Sunday, February 14, 2016

Reminiscence

...to Cheryl

I caught a glimpse of someone
I hadn’t seen in years
A tall, lanky boy
Rushing off to the next thing
Knowing where he was headed
I followed for a spell
And smiled at the things
I saw along the way

Old familiar places
People never forgotten
I choked up for a minute
At a few of the scenes
But knowing what was next
I leaned in and held my breath
And rounding the next corner
There we were. That day…

Seeing you for the first time

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The City Lists Revisited

If asked to list my favorite cities today it looks a bit different from the lists I put together a few years ago. (Metro, City, Towns,Villages) Partly due to new experiences and places, but also with the benefit of time and reflection. This doesn’t totally negate those other lists, but augments them. Here are my current top 40 regardless of size:

1. Prague

Having been there dozens of times, I still find new fascinating things every trip.

2. Paris

Go for the sights, stay for the food.

3. Venice

Off season is the best time from what I hear.

4. Florence

This city is a work of art.

5. Quito

I could live there for the perfect weather, if I wouldn’t get bored with that.

6. Cortina d’Ampezzo

Feel like you are in the Pink Panther 60s.

7. London

I don’t think I could exhaust the things to see and do there.

8. Barcellona

In spite of some of the most bizarre esthetics, it is the food I want to revisit.

9. Krakow

-I was surprised at the beauty and history there.

10. Salzburg

Europe for mountain people.

11. Berlin

Arguably the most historic city for XXth Century buffs, it has unknown beauty.

12. Istanbul

This is the most exotic megacity I’ve ever been too.

13. Lisbon

A charming little city for a romantic getaway.

14. Rome

The biggest pile of historic ruins around, plus a lot of extravagant beauty.

15. Ephesus

Not a city anymore, you walk around amazed at what was.

16. Washington D.C.

I prefer the museums to the politics.

17. Nuremburg

Spend an afternoon inside the city walls.

18. Ramsau/ Berchtesgaden

These are the mountains

19. Meissen

My favorite middle ages hill fort town.

20. Puerto Mont

Take in the flavor, both touristic and cullinary.

21. Villarica/ Pucon

I can’t speak to these town since the latest erruption.

22. Santa Fe

A mountain town with the essence of Southwest flair.

23. Regensburg

A mini Cologne.

24. Leipzig

A music historian’s dream.

25. Estes Park

Summer in the Rockies is the best version of the Rockies.

26. Basel

What’s your pleasure? France, Germany, or Switzerland. Here you can have it all.

27. Rothenburg ob der Taube

Sometimes you just want to be a cliché.

28. Puerto Natales (Torres del Paine)

The city for when you want to get away from civilization completely.

29. Roskilde

The city on a Viking’s bay.

30. Vienna

It took a while, but this metro has grown on me. If I ever catch a concert I’m sure it’ll grow more.

31. Wittenburg

Site of the event of the last millennium.

32. Virginia City

Catch a sarsaparilla in a real saloon.

33. Munich

The Bavarian center to every single German stereotype.

34. Santiago

The Mediterranean metro of South America.

35. Pamukkale

A resort in the middle of Biblical history.

36. Budapest

It’s pretty, but I don’t remember which side you want. Buda or Pest?

37. Hamburg

Like a lot of these beautiful but interchangeable European cities, I remember Hamburg best with my taste buds. Coffee and Franzbrochen.

38. Osorno

Chile has a lot of beautiful cities with Volcanic views. The cathedral in Osorno is Unique.

39. Copenhagen

Scandinavian sites are woth your time if you have the money.

40. Hohnstein

A fairy-tale village if there ever was one.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

"Home Again"

The latest episode of “The X-Files” continues the trend of mixed results. The character stuff was powerful. Scully got her chance to shine this time around, sort of how Mulder got the focus last week. Where Mulder’s journey was a crisis of faith, Scully fought this time around with regret and doubt. The only thing that dampens this side of things this time around is that the William story-line has always been a hazy one.

And, this week the monster stuff was also, again, really good. It will likely not go down as one of the most memorable creatures in the series, but the concept is fascinating.

First, you have the art and creativity idea. How powerful is art in human culture? This story has hints of the old Golem myth, but immediately transcends that. The fact that the creature was “neither organic nor inorganic” took things a bit too far, though. It was trying to be clever but just ended up being silly. That said, the visual concepts of this monster—the trash truck, the graffiti, and the creature itself—were all really well conceived.

Overall this episode tried to take on too much. Homelessness, parental challenges, Scully’s regret were already straining the story. Then they added in the trash/recycling commentary—which was in itself an interesting consideration—and the whole thing toppled under the weight.

