Berlin Concrete

“Simon sez jump in the air. . . and stay there! Everyone loses!”

Taking a break from Morocco, sports, and music blogs to bring you this:

So when I joined up here I cyberly met Ailsa of Where’s My Backpack? fame, and I saw she’d done a blog on a piece of the Berlin Wall in Noo Yawk. Since there’s a piece of it here in El Lay too, I figured I had to do the same. So here goes. . .

These brightly painted chunks of concrete are on Wilshire Blvd. across the street from LACMA–Los Angeles County Museum of Arts, or as I call it, the Art Zoo–but they’re difficult to see from the street because of all the lunch trucks. No one seems to know it’s there anyway.

The whole thang. . .

And now some closeups; the ones on the front are original, the ones in back commissioned. It took a moment to realize they wouldn’t have been originally painted on the back, unless you actually wanted the East German Stasi to use you for target practice.

He’s incredibly muscular for being just bones

Almost makes me hungry. . . almost

A bit creepy even if she’d been painted right-side-up



Morocco is Better than Rococo. . .

Moorish proverb: He who does not travel will not know the value of men

The last time I woke up to a UCLA football score, it was a 59-0 loss to BYU. This time it was a 66-10 killing of Arizona. Go figure. Guess that’s why they play the games. . . but even that doesn’t make up for the volleyball team being swept by those same Wildcats; ugh. A lot more satisfying sleeping through the election coverage. . .

I’ve said this many times, and explained it on my other blog, but it certainly bears repeating: All the photos I take during these trips are the property of the company who pays me to go to such places and take photos, so I’m not allowed to show them. Some photographers scream bloody murder when they hear this, claiming they would never sell out in such a manner. I don’t agree, mostly because I’ve already been to most places, gotten my own shots. I certainly don’t work 24/7, so I get plenty of time to explore on my own, as well as meet up with old friends, or see them compete in the Olympics or World Cups; had I not agreed to such a stipulation at Athens 2004, for example, I would have been sitting on my couch watching one of my favorite people in the world having a gold medal placed around her neck instead of taking a photo from about 20 feet away. Most importantly, I get paid for it! More than I would have made at home for the same amount of time and shooting. And I certainly haven’t paid for a vacation in years. . .

Okaaaay, on to da show!

Like most photographers, and possibly most people, wandering a medina, with a maze of mysterious alleys, is the most fun. Souks can be fun too, if you can take the incessant screaming for your attention and your dollars. . . or Euros. {FYI: medina=old town; souk=marketplace. You’re welcome.} Morocco is probably the most Westernized Arabic/Muslim country, so there’s plenty that looks similar, yet still enough different for fun.

As always, especially in intros, I tend to meander, so here go a few interesting tidbits. Despite my knowledge of classics and archaeology, for example, I hadn’t known the Romans had been here, after the fall of Carthage. Said Roman colony was known as Ifrikiya in medieval times, which is the name “Africa” comes from. Cool, huh? Also, Berbers are named after the word “barbarian,” not the other way around; wonder how they feel about that.

Unfortunately, for a guy who likes walking around, traffic here reminds me of India, which is saying a lot. Even though I know this promise won’t last when I get back home, right now I feel like I’ll never complain about bad El Lay drivers again. I’m glad, at least, that I’m not driving; here’s an example. There aren’t that many roundabouts in the US, because there’d be too many macho accidents, but around the world you basically wait for an opening in the circular traffic before heading in. Not here; priority is given to those entering. Stupid and dangerous, even if you’re trying to cross the street. . . but then, I’m told this is a French invention, which explains a lot.

The social stuff is a lot more. . . intriguing. For instance, the one time I was on the train, I quickly found that no one seems to get the point, or even the idea, of reserved seating. That’s just irritating, not shocking. . . no, shocking is reserved for sitting in an internet café next to some teenager watching hardcore porn. . . and no one around, especially the women, seem surprised. Suddenly the hotel’s wireless fee doesn’t look so bad. . .

Didja know that in Brazil it’s impolite to make the “OK” sign with your hand? Whereas at home I might wave my hand in the air, here the only way to ask someone to come over is by placing the palm down and literally sweeping the hand backward. Takes some getting used to. . .

Once again–I wished I’d told them I’d been to Morocco before–I was told about the Maezt-Dar L’Oudou, which I had them write down, as my French is rusty enough to be nonexistent. Basically translating to “Goat of the Lavatories,” it’s a spirit or poltergeist that inhabits toilets, and it only comes out at night, as you might expect. So there I am being told this in the restaurant as I needed to head to the head, so if you thought I was going to stick around to ask how to ward this bastard off–“Rukhsa, ya Mubariqin,” or  “With your permission, O Blessed Ones”–you’re in for along wait. Besides, I love to live on the edge. . . the edge of what, that’s the mystery.

On a non-completely-unrelated note, orange juice is everywhere, the national drink other than mint tea. I love oranges; I hate mints. I also love the hotel bathrooms. . .

