Thursday, August 19, 2004

A Trip To The Big City...
I've been on hiatus recently, taking a trip back to my native New York City to visit family and friends.

I'm not sure if it's me or not, but, New York has changed. Radically. Perhaps three months in the relative quiet of Charlotte, NC has changed me, and New York is the same place, albeit somewhat skewed in my eyes due to absence. Then again, maybe the character of the city has changed so much that based on my 37 years there, I no longer recognize it as my home. This is a preocess, I belive, that started soon after September 11th, and now it's coming to it's completion.
New York will be unrecognizable to it's natives within 10 years, I believe.

I no longer feel comfortable there. I felt like an alien. Everything is pretty much in the same place as it was before, but it seems subtly different, somehow. The same stores, churches, office buildings, etc., no longer have the feel of familiarity to me that should be second nature to someone who has been in them thousands of times.

The crowds are still there. A vast sea of millions of people, each living in his own little universe oblivious to everyone else, rushing headlong into an early death from stress and aggravation. However, the crowd has accoutrements now: police officers, in flak jackets armed with sub-machine guns and walking bomb-sniffing dogs. There was a time, even in New York, when such things would have drawn spectators, or at least raised an eyebrow. But now, this is part of the scenery. Just one more guy to push past on the sidewalk.

The subway has changed, somewhat for the better. I found it cleaner than I remembered it and I don't recall seeing any of the usual vermin that manage to survive there: the 4' long rats, the vagrants. But when you look at the advertisements in the station, or on the train, you'll see they're written in Spanish, Creole, Polish, Russian, Chinese, in short, usually anything but English. Did the English speakers all suddenly move away, like I did? There were not massive crowds on the trains either, like there normally are. Even places like Penn Station or Union Square stations, which are usually wall-to-wall people, seemed empty.

I was only in NYC for four days, and granted, I spent the majority of them on Staten Island which is sort of like being stranded in the desert between Phoenix and Las Vegas -- there's not much there, and it never changes. But I was amazed at how quickly I was able to pick up on the subtle changes that quickly, and even more dumbfounded by how incomprehensible I found most of them to be. It's not my New York anymore, and I'd better get used to the idea.

And by the way, still no smoking in bars. I guess one thing hasn't changed: the perpetually panty-bunched always get their way.
They EU-rinate Sitting Down...
From the August 18th, 2004 edition of Best of the Web (Wall Street Journal):

Germany's Last Stand --- EU-niks are taking a stand against standing. "German men are being shamed into urinating while sitting down by a gadget which is saving millions of women from cleaning up in the bathroom after them," reports London's Daily Telegraph:
The WC ghost, a £6 voice-alarm, reprimands men for standing at the lavatory pan. It is triggered when the seat is lifted. The battery-operated devices are attached to the seats and deliver stern warnings to those who attempt to stand and urinate (known as "Stehpinkeln").
"Hey, stand-peeing is not allowed here and will be punished with fines, so if you don't want any trouble, you'd best sit down," one of the devices orders in a voice impersonating the German leader, Chancellor Gerhard Schroder. Another has a voice similar to that of his predecessor, Helmut Kohl.

The manufacturer plans to market an English-speaking version in the United Kingdom:
Their prototype English-speaking WC ghost says in an American drawl: "Don't you go wetting this floor cowboy, you never know who's behind you. So sit down, get your water pistol in the bowl where it belongs. Ha, ha, ha."

So that's what Europeans mean when they criticize Americans as "cowboys."
The Telegraph notes that "in German, the phrase for someone who sits and urinates, a 'Sitzpinkler,' is equivalent to 'wimp,' " The paper also cites an expert called Klaus Schwerma, author of "Stehpinkeln: Die Letzte Bastion der Männlichkeit?"--an actual book, the title of which which translates as "Standing Urinators: The Last Bastion of Masculinity?"

This makes all the more unsettling the New York Times' observation, when, in that editorial blasting President Bush's military reorganization plan, that an "advantage" of stationing U.S. soldiers in Germany is that it gives them "the experience of living in other cultures." Pulling out of Germany may prove beneficial to America's defensive posture in more ways than one.
These are the serious, nuanced "allies" that John Kerry would have us grovel before? Any country that a) engages in such stupidity and b) uses tax dollars to fund such stupidity, is an ally I could do without.

I wonder, will the Germans make it mandatory for all them EU nations to buy these things for their public restrooms?