Sunday, August 5, 2007

Music Video of Circumnavigation 2007

Yes, it's finally here.

The Bush administration has expanded its eavesdropping capacity in an attempt to learn about and subsequently prevent the development of a music video the likes of which could render the entire nation into a funkified stupor.

But they're too late. The video is cut, and it's right here. Behold:



Yes, this is our vacation video. Please note:
  • All stunts were performed by Sara Friedman, Scott Friedman, and Jackie Chan.
  • You can hire us as vacation consultants to accompany you on international travel. We are, however, very expensive.
  • The resolution isn't as rich as we'd hoped on Google Video; they've down-sampled the video due to its size and its splendor. They were clearly afraid.
If you can't view the video here for some reason, you can always check it out at Google Video - just go here. Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Summer Tunes

Somebody recently claimed to have created "the best summer mix ever." That's an incredibly bold claim. It's bold, it's impossibly relative, and it can't be proven objectively.

But of course, rather than appropriately debate it on the grounds of logic and the subjectivity of aesthetics, I resolved to create my own seasonal mix. Further, I decided that no matter how positively I felt about it afterwards, I would claim steadfastly that it was a good summer mix, but I would not make any sweeping or drastic claims.

Well, looks like I was wrong. After assembling, rearranging, and evaluating the mix on the many dimensions of mixology, I've completed formal proof (with footnotes) that says this sucker is the is the best mix Summer 2007 has seen thus far. Assemble it yourself at home, or just ask me for a copy.

Friedmix Summer '07

Summer - drink it in. You're on your way to the park/beach with the car windows down. You're toting a beach blanket, a Nalgene of water (or whatever), your favorite color of Fla-Vor-Ice, and a book you're not going to read. The sun won't set until 8:30 PM, so you've got late dinner plans and every excuse to wear only flip-flops for the next three months. Things are looking up.

But you need something else. You need this music:
  1. LCD Soundsystem - Daft Punk is Playing at My House
    • Start it off strong with a fictional account of a wayward house party. "You gotta show 'em the ropes, kid, show 'em the ropes-uh."
  2. Hot Hot Heat - Talk To Me, Dance With Me
    • Melody-driven brat-rock off their first album. Laboratory tested for good jump-dancing.
  3. Modest Mouse - Dashboard
    • Unbridled optimism: "The dashboard melted, but we still had the radio," (from the same folks that brought you "So long to this cold, cold, part of the world").
  4. Electric Light Orchestra - Mr. Blue Sky
    • Warning: Do not play in rain.
  5. Modest Mouse - We've Got Everything
    • I challenge you to listen to this and not give somebody a high five (if you're alone and nobody's watching, you can just do an overhead clap).
  6. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists - Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone?
    • Kenny Loggins heard Ted Leo, went back in time, and made good 80's Summer music. The government's trying to cover it up.
  7. The Decemberists - Summersong
    • Colin Melloy knows just how you feel, and he'll tell you - but you'll have to dissect the pretentious metaphors. This one's pretty straightforward.
  8. Belle & Sebastian - If She Wants Me
    • "You're too young to put all of your hopes in just one envelope."
  9. The Shins - Sea Legs
    • "Of all the intersecting lines in the sand, I routed a labyrinth to your lap."
  10. Smashing Pumpkins - 1979
  11. TV on the Radio - Dirtywhirl
  12. Geto Boys - It Feels Good to be a Gangsta
    • It does, doesn't it?
  13. Yo La Tengo - Our Way to Fall
    • What's your summer without Yo La Tengo?
  14. Morcheeba - The Sea
    • Spread out your blanket and take your nap.
  15. Tom Waits - The Heart of Saturday Night
    • Slow it down for Tom; he's got something to say.
  16. Brian Wilson - Good Vibrations
    • No, this isn't the Beach Boys, but it is one of the Beach Boys. Sounds like the original, but it's cleaner and uses samples from the original.
  17. * Bonus Track * Shop Boyz - Party Like a Rock Star
    • Yes, this is the bonus track. It's not for everybody, so if you don't want some harmless rip-roaring rap music, stay away. "T-T-Totally Dude!"
Some songs are more challenging to love than others, but it wouldn't have any depth if it were all just bubblegum, now would it? Suggestions and revisions are, of course, welcome.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Iceland & Conclusion

Well, we've been back stateside for almost a month, but the following was written in a notebook at the Reykjavik airport. I guess we got caught up with life and didn't really look back. But here it is, for completion's sake:

--------

We both awoke with excitement and melancholy: we had access to a car and thus, to the Icelandic countryside - and also, it was our last full day of our 10-week world trip. After discussing the significance, we remembered how much we have to look forward to back home and how we're excited to see everybody back in the states.

