Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Modern Art with a Toddler

Decided to enjoy the weather by walking home through riverside park. Especially delighted this year by the rotating public art, typically art student master's thesis projects. I realized i missed art history bullshi--ing.

Was contemplating interiority. From how the half finished human sculptures carved out of stone brought us into the artists studio, inside the artists process. To the art with literal interior spaces: the wooden tetrahedron with communist murals painted on the inside instead of the out, to the metal teepee with its sides pried open, inviting you inside where holes punched into the metal would cast dappled shadows in a hexagonal pattern evoking DNA. The No Parking sign that suddenly sprouted metal branches like a metalic tree, next to a tree like metal street lamp immediately brought you inside a dream like world of organic metal, while my favorite piece was a metal bird whose highly reflective surface (like the Chicago bean) would suck you into its interior, like Michale Crichten's Sphere or Supermans's phantom zone.

Was so excited I brought my 19 month old son later that day, and got to experience the art in a new way. As we stood pondering a calder like metal construct, thinking it looked like a dog, my son shouted "Neigh neigh" his word for horse. I was like, ha, yes, even a 1 year old can "get" abstract art. Later on, at the half formed sculptures, my toddler was deeply disturbed. He screamed and pointed away anytime we got close. I guess there is something deeply disturbing about partial human bodies coming out of rock.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Wyeth WHo's Instagram (All the baby pictures you could want!)

A photo posted by Wyeth Wahab Ho (@wyethwho) on

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Seoul: December 2012


Met up with my friend B- who was the one who invited me to speak there. Food is always better with a local. Neat buddhist style meal (almost no salt, no spice, no garlic, no meat), simple beautifully prepared food in the purist sense. Also ate at Korean style sashimi, roast duck place, korean fried chicken, random street food. Was amused at the ubiquity of k-pop, stars everywhere, and so many. One tv show showcased dozens of groups, each with up to dozens of members. Tons of coffee shops everywhere n Seoul that would fit right in in a hip US city, though none of the espressos blew me away, all adequate. They had amusing names (CNN Caffe Drop Top Beansbin Angel Us Caffe bene [Rich flavor of caffe bene come of rich standard of coffee making] Ediya espresso Tom n Tom Caffe pascucci Demitasse coffee) with oddly english sounding names. Curiously, most of the shops in Seoul had oddly english names rather than korean (a clothing store named YES- Young Emotional Story), although otherwise, english was not very common at all. Randomly stumbled upon the tae kwon do world headquarters, with stunning views. I passed a latin american team making their pilgramage. I pictured (ala Simpsons) the office workers inside typing on keyboards by kicking, or hitting the elevator button with high kicks. Seoul was a huge very modern city. Though the imperial palace dates back for centuries, most of it was dismantled by the Japanese, so the palace we visited was only a fewy ears old. At least the palace tour guide there still harbors ill will. Finally, the DMZ was perhaps the oddest most surreal tourist attraction I've ever been to. With the reminder that people have been shot at the border, and lots of propganda on both sides, from the strangely tall and buff South Korean soldiers standing watch Tae Kwon Do style, to the new high way on the south side in contrast to the dirt roads on the north, to the unfinished "propaganda villages" built on the north, they ran out of money before they were completed, to the competing flag poles of who could be higher. Interesting to meet the North Korean refugee who mostly looked bored and spent the time fiddling with her Samsung galaxy, and to see the clean cut US soldier boys interact with the Korean tourguide. Finally happened to be there the day before the elections. Amused at how similar they sounded to the ones in the US for such a young democracy barely decades old.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Thailand - December 2012



In Korea to give a talk so took a side trip to Thailand. Kinda neat to finally visit both, having been eating those cuisines for a long time. Tyler Cowan suggested that these may be the most uncorrupted Asian cuisines in the US, since they haven't been around long enough to adapt to the US politics like say Chinese and Indian and Japanese have. But it was nice to see it at the soruce.

Had a good start on Asiana airlines, serving a nice Bibimbop in flight, and still preserving a few international amenities like slippers and toothbrushes and mouthwash.

The thing I noted most about Thailand was its sense of style, at least compared to my other visits in Asia (cambodia, vietnam, china, malaysia, bali). Probably because its rich enough to afford nice things, but developed recently enough before those nice things started looking dated and worn. Everything from the ancient grand palace and temple, to the official iphone app, to magazine brochures, hotel decorations, menus, receipts, to the apron at the cooking class, all showed a classy contemporary aesthetic, with muted colors and understated design, a contrast say to the garish dirty nouveau riche new China.