And while we’re on the subject of bodily intake, I was joined in one souk visit by a young lady of indeterminate European origin who was staying across the hall from me at the hotel. Being much more experimental than me–I asked if she meant more than just food, but she only grinned–she was easily persuaded to try a supposed local delicacy: animal penis. She didn’t even ask which animal, dove right in, making for yet more jokes I had to quash before they reached my mouth. . . though I couldn’t hold out when she claimed it was actually pretty good: “Knew it wasn’t your first time.” And then the guys in the stall laugh and tell her it wasn’t, just a trick they play on foreigners, which reminded me of my archaeology professor’s story about eating raw bat in a warrior ceremony on a desolate Pacific island, but we don’t have time for that now.

In fact, the intro has taken over, become its own blog entry, so more tomorrow. . . hopefully.


Recently Liked Songs

I use trips, especially long flights, to search for new music or, more likely, really get into recent songs I’ve chosen. I’ll play them over and over again until the music and lyrics—provided they enunciate—seep into my long-term memory like osmosis.

So, with that lovely visual, let’s get to a few new tunes I recommend.

A Changed Man

A few yours ago my musician friend Ali Handal was kind enough to gift me a subscription to a website called Indie Eclectic, which sadly is no more. For I think $20–when it wasn’t free like this–you could have all the songs on there, some from famous artists. Of course I looked at all the not-so-famous ones, and aside from Tastiskank–more on them in another blog–my only find was Far Beyond Frail. Dave is an excellent songwriter and guitarist, and Sharlynn has an underrated voice that sneaks up on you at just the right time. This is only their latest amazing tune; as I wrote to them, once every couple of years I love a song the first time I hear it, and this is that song. {It’s also gratifying when they write back!}. The song should still be free at the link above, on the title header. Go get it.


Lindsey Yung is not just one of my fave musicians; she’s one of my fave people too; ask her something about turtles and see her light up. As I told her recently, she just keeps getting better and better as a songwriter, as evidenced by this soft yet powerful song, which was also for free at her website the last time I checked, so don’t tarry. At the very least watch the video at the title link.


With a driving beat, probably Marina V‘s hardest and fastest song ever, it describes her obsession for. . . well, whoever she’s singing about. This is right up there with You Make Me Beautiful as Marina’s best ever. Compare the videos at their links above. Even though the new album isn’t officially out yet, you can buy it here, but I suggest you go to her website and contribute some cash to the funding of said new album; that way you’ll get all the completed songs right away to download, and the CD when it comes out.

Leave the Lights On

Seriously, who couldn’t love the cuteness personified that is Meiko? Every time I see her I think back to the young girl who was my waitress at Hotel Café, and it makes me smile. Like Lindsey and Marina, she just keeps getting better; enjoy the video to this song here, and kudos to the director for doing it all in one take.

Laugh So Hard You Cry

There isn’t much I can say as to why this is my fave of Natalie Gelman’s songs–I also recommend Streetlamp Musician–but it showcases her deep voice and lovely lyrics; especially love the rhymes on this one. See it here.

The Wreckers

Rush releases a new album and you think they’re not going to make this list? Actually, I found the music not that much of a big deal, unlike most critics–for a change–but loved the story of the entire concept album–and novel–particularly the lyrics. However, there is one song that will be at the top of my best of 2012, and that’s this one, which you can listen to here. In case your historical curiosity gets the best of you, as it usually does me, don’t just look up shipwreckers in Ireland and Scotland, but ask the internet how Nag’s Head, North Carolina was named. . .

And I couldn’t help adding some of the lyrics, especially the chorus:

The breakers roar/ on an unseen shore
In the teeth of a hurricane/we struggle in vain
A hellish night/a ghostly light
Appears through the driving rain
Salvation in a human chain

All I know is that sometimes you have to be wary
Of a miracle too good to be true
All I know is that sometimes the truth is contrary
Everything in life you thought you knew
All I know is that sometimes you have to be wary
‘Cause sometimes the target is you

Driven aground/with that awful sound
Drowned by the cheer from ashore
We wonder what for
The people swarm/through the darkling storm
Gather everything they can score
Until their backs won’t bear any more
   Yep, there’s been fucked-up people all throughout history. . .

Riddle the Sphinx’s latest album

It isn’t often this band–made up of two entertainment lawyers and an aging hippie who’s the most normal of the trio–releases an album, but it’s always a cause for celebration. . . albeit the strange celebrations that only Christiane’s wicked imagination can conjure. Far too difficult to pick just one song, though I did manage to cut it down to the five best: Hey You, Professional Pretender, Skies of Aleyeska, Small Sacrifice, and One Man Band, though even then I might add I See You in Everyone. I’d heard many of these songs live–Skies something like 5 years ago!–as well having gotten a preview of the whole album a couple of years ago at Christiane’s place {After Sledgefest, but that’s another story. . . which is on the blogspot site, if you’re that curious.}. Like I told her when I heard that preview, I hope that middle part of Hey You is the closest she ever gets to rapping. . . here’s a video of the title song.

Enjoy the aural deliciousness. . .



Apparently some people–hilariously–believed I was RIDING to the beach on a horse with a naked girl. Nope, my back won’t stand for riding anymore. In case you haven’t figured it out, I was taking photos of a model bareback–in more ways than one–on the beach during magic hour. . . though twenty years ago I might have liked the first idea better.