So we once again hopped in Fran and drove northward, around Hvalfjordur fjord to the small city of Reykholt, the home of eleventh-century Icelandic author and icon Snorri Sandelaurt. He recorded much of what we currently know about Norse mythology.

From Reykholt, we drove further northward to some impressive waterfalls for lunch along the way to Husafell. We learned that several of the more "scenic" routes don't open to the public until July - until then, the rivers are too high, and the gravel roads aren't mended - perfect for a 4x4 off-roading experience or monster truck (we saw several).

We searched for an hour for a fabled lava cave and ended up throwing in the towel, since our maps weren't precise enough to guide us there. We were pretty bummed, since "lava" and "caves" are both extremely cool, and when you combine them into "lava caves," well - that's about as cool as it gets.

Alas, we made a wrong turn on our drive back, saw a small sign, and boom: lava cave.
Outlaws used this particular cave as a hideout. Yeah. Even cooler.

Substantiated with our northward jaunt (which, we realized, was the farthest north we've ever been), we drove back to Reykjavik via an underwater tunnel beneath the Hvalfjordur fjord. The toll was a whopping $15.00, so the whole tunnel ride we made astonished faces, acted really excited, and took a lot of pictures to help justify the payment. We're good at that.

...which brings us to "today", the last (half) day of our massive trip. "Tonight" we shall sleep in Minnesota, in the most comfortable bed we've seen in months.

We began this day with our last all-too-familiar packing episode:

Scott: Okay, you sit on the bag, I'll zip.
Sara: No, I think we can fit another pair of shoes in there.
Scott: You must be crazy.
Sara: Look, if we just elbow the bag this way, it makes more room.
Scott: Wow, you're right!

Yeah, we have a lot of stuff. If these bags could talk, packing would sound like medieval torture.

On the way to the airport, we stopped at the Blue Lagoon Spa for four hours. The entry fees and the prices of the products testify that this natural spa is arguably one of the most elite in the world.

But it was certainly worth the visit - beside the massive, cloudy-blue crater pools they have silica mud, which you're supposed to smear on your face, and they have a natural steam cave where we spent most of our time.

We arrived at the airport for our 22nd flight in ten weeks, and the last of our trip. We went through our normal airport routines - Sara applying lotions from the tester bottles in the duty free shops, Scott half-shopping and half checking the clock.

Thanks to everybody for keeping in touch throughout our trip - sharing our experiences and knowing you were watching and responding motivated us to do even more and go the extra mile.

---------

So, we'll probably still use this page to post meta-adventures and big life updates. We wouldn't presume that our everyday lives are important enough to warrant your time, faithful reader.

However, we're finalizing our big "travel video" with all the interesting video footage we accrued during the trip. We'll upload it to Google Video and post it up here.

Thanks.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Why Hello, Iceland

What a delightfully bizarre Island.

Our IcelandAir jet landed Southwest of Reykjavik, in a brown, rocky, mossy, terrain, without a skyline or tree in sight. Many of our travel resources have spoken of ¨lunar landscapes¨in references to areas such as Mt. Kilimanjaro or Cappadocia, Turkey - but this one takes the ¨lunar¨ cake.

It was a dreary day and we had a 45-minute commute to our guesthouse in Reykjavik, so we were sorta bummed. To add to the bummer-osity, we didn´t have our checked luggage (it arrived 24 hours later), the storefronts were mostly closed up since it was Sunday, and the food was outlandishly expensive. After an hour of searching, we settled for the cheapest sustenance - a $30.00 pizza that probably wouldn´t pass muster at a nudie bar.

Yes, this island is expensive. Not just the food, either - hardback books on sale for $60.00, a sushi platter for only $120.00. Sure, most big cities such as Tokyo, New York, and Paris have wallet-draining districts, but they also have cheap local markets and bargain baskets - no so in Iceland.

When we turned in that night, we realized that we had reached the safest country in our itinerary (and possibly, in the world), but we were most afraid of being stranded here, due to the inescapable inflation of food and goods over the United States. And so we slept...

