Posted on Monday, March 1st, 2010
I have mixed feelings about animals being held in captivity for entertainment value.
For the most part, I'm against it. I see animals chained up at the circus or animals trapped behind glass at the zoo, and can't imagine that this is an acceptable way to treat them. These animals aren't living, they're existing, and that's a pretty big difference. Even when the people keeping the animals insist that they're receiving the best of care and are safer than they would be in the wild... or if they're of the mind that the animals don't know any better and only understand about getting fed... well, it's still a far cry from living in the wild.
But... "the wild" isn't what it used to be.
Jungles are being deforested. Glaciers are melting. Rivers, lakes, and oceans are polluted. Natural habitats are being dozed over to make room for condominiums. Pretty soon, there won't be much "wild" for animals to live in.
So... what to do?
The only way to insure the survival of a growing number of species is to raise them in captivity. And not all zoos are created equal. A growing number of zoos are going above and beyond to recreate the natural habitats of the animals living in captivity. The San Diego Zoo has been working on this for years, and others are following suite.
Then there's Disney's Animal Kingdom, where they've really put in the effort in recreating an animal's environment. And today they announced the birth of a critically endangered gorilla who might not have even had a chance in the hostile world we live in...
Now THAT'S an adorable baby!
But then there's the other side of the coin. Dangerous animals kept in captivity where it's easy to believe that we're the one's in control. We're the ones making the decisions. We're the ones making the rules.
And it makes for good family entertainment...
Until we receive a very real reminder that the animals are, in fact, still animals.
The tragedy at Sea World comes as a shock... but really shouldn't. The shocking things is that things like this don't happen more often.
And again, it's hard for me to sort out my feelings here. On one hand, animals as entertainment is not something I'm ever going to be comfortable with. On the other hand, the money Sea World gets from the entertainment goes towards their substantial efforts in education, conservation, rescue, and preservation.
So... what to do?
I guess there's nothing we really can do except BELIEVE it will all work out somehow...
I wonder what this all means for those of us who have been indoctrinated into the Cult of Shamu?
Posted on Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010
I could write for pages about the sad decline of journalism world-wide, but there seems to be little point in it. From television anchors injecting their personal feelings into the story... to newspaper writers drawing conclusions for the reader... to networks claiming impartiality while ramming their agenda down your throat... to internet "news" sites not bothering to check their "facts"... it's all such a horrendous mess that finding out what's really going on in the world today is all but impossible unless you are there to witness events in person.
I suppose it was inevitable, because people just don't seem to care about the truth anymore.
But even worse than all the things that we get wrong when it comes to journalism, at least the issues that the media decides to cover are getting exposure. What about important issues that get buried?
Take, for instance, an issue that I am hugely passionate about, ACTA...
Since the most common meaning of ACTA is "Association of Canadian Travel Agents," I suppose I should state for the record that I have nothing against Canadian travel agents, but am instead referring to the world-wide "Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement."
Something else I should probably get out of the way...
I am in no way supporting counterfeiting here. Theft is theft, and I believe strongly that people should be compensated for their work, and have the right to prosecute those who would steal it.
And yet, because of journalism FAIL!, most people have never even heard of ACTA.
If you're not entirely bored by now and want to read the rest of my rant, I've put it in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010
Yeah, I'm pretty much done with authority now...
It all ends up being the same, and there's no sign of it ever getting better.
So why pretend?
Posted on Thursday, March 4th, 2010
From now on, I'm just going to assume that every politician, religious leader, FOX Newscaster, or man on the street who actively fights against equal rights for gays is a closeted homosexual. As history has shown us over and over again, it's a theory that has a solid basis in fact. Ultimately this will save me a lot of time wondering what makes these people such raging douchebags, because the answer ultimately ends up being that they doth protest too much. Sure they rail against those "filthy homos" so they can preserve the sanctity of marriage and protect families, but at the end of the day all they really want is a big ol' Cock Sandwich.*
Senator Roy Ashburn Wants Cock!
Reverend Ted Haggard Wants Cock!
Though it's difficult to celebrate too hard when these douchebag hypocrites get caught doing exactly what they publicly oppose, because it's really more sad than funny.
We live in such a messed up unforgiving society that these poor guys are conditioned to hate themselves because of who they are. So they spend their lives lashing out against the people that are everything they despise... which turns out to be people just like them. They somehow think that if they pass enough laws against homosexuals, preach the gospel against homosexuals, or broadcasting hate again against homosexuals, that it will somehow turn them straight. Or perhaps they think it compensates for the "perversion" that they've been convinced is within them. I really don't know what makes them do what they do, but I know it makes me sad to think of how painful their lives must have been all this time.
But then I think about my many gay friends who have suffered because of assholes like Reverend Ted Haggard, and the sadness disappears to become anger. Or I think of people I've known who have been killed by drunk drivers like Senator Roy Ashburn, and the compassion fades to outrage. The hateful crap these fuckers do makes life miserable and dangerous for people I care about, so suddenly making fun of their hypocritical bullshit seems like a rational response. I live to see these pathetic dumbasses get caught with their pants down (so to speak).
And now I guess I just sit back and wait for Rush Limbaugh's inevitable gay scandal.
It would explain so much.
*Cock Sandwich has a nice symmetry to it, being the perfect entrée for my earlier creation, Penis Salad...
All that's missing is some Dick Pudding, and it's a meal fit for Senator Larry Craig!
Posted on Friday, March 5th, 2010
When people say mean things about you, it's probably just because they're jealous.
Posted on Saturday, March 6th, 2010
My head-cold only lasted 24 hours, but the resulting sinus infection is ongoing. Yesterday the pain was so bad that I had to leave work early, which meant that my planned half-day of work today turned into a full-day of work. I wouldn't have minded so much, except the weather outside was so beautiful. It makes me miss my motorcycle.
Of course, right now what I really miss is having the energy to stay out of bed all day. The antibiotics really wipe me out, so pretty much all I can do is work and sleep. This is a darn shame, because I've got a to-do list a mile long before I start traveling again in two weeks.
Hopefully I'll have the energy to make it through The Oscars tomorrow night...
In general, I find The Oscars to be a load of crap, but it still makes for an interesting evening of television.
My "best movie" last year was Star Trek. For sheer entertainment value, I just can't seem to get enough of it. But it wasn't nominated for Best Picture, so I'd probably have to go with Inglourious Basterds, followed closely by District 9 and The Hurt Locker which were all amazing films. So was Moon but it wasn't nominated either. The odds of Inglourious Basterds winning Best Picture are slim, but I think it's a lock for Best Original Screenplay (and deservedly so).
As far as Best Director, I think that Kathryn Bigelow nailed it with Hurt Locker, but I wouldn't be unhappy if James Cameron got it, because his fingerprints are on every frame of Avatar, which is a magnificient achievement in filmmaking. And, of course, I'm not going to have any complaints if Quentin Tarantino wins. Ever.
I don't care about any of the actor categories except Best Supporting Actor for Christoph Waltz. His incredible performance in Inglourious Basterds is about as Oscar-worthy a role as you will ever see.
Speaking of Inglourious Basterds, it's my pick for Best Editing. Quentin's films are always paced impeccably, and the way the various storylines are so perfectly woven together in the editing room is a testament to Tarantino's vision.
The Best Animated Feature Film I saw last year was probably Up, which had a really good story behind it (though I thought the actual "traditional" animation on either Ponyo or The Secret of Kells was the best of the lot). That being said, I also enjoyed Fantastic Mr. Fox, Coraline, and Princess and the Frog so I'd be happy with any of them winning. As for Best Animated Short, that clearly has to go to Nick Park for his Wallace & Gromit short A Matter of Loaf and Death.
Art Direction and Visual Effects are clearly Avatar's to win. This is the future of filmmaking, and has opened entirely new worlds in movies.
I'd give Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Makeup to Star Trek on principle.
The other categories I don't have enough information to make an opinion on.
Of course, this is The Oscars, so I'll be lucky if even one of my picks is actually a winner. But there you have it.
Posted on Sunday, March 7th, 2010
Blergh. Muh head is assploding on Buwett Swunday! Sinus infections suck.
• Oscar. Look, I liked The Hurt Locker as much as anybody (I saw it twice in theaters and bought the Blu-Ray), but winning Best Original Screenplay over Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds? What the hell? I can see The Hurt Locker taking Best Picture over Basterds, I'm right there with that... but Screenplay?? Seriously? It's things like this that makes me want to swear off ever watching the Academy Awards each year.
• Can't. I have had at least a dozen people tell me that I need to see The Cove which just won Best Documentary. I love films of all kinds and am a huge fan of documentaries, but I cannot watch anything where dolphins are slaughtered. That's a weakness I'm perfectly willing to live with...
