Peter Dinklage and I Have One Thing In Common

I never really gave much thought to the place where I was born. I’ve only been there twice. The first time is when I was born, before I went home to the family home in nearby Livingston.

The second time was in 1997, when the entire family went to Jersey for our cousin’s wedding. During that trip, my brother and I took the rental car for a brief day-trip to check the place out. I was a little curious about my birthplace: Morristown, New Jersey.

While we were there, we walked around the downtown area a little bit, walked by the hospital where I was born, and also walked through a park in the center of the town. Unbeknownst to me, the Morristown National Historical Park is the site of General George Washington’s encampment from December 1779 to June 1780, and there’s a Washington museum on site.jon-in-morristown-2016_08_01_21_43_27_001

The picture to the right is of Jonathan standing in front of the equestrian statue of General Washington.  This was the first moment that I had any inkling that my birthplace is interesting on its own, and since then I’ve found out a few other neat facts about the town.

  • During Washington’s encampment in Morristown, Alexander Hamilton was present. It was during this stretch of time that Hamilton met and courted his future wife,  Elizabeth Schuyler.
  • The Morristown Green is also the site of  a statue commemorating the meeting of George Washington, the young Marquis de Lafayette, and young Alexander Hamilton.  (I’m gonna have to go back some time to see this one, probably.)
  • The 1780 court martial of Benedict Arnold also happened in Morristown.
  • There’s an additional encampment from the revolutionary war situated on a hill which gives clear views to the North, East, and South, while being backed by mountains on the West.  This encampment, created by order of General Washington in 1777, has the hilarious and awesome name of Fort Nonsense.    (Note to self:  I’m totally gonna steal that for my next apartment.  “Hey, let’s go back to Fort Nonsense and watch movies!”)
  • Peter Dinklage was born there, four years before me.  He’s no Alexander Hamilton, but he’s really good at drinking and knowing things.

Does your birthplace have any interesting history?

Shibuya

Most people know Shibuya mostly from images of Shibuya Crossing in movies and tv shows.  I’ll get to that in a minute.  First, I wanted to talk about Genki Sushi.  It’s a chain with several locations in the city, including this location in Shibuya.

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Genki is essentially a self-serve sushi restaurant.  For example, each seat contains a bin of green tea powder and a hot water tap for mix-it-yourself tea.

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The ordering is done on a touch-screen.    When you place the order, it is prepared and sent out to you within a few minutes.

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The sushi arrives automatically on these little trays.  The whole mechanism is reminiscent of the rollercoaster restaurant I went to in Nürnberg.

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Once you have retrieved your food, you must press the lit up button to send the little automatic tray back to the kitchen.

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The food was delicious.

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There were moments where the food caused me confusion or amusement.  For example, their idea of a hamburger or cheeseburger is not at all in line with what I think of.

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Seriously, this is a “hamburger.”  It was a tiny patty of ground meat resting on a bed of rice, with a sauce on top which I believe was mayonnaise.

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I didn’t figure out what they meant by “Semi Fred” for days after this meal, but it looked like blueberry cheesecake, so I gave it a try.

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I had never heard of “Semifreddo” before this trip.  The Blueberry Semi Fred was delicious, as it happens.

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I think that’s enough talk about food.  Let’s turn our attention to one of Shibuya’s most famous residents, Hachiko.  Hachiko was an Akita dog who was adopted by a professor, Hidesaburō Ueno, in 1924.  The professor walked with Hachiko to the train station every day before going to his job at the University of Tokyo.  The dog waited at the station for his return at the end of each day.  Professor Ueno died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1925 while giving a lecture, and Hachiko continued to walk to the station each morning.  He stayed at the station waiting for his Professor every day, until his death nine years later in 1935.  Hachiko was immortalized in bronze, and the first of several statues was unveiled in 1934, with Hachiko himself present.

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The original statue was recycled during World War II for the war effort, and a new statue was placed in August of 1948.  That statue is the one which still stands at Shibuya station today.  Hachiko’s story has been featured in several movies, including an English version called “Hachi: A Dog’s Talewith Richard Gere as the professor.

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The Hachiko statue at Shibuya Station is also in front of Shibuya Crossing, one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in the world.    This is what’s known as a “scramble crossing.”  When the light changes here, it’s red lights in every direction for vehicles.  Once the light is red, pedestrians cross from every direction, including diagonals.

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None of my pictures capture the crowd properly, because I was there on a pretty quiet weeknight.  You can see this intersection in countless television shows and movies, including Lost In Translation.

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This Starbucks overlooks the Crossing.  It is reportedly one of the busiest Starbucks in the world.  It’s supposed to have an amazing view of the Crossing, but I never had a chance to go up there.