A short trip but visited the grand palace and historic temples dating from the 1700s, still active due to the active ubiquitous monarchy (the longest reigning living monarch) and living buddghist faith, and well maintained in vivid colors. Got to see the now-touristy floating market and dined boat side from floating vendors, most notably culturally to see the juxtaposition of the more traditional thai houses, and the younger modern thai tourists. Went swimming in the lovely and large jasmine scented pool, took a super fun cooking class taught by a ladyboy (maybe) in a residential part of bangkok, got a ringside spot to watch the Thai kickboxing (girlfight) put on at the MBK mall (biggest mall I have ever seen). Hunted a new iphone case from a succession of vendors starting at $3 on the street, then $6 at train station, then $12 at the mall stand, then $30 at one of the dozens of apple retailers at the mall. Wrapped up with midnight drinks on the 60th story Red Sky bar, with spectacular views.


Sunday, November 04, 2012

Leaf Peep: Oct 2012


Fall in the Northeast. Leaves changing. Visits to Storm King. A touch of the sublime. Maya Lin's Wave field that subverts our notion of space and time, transporting you to a super mario world where grass undulates like ocean waves and people move through skewed 8-bit perspectives. Goldsworthy's Wall that forces a contemplation of the functional purpose of walls as it undulates between trees dividing meadow from forest and limning the boundaries of space. The new piece Solarium, whose windows filled with caramelized sugars whose colors perfect echo the oranging leaves, the tree's used up sugar factories. And one of many Calder style steel stabiles, so cramped in museums and college campuses but at home in the mystical valley of Storm King.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Weekend at the Jersey Shore - July 2012

Expecting Snooki, but instead finding very hip intentionally distressed boardwalks. Clearly they have seen down times recently, but now are cleaned up, but not too clean, retaining a tres-brooklyn hipster authenticity. (photo album here)

A fantastic stay at the Tandem Bike B&B (Belmar, NJ), new furnishings, modern design, with a super nice recently retired couple who retired to the shore to become inn keepers, with super convenient free bikes (tandem of course), beach chairs and blankets and towels and wagons and tags, and cookies and brownies and interesting iced teas.

But not just beaching, we saw a huge odd Christian open air wooden church surrounded by a century old tent community, featuring speakers like Kirk Cameron and Frank Sinatra Jr, fireworks on the beach being launched just a stones throw from where we sat, roller derby!, beach volleyball, and a lobster fests.

Most surprisingly though was that it was shockingly white, especially given the predominantly black neighborhoods just a 10 minute walk past the fancy vacation properties, and the fact that NYC was less than an hour away--we hardly saw any minorities the whole weekend, a reminder of the monochromaticity of middle America.

Still a great fun easy escape, just a boat ride from Manhattan.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Diner Theory - Pondering cultural isomorphism and the ur-brooklyn - Melbourne August 2012



Wandering around Melbourne I was impressed at how appealing all the food places looked. It made me wonder if the same cultural signifiers that work to identify a restaurant with great food in New York just by appearances, also worked here. After a week of trying, they seem to.

I've noted before that most fancy restaurants in every city in the world serve the same "contempo" international food: local, organic, grass-fed, sous-vide, molecular foams/gelee/dirts (but not too much), farm to table, pork belly, poached farm egg, mesculun greens, bacon-infused (the ones behind the curve still serve wasabi encrusted tuna and molten chocolate cake).

At Melbourne, I noticed the same cultural isomorphism (my jargon has been infected by the sociologist I have been hanging out with) appeared at the lower end restaurants. (of course food was crazy expensive in Australia so lower-end still meant $20+). But it was all very tres brooklyn.

All these restaurants had hip fonts, the same distressed brick walls, nice graphic design, committment to local and organic, hipster baristas with interesting facial hair and skinny jeans (no retro hats yet though), committment to craft and hand made, over elaborate coffee devices, spare ikea aesthetic, authentic uncompromising ethnic foods.

But makes me wonder where is the ur-brooklyn. The Platonic brooklyn. Where did it all come from and how does it spread so fast. Which reminds of institutional theory from grad school, as well as my surprise when I discovered playground games we played in New Jersey seemed to be known throughout the United States if not the world.