• Strange. Katheryn Bigelow was well-known to me long before she directed The Hurt Locker. Mostly because of this poster which has hung on my bedroom wall for the past 13 years...
Her movie Strange Days is one of my all-time favorite films. Written by (her then husband?) James Cameron, it's just cool entertainment. It has a great cast (I fell hopelessly in love with Angela Bassett after this performance), a really good story, an intriguing premise, and most everything else I love about the movies. The fact that it was so beautifully directed was just icing on the cake. All I can do is hope that the Oscar win for Kathryn Bigelow will mean we finally get a release of Strange Days on Blu-Ray.
As an added bonus, Kathryn Bigelow also directed a movie in 2000 called The Weight of Water starring the incomparable Elizabeth Hurley... TOPLESS!! I owe Kathryn Bigelow a massive debt for that astounding moment of brilliance in cinematic history, so congratulations on your Academy Awards!
• Teaser. The stupid-ass "teasers" that television news shows do during commercial breaks are getting more and more asinine. Shows like "Entertainment Tonight" always waste time before taking a break telling you what's coming up after the break. It's stupid, but nobody cares because it's not like you'll die if you miss anything on "Entertainment Tonight." You can, however, die from missing something on the news...
"And this just in... another big auto-maker launching a recall. We'll show you what cars pose a risk for your safety this time! It's eleven minutes of uninterrupted news at 11:00 on KIRO 7... tonight!"
Yes, let's not just come out and say which cars might kill you as a public service in the name of safety... instead let's keep it a secret so we can whore out our shitty local news program. Whatever.
And now my sinuses are smooshing into my brain, so I should probably go to bed.
Posted on Monday, March 8th, 2010
I can't help myself. I love Crasher Squirrel!
I don't understand why somebody hasn't him to a picture development deal... he's Oscar gold!
Posted on Tuesday, March 9th, 2010
For the FIFTH frackin' time now, the company which handles the credit/debit cards for my small local bank had a "security breach" which means I have to get a new bank card. This sucks hard, because every time they issue a new card, you have a brand new PIN to remember. I usually end up forgetting the number, which is inconvenient when you're... ohhhh let's saaayyyy... at a cash machine in a foreign country trying to get some local currency to pay an impatient taxi driver.
Not wanting to go through something like that again, I decided to go to the bank and ask if they can change my PIN to something I remember. Turns out they could, so they did, and so now I'm back to the PIN I had for my very first bank card (which is the only one I can seem to remember). Here's hoping I get to hang on to it for more than six months.
Otherwise, I'm going to have to brutally murder the dumbass who keeps losing his laptop with everybody's bank card info on it.
Just like I almost had to brutally murder an old man in a car who tried to zoom ahead of me as I crossed the street on my way back from the bank. Except he realized he couldn't make it in time, so he slammed on his brakes.
And then proceeded to rev his engine at me while I crossed.
I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and stared at him while I said "SERIOUSLY?" Because I may not be much of a fighter, but I could have easily broken this geriatric asshole in half with one hand.
Rudeness like this just pisses me off. It's a rage thing I'm working on.
But at least I have perfect color perception, having scored a perfect score of ZERO at the ColorIQ Challenge!
Apparently 1 out of 255 women and 1 out of 12 men have some form of color vision deficiency. If you want to know if you're color deficient, you can click here to take a free test online.
Hopefully you'll get a perfect score like me!
Hmmm... I guess that means I'm officially perfect at everything then.
Posted on Wednesday, March 10th, 2010
It seems that the one thing which hasn't been hurt by the economic recession is lawsuits. If anything, they've been escalating as lawyer-happy assholes try to exploit frivolous lawsuits as source of new revenue. At first I found it funny, but lately I've been increasingly outraged by the bullshit that is clogging up our courts.
Case in point: Hollywood's favorite drunken drug-addicted publicity whore, Lindsay Lohan, is suing E*Trade because she feels that people associate the name "Lindsay" with her the same way that people associate Oprah and Madonna's first names with them, and this commercial reflects badly on her...
Except I have news for Ms. Lohan: YOU ARE NOT OPRAH OR MADONNA!
This is fucking bullshit because I have never seen or heard of any show or publication ever referring to Ms. Lohan as simply "Lindsay." If anything, she should be filing lawsuits against people using "Blowhan" or "Firecrotch" or "HoHan" in a derogatory manner, because those those single-word names people do associate with her.
Currently, there are two things that Lindsay Lohan is most famous for, neither of which is her "music" or her "acting" or her "fashion."
#1 Flashing her cootchie everywhere...
#2 Partying like a drunken drug addict in-between trips to rehab...
That's it. That's what everybody knows her for. That's what she's good at. For her to imply otherwise is just the epitome of denial and self-delusion.
Whether or not E*Trade intended to mock Ms. Lohan in their commercial by using the generic name "Lindsay" is subjective.
But the fact that everybody on earth automatically links the name "Lindsay Lohan" to a drunken drug-addicted cootchie-flasher is nobody's fault but Lindsay Lohan's. By extension, people making the connection between a milkoholic baby named "Lindsay" and Lindsay Lohan is also nobody's fault but Lindsay Lohan's. You can sue people all you want, but it's not going to change the image you've worked so hard to cultivate.
So now the legal wranglings begin as our courts will decide whether Lindsay Lohan should profit ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS for being a drunken drug-addicted cootchie-flasher.
It's times like this I am so very proud to be an American. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! GOOOOO AMERICA!!
Posted on Thursday, March 11th, 2010
If there's one behavior I've learned which has proven to be the most useful throughout my life, it would probably be "see for yourself." I know that sounds trite and simple (maybe because it is) but it's also true.
It's following this "golden rule" which has led me to such amazing experiences as visiting the Egyptian Pyramids and walking along The Great Wall of China. But it has also forced me into less literal interpretations, where my mind has been opened to new ways of thinking and finding new truths where I was once ignorant. Like that movie which critics keep telling you sucks, but you go see for yourself and end up liking it.
Today I was catching up with the internet while I was on telephone-hold hell, and ran across a company mentioning how they had been the victim of an unfair verbal attack. I kind of like the company and what they do, so my first reaction was "Yeah. YEAH! THAT ASSWIPE CAN BURN IN HELL!! HOW DARE HE ATTACK THIS COMPANY" But my mind slowly drifted back to my mantra to "see for yourself" and so I started investigating the "asswipe" in question, reading up on things he had written and looking into the things he's done.
Much to my shock and horror, I ended up really liking what I found.
No, I didn't agree with absolutely everything he says and does but, looking at the big picture, he's my kind of person. Smart, funny, opinionated, open, and a little bit caring too. He ended up being just like the people I enjoy having as friends. And once I realized that, I tracked down the actual source where he "attacked" that company I like, and found out that the situation was not quite as simple as I had been led to believe. On the contrary, by the time I had made my way through it all, my mind had changed completely. I was now turned around 180-degrees and agreeing with the "asswipe" guy.
It's not the first time it's happened. I'm sure it won't be the last.
A part of me just hates it when my initial instincts and reactions are wrong, but there's also a kind of perverse satisfaction I get when discovering that I've learned something new... the hard way.
Sometimes you just have to see for yourself.The reward is often worth the extra effort.
Posted on Friday, March 12th, 2010
Late last night while I was waiting for an email response, I thought that I'd go through the 37 abandoned blog posts in my "drafts" folder. The majority of them were unfinished, but a few were completed entries that I decided not to post for one reason or another (usually because they were angry rants that I thought I had better sit on for a few days). Surprisingly, a full half of the abandoned posts were either geeky or technical in nature, and I ended up ditching them because nobody except me would ever care to read them.
Then, just as I was ready to do a DELETE->ALL on my drafts folder, I had a change of heart. That was a lot of work I was about to trash, and I just couldn't bring myself to do it. This is what always happens, and I justify it by saying "well, I'll finish them up and post them someday"... secretly knowing that it will never happen. That's how I ended up with 37 drafts in the first place.
But just because I didn't want to post them here doesn't mean that I can't find another home for them. It was then that I got the bright idea to dust off my Tumblr account and re-brand it as a repository for all the crap that's left over from my blog. Blogography Bits was born...
I've temporarily slapped a DaveToon on a Tumblr template, but I'll eventually integrate it into my site when I find some free time.
So far I've posted...
With more to come.
Maybe nobody will bother reading my leftover crap, but that's okay. It's still a happier alternative to deleting stuff that doesn't work out for my blog!
Posted on Saturday, March 13th, 2010
The danger with digging is you don't know you're too deep until you're there.
Posted on Sunday, March 14th, 2010
Hooray! It's Pi Day! I love Pi! Of course I love all irrational and transcendental numbers, so that shouldn't surprise anybody. I will click the "publish" button on this entry at exactly 3.14.1:59 and see if a magic portal opens up to Flatland or something.
