Saturday, December 17, 2005

MONTEVIDEO: South, but How Far South?

Editor's Note: Again, I send my apologizes for not updating more frequently. Work, a family funeral on Friday and holiday parties have obstructed my blogging. Christmas and travel through New Years will probably keep me offline for extended periods of time. Here's to steady blogging in 2006.

I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED to visit Uruguay, in particular its capital, Montevideo. There's always been something about the Palacio Salvo -- that much-loved, much-hated Italian Gothic/Art Deco skyscraper once the tallest building in South America -- that has made the city on my short list of places to visit. (An idea a friend originally from Buenos Aires has been thoroughly disgusted with since I suggested it many years ago.)

This weekend's Financial Times has a sizeable travel article about Montevideo, which seems to focus on the capital's "pervading melancholy." This quote, from a former Uruguayan ambassador, stands out:
We are tragic, like the Spanish. People in Buenos Aires are like the Italians -- they are superficial and happier. We are deeper but we suffer much more.
All in all, if you like the interesting aspects of darkened depression, Uruguay might be for you, says the FT:
For all its attractions, living in Montevideo's past is not easy. The package may include fittings and furnishings that stimulate the senses. But it comes without the lights -- many bars are so dark, customers have to stand by windows to see what they are drinking -- without music and, above all, with a claustrophobically slow pace of life. Overdo it and Montevideo's melancholic charms can easily turn oppressive.
Hmmm, sounds inviting. I wonder what cities are sister cities with the Uruguayan capital ... That would be Montevideo, Minn., which has a city symbol that incorporates elements of the Uruguyan flag. Also, back in 2001, then-Chinese President Jiang Zemin, a Montevideo Key to the City recipient, pledged to forge stronger sister city ties between Montevideo, Uruguay, and the industrial paradise of Tianjin, near Beijing.

With the article, the FT claims that Montevideo is the "world's southernmost capital." As someone who takes pride in the arcane details of geography, I had to question this at first. Initially, I thought that Buenos Aires and perhaps Santiago were more south. But in South America, indeed Montevideo is at a slightly more southerly latitude than Buenos Aires, which lies west and just slightly north across the Rio de la Plata.

But the world? According to InfoPlease, the capital of New Zealand, Wellington, is the world's most southerly capital, not Montevideo.

Image of the Palacio Salvo via Flickr user groove3.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

HILLSDALE: The Boy Mayor and Other Town Tales

ALTHOUGH I DON'T KNOW WHY this New York Times article is in the House & Home section (besides the few paragraphs that describe a messy bedroom), I suggest taking a few minutes to read "When the War Room Is the Family Room," a profile of Michael Sessions, the 18-year-old mayor of Hillsdale, Mich., who secured election by just two votes in the November elections.

Despite growing up in Michigan, Hillsdale was one part of the state (near where Indiana, Ohio and Michigan meet) that I've never gone to. There's really no reason to pass through town, since it sits away from major highways.

But Hillsdale College is there and if you dig back in the recesses of your recent memory, you might remember it as the home of a collegiate Greek tragedy. This 2000 article in Salon gives a good synopsis of the shocking events involving Hillsdale College's George Roche III: "Sex, lies and suicide: While championing family values, former Hillsdale President George Roche III was sleeping with his daughter-in-law."

The tragedy would make its way into a "Law & Order" episode. And this book, "Hillsdale: Greek Tragedy in America's Heartland," by fellow Michigan Daily alum Roger Rapoport, is a quick, but eye-opening read on the controversy.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

GEORGETOWN: Sunday Parkers

ONE OF THE MORE INTERESTING SITUATIONS to see on any given Sunday in the nation's capital are the countless cars that are double and triple parked near churches, particularly in Shaw, where suburban worshipers battle for parking spots near the many churches. The double parking has been going on for years and years and DCist details the conflict with neighbors and the lack of police enforcement.

ADDING MY VOICE TO THE SUNDAY PARKING debate, I say turn your heads toward Q Street NW in Georgetown, to one particular church (the Church of Two Worlds, if I remember correctly, near 31st Street). If you look at the parking signs, it clearly says that parking is allowed on Sunday between certain hours on the north side of the street. That is unfortunately in the westbound lane, leaving only one lane for eastbound and westbound traffic to share.

Smaller cars can handle the situation sort of OK. But not WMATA's D-route buses. Once last year, the Sunday parking situation caused a westbound D6 bus challenge an eastbound D2 bus in a game of chicken. Traffic backed up behind each bus and it took nearly 20 minutes to clear the backed up cars so the D2 bus could go into reverse and let the D6 go through. Why the District would ever allow such special parking rules on a major east-west crosstown bus route perplexes me.

ARCHITECTURE: I Love the Idea of Grade X Buildings

I LOVE THIS IDEA. Channel 4 in Britain has been sponsoring "Demolition," where nominations have been solicited for the most ugly buildings in the United Kingdom. According to Londonist, the idea is that the "that the unlucky winner will be knocked down." Here's the Top 10, for those who fancy themselves as experts in ugly British buildings.

If written before about the idea originated by George Ferguson, the president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, to declare certain buildings as Grade X, worthy for demolition. I think D.C. could stand to benefit from this idea. K Street could be a much more beautiful thoroughfare.

>> "The UK’s Architecture: The Bad, And The Ugly" [Londonist]
>> "DUPONT CIRCLE: Grade X Buildings" [The Washington Oculus]

Sunday, December 11, 2005

WEEKEND: Busy Beyond Belief

AS YOU MIGHT HAVE NOTICED, I haven't put up a post in many days. Sorry about that. You all deserve better, but even the most clever multi-tasker can only do so much.

To sum up the past few days ... Had lunch at Dino ... Ventured up to the Palisades on Friday to check in on my great aunt (who had some minor surgery last week) and set up her Christmas tree ... Christmas party on Friday at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center ... drinks at the Brickskeller where I discovered they carry (and had in stock) Kostritzer black lager, which they have on tap at Saloon on U Street ... lunch with my sister across the river ... was rescued from a self-imposed Saturday evening writing session by Information Leafblower ... we ended up meeting up with Seeking Irony and tried to go bowling at the new Lucky Strike but it was too crowded (and that wasn't our original intent; Voxtrot's van broke down in Massachusetts so their show at Warehouse Next Door was scuttled) ... then we tried going to Fado for a pint, which was too crowded ... then ended up at RFD on a couch watching bull riding on ESPN-2. Did you know there's a bull out there called Featherlite J-Lo? Well ... like Jennifer Lopez, the bull was feisty, throwing off the foolish rider with ease ... and a Woodley Park brunch at the llama house ...

(That sounds like a packed weekend, but indeed, I was writing away and working on stuff ... but stuff that's not for this blog. I'll try to send some goodness your way this week.)