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Once you’ve crossed the street from the station, this part of the city is filled with shops and restaurants.  This is where Genki Sushi is located.

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This part of Shibuya is also home to Tokyo’s only Taco Bell, as far as I know.  I tried to go here once out of sheer curiosity, but I didn’t succeed- there was a thirty minute wait for food and I had to go to work.

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Have you ever seen a movie about Hachiko or a film with Shibuya Crossing featured?

The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis

I thought it might be nice to take a quick break from Japan to show you art in Minnesota.  While I was in Minneapolis, I took some time to visit the Walker Art Center.  I particularly liked the sculpture garden.

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This piece is called Spoonbridge and Cherry, and it was designed by a husband and wife team in the 1980s.  I just like it because it’s an enormous spoon.

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I don’t have commentary for every photograph.  I really like sculpture though.

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Horse!

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This is the outside of the Walker, showcasing the displays that were ongoing while I was there.  The Walker was celebrating 75 years while I was visiting, so there were two different “75 years” themed installations.  International Pop  covered the emergence of Pop art from the 1950s to the early 1970s.

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I like the little round grass patches in front of the building.

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This item was part of the “75 Gifts for 75 Years” exhibition.

There was a sign on the floor stating that you should take selfies here and post them to social media with the tag #AtTheWalker.  I am a slave to trendiness.  Also, I’m partial to this piece because I have a tiny metal version of this piece at home, which I’ve had for years because it came from my grandmother’s house when she passed away.

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I think I saw these in the lighting section at Ikea.

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It was all done with mirrors!

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I read recently about the artist who does these bendy trucks actually getting a parking ticket on his art installation in the city of Karlsruhe, Germany.  That’s hilarious.

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Um.  America!

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Whatever your artistic preferences, it’s important to beeeeee yourself.

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I like the pieces that are sort of political-cartoonish.

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I also like the pieces that are kind of random.   That tiger must have had a really good idea!

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This bit here made me hungry…

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This was one of the most showcased items in the Pop art exhibit.

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I thought this metal pressed newspaper was amazing.

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…made you look!

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I like the classic sci-fi feel to this bit of wall art.

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There was a film explaining this piece-  the artist Yves Klein got naked models to dip themselves in blue paint and then press themselves against the canvas.

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Do you have a favorite sculpture?  Have you ever been to the Walker Art Center?

Minneapolis is not Japan.

I know y’all are waiting for my Japan posts, and I promise they’re coming.  I have some other stuff that needs to be posted, though, so I’m going to alternate between Japan and not-Japan for a bit.

About four months ago, I spent a few days in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  My primary reason for going to Minneapolis was an Information Society concert.  InSoc started out in Minneapolis, so this was a hometown show for the band.  They had family members, former group members, and old, old friends in the audience.  It was an amazing show.

The gentleman front and center in red is Kurt Harland, who does most of the lead vocals for the band.  The gentleman in the white coat on the left side of this photo is James Cassidy, and the man in white on the right side is Paul Robb.  Those three have been with the band since the band’s formation in the early 1980s.  The two in back are more recent additions.

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I gave myself an entire extra day before the concert, though, because I hadn’t ever spent more than 24 hours in the city, and I wanted to look around.  From the airport, I took the light rail into the city center, and I walked the three short blocks from the train station to my hotel.  On the way to the hotel, I passed Mary Tyler Moore.  I do love random statue sightings.

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One of my favorite things about Minneapolis is the ingenious way that the city has responded to being insanely fricking cold during the winter-  the downtown area is threaded with these Habitrail-looking tubes that connect the buildings.  The places where the tubes intersect the buildings often contain shops or restaurants.  The network of tubes is so large that there are entire mapping apps you can put on your phone to help you route around them without having to go outside.  They’re great fun, and walking through them feels a little bit like you’re on a space station.  They are the last, best hope for warmth.

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Given my love of tall buildings, it should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody that I tried to go up the Foshay building.  The elevator was out of service, however, and I wasn’t able to finagle another way to the top.

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The doors to the elevator were certainly snazzy, though.  This totally looks like something out of Ghostbusters.

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Minneapolis has dedicated candy stores… nifty!

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There’s also a lot of street art.  Many of the utility boxes were painted in pretty or interesting ways.

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Many cities I’ve visited have had rental bikes.  This is the one place I’ve ever tried them.  The rental rate was very reasonable, and I was able to cover several miles without burning too much time by using the rental bikes.  I only dropped the bike on my foot once during the entire trip!

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This is a picture of the Minneapolis skyline from the Walker Art Center, which I’ll talk about in another post.  The Walker has a bunch of really great things to see, and I took many photographs there.

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On my trip back from the Walker, I noticed the marquee on this theater.  Alas, the Neil deGrasse Tyson show was two days after I left Minnesota.