• Irritation Pi. As anybody who follows me on Twitter can attest, I am an irritable traveler. In my defense, it's hardly my fault. I honestly think that people are at their worst behavior when they're on a trip, so I have a valid excuse here. It's probably because travel has become so miserable now-a-days that people feel the need to do their part and become rude maniacs who are intent on making everybody else miserable too. It's a vicious circle. I travel a lot, so I've kind of broken the circle and just try to get through it all with as little drama as possible. With that in mind, I am freaking out over the idea that airplanes may soon be offering MOBILE PHONE SERVICE ON THEIR FLIGHTS. Holy crap. The idea of having to sit next to some loud asshole screaming away on their phone during a flight fills me with dread and homicidal rage...
I mean, seriously? Aren't airplanes horrible enough? Can you imagine how horrendously shitty flights will be if people can make phone calls? This is bullshit! I am willing to bet some serious cash that the murder rate on airplanes increases 2700% if some airline is actually fucking stupid enough to do this. What's next? Are the flight attendants just going to punch you in the face and smear you with horse shit as you board?
• Stupid Pi. I've written about how much I hate Daylight Saving Time so many times on my blog that I sometimes wonder if I should just write about it exclusively. But oh well... I HATE DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME!! Messing with the clocks is so damn antiquated and absurd that I just can't help myself. Just split the difference by a half hour then LEAVE OUR CLOCKS THE FUCK ALONE!
• Denial Pi. Last night I saw an article on yet another disaster in our military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, where a woman was discharged for being a lesbian... even though she adhered to the rules she was given. Now, I've never been in the military, so those who are in the military (or are a military veteran) can feel free to dismiss my opinion... but who in this day and age really cares if anybody is gay? What's the point? It's as if people who support DADT think that if nobody says they're gay, then the entire military is suddenly straight and homosexuality doesn't exist there. It's like DADT is some kind of magical "denial cloak" idea that somebody took from a Harry Potter novel.
The truth is that you're either a good soldier or a bad soldier, and where consenting adults like to stick their penis and what they choose to do with their vagina isn't going to change that. Fortunately, this is an attitude that's finally starting to stick, as I see when I run across inspirational people, positive stories, and videos like this bouncing around the blogosphere...
The thing that always amuses me is the idea that a gay guy would join the military not to serve his country or earn an education, but so he could look at naked guys in the shower and hook up. It's absurd, but apparently that's what geriatric politicians like John McCain seem to think will happen if gays are allowed to serve openly (despite opinions of military leaders like Colin Powell who thinks DADT should be repealed). If anything, you'd think that homophobes in the military would welcome repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, because then they'd know to say "no thanks, please leave me to die" if they were shot on the battlefield and some "homo pervert" comes to their aid.
People can deny it all they want but the Gay Menace is out there. They're standing next to you at the urinal in the bathroom. They're showering with you at the gym. And they're serving with honor in our military. They're everywhere. Pretending that gays don't exist isn't going to magically make it come true. Why people are so insecure in their sexuality that they think being exposed to "teh ghey" will somehow turn them gay is beyond me. Why they think that gays are any less capable of leaving their sex life in the bedroom is even more of a mystery.
Personally, I'm more afraid of people who watch The Hills than I am of any homosexual. Where's an ineffectual and asinine government policy to protect me from that?
• Apple Pi. I'm ordering an Apple iPad because of a project I'm working on, even though I probably won't use it for much else since I've always got an iPhone and MacBook with me. Don't hate me because I am now 196% cooler and Steve Jobs loves me. At least he should love me now. Heaven only knows I love me more now...
• Humble Pi. I just thought I'd throw this out there for those people who think I'm being a narcissistic ass in my previous bullet...
And thus ends another amazing installment of Bullet Sunday.
Posted on Monday, March 15th, 2010
One of these days, I'm going to mount a video camera on my dashboard so I can have evidence of just how insane my 5-minute commute home can get. Today I added stops at the post office and the bank, which just tripled the crazy-ass shit I had to deal with. Being cut-off twice, nearly hit three times, and fuming over the SEVEN CARS coming from the opposite direction that DIDN'T stop while I waited to let a young boy cross the street... it's no wonder I'm near-homicidal by the time I get home. ARRRRRRRRRGH!
Peter Graves died over the weekend, which was some really sad news for me. As a mega-huge fan of both his Mission: Impossible television series and the Airplane movies, Graves has been a permanent fixture in my memory as both a brilliant source of suspense and comedy, which is a rare thing for an actor. My respect for him only grew when he turned down what was certainly a nice chunk of money to reprise his Jim Phelps role in the Mission: Impossible movie. The film totally betrayed the character, and Peter Graves would have none of it, which is really cool.
I always held out hope for another Airplane movie, but any attempt to do so now without Captain Oveur in at least a cameo would be a huge mistake. Most of the best scenes in Airplane are his...
"Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?"
Oveur and out.
Speaking of scenes...
There's a very cool article over at The Guardian where their film critics pick their favorite movie scenes. That got me to thinking about what my favorite scenes might be, so I decided to take a stab at listing them over the next several weeks for MOVIE SCENE MONDAYS! The first scene I look at is from Katheryn Bigelow's Strange Days released in 1995. There be SPOILERS below, and the film is well-worth watching if you haven't seen it, so don't click through unless you have!→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Posted on Tuesday, March 16th, 2010
I have a blog entry I'm working on, but my "Betty White" Google News Alert* brought some most excellent news to my attention, so I'll post it tomorrow.
TV Land PRIME's new original production of Hot in Cleveland starring BETTY WHITE will start airing in June on TV Land!
Frickin' amazing as always.
First she gets a Saturday Night Live hosting gig on May 8th, then a guest-spot on the season finale of The Middle, and now she's in a new television series. Sweet!
So glad Ms. White is showing no signs of slowing down, because everything's better with Betty!
I sure wish Chelsea Lately would book Betty as a guest. Now THAT... would be an awesome interview.
UPDATE: In even more Betty news... Betty White will be a guest on Larry King Live tomorrow night on CNN (6pm Pacific, 9pm Eastern). I positively loathe Larry King. I think he's about the shittiest "professional" interviewer working in television (yes, that includes Tyra Banks)... but you can bet I'll be tuning in for this one!
* For those curious about "Google News Alerts"... any time you do a search for something at Google News you can scroll to the bottom of the page and sign up for "email alerts" for whatever you just searched for (or anything else, for that matter). Then, at intervals you determine, Google will email you a report of things that show up in their news feed. Easy! And customizable...
I have alerts for people like Betty White, Elizabeth Hurley, and Steve Jobs... and things like ACTA, Macintosh, and Chocolate Pudding. Very handy... and free!
Posted on Wednesday, March 17th, 2010
Just two more days until vacation.
Assuming I don't kill myself from trying to get all my work done before then.
Posted on Thursday, March 18th, 2010
Tomorrow I'm on vacation for ten days so, naturally, today was packed full of last-minute work projects and a non-stop parade of drama. Work I can handle... but the drama?
Well, the drama has nothing to do with me. Yet people somehow think that it should.
So I'm ignoring the outside world for a while, and focusing on more important things. Like Miley Cyrus using her entire sixteen years of life experience to advise kids as to how they should live their lives...
"I'm telling kids, don't go on the internet. It's dangerous, it's not fun, it wastes your life, and you should be outside playing sports or something. I just think it's kind of lame. I feel like I hang out with my friends and they're so busy taking pictures of what they're doing and putting them on Facebook that they're not really enjoying what they're doing. You're going to look back and have a million pictures, but you're not going to be in any of them. Because you're not having fun, you're too busy clicking away. So I think just enjoy the moment you're in, and stop telling people about it. Just enjoy it."
Wow. Where was this sage advice seven years ago when I started blogging?
The thing that's so odd is that kids pretty much live online now. American teenagers now-a-days haven't really known of a world without the internet. And, thanks to devices like the iPhone, they're beginning to not know of a world without constant access to the internet. They're online Twittering and Facebooking constantly, and when they're not doing that, they're texting each other non-stop. Sure it's excessive, but these are the times we live in, and that's the way society seems to want to interact. So, while I applaud Miley for encouraging kids to step away from the computer once in a while, I think it's unrealistic to tell them "Don't go on the internet." Ever. That's who they are now.
Besides, it would be pretty hard for them to buy tickets at Ticketmaster.com for Miley's concerts... or spend their time hanging around her two websites MileyCyrus.com and MileyWorld.com... or sign up for her email newsletter... or visit her official YouTube Channel... or shop at her official Amazon Shop... or connect with her on her official Facebook fan page... or view her musical endeavors on her official iLike Artist Page... or buy her music from her page at the iTunes Music Store... or even become a friend at her official MySpace Page.
