Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How I Won't Spend My Summer Vacation

I've been a Facebook member for about 8 months. The part that I've really liked about it is being able to reconnect with old friends and connect with fellow enthusiasts of Romanian gymnastics. But I find a lot of Facebook to be rather silly. For example, several of my friends like to tell the world what they had for dinner. I just don't get that one. My life is not so dull that my only excitement is dinner. Maybe I'm just an old cynic, but I really don't care what other people have for dinner unless it's a super spectacular, one-of-a-kind meal. Others like to give minute-by-minute updates while they're traveling. They have mobile phones with Internet access and take full advantage of it. What happened to reading a book while waiting at the airport?

I leave tomorrow for the USA. Here is what you won't be hearing from me during my trip:

* Reports from the airport. Does somebody really have the need to know how I'm spending every second at the airport? I figure that people will know that I made it to my destination when they don't see any plane crash reports on the news. Is buying a magazine at the book shop, eating a meal, or using the toilet at the airport really that newsworthy?

* Food reports. OK, I'll give in a bit on this one. The usual choices on an overseas flight are (inedible) chicken or pasta, so I'll have one or the other of those. A few years ago my brother flew on Aeroflot, which is obviously an airline that wants to make things easy for the Facebook crowd to report their in-flight meals. Aeroflot offered a meal choice of beef or beef. I'm flying to the States on Lufthansa, which likes to continuously serve food in order to keep the passengers seated and docile. Passengers who are busy stuffing their faces are less likely to bother the flight attendants or "go postal."

* Restaurant reports. My Facebook wall won't be covered with, "I went to (insert the name here) restaurant with (insert all names here)" postings. I eat to live and don't live to eat. Food to me is fuel for my body and not something that is a big production. People in the States love to entertain visitors and friends by going out to dinner. I'd rather spend the time with them talking in their homes or out and about somewhere. A simple barbecue in the backyard is more enticing than going to a restaurant. I like to know what's in my food. Restaurant food is loaded with a lot of hidden fats, sodium, and sugars that I really don't need, especially when I won't be exercising as much as usual.

* Up-to-the-minute photos. Since I'm leaving my laptop at home, and won't be bringing a phone with Internet access (it doesn't work in the States anyway), downloading photos from my camera will have to wait until I'm back home.

* Reports about every place that I went. I may mention when I'm in a new city if I happen to have easy access to a computer. But I won't be posting, "Went to the zoo, then to the beach, then went to Paco's Taco Shop." If I go someplace very special, I'll probably end up writing a full blog entry about it later instead of taking away from the moment and pausing to post it on my Facebook page.

* If I come in late from somewhere, the first thing that I'll do when I get to wherever I'll be sleeping is getting ready for bed. I'll be tired and will have sleep, and not Facebook, on my mind.  I won't be coming in and typing, "It's 2 a.m. and I just got home from (insert the place here)." That's another thing that I don't understand about Facebook users. Why not just wait until waking up the next morning to post something on the Facebook wall?

Will I continue to use Facebook? Probably, because I can find out what my friends are doing. As I said before, it has helped me stay in touch with friends. Most people don't use e-mail anymore, they use Facebook. Also, I'll be able to know what my friends had for dinner, where they went, and what time they came home.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Azeri Entertainment at the Gym

On Sunday it was pouring rain, so I had to run on the treadmill at the gym. When I use the treadmill, I watch one of the TVs while listening to the music on my iPod. Most of the time I watch whatever is on the TV in front of my treadmill. But that TV was showing what I call "lame CNN," or the Stateside version of CNN. I prefer CNN International because it has a more worldwide focus. Stateside CNN is very US-centric and sensationalistic, like any other American newscast.

The TV next to the one with "lame CNN" was on a Ukrainian channel that was showing a news report. When the news ended, a show called, "Catastrophe" came on. "Catastrophe" shows various disasters like plane crashes, train derailments, building collapses, etc. But it seems to focus on how people miraculously survived those particular disasters, at least that's what I got from watching without sound. As I was watching "Catastrophe," a man started using a treadmill to my right and decided to change the channel. I was a little miffed because he didn't ask if he could change the channel. He probably figured that I was watching the TV with CNN, which was directly in front of my treadmill. But I was starting to get into "Catastrophe" and also getting some practice reading Cyrillic characters (I have been slacking off on my Russian studies lately, and  I know that Ukrainian is a different language than Russian. But they both use the Cyrillic alphabet.). I couldn't really complain since I was just watching the pictures on the TV and listening to music.

My fellow treadmill user changed the channel to Lider TV, which is a channel from Azerbaijan. For those who don't know where Azerbaijan is, it's located on the west side of the Caspian Sea near Armenia and Georgia. Azerbaijan is a former Soviet republic with the world's nicest people. I think that Azerbaijan means, "Land of the World's Friendliest People" in the Azeri language because the Azeri students I work with are very open and friendly.

The program on Lider TV that the other person on the treadmill wanted to watch was a very bad movie. It was the most low-budget movie that I've seen in a long time. It was sepia-toned, like a silent movie from 100 years ago. There seemed to be one camera angle. It was like the director never advanced beyond old silent movie filming techniques. The main characters in this film were members of a tribe in a jungle. All of the men in the movie had bad wigs with black shoulder-length hair. Their beards and mustaches were obvious fakes. Most of the men in the movie wore what looked like grass skirts, though there were a few who wore leopard print skirts. The few women of the tribe wore leopard print tops with their grass skirts. The chief wore a crown and the other men wore Viking helmets with horns, though several men wore headbands with Viking horns (they must have run out of money to buy helmets for all of the actors). But the best part of all was the tribesmen's teeth. They were supposed to look like fangs but ended up looking just like the plastic novelty teeth that my son gave out as party favors at his 10th birthday party.

There wasn't much action in this movie. The men did a lot of dancing around a fire and talking with each other. Sometimes they danced with spears and sometimes without them. At one point in the movie there was a dragon, which was really two people in a dragon costume. The tribespeople saw the dragon coming and fled as quickly as they could from it. What made that scene so comical was that the people in the dragon costume seemed to be moving out of synch with each other and extremely slowly. The tribe could have casually sauntered away from the dragon and still escaped from it. This movie really held my attention because it was so bad. I'm sure that if I could have heard and understood the dialogue, it would have been just as awful as the costumes. Sometimes it's best to just watch the action and listen to music. When I'm on the treadmill, it seems like I check the timer every 5 seconds because it gets pretty boring running in one place, even with music and silent TV. But I really got caught up in the hokeyness of that movie and actually kept my eyes on it instead of the treadmill timer. Maybe I just need to watch bad, low-budget foreign movies to keep indoor workouts halfway entertaining.

Another thing that I noticed about watching Azeri TV is the number of Western products that were advertised during the commercial breaks. I saw ads for: Nivea lotion, Dreft laundry liquid, Coca-Cola, and Pampers disposable diapers. It seems like as soon as Azerbaijan became independent from the Soviet Union, Western companies started selling their products there.

I'm hoping for some good weather so that I can run outdoors. But if I end up using the treadmill in the gym, I'll have to check out Lider TV's Low Budget Cinema to help pass the time.