February 29, 2008
A day that only happens once every four years is worth a post, eh? Thus I dedicate my Leap Year to a beloved animal that I have yet to meet in person, the Okapi. I recently saw (a dead, stuffed) one at the Natural History Museum and felt so inspired that I got a little choked up. The Okapi looks so gentile; with such awkward gazes, big ears and it's zebra-striped bottom, how can one not be endeared towards this creature? Everyone has their little list of animals they want to see in the wild, and the Okapi is one of my top ten. Alas, it lives in the DRC which is about as dysfunctional home as you can have (if only animals could vote or form militias). If the 15,000 remaining Okapi can hold out until I get to Africa next, I shall be eager to try and spot one. My target destination will be the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. And they even have a blog!
February 28, 2008
February 26, 2008
Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala, about a month ago. I've never seen real lava up close so I had to just get that bit closer. Had to see if I could touch it with my walking stick, you know, to "touch lava". Well, in about three seconds the stick burned up and I singed all the hair off the right side of my face just for the sake of this picture. I learned for myself the great primordial lesson that lava is really, really hot. Don't try this at home.
February 25, 2008
“This is the kind of town where nobody locks their doors, where everyone knows each other, but where outsiders are as welcome as the sun.”
“A most remarkable trek crosses the eastern mountains at the Hestskard Pass and down into the untouched Hédinsfjördur or “heathen’s fjord”. Free of roads, traffic, people and towns, this may very well be the most pristine fjord in the whole country.”
February 22, 2008
February 19, 2008
I've never been to Japan and that is a major regret: I love sushi, the idea of Zen Buddhism, and spooky avant-garde Japanese horror movies. I spent my childhood in the 1980s, with everyone in Ohio fearing the Japanese industrial invasion and then being grateful when it came. I passed my driver's test in a Honda and drove a Nissan to my last day of school. I played Atari with my family and from the colored bits and blobs on the screen I imagined a fairly intense video world. Back then, all of us were slowly turning Japanese.
On that note, here's a favorite song from The Spinto Band, the state of Delaware's finest musical export this century. College band or no, they wax poetic with a line about Japan assimilating other cultures "to make their stuff". It's a line remembered from my youth, oft spoken to express America's inventive superiority over Japan. Nowadays we say the same about China and in response all I can say is yes, please. A sudden influx of Chinese culture may not be a bad thing. Such are my thoughts.
February 15, 2008
A separate thought: I've noticed how in recent years, NGM has made a decided shift towards all things imagery. Yeah, pretty pictures is what they do best, but it's not the only one way to tell a story. Conservation porn is only one broad brush in the painter's box, and I'm afraid that these days a lot of people are using it. I'm guessing that once upon a time, some 10-year-old kid in Kansas got a big thrill from the world of stunning photos that arrived in his mailbox every month. These days though, ten seconds on Flickr gives you the same, filtered out of an infinite photo library of semi-professionals and talented amateurs who grew up with the magazine and are now copying its style with aplomb. Yes, NGM has that X-factor of je ne sais quoi that sets them apart, but my two cents is that in the long run, photography is a medium to an end, and not an end. Unless you're just an art gallery.
P.S. The polar bear pic is Creative Commons, yanked from Flickr. And it's adorable.
February 13, 2008
In response to one of the questions from the audience of "The Insider's Paris" I'm posting a pic of this door in Montmartre. The address is N 1, Place du Calvaire in the 18th arrondissement (just off the very touristy Place du Tertre). This was the final home of the artist Maurice Neumont (1868-1930), a friend of the renowned art nouveau designer Hector Guimard. I remember standing at this spot a few months back and being surrounded by dazed tourists staring at the Sacre Coeur. When I began taking pictures of this door, they all crowded me and followed suit. The mob photography instinct is a common albeit annoying phenomenon among travelers. I love this door--the peephole is covered with an iron grille spider web and the carving is classic Guimard. As for Maurice Neumont, his artistic fame lies in a single, propagandistic piece from the First World War, entitled On Ne Passe Pas!
February 10, 2008
In the 4 years that Candida's was open, she hosted two of my book signings. She was set to host another for Iceland and was always so encouraging to all the authors that came into her shop. I know I am not alone in regretting the end of such a perfect little store. Kinda makes me wonder about the state of independent bookstores everywhere, as well as the priority of travel.
So to all Washingtonians out there, get ye down to 14th & Q Streets, NW post-haste. Candida's selling off all of her fabulous merchandise; all things you'll be hard pressed to find elsewhere.
Here's a list of things that I bought yesterday:
- The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain
- The Global Soul by Pico Iyer
- A Zoo in My Luggage by Gerald Durrell
- 501 Russian Verbs
- Eyewitness guide to French Cheese
- Map of Djibouti
- Map of Peru
- Map of Central Asia
- Learn to Speak Basque book & audio
- Chinese character-a-day calendar
- Spanish Dictionary
February 5, 2008
Thanks to all who sent in their Paris recommendations. I'm gonna give it another week to collect a few more, then I'll compile everything and send it out. Until then, here's the video clip of the 9 minute 43 second Louvre visit from the film Bande à Part by Jean Luc Goddard (1964).