So, basically, Miley tells her fans not to do the internet drug, but then pushes them all kinds of internet crack to feed their habit.
Maybe her millions of dollars puts her in a class above being a hypocritical douchebag, but this is still a disappointment.
Especially to a huge Hannah Montana fan like me...
Isn't it terrible when our media heroes turn out to be sanctimonious wankers after all?
Posted on Friday, March 19th, 2010
Rather than have to pay $10 to check my suitcase in Wenatchee, I decided to drive to Seattle for my flight. The cost of flying Horizon Air vs. driving & parking is pretty much a wash, so I'll save the $10. This may seem like a petty amount of money in the grand scheme of things... but it's not the money so much as the principle of it all. I think it is absolutely shitty of airlines to nickle-and-dime people for a service that 99% of their customers need. This "extra revenue" policy only serves to make boarding the plane an unholy mess, as people struggle to bring all their luggage onboard so that they can save their hard-earned cash. I choose not to reward such blatant douchebaggery if I can help it.
Fortunately, it was a beautiful day and a lovely drive, so it wasn't a big deal.
Anyway... the mad rush all this week to get caught up so I can go on vacation had me dreading today... but, now that it's all behind me, I couldn't be happier that I'm escaping for a little while.
Next stop: Amsterdam and Dutchyland.
Posted on Saturday, March 20th, 2010
After leaving Friday at 1:30pm out of Seattle, the days smooshed together and I landed at Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands this morning at 8:00am. The flight itself was uneventful. But before the flight I nearly had a panic attack when I thought that they were evicting me off the plane (when in fact they were upgrading me to World Business Class). It's easy to be paranoid when you hear stories of people being kicked off the plane for no reason. That's one of the few things that hasn't happened to me yet, so I figured it was my time.
But it wasn't and, typical to Schiphol efficiency, I was through customs and had my luggage waiting for me, all within 20 minutes. A few minutes after that, The DutchBitch arrived and we were off to catch-up on all the fabulous things that have happened in our lives since I was last here in October. From there, it was off to have delicious Patatjes Met (fries with mayonnaise) and an Old Cheese Sandwich (which means "aged cheese sandwich"... I hope)...
Deliciousness and two orgasms ensued.
After lunch, we were off to Den Haag (The Hague) on a rainy Saturday so we could go to the Escher Museum...
As I've mentioned before, my favorite flower is the crocus. And while I may be a week or two early for tulip season, the crocuses are in bloom everywhere...
The M.C. Escher Museum was, as expected, incredible...
Just down the street is the American Embassy which, as so often is the case, looks like a boxy pile of crap. Apparently, we're being asked to move because any time the embassy needs to be secured, they end up having to close down a busy street and public area...
As we were walking through the pouring rain back to the car, I asked The Dutch Bitch if all the golden metal I was seeing everywhere was real gold...
She replied "But of course. The Netherlands is so fantastically wealthy that we cover everything in real gold!" Apparently the sewer grates are due to be gilded in gold next week.
Since The Dutch Bitch wanted to make Greek Salad for dinner, we stopped at the grocery store. Visiting foreign grocery stores is always a fun experience because of the strange stuff you find there. This time, I was surprised to see that they sell Cat Milk here. I'd think that a cat would be a difficult animal to milk, but there it was...
The milking machine for a cat must be very tiny indeed.
I don't know that I'd want to abandon cow's milk for cat's milk... but it's nice to know I have options.
And thus ends my first two days of vacation smooshed into one.
Posted on Sunday, March 21st, 2010
It's the 175th edition of Bullet Sunday from Casa de DutchBitch! Reading about all the ugliness going on back home over health care reform, I can honestly say that there's no place I'd rather be right now.
Today we decided to grab a train and make the 2-1/2 hour journey down to Brussels in Belgium. Dutchy hadn't been there in 10 years, and the only time I had been to the city was for a 25 minute stop-over during a delivery.
• Cartooning. The first stop on our itinerary was the Belgian Comic Strip Center. I had heard nothing but good things about the place, and so I was a little let down to see that the building itself was kind of boring...
Just goes to show that you can't always judge a (comic) book by its cover, because the inside of the museum is stunning...
Highest possible recommendation if you have even a small interest in comic books and sequential art. There's precious little mention of any English books, but the pictures tell the story in any language.
• Atomium. After goofing around the museum, we took the subway out to the site of the World Expo 1958. Because this is where the giant Atomium structure can be found. It's pretty cool, well worth the trip outside the city, and will give you some great photos to remember you trip to Brussels...
The globes are reached either by a system of stairs and escalators...
Or an elevator up through the center column...
Once you reach a globe, there will either be some kind of exhibit or windows where you can look out...
Sweet! Hard to believe this place was built over 50 years ago.
• Food. The DutchBitch tells me that Belgium is also famout for Patatjes Met, which they call "Frites avec Mayo." Naturally, I could not pass them up. They are a bit thicker than Netherlands fries and not quite as crispy, but inevitably delicious, as you can imagine...
But the one thing that I simply had to eat was a Belgian Waffle, which they call a "Brussels Waffle" here. You can get them topped with a variety of stuff (including Belgian chocolate) but, being a purist, I just got mine with sugar and creme...
Yeah, orgasm-inducing delicious. Considering it cost $6.75, it had better be. Wish I could say the same for my $7.00 "Super" Coke, which was a watered-down horror story (lesson learned, ALWAYS order from the bottle, even if you have to buy two of them). While I am happy to eat the smaller and more sensible portions in Europe (vs. the massive portions they serve in the USA), I am consistently disappointed in the tiny size and HUGE cost of their Cokes. You always end up getting ripped off for what is essentially sugar-water.
• Square. The Market Square in Brussels is bordered by beautiful architecture on all sides. I could have spent half a day just looking at the buildings here...
• Peed. With some time to kill before our train back to the Netherlands, we decided to visit a famous Brussels attraction... "Manneken Pis" which means "Young Man Peeing." There was quite a crowd, but eventually I managed to get a shot of the little guy...
And thus our one-day invasion of Brussels had ended, and our mission to find something interesting to do for the day was a smashing success! Not bad for my last day in the Netherlands.
Posted on Monday, March 22nd, 2010
This morning The DutchBitch dropped me off at Schiphol so I could continue onward with the my vacation. That I ended up flying off to Bucharest so I could work is honestly not her fault, but that's basically what I did. This being a Monday, it was pretty much unavoidable. But I made up for it by having an early dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe Bucharest, so all was not lost.
The local Hard Rock is located north of downtown proper in Herastrau Park. As Spring has arrived, the park is just starting to green up, and a fair number of people were taking advantage of the sunshine to wander around the lakeside. After making my way past a small amusement park, I arrived in front of one of the most boring Hard Rock Cafes I've ever seen. I can't say for certain, but it looks as though it might have once been a US embassy. Strip away the wooden arches at the entrance, and it's pretty much just a giant cement brick. It really needs a giant guitar on top or something...
The car in the entryway is a nice touch.
The perimeter of the deck has a concrete wall around it like a penitentiary. All that's missing is electrified razor-wire at the top...
YOU CANNOT ESCAPE FROM HARD ROCK CAFE!
To say I was disappointed is an understatement.
Until I went inside...
Those are clear drum kits with lights in them in the ceiling above the bar, and are really cool-looking in person.
Turns out it's a beautiful property done up in classic "Hard Rock Style" with plenty of memorabilia plastered over every available surface... just as God intended a Hard Rock to be. The interior of the property is positively massive, and is able to hold 300 people (the deck outside can hold an additional 150)...
The hidden lighting in the ceiling is just beautiful.
Memorabilia everywhere... now THIS is a Hard Rock!
Facing the deck-side of the building.
So while it may be boring on the outside, it's 100% Hard Rock on the inside... which is where it counts, I guess. They even have a stage for live music...
Disco ball included.
My dinner, as expected, was very good. Getting a waiter was a little slow, but I arrived before the actual dinner shift when they were getting everything set up, so that was perfectly understandable. Service was fine after that, and the staff was really nice and friendly, which made my visit all the better.
So... if you happen to be in Bucharest, it's worth taking a quick trip north to Herastrau and a very impressive Hard Rock Cafe.
And, in non-Hard Rock news, Betty White continues her domination of all media by making a brilliant appearance on Ellen today...
Just when I think it's impossible for me to love Betty White even more that I do, she goes and proves me wrong. I can't wait for SNL in May!
And now I suppose I should get some work done so I can see a bit of the city tomorrow.