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They’re building a new stadium.  It looks nifty.  And so, so huge.

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I read somewhere before my trip that Big Brain Comics was a great classic comic store, so I wandered in while I was in town.  Nice store, decent selection, friendly staff.

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Next door to Big Brain Comics is the Day Block Brewing Company, a very nice place to stop for lunch and a cold refreshing drink. (It was really hot outside.  This drink was super refreshing!)

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Next up on my day wandering around the city, a stop at the city’s Stone Arch Bridge, overlooking the old mill ruins.  The bridge was completed in 1883, but the construction isn’t all that different from the one in Regensburg.  I guess an arch is an arch.

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Speaking of things that reminded me of Germany…

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The famous First Avenue has been serving up fantastic live music to Minneapolis since the 1970s.  This isn’t where Information Society was playing- First Avenue instead had a sold out They Might Be Giants show going on at the same time as my show.

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I’m so jealous of anyone who lives in a city with a concert hotspot like this.  The outer wall was just covered in amazing band names from previous shows.

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I didn’t know who this fellow was when I snapped the photograph, but my love of random statues pushed me to learn about Sid Hartman.   He’s a local sports journalist who’s been covering Minnesota sports since 1945.  He’s 95 years old, and he hasn’t retired.

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Speaking of statues, I saw this one on my way over to the comics store mentioned earlier.  I forgot to write down where it was, however, so I haven’t the foggiest idea who sculpted this or what it’s called.  It’s nice, though.

Edit: My genius art-loving girlfriend informs me that this is a Botero sculpture called “The Dancers.”  This is good to know!

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My hotel room was one of the strangest hotel rooms I’ve ever seen-  when I looked behind the curtain to see what kind of window view I had from my room, I discovered that it was a separate lockable door going into a small ballroom type space.  There was a bunch of stacked up chairs, a covered bar, and an upright piano in there.    On another weekend, I might well have had a wedding reception just through that hotel room door.   Weird, huh?

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On my way out of Minneapolis, I saw Aviator Snoopy and Woodstock.    I love these two, but I really don’t know why Woodstock needs tiny goggles.

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Have you ever been to Minneapolis?  What did you think of the Habitrail tubes?

Budapest, Part 2

I mentioned earlier that Budapest was much, much larger than I expected.  This is reflected in the amount of photographs I took over the span of a few days in the city.   On one of our mornings in the city, we went to the Central Market Hall, the largest and oldest covered market of the city.

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There’s something very much like this in Frankfurt, Germany-  lots of places to buy fresh meat, cheese, vegetables.  In short, a regular market hall.

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Fresh produce was everywhere.

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There were some fascinating vendors of Tokaji, or Hungarian wine. The blown-glass dragon decanter was particularly amazing.

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I also thought the trident-toting devil decanter was quite fetching.

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I get why you might want a Russian doll painted with Barack Obama, Gene Simmons, Freddie Mercury, or even Angela Merkel, but who on Earth would want a Bin Laden doll?  Unless you were fresh out of paper targets for the gun range, I mean.

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The Market Hall is a daytime visit.  In the evening, we tried to check out one of Budapest’s famous Ruin Pubs.  These are formerly abandoned buildings that have been converted into giant bar complexes.  We went to Szimpla, one of the most well known.

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The decor was interesting, part junkyard and part Maker Faire.

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There were multiple bars inside the building, set on two levels.  There were lots of places to sit and enjoy your drink.

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Movies were projected on some of the walls, and music was played in other areas.

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Some of the chairs were made from former cars.  The place has an incredibly interesting atmosphere.

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I know a bunch of people who would have loved Szimpla if only for the random bikes hanging everywhere.

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This giant plastic kangaroo near the front entrance was a big hit.  Lots of people stopped to take a quick ride.

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I mentioned in the previous post that Budapest has many fun statues.  Here’s Janene and Chris with the Fat Policeman.  Locals say that if you rub his belly, you’ll eat well.  We didn’t need the help though, because the food in Budapest was amazing.

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The Kiskiralylany Szobor (Little Princess Statue) is apparently very popular.  I think it’s her crown that draws people in.

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This girl with her playful dog are a recent addition, placed on the promenade by artist David Raffai in 2007.

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I’ve saved my favorite for last:  Peter Falk and a beagle.   This Columbo statue was placed to honor Falk because of his Hungarian ancestry.  There is conjecture that his great grandfather was Miksa Falk, a Hungarian writer and politician.

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This led to some great puns as we walked the length of the city to find this Falking statue.  It was right by Cafe Picard, where we stopped for a Falking delicious lunch.  Make it so!

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Have you ever been to a Ruin Pub?  How did you like it?