Archive for the 'Travels & Leisure' Category

Planetary Conjunction.

The month of December this year is an unusual one. The moon will be the closest it’s been to the Earth in more than 15 years, and a planetary conjunction has happened, which is when you can see ‘naked-eye planets’ from Earth. This is also similar to a planetary occultation, where one planet conceals another in the sky. It has happened within the borders of the Sagittarius astrological sign/constellation. The combination of the planets, Venus and Jupiter seen in this rare phenomenon will not occur again until 2012. 

Now for the facts…

Venus is 25 million miles away from Earth, and Jupiter 390 million miles away. The Venus Jupiter combination happens about once a year, but only 23% of these conjunctions are visible to the naked eye.

Below are images from around the world, taken on Dec 1st 2008. 

Kathmandu-Nepal 

Nairobi-Kenya 

Colorado-USA

Manila-The Philippines 

Mumbai-India (My heart goes out to all those who were killed in the terrorist attacks) 

Amman-Jordan

Buenos Aires-Argentina

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An Excerpt from Vanity Fair

cuar01_saigon0811

The caption reads “Has New York Lost It’s Edge?”

Bryan McNally, a former New York restaurateur (Odeon, Indochine, etc.) leaves behind, Manhattan, The Hampton’s and his St. Barth’s hideouts for life in Saigon (Vietnam). Claiming to not be going through a mid-life crisis because he had already experienced two of them, he was just ‘bored.’

It’s November as he is writing, and McNally has been in Saigon since April 2008. He said a few very interesing things about New York after, spouting off about Saigon’s turbulent weather, coffee shops, and corrupt police officers.

“In Vietnam, if the weather doesn’t claim you—whether by scorching heat, the hair-trigger deluges, or a ravaging cyclone—then the swarming traffic or counterfeit medicine will. But when the author returns home to an overly sanitized Manhattan, he realizes: life in Vietnam is the one for him.”

“I recently returned to New York for a brief visit. The thrill had gone some time ago, I suppose, but still I was surprised at how little the pulse raced, how few beats the heart skipped, on the drive in from J.F.K. New York is home and always will be, but it has changed—as it always will and always must—in ways that, at least for me, make it a less appealing place.

I never subscribed to the bumper-sticker sentiment that when you’re leaving New York you’re going nowhere, a conceit now rendered ridiculous by the ascendancy of cities like Shanghai, Moscow, Mumbai, and Berlin. New York seems to be constantly proclaiming itself, constantly burnishing its own myths, compulsively reassuring itself of its supremacy, an insecurity one would have thought unnecessary in a great city. In the end, tough, gritty New York is the most sentimental of places, at least when it comes to itself.

But still, of course, a great city, and while I may have been fortunate to have experienced it at a time when the balance between the sheer terror of daily life and the excitement of living in a newly resurgent downtown was perfectly calibrated—getting mugged at five in the morning not quite as bad if it was walking home from watching the Talking Heads at the Mudd Club—I’m sure there is a whole generation in Greenpoint or Red Hook busy stacking up its own store of memories. Greenpoint or Red Hook, perhaps, but not Manhattan, where the rich and richer have completed their rout of most of what was different or interesting, leaving only a few pockets of sad and rapidly aging hipsters—a generation so obsessed with looking good that they forgot to actually do anything. There they are, freelancing away in Starbucks—Web designers, graphic artists, unpublished photographers (and, you have to wonder, why are they all so, well, … visual?)—unpoliticized, unangry, uninterested. Some apparently feel quite strongly about wearing fur, others about the virtues of the vegan life (and don’t get them started on Tibet), and all have seen every film made in the last 20 years. Soon they will all be living in upstate New York, in their late 30s and 40s, looking really good, with exquisitely dressed accessory children, driving a perfectly beaten up pick-up truck and convincing themselves that they are there out of principled rejection of city life rather than failure to land that big ad campaign. True, perhaps, but hardly their fault. While it’s always better to be young (age having nothing to be said for it, failing to confer even wisdom), the hipster generation got a raw deal. Impossible any more to shock, impossible to rebel, impossible to create anything not immediately appropriated by commercial interests, it was a generation destined to live in the long shadow of candle-waving boomers and desperately hip, dope-smoking parents. That would have driven anyone into Starbucks or the Catskills. You also have to wonder, when did the 60s become the template for youth, when did this become the generation by which all others are measured? If I wasn’t one of them, I couldn’t wait for the bastards to all die off.

…All good fun, but while I miss New York, I wasn’t at all unhappy to be returning to Saigon.”