Posted on Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010
Today I attempted to make up for my lack of tourism yesterday by hiring a guide to show me a bit of Bucharest. Usually I don't like guided tours, but I wanted very much to have a historical context for the places I'd be seeing. It was also helpful to have somebody be able to negotiate entry to the various places, as many of the buildings are owned by the State and require special arrangements or considerations to visit them. Having a private tour guide and driver for one person is not overly-expensive considering the value you get in return.
The weather wasn't all that great today, but I didn't mind so much. Bucharest has sights that are remarkable rain or shine.
I was dropped off in front of the Romanian Savings Bank Palace, a beautiful building with French architectural elements that I would have dearly loved to see inside. You just know that the atrium under that natural-light cap is glorious...
From there it was a short walk to the Stavropoleos Monastery, home of a beautiful little church that had so many interesting details that I could have easily wasted half my day exploring them...
Wonderful little churches are scattered everywhere around Bucharest, some having been influenced by neighboring countries. Like this Russian church I saw as we headed back to our drop-off point...
Along the way we took brief shelter from the rain by walking through the Macca-Vilacrosse Passage, a very cool covered arcade walkway that spans two small streets. The yellow glass is a brilliant idea, because it gives off a warm glow that looks like the sun shining, even on overcast rainy days...
After a short car-ride, we arrived at the Metropolitan Church, which holds the relics of Demeter Basarabov, the patron saint of Bucharest. I didn't want the noise of my camera to disrupt the prayer service inside, so I can't show you the magnificient interior, but even the outside is pretty amazing. There's a cool fresco on the outside which depicts heaven on one side and hell on the other. In-between the two is the church entrance, which is an interesting symbology to present to parishioners...
Next up was a bastion of excessiveness that would put Lord Dimwit Flathead shame... Nicolae Ceauşescu's massive Palace of the Parliament. Second only to The Pentagon in size for administration buildings around the world, there's no way to adequately describe just how big this place is. Standing all the way back to the street from across the guest parking lot, I still needed to stitch together a panorama in order to fit it all in a photo, despite the fact that I'm using a wide-angle lens...
It's huge. Impossibly, massively, remarkably, huge. Thanks to some clever negotiations by my guide, I was able to get in on an English-speaking tour which would allow me to see 5% of the 1,100 rooms that make up the palace. I pretty much spent the entire time with my jaw on the floor as the tour wandered from one decadently appointed gigantic room to another...
And lest you think that the room designs are in any way superficial, they're not. Each element is impeccably rendered down to the smallest detail. Everywhere you look, there's astounding displays of craftsmanship that just boggles the mind. Here's a close-up of the ceiling for that last photo. I'm confident that if I were to get even closer, even more tiny details would emerge...
After collecting my wits, we proceeded to the Cotroceni Palace Museum, which happens to be the official residence of the President of Romania. Not surprisingly, absolutely no photography of any kind was permitted anywhere on the palace grounds. This is a real shame, because there are incredible sights to behold within.
Seven hours into the tour, we ended up at Revolution Square, which is home to one of the most interesting buildings I've ever seen, the Romanian Athenaeum. As a place built to celebrate the arts and sciences, it's truly a magnificent structure... not so much on the outside (though it is beautiful), but on the inside, which is just amazing. Of course, they don't allow photos in there either (that seems to be a reoccurring theme here in Bucharest) but it's definitely worth a visit...
Which brings us to Revolution Square itself, where the Romanian Uprising finally brought the Nicolae Ceauşescu communist regime to an end. To the more recent generations of Western World, this sounds like an event which happened long ago. But in reality, it was just twenty years past. And there I was, standing in the spot where it all ended... and began anew... and where many people lost their lives as tanks crushed them and gunfire tore through them as they fought for their freedom. I remember very well reading and watching the events in Bucharest unfold with the rest of the world, and it was a bit surreal to be looking across at the balcony of the Central Committee Building where Ceauşescu gave his final ill-fated public address...
At the center of it all, a monument was built in remembrance of those who lost their lives...
And thus ended my very small excursion into Bucharest. Of course I wish that I had a couple more days to explore the city, but I fit in as much as I could in the limited time available. As with any time you're lucky enough to travel, something is better than nothing at all!
And if you're looking to arrange your own tour of Bucharest or the surrounding area, I give my highest possible recommendation to RoCultours/CTI. As an academic touring company, you get an in-depth exploration of the things you see rather than just sitting on a bus as somebody points things out to you. This makes a world of difference when compared to the usual organized tour, and also allows for customization that would otherwise be impossible (I provided a list of things that were important to me, and they somehow found a way to make it all happen... like magic!). RoCultours/CTI came highly recommended to me, and I'm happy to pass along this "find" to anybody who ends up here looking for information on Bucharest.
Posted on Wednesday, March 24th, 2010
Happy birthday to me! As I said on Twitter... I may be all alone in a hotel room far away in Bucharest, but I've never felt so surrounded by friends as I did today thanks to all the kind birthday tweets, Facebook messages, and wonderful emails... it all means more to me than I could ever express. When even your arch-nemesis takes time to write out a birthday tribute, you know your life is worth living. Thanks to mah Hilly-Sue and everybody else who said such kind things. It's truly the best birthday present I could ever hope for.
As if all the birthday love wasn't enough... today my guide and driver took me into Transylvania to explore the Romanian countryside. It all started with the city of Braşov, which has an old-town city entrance that made me feel like I was at Dineyland...
The city crest is a crown from which "vigorous healthy roots" sprout. You see it throughout the city, and I grew kind of attached to it after a while...
From there we proceeded to the narrowest street in all of Romania (and possibly all of Europe), Strada Sforii... which means "Strand Street" or "The Rope Street" in English. It's so narrow that you can't really walk side-by-side, and passing somebody coming from the opposite direction can be tricky...
The primary attraction in Braşov would be Biserica Neagră, or "The Black Church" (so named because it was set on fire and blackened during The Great Turkish War)...
One of the most fascinating aspects of the church is a small statue of a child looking over the edge of the roof-line. It was explained to me that the statue is a tribute to the legend of a young German boy who was annoying the Bulgarian builders so badly that one of them ended up pushing him off the roof and then burying him within the church walls. Scary...
And now, from the Braşov EPIC WIN category... a poster advertising a Jägermeister ALL YOU CAN DRINK PARTY! If only I had more time in the city, I could have really, really gotten my money's worth out of that awesomeness (35 RON is about $11.50!)...
Anyway... Braşov is a charming and beautiful city, built around a lovely public square...
From there we continued onwards to Bran Castle... better known as "Dracula's Castle" thanks to the popular novel. In truth, "Vlad The Impaler" (the real-life person upon which the Dracula vampire character is based) never actually lived here. But the castle fits the location mentioned by Bram Stoker in the book, and apparently Vlad actually did use the castle at one point for his raids into Transylvania, so it gets the honor. The building itself is nothing spectacular, but it does have a great location, including a beautiful cobblestone path leading up to entrance...
Though the best way to see Bran Castle is actually from the grassy park below. Since winter is just on the way out, everything is still looking kind of dead and brown... but I'd imagine the scenery is amazing in the summer or winter...
At the bottom of the hill, there's a crap-market selling all kinds of cheesy souvenirs. There's even some kind of attraction that exploits the Dracula legend. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to have a look...
A far more stunning structure would be our next stop... Peles Castle. The interior is one of the most highly-decorated and massively excessive tributes to overkill you'll ever see, which made me wish I had some photos. But even without them, the exterior is pretty incredible...
The last stop before the two-hour drive back to Bucharest was the Sinaia Monastery. The property includes both a new church and an old church, both very interesting buildings to explore...
Not bad for a twelve-hour day! I will be very sad to leave Romania tomorrow, as I'm sure there are lots of other amazing things to see and do here.
Posted on Thursday, March 25th, 2010
My flight out of Bucharest wasn't until 3:00, so I decided to hire a driver into town and visit the National Museum of Art of Romania. They are famous for their medieval art, which is great, but I've seen so much medieval art that it's all kind of blending together for me. What I was really interested in was their modern art wing, because I'm not very familiar with many Romanian painters in the genre. I wasn't expecting much, but it would give me something to do until my flight.
The traffic in central Bucharest was brutal, largely because of a teacher's strike going on. At first I was worried that I had made a mistake...
Until I made it to the museum and was completely blown away by the amazing works housed within.
I have been to a lot of art museums all over the world, and I can honestly say that the National Museum of Art of Romania instantly became one of my favorites. Not just because it's a nice museum (which it is) but because I absolutely love the collection of artists they've assembled. It's just one breathtaking work of art after another...
I am not joking when I say that this museum is worth a trip to Bucharest all by itself. It's just that impressive. Highest possible recommendation...
My flight into Prague was delayed a bit, which meant I landed at the height of rush hour. The route my driver had to take into town to try and avoid the worst of the traffic was a mind-boggling array of twists and turns that looked like a pretzel on my iPhone GPS map. By the time I arrived and caught a tram into Old Town, the sun had just set.
