of the Republican party to what Ron Paul says. The Republican party is lucky that someone like Paul came around; he’s their only chance to capture the youth’s attention.

So all in all, the rally was a learning experience. I am so thankful to be in a place where on any give Wednesday, you could be in a class, at a club meeting, asleep, or at a political rally. USC is certainly an interesting place.