Zzzzzz. Zzzzzzz.
Hey, give me back those blankets!
Zzzzzz. Zzzzzz. Zzzzz....

We awoke to a bright blue sky and a great buffet breakfast, we rented a car (a white Toyota hatchback we named ¨Fran¨for no apparent reason) and we were on the road East of Reykjavik by 10:00AM. And there was nothing ¨Bummer¨ about Iceland anymore.

We spent the day in the ¨Golden Circle¨ region, seeing mostly geological sights. We began at Thingvellir, the site of outdoor Icelandic Parliamentary assemblies from 930AD to 1700AD. When the region was first settled by the Norwegians, the representatives of each village assembled at the site and a speaker stood on law rock (near the pictured church) to recite the region´s laws to the rest of the assembly. The government was minuscule and law was based on trust between the populous and the chieftains. We know libertarians who would shed a sentimental tear.

We continued to Geysir, where we walked along naturally colored pools of geothermally heated water and saw the largest active geyser in Iceland - Strokkur. We watched it for about thirty minutes and saw a handful of massive eruptions from only feet away.

Gulfoss, the Golden Waterfall, was breathtaking, especially because the sun caught the spray of the water and created a bright rainbow - so bright, at times, that it sometimes interrupted our view of the falls. We ate lunch overlooking the falls, and were pretty damp from the spray by the time we stood up.

We wrapped up the day with a drive to Hengill and a two-hour hike up the rocky, mossy, peaks. At the apex of our climb, we laid down in the sun atop the moss - it was perfectly dry, but had the cushiony quality of a lamb´s coat. But the time we pried ourselves from the hillside, we had to drive back to Reykjavik.

After a day on the Icelandic countryside, we certainly wouldn´t mind being stranded here... for a little bit.






Another day in Iceland up next!

Roman Holiday

Sorry for the delay; our travel companions kept us pretty busy...

Since we've visited Rome twice in the last six years and spent our first visit on a crash-course through national museums and ancient ruins, we had the luxury of arriving at our San Pietro B&B and relaxedly saying, ¨so, what now?¨

On our first day we were bistro patrons with house red in our glasses on some pedestrian-only boulevard intersection, listening to a xylophone or accordion performance from street musicians. Midway through the day, our band of travelers doubled to include Vicki ¨wine spritzer¨Friedman and Gary ¨Shoppaerobic¨Friedman. They had the same idea the first night, and we had a lot to discuss, so we made quick work of some street gialatto and dined at Piazza Navona.

In the next two days, our travel companions declared war on the shopping districts of central and northwest Rome. The shops didn´t stand a chance, but it was a lot to conquer in two days...

Gary: Scott! Status report!
Scott: Well, it looks like we´re two blocks from the Trevi fountain.
Gary: Affirmative. Resume shopping! Scotty, I need you to hold more shopping bags!
Scott: I´m giving it all I can! Sara´s two blocks back with a sprained ankle!
Vicki: Leave her! Diesel shop at two o´clock!

Just kidding, we had a great time ducking into the shops; it inspired us to come back to the ¨clean side¨and increase our hygiene after our rustic trek. We also really appreciate the birthday gifts we acquired - thanks so much for your attentiveness and your generosity, you two!

We wrapped up the Italian Job with an evening of Euchre at a cafe near the Pantheon, followed by a nighttime trip to Trastevre for a brief dessert, drink, and hookah experience.

We thought we´d lose some luggage weight in Rome after doling out the souvenirs for the St. Louis Friedmans (and Levines), but some nifty pairs of shoes seemed to have found their way into our bags.

To madre & padre: thanks so much for the Roman rendezvous and showing us a great time - we hope you had a delightful 30th anniversary celebration.

More from Iceland!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Transylvania

After Bucharest, we were a bit concerned that we may not escape the Romanian techno dance music and leggings (no offense, Kristin) on our trip through historic Transylvania. When our train arrived in Brasov, however, we were pleasantly surprised.

Transylvania has sustained many of its gothic basilicas, hilltop monastaries, citadel walls, and clock towers through centuries of war with the Ottomans, two world wars, the changing of hands from Hungary to Romania, and an unfortunate Communist regime. Most impressive, however, are the mountainside castles, which are (inconveniently for us) spread out along the region, inaccessible by train.