Not that I'm complaining, because you get some great photos at that time of day...
I have been trying to arrange a stop in Prague for the better part of two decades, because people are constantly telling me what an beautiful city it is. Having seen photos, I knew they weren't lying, but it's taken to an entirely new level when you're here in person. The city is simply beyond beautiful. It's so beautiful that if I were a local, I'd wear a T-shirt that said "YES, WE KNOW OUR CITY IS FUCKING BEAUTIFUL... WE LIVE HERE!" because I'm sure they get tourists telling them how beautiful the place is all day long.
I can't wait to go to sleep so I can wake up and explore Prague in the daylight.
But of course I had to visit the Hard Rock Cafe Prague first...
Like just about everything else in this city, it was beautiful.
Posted on Friday, March 26th, 2010
Today was a glorious day in Prague, and so I took to the streets early so I could snap a few photos.
I ended up taking 537. Most all of them keepers.
The problem with Prague is that you start out all excited because everything is so pretty. It's like "ZOMFG! That building is so pretty! So you take a photo, walk 100 feet, and then "ZOMFG! That building is so pretty! Then another 100 feet, then another, then another... and just when you think that Prague will run out of pretty buildings, you suddenly realize that you've walked two miles and that Prague will never run out of pretty buildings, so you just give up in frustration.
I did go back and take a photo of the Hard Rock Cafe in daylight, because it is a very pretty building...
But they all are, really...
Even the clocks are pretty...
I'm sure that the Pooferflargen Museum is pretty, but I didn't really feel like looking at a bunch of "sex machines" before lunch...
Speaking of pooferflargen, Prague seems to have a disproportionate number of naked men statues. You'll be walking along minding your own business when WHAM! Some statue guy is hanging out all "How you doin'?"
But it's not like you have to worry about it killing your appetite, because Prague restaurants do that all on their own...
All I can say is that it had better be a LOT of beer, because I can't imagine there being any circumstances that I'd want to eat "jellied meat" unless I was very, very drunk.
After my non-jellied-meat lunch, I decided to walk across Charles Bridge so I could visit Prague Castle. It's a really cool bridge that's flanked with creepy-awesome statues...
But those statues pale in awesomeness compared to a statue that hovers above Prague Castle's main entrance gate...
It's like the city of Prague wants to be very clear that not only will they cut a bitch if somebody pisses them off, but that they are more than happy to stab people in the back when they do it. That is so shark-extreme I just can't stand it.
Prague Castle is dominated by the St. Vitus Cathedral. It's a very nice church, but pretty much like a lot of the other large gothic churches I've been in throughout Europe...
After walking fifty miles cataloguing the pretty buildings of Prague, I decided to go back to my room so I could take a Special Pill to keep my legs from falling off before I headed out again for sunset. I figured I'd take a tram to Petřínská Rozhledna (Petřín Lookout Tower) and snap a few photos of the city at sunset. It was a great plan, except the funicular tram that goes up the hill was out of order...
Which meant that I had to walk another fifty miles uphill and THEN climb 299 steps up the tower. I don't know if it was all worth it, but I did get some pretty pictures...
And then came the real challenge... climbing back down the hill.
With no lights.
I could barely see anything, and ended up having to use my iPhone to illuminate the trail a couple times. Not that you are ever confident which trail to take, because they're all unmarked (of course). I ended up removing the memory card from my camera and buried it in my pocket so if I were to survive being raped and stabbed on the unlit trail, I'd at least have my photos to show for it.
But I wasn't raped or stabbed, so I stopped by "Mystic Pizza" (!?!) for dinner. I remembered seeing it earlier in the day as I was climbing up to Prague Castle...
Now, up to this point, the weather had been fantastic. Clear skies and nice temperatures. But when I left the pizzeria, a thunder & lightning storm came out of nowhere and unleashed a torrent of rain. The jacket I had on wasn't exactly waterproof, which meant walking the fifty miles back to my hotel while getting soaked to the bone.
Checking out the weather forecast, it's supposed to pour buckets all week long. I know I should be upset about that, but after being so incredibly lucky with the weather today, I can't find it in me to be unhappy about it.
Besides, I'm sure Prague is equally pretty in the rain.
Posted on Saturday, March 27th, 2010
Last night I made plans to visit Karlštejn Castle, a popular tourist attraction about 20 miles south of Prague. And since I'd rather be punched in the face than pay $50 to join an organized tour bus group, I decided to go it alone via train.
After walking across the river and making my way down to Smichov Train Station, I bought my $4 round-trip ticket and then tried to find "Track 3" that I was supposed to be on. Except none of the tracks are numbered!! Not only that, but the reader boards only show the one train that's next to go... none of the trains afterwards! So I'm guessing the plan is that you run around from track to track until you find the train you're supposed to be on (hopefully you know the end-of-line city for your journey, or I guess you're fucked).
After finding my track by dumb luck, I thought the day's strangeness was over.
But this is me we're talking about.
And so there I am getting settled in my lower-compartment window seat when this guy comes walking down the aisle. When he gets to my row, he pauses for a second then continues on. The compartment is completely empty, which is nice, because I don't have to worry about a gum-smacking whore sitting near me. But then the guy comes back and sits down... right next to me... IN AN OTHERWISE EMPTY COMPARTMENT!
Not exactly sure how to react, I flash him my "seriously?" look. His response was to say "I am lonely." Not knowing exactly what he means by this, my only reply is "Uhhh... yeah... sorry, but I LIKE to be lonely," and then I headed to the upstairs compartment. On the up-side, he was a young good-looking guy, so it's nice to know what my options are if I should ever change teams.
Karlštejn Castle is quite a hike from the train station, but I didn't mind (hey, it was nothing compared to hiking up to Petřínská Rozhledna last night!). The castle itself is nothing extravagant, but still nice. The most interesting thing about my visit here was the weather. It started out pretty crappy...
But a half hour later it's an entirely different story...
No photos were allowed inside, of course.
The castle was founded by King Charles IV of Bohemia, and one of my favorite things about my visit was learning about his patron saint, Saint Catherine. The legends about her vary, but she pretty much kicked ass all around. After converting to Christianity in her teens, she went to the Roman Emperor Maximus to try and get him to stop persecuting Christians. The Emperor refused, but was taken by Catherine's beauty, and decided she should marry his son. After meeting Catherine for the first time, the son converted to Christianity. Upset at this news, Maximus sent his wife to talk Catherine out of her foolish religious ways. But instead, Catherine converted the wife to Christianity too. Outraged, Maximus had both his son and wife sentenced to death, and decided he would marry Catherine himself. In a final effort to have her give up her faith, Maximus sent fifty wise men to Catherine in order to make her see reason. That didn't go so well, as she converted all fifty of them to Christianity too. Maximus was beside himself with rage, and sentenced all fifty wise men to death, and decreed that Catherine would be tortured and killed on a breaking wheel. Except when she touched the wheel, lightning came down from heaven and demolished it. Left with no other option, Maximus eventually beheaded her, making her a martyr and eventual saint.
When I returned to Prague, I decided to hike up to Vyšehrad Castle, which is just south of Old Town. The locals I spoke with recommended the area because it doesn't get nearly the tourist traffic of Old Town. As an added benefit, it has a bitchin' cathedral and the views are pretty sweet...
But what I liked best was the cemetery and its statues. I took quite a few shots with a wide range of exposures in the hopes that I could make some nice HDR photos from them...
After walking most of today and yesterday, I had blisters on top of blisters and my legs were aching so bad I could barely move. I decided to take a Special Pill and lay down for a couple hours to recuperate a bit. By the time I had dragged myself out of bed and wandered back into Old Town, the rain we had been promised finally arrived. As expected, Prague is every bit as beautiful when wet...
The hotel manager suggested a vegetarian restaurant called Lehká Hlava (I think it's supposed to mean "Clear Head"), which is a kind of a Mediterranean/Spanish/Mexican fusion place that was unbelievably good. So good that I would gladly fly to Prague again just to eat here. I had hummus and tortilla chips followed by a quesadilla-type dish that was out of this world...
For dessert, I had to grab me yet another Trdelník. Usually I avoid foods with the word "turd" in the name, but these are so delicious that I just can't help myself. Bread dough is wrapped around a thick stick, baked over hot coals, then dipped in a mixture of sugar, cinnamon, nuts, and toffee bits. You then unroll it to eat, and it's just as delicious as it sounds...
Since it was my final sunset in the city, I decided to take my Trdelník and walk across Charles Bridge one last time. The rain had stopped, but the cobblestone streets were still wet, which always makes for nice photos...
And now I suppose it's time to pack my suitcase. Whee.