It remains great for fans, though, just based on the character, relational stuff. I’m going to miss this when the six episodes are over. How are we going to fulfill this reawakened hunger come March?


Monday, February 8, 2016

Lisbon

I need to revisit my lists of favorite cities. A couple of years have passed, and I’ve gotten to know some new cities that change things around a bit.

Lisbon is the most recent, and it definitely belongs amidst the best of its size.

It still feels European, but in different ways from the Central European stuff I am used to, even different from the Italian and Mediterranean cities that it more closely resembles. Like Rome and a lot of other places, it is built on a series of seven hills, but the way it interacts with those hills feels unique.


Where else do you have multiple elevators to get you around town? Our hotel was up on the castle walls on the side of downtown known as Alfama. The bus from the airport dropped us of downtown in Baixa, basically a valley in the heart of things. We walked the few hundred meters up what ended up being about 12 stories that first afternoon. Once we learned about the various elevators around town we used them the rest of the time. (That is how I know how many stories we were dealing with.

Alfama is amazing. It is a labyrinth of narrow alleyways, decorated everywhere with freshly washed laundry hanging out to dry. Cobblestones are the norm everywhere in Lisbon, but in Alfama they are ankle-breaking. Perhaps most amazing is the old trolley cars that make their way around the maze.

Across the valley from Alfama was Barrio Alto. For those with a more modern wish (but only slightly more) this is where you find the shopping, eating, and night-life. It wasn’t our favorite, but we did stumble across the oldest bookstore in the world. Literally, truly, the oldest in the world.

Baixa itself is a pedestrian area where you will be accosted by restaurant after restaurant pressuring you to enjoy cheap, good food. But really you don’t need meals to meet you caloric goals every day. The local pastries, sort of a crème brulee torte in a flaky crust are enough to keep you energized and gaining weight.

Along the river mouth toward the Atlantic you get the amazing Belem with its museums and world heritage monastery. I always forget about the Portuguese impact on the world and history, but this trip reminded me of it, along with my childhood love of exploration. I still remember reading Magellan’s biography at the age of 10 or 11 more than most other biographies I have read since.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Quantum Leap Rewatch (Episodes 7-12)


(1-6) -- (13-18)

It is early in the exercise, but somehow “Quantum Leap” is maintaining my kids’ interest longer than other shows I’ve tried to take them through. They tend to get excited about the more mindless, comedy-based, sitcom fare. After all, who wants TV to make them wrestle with complicated thoughts and conundrums? But, QL has the right ingredients to suck them into drama. Maybe it is the way that it tricks you into thinking you are watching a science fiction show. But it really is straight-up human drama every episode…

“The Color of Truth” 

This is the episode where Quantum Leap fully recognized its potential. It is an obvious choice, but needed to be done. When Sam experiences the Deep South on the cusp of the civil rights movement, the show goes into full-on preachy-mode, but it works. We will get a lot more of this sort of thing, and not always a slam-dunk, easily moralized issue as we see here.

“Camikazi Kid” 

The show is clever having Sam rescue a woman from an abusive husband by forcing Sam to do so as her underage brother. It is a clear cut situation, but complicated. How does he get her to see the truth without simply alienating her?

“Play It Again, Seymour” 

Things take a bit of a strange twist when Sam starts to live the plot of a novel he had read. Turns out, he is a private eye living the real life that inspired a pulp.

“Honeymoon Express” 

Here season two starts out with a threat to the Quantum Leap project. Sam may be left on his own if they can’t prove that they can change big, historical events. But then, how would the future where Al is know if something had been changed? But the show also makes explicit in this episode that Al and Sam think that God is the one controlling the leaps and having Sam set things right. If so, then it is God who saves the QL prject as well…

“Disco Inferno” 

The plot in this episode is a simple save-someone-else-from-dying one. But the real impact of the show is that Sam has to save his host’s younger brother. That reminds Sam that he had an older brother. I had forgotten—or simply hadn’t realized—that Sam’s memory is still spotty. It is quite touching for him to realize that his older brother has died.

“The Americanization of Machico” 

With a return to social commentary and racism, the show again is top notch. In an interesting side note, this episode takes place days before Sam’s birth. That is interesting because according to the show’s lore, Sam can only leap within his own lifetime. Instead of being a mistake, the show’s creators have stated that Sam’s life started at conception, not birth. Logical.

Another interesting aspect of these episodes is the high ethical standard that Sam holds himself to. His respect isn’t just for life and individuals, but also for marriage and relationships in general. He won’t sleep with a woman on her honeymoon, even as he inhabits the husband’s body. He doesn’t even want to make a vow in their place. That is a refreshingly stringent attitude. I can hardly see something like that happening today.
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