We began in Brasov (Brah-shahv), the largest Transylvanian city. We were happy to find large, pedestrian-only boulevards, and a scenic overlook, accessible by furnicular. We climbed a steep and slippery path directly up the mountain; our plan was to take the furnicular back down after our harrowing, scenic climb. Alas, the furnicular was offline, so we took the same perilous path back down.

We spent the next two days in Sighisoara (See-ghee-shwara), the birthplace of Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler (Dracula). Around Vlad's old home and around the town are merchants peddling Dracula T-shirts, vampire coffee mugs, and other such historically irrelevant merchandise. Conversely, the government-owned sights themselves make minimal mention of Vlad, if at all, focusing instead on the quaintness of the medieval society. It's quite reasonable that the Romanian government doesn't want to wave a big Vlad Tepes banner, if you consider who the man is and exactly what he did...

Mr. Tepes was born in 1431, in Sighisoara. He quickly became a powerful warlord and earned the fear of Transylvania and its neighboring provinces by committing vile atrocities upon his prisoners of war, most frequently: impaling. Impaling entails lodging a person longways upon a metal pike, where they would painfully await death within minutes, or as long as two days. He held "mass impalings," sometimes around his cities or those of his enemies, presumably of over 10,000 people at once.

Atrocious or not, the man is a legend, so his house and his (alleged) castle in Bran (above, at left) are available to visit - just donàt expect much mention of Mr. Tepes on the placards of the government-owned property.

Sighisoara had a similar, quaint, atmosphere, with a massive medieval citadel, named the best-presetved medieval town. We visited Vlad's house in an effort to attend a historical tour - unfortunately, the government decided not to protect this landmark, and a somewhat cheesy restaurant "Casa Dracul" occupies the premises. We went ahead and did a beer thre, of course.

Also unfortunately, Sighisoara didnàt seem to want us to leave - early on our train back to Brasov, we realized we forgot a notebook in an Internet cafe, so we hopped off and retrieved our goods. We took it as a sign to dine there for supper, so we visited a Romanian pizzeria by the citadel and ordered some RED wine.

[Travel Tip: When pointing to a Romanian wine list and saying "Red?" they may nod enthusiastically, and bring you a blush.]

We went ahead and drank a pink wine in honor of Beth and Ryan's wedding.

We returned to the station to purchase tickets and catch the last train, only to find that the advertised prime-time train runs only on holidays! We weren't happy about forking over the extra dough on a taxi, but we made back the extra cash by placing second in the national Romanian couples' tag-team wrestling championship.

Just kidding. We placed first.

Bucuresti

In our research, the Romanian capitol of Bucharest isn't featured as a tourist spot, but we'd swiftly recommend it to you if you'd like to visit an affordable opera or if you're really into European techno "house" music (it's playing everywhere - bars, loudspeakers, government offices, every vehicle... everywhere).

Our brief Bucharest visit was a classic "first/only day in a new city" in our travel experience; we entertain the challenge of being parachuted into foreign territory, figuring out how to say "hello" and "thank you," procuring a map, and visiting the key monuments on foot, all before sustaining a worthwhile cultural experience that evening.

So, we caught an hour tour of the Romanian parliament building, the Casa Poporlulul, the world's second largest building by square footage behind the Pentagon, and built mainly between 1985 and 1989. Per our tour guide, "we finished ninety percent of the construction by 1989, then we executed our communist president," and, "there are sixty seats in this chamber - there were to be sixty-one, with a larger gold chair for the president, but we shot him, so what's the point?" He also voiced a lot of displeasure about the current Romanian government, especially for a parliament tour guide (you don't see us leading tours of the Cheney mansion).

We caught a spectacular view of Bucharest and the world's longest boulevard from the parliament's balcony, where the executed president was to address the public, but never did; instead, Michael Jackson was the first to stand and shout, "Hello Bucharest."

We scored some opera tickets on the way back to our room and hurriedly ate some delicious food we bought from the supermarket (read: devoured some fruit and crackers, and drank yogurt straight from the cup, for lack of a spoon).

After the opera performance, we felt substantiated in our cursory Bucharest visit, so we turned in and caught up on some of the sleep Anne and Steve stole from us in Istanbul. But now we've recharged, and we're on to Brasov, Sighisoara, and Bran (medieval Transylvania) to see some history.

More from the birthplace of Vlad Tepes (better known as "Vlad The Impaler," or "Son of Vlad Dracul," or simply "Dracula").