Posted on Sunday, March 28th, 2010
This morning I had all kinds of ambition to get up early and wander around Prague for a few hours before I had to head to the airport. This didn't happen. Instead I stayed in bed and decided to actually be on vacation for a few hours. Which meant doing absolutely nothing. And so here I am now back in the Netherlands so I can blog Bullet Sunday and pack my suitcase. Vacation, it would seem, is officially coming to an end.
• Mucha Mucha. Prague is home to the Alphonse Mucha museum, where you can see original works of Art Nouveau by the master himself. Of all the amazing sights I've seen in the city, I'd have to say visiting this museum was the highlight. Being able to walk into a building and see art so beautiful that you have to struggle not to crap your pants should be what life is all about...
• No Dumbassery. Yesterday was "No Tech Day" which is about as stupid as it gets... right up there with the bullshit idiocy of "Shutdown Day" from three years ago. My iPhone has completely revolutionized most all aspects of how I travel, and I cannot fathom going back to the dark ages where I didn't have instant access to maps and important information wherever I'm at... especially when I'm in a foreign country on my own. Supposedly giving up tech gadgets is going to "improve the quality of your life," but that's such a load of crap. So long as the tech gadgets don't become your life, and act only to supplement it, wouldn't that be a good thing? I'm guessing it's only a matter of time before these people invent something even more asinine... like "No Toilet Paper Day."
• International Disaster. I see that the heinous Jersey Shore reality show is now being distributed here in Europe. The thought of other countries judging the USA by what they see on this show fills me with horror and no small amount of shame. I can only guess that this will set back international relations by decades...
• Tenth Photo. I was tagged by Josh is Trashy to participate in a photo meme. Here are the rules...
My first photo file is called "0000 Dave Misc" which is basically a catch-all folder for stupid images of me that don't really go with any other photos. This is the worst possible folder to be looking through, And the tenth photo is not really the one I would choose if forced to display one on my blog...
This would be a scanned photo of my first trip to Maui with my friends. I have no idea what's going on here, but I'm pretty sure it's just me being very, very happy to be in Maui. Probably while drunk. I have no excuse for the short-shorts except that it was the 80's. Yes, I know it's a sexy look for me.
Unlike photo number eleven, where I have an unfortunate hair-cut and even more unfortunate round sunglasses. There's no "sexy" to come out of this mess...
Oh well. I'm afraid that I am rubbish at tagging people with these things, but if you are so inclined to embarrass yourself, please do.
And, on that note, I suppose I should sign off and try to get some rest. Tomorrow is going to be a very long day.
Posted on Monday, March 29th, 2010
And so my vacation is over.
The DutchBitch dropped me off at the train station for an uneventful ride to the airport. I then had a blissfully uneventful 10-hour flight home. I'd like to say I had a blissfully uneventful drive back over the mountains, but that would be a lie. In addition to "wintery mix" blasting the mountain passes (it's a mix of snow and rain)... I nearly got into an accident twice because people apparently don't know what a Yield Sign means...
Even though it's pretty much a universal symbol meaning "STOP YOUR STUPID ASS IF TRAFFIC IS APPROACHING, BECAUSE THEY HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY"... but while I was out of the country, apparently here in Washington State they've become merely roadside decorations you can ignore.
The first incident wasn't too spectacular. I just had to slam on my brakes to let the dumbass into my lane, even though he should have been the one stopping since he was the one with the YIELD MUTHA FUCKA! sign. The second incident was far worse, and took place as I was making the Cle-Elum turn-off from I-90...
That red line is me. After making my stop at the end of the off-ramp, I continue onward after turning left. That blue line is an oblivious douchebag who didn't even LOOK to see me already in the lane he was merging into. He blew on by the YIELD MUTHA FUCKA! sign and came gunning right at me. Not only did I have to slam on the brakes, but I had to swerve outside of my lane and then swerve back before being hit by oncoming traffic! But you know what the BEST part was? The dumbass lays on his horn when he finally notices me swerving all over the place! And it gets better! Since I was turning right and he was turning left, I pulled up alongside him WHERE HE PROCEEDED TO GIVE ME BITCHY LOOKS AND POINT HIS FINGER AT ME! Like he was calling me out or something.
It took all the self control I could muster not to ram my car into him and bust his shit, but instead I pointed at him and screamed "YOU'RE THE ONE WITH THE YIELD SIGN, ASSHOLE!" He probably couldn't hear me, but I'm pretty sure he sure got the message that HE was the one who made the mistake.
It wouldn't be me traveling if there wasn't some drama involved.
While on the plane I watched a bunch of in-flight movies to pass the time. Usually I only watch movies that I don't care about and don't want to spend the money and time to rent...
First up was "Precious, Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire". I never wanted to watch this film based on the stupid-ass title alone, but the subject matter didn't appeal to me much either. I ultimately found this movie about an abused and neglected teen a crashing bore, and ended up fast-forwarding through chunks of it. So people are horrible and life is depressing... wah! Big news. There was no break-through plot element here that made the story worth my time. I thought Gabourey Sidibe's performance was good, but not really Oscar-worthy. Mo'Nique was very good at being thoroughly reprehensible though, and probably deserved her nomination. But the break-out performances to me were actually by Paula Patton as Ms. Rain and (heaven help us) Mariah Carey as Mrs. Weiss. I may have hated the movie, but there were no denying the great acting.
I also watched The Blind Side... a movie I avoided because all these "football inspirational" stories usually bore the crap out of me. Boy was I wrong. The story of a Southern white family who takes in a black homeless student who then goes on to become a football star was definitely entertaining. Sure the "based on a true story" plot was predictable and manipulative, but the performances were all-around amazing. Sandra Bullock earned that Oscar. And who the hell knew Tim McGraw could act? I also thought that Quinton Aaron added dimension to what could have been a pretty pedestrian and straight-forward character. These kind of bland stereotypical pablum films may not be my cup of tea, but I thought it was pretty good for bring in that genre.
Next up was Pandorum, a sci-fi thriller that I knew nothing about starring Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid. The film was basically a combination of a dozen sci-fi films I've already seen before (mostly Alien and Sunshine with a little Serenity thrown in) but somehow managed to pull off the "zombies in space" idea in an entertaining way. I was happy to have seen it, but didn't think there was anything new or groundbreaking here. Had they found something unique and surprising to catapult the story out of the copycat rut they found themselves in, this could have been a home-run. I was pleasantly surprised by Ben Foster though. He always seemed so one-note in other things I've seen him in, but does a great job here.
After that was Whiteout, based on the comic book mini-series of the same name that I had never read. It's a story about the first ever murder-mystery in Antarctica, and the special circumstances such an environment creates in trying to solve it. While I enjoyed the movie well enough (I can't help myself because I love Kate Beckinsale), the limited number of characters made guessing the mystery villain and the plot-twist villain absolute child's play. I literally had everything pegged in my head fifteen minutes into the film. Still, the arctic location made for some interesting plot elements and I liked the scenery.
And then was The Invention of Lying, with one of my favorite comedians Ricky Gervais, plus Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe, and a lot of cameos from people like Tina Fey, John Hodgman, Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Jason Bateman (PLUS Jonah Hill, in the ONLY role I haven't positively hated him in!). This thinly-veiled pro-atheism film was pretty much a let-down. Sure the premise of a world where people can't lie is funny at first... but the jokes grow stale far too quickly and the internal logic just didn't hold together for me. It was a half-hour of material that was drawn-out far too long (sometimes painfully so).
And lastly there was The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes Anderson's epic retelling of the classic Roald Dahl children's book about a fox who craves adventure and danger... sometimes at the expense of his family and friends. I had already seen the film once, and liked it enough to watch it again. The voice cast is stellar (George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Michael Gambon, and more), the stop-motion animation sublime, and the story just bizarre and quirky enough to keep things interesting. Oddly enough, I can't imagine kids enjoying the film that much, as most of the dialogue and story elements seemed very adult to me.
And now... it's time to try and get a few hours rest. It's hard to get jet-lag when you only sleep 4-5 hours each night, but hopefully this long, long day will make me tired enough to manage some sleep.
Posted on Tuesday, March 30th, 2010
"My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth."
— 1 John 3:18, King James Bible
I do not often speak of my religious and philosophical beliefs because they are deeply personal to me, and not open for debate on this blog (as most everything I write here ends up being). Suffice to say that I try to lead my life according to Buddhist precepts of doing no harm but don't actually consider myself a Buddhist because I do not follow these precepts as completely as a "true" Buddhist would. That being said, I have studied several different religions in an effort to understand my fellow humans better. Needless to say this includes the many flavors of Christianity.
In my pursuit of comprehending Christians, I have studied The Bible (both Old and New Testament) from several different approaches... including the placement of the Holy Texts in their historical context. From this respect, I am probably better-informed as to their faith than most self-professed Christians are. Especially those who would take some random piece of Scripture... put it in a 20th century context based on modern-day vernacular, customs, and thinking... and then use said Scripture to attack or persecute people. That always drives me nuts because of the sublime ignorance it takes to use the Word of their God as a weapon when, more often than not, the people doing so have no clue as to what that passage actually means. Instead they are using their personal interpretation of a translation of an accounting of texts taken out of context to promote a personal agenda, often in ways that would have originally been impossible... either due to the mores of the time period, or the constructs of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, or Koine Greek language in which The Bible was written.
I can best explain this by using an example: "Awful" originally meant "full of awe" and was used to describe something spectacular instead of something horrible. And that's a relatively RECENT AND UNTRANSLATED example, which was still showing up in English texts under the original meaning just two hundred years ago. Can you imagine how the meaning of words could have changed with translation to another language over the span of two thousand years or more?
In defense of Christians, however, I believe that many of them understand that The Bible is not something that can be taken literally all the time. The ideals within The Bible are immutable to their faith, but certain allowances have to be made for the era in which the Holy Texts were written, and the creative allegory which the authors used to illustrate concepts of Christianity to the people living during those times. Certainly directives such as "Thou Shalt Not Kill" are as true in meaning now as they were back then... but you simply cannot say the same for everything that's in The Bible, or else modern-day Christians would have some very messed-up ways of practicing their faith.
Not to say that there aren't some Christians out there who are doing their best to prove me wrong.
And though the remainder of this entry will be in response to actions of the Westboro Baptist Church, I want to be very clear that I do not consider them unique in their ability to use The Word of their God to do things I consider to be reprehensible. Obviously, the world is replete with examples of peoples of all faiths doing exactly that. It just so happens that this time it's the Westboro Baptist Church who are the ones that caught my attention.
But before I start my little tirade, I should also mention that I fully support members of the Westboro Baptist Church exercising their right to free speech in a manner that complies with the freedoms allowed by that right. I may not agree with the things they say, but I'm sure there are people out there who would say the same thing about me, so more power to them. From their perspective, they are actually trying to help people by raising awareness of their particular interpretation of The Bible, and since they are not using guns or explosives to do it, well... this is The United States of America. If you can't take people expressing themselves and their beliefs, then you really need to find a different country.
There has to be limits.
There has to be limits because a healthy democratic society not only allows for personal freedoms, but also allows for protection from harm and cruelty that might arise from such freedoms. As an example, your personal freedom of speech does not allow you to scream "HEY! THERE'S A FIRE!" in the middle of a crowded building. Doing so could result in people getting hurt, not to mention being a really mean thing to do. Likewise, you can't sacrifice a virgin to Zuul in the middle of Central Park and cry "freedom of religion" because you've just grossly violated the rights and freedoms of the virgin you just killed... even if they were a willing participant (especially if they were a willing participant). Some would say that freedom with limits is not really freedom at all, but "freedom" is a pretty open-ended word and could easily be perverted to allow persecution of people whose own freedom would be violated in the process of enacting it. Thus, limits.
So, while I support the Westboro Baptist Church for their hate-speech fueled picketing of whatever their latest target might be (as well as those awesome people who picket in response) I also support the idea that their actions should be limited.
Because it's one thing to say "homosexuality is wrong" in the most disgusting way possible... but it's another thing entirely to cause serious emotional cruelty with intent to harm, such as when they picket a funeral. And though I consider the death of a soldier no more tragic than the death of any person, I have to say that picketing the funeral of a fallen soldier who died in service of this country is particularly heinous considering it was soldiers who died for their right to have free speech in the first place...
The Bible is relatively quiet about funerals and how Christians should treat the dead. Probably because the core concept of Christianity is the idea of eternal life. To Christians death is just a beginning, so whatever ceremony people want to have for those departed (not to mention the method they use for disposing of the remains) is up to them and whatever traditions they hold.
And so even though the Westboro Baptist Church can toss out whatever context-deprived and misrepresented snippets of The Bible they wish to support their actions, their ruthless persecution of people who are grieving over the death of friends or family is a truly indefensible position to take. Because while The Bible is not so explicit with how one should treat the dead, it is overflowing with passages as to how you should treat the living. Thus, to say that the Westboro Baptist Church violates the very ideals of The Bible they profess to live by, truly is an understatement of biblical proportions.
Which is why I am understandably outraged when I read that Al Snyder, the father of a Marine whose funeral was picketed by the Westboro Baptist Church, has been ordered to pay them $16,000 as compensation for their court costs. The father had (rightfully) won an earlier judgement on the grounds that privacy and religious rights were violated by the church's protest but, since the church won on appeal to the Fourth Circuit, a grieving father gets screwed... again... this time financially.
And now I sit here dumbfounded, trying to figure out exactly how our Founding Fathers could have possibly anticipated such a grotesque application of The Bill of Rights as they were writing them.
Probably because there is no way they could have anticipated something as wholly fucked up as this when The First Amendment was drafted.
I find it sickening on every possible level that we have a legal system which not only actively supports people's "right" to inflict such reprehensible cruelty, but also dictates that victims of such cruelty are responsible for paying for their own deplorable treatment at the hands of the law. THIS is justice? How? There is no justice for the father who was ruthlessly abused in a time of sorrow. There sure as hell is no justice for a dead Marine who is unable to speak out against the abuse of friends and loved-ones at HIS funeral. By the courts saying that there are no limits to the freedoms of the Westboro Baptist Church to persecute people, how can the rest of us be free?
Exploiting the tragedy of somebody's death for glorification of their church and self-promotion of their hate makes members of the Westboro Baptist Church about the least "Christian" people on earth. It also makes them fucking assholes. I honestly believe that a time is coming when citizens of the United States of America are going to put aside their petty political bitching and focus on the big-picture items upon which all of us should be able to agree. Very high on that list is not allowing fucking assholes to picket a funeral and deprive a grieving father HIS freedom to mourn in peace.
Mutual respect for your fellow humans is the only way this whole "freedom" thing is ever going to work out. Those who have no respect, don't deserve the freedom.
If you want to show your support for Al Snyder, you can join the Facebook group he made to support his son and legal battles.
You can also help by donating money to Mr. Snyder to pay the court-mandated fees associated with Westboro Baptist Church's appeal. Any monies collected in excess of the costs will be donated to scholarship funds for returning veterans.
Posted on Wednesday, March 31st, 2010
My second full day home after vacation has been fairly uneventful.
Except the weather forecast, which was sunny and warm before I left but has now turned snowy and cold. This means the local orchards have giant fans running to keep their trees from freezing. And since there are three orchards within walking distance of my bedroom, it's been like trying to sleep in the middle of a cyclone tonight.
Which is to say that I'm not able to sleep at all, so I thought I'd blog about two new apps I got for my trip while they are still fresh in my mind.
My iPhone has quickly become an essential travel tool, eliminating the need for maps, dictionaries, guidebooks, and other necessities I usually take with me. Whether I am syncing my itineraries and reservations with Tripit or looking up exchange rates with eCurrency, there always seems to be an app for whatever I need to do. The two latest tools in my travel arsenel have made my iPhone even more essential.
First up is Trip Journal. This handy app allows you to document your travels using the iPhone's built-in GPS to plot your journey and add photos and notes to places you've been (and it can keep tracking, even when data roaming is off). As if that wasn't enough, it's absolutely beautiful...
But even better... you can export your GPS tracking data to a KMZ file that can then be imported into Google Earth so you can look at your trip on your computer...
The red lines are when the iPhone was actually able to get GPS coordinates. Whenever a GPS satellite can't be located, Trip Journal just draws a black line to connect the previous point to your current location. This is kind of nice, because the GPS receiver in the iPhone is pretty weak (as you can see by the crazy-ass routes it registers when you zoom in to street level). But putting the lack of pinpoint accuracy aside, you can still see how this would be a really nice and easy way to remember all the things you saw and the places you went while on a trip.
And next up is CityMaps2Go. While not quite as nice and comprehensive as the maps you get out of the Google Maps app that's built into the iPhone, CityMaps2Go has one huge advantage... all the maps are self-contained. This means you don't have to use expensive international roaming charges to load map data. Even better, once you buy the app, you can download maps for most major cities free of charge! Before I left for my recent trip, I just grabbed maps for Brussels, Prague, and Bucharest, knowing that I'd be able to find my way around those cities without having to be gouged for downloading them over 3G...
Of course, once you're outside the bounds of the map you've downloaded, you're out of luck and will have to switch back to Google Maps. Still, considering the money I saved overall, the app is still well worth getting.
And there you have it... two more awesome reasons to have an iPhone when you travel.