Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Ladies And Gentlemen...
I am not really certain what to write about for the next blog entry so I am going to make use of the poll feature and let the readers decide.
So... If you would please look at the survey over on the right hand margin you will see the available topics.
So vote and I will see what I can come up with... It probably won't be anything to jump up and down about regardless of the outcome but I swore I would never take this thing too seriously.
Monday, November 16, 2009
So now that I have had a moment to bask in my own sunshine, as only I can so humbly radiate, I shall get to the matter at hand. Today’s entry is petty light and fluffy, just the way to start my work week. Today I am going to blog about the 10, well okay actually 12 places I most want to visit. I am even going to throw in a few pictures for you…
So in no particular order of preference or admiration, here are 12 places I want to visit before I die.
You don't have to read everything. Most of the really informative stuff I copied from Wikipedia but if you see somethign that you find interesting you can certainly read more about it either here or at Wikipedia.
Oh Yeah, the spacing is going to be off on this one because when I added the pictures it modified the spacing
Machu Picchu –
I want to go to this place simply because it looks cool. I could tell you something about wanting grande adventure but the truth is… this place just looks cool. There is a tour where you can walk 35 miles along a ridgeline to get there by foot…or my fat ass could just take the train… any odds as to which method of transportation I would be taking???
Here is some semi-official stuff I lifted from Wikipedia.
Machu Picchu (Quechua: Machu Pikchu, "Old Peak", pronounced [ˈmɑtʃu ˈpiktʃu]) is a pre-Columbian Inca site located 2,430 metres (8,000 ft) above sea level. It is situated on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley in Peru, which is 80 kilometres (50 mi) northwest of Cuzco and through which the Urubamba River flows. Often referred to as "The Lost City of the Incas", Machu Picchu is one of the most familiar symbols of the Inca Empire.
The Incas started building it around AD 1430 but was abandoned as an official site for the Inca rulers a hundred years later at the time of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. Although known locally, it was largely unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, an American historian. Since then, Machu Picchu has become an important tourist attraction.
Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. Since it was not plundered by the Spanish when they conquered the Incas, it is especially important as a cultural site and is considered a sacred place.
Omaha Beach –
Okay, I know there won’t be a battle raging when I show up but I would still like to visit this place to try and get some sort of scope as to what it might have possibly been like that day back on June 6, 1944.
Here is some more info on Omaha Beach that I pulled from Wikipedia as well
Omaha Beach is the code name for one of the main landing points of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on June 6 1944, during World War II.
The beach was located on the northern coast of France, facing the English Channel, and was 5 miles (8 km) long, from east of Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes to west of Vierville-sur-Mer on the right bank of the Douve river estuary. Landings here were necessary in order to link up the British landings to the east with the American landing to the west at Utah beach, thus providing a continuous lodgement on the Normandy coast of the Bay of the Seine. Taking Omaha was to be the responsibility of United States Army troops, with sea transport provided by the U.S. Navy and elements of the Royal Navy.
Mont St. Michel –
This place is not too far from Normandy. I have always been infatuated with the architecture of cathedrals and monasteries ever since I read Ken Follett’s “Pillars of the Earth.” This place has architecture that is pretty unique because it takes up the entire isle that can be walked to at low tide, but when the tide is in, the causeway is required for access.
Here, again from Wikipedia is a little more information on this cool place.
Le Mont-Saint-Michel (English: Saint Michael's Mount) is a rocky tidal island and a commune in Normandy, France. It is located approximately one kilometre off the country's north coast, at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches. The population of the island is 41.
Mont-Saint-Michel was used in the sixth and seventh centuries as an Armorican stronghold of Romano-Breton culture and power, until it was ransacked by the Franks, thus ending the trans-channel culture that had stood since the departure of the Romans in AD 460.
Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey, albumen print, ca. 1865-1895
Before the construction of the first monastic establishment in the 8th century, the island was called "monte tombe". According to legend, St. Michael the Archangel appeared to St. Aubert, bishop of Avranches, in 708 and instructed him to build a church on the rocky islet. Aubert repeatedly ignored the angel's instruction, until St. Michael burned a hole in the bishop's skull with his finger.
The mount gained strategic significance in 933 when William "Long Sword", William I, Duke of Normandy, annexed the Cotentin Peninsula, definitively placing the mount in Normandy. It is depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry, which commemorates the 1066 Norman conquest of England. Ducal patronage financed the spectacular Norman architecture of the abbey in subsequent centuries.
In 1067, the monastery of Mont-Saint-Michel gave its support to duke William of Normandy in his claim to the throne of England. It was rewarded with properties and grounds on the English side of the Channel, including a small island located at the west of Cornwall, which, modelled after the Mount, became a Norman priory named St Michael's Mount of Penzance.
During the Hundred Years' War the English made repeated assaults on the island but were unable to seize it, partly because of the abbey's improved fortifications. Les Michelettes, two wrought-iron bombards left by the English in their failed 1423–24 siege of Mont-Saint-Michel, are still displayed near the outer defense wall.
When Louis XI of France founded the Order of Saint Michael in 1496 he intended that the abbey church of Mont Saint-Michel be the chapel for the order, but because of its great distance from Paris his intention could never be realized.
The wealth and influence of the abbey extended to many daughter foundations, including St Michael's Mount in Cornwall. However, its popularity and prestige as a centre of pilgrimage waned with the Reformation, and by the time of the French Revolution there were scarcely any monks in residence. The abbey was closed and converted into a prison, initially to hold clerical opponents of the republican régime. High-profile political prisoners followed, but by 1836 influential figures, including Victor Hugo, had launched a campaign to restore what was seen as a national architectural treasure. The prison was finally closed in 1863, and the mount was declared a historic monument in 1874.
The Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay were added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1979, as it was listed with criteria such as cultural, historical, and architectural significance, as well as human-created and natural beauty.
Notre Dame – I Like Big Buttresses, I can not lie
Okay actually this one doesn’t really count because I have already been there, but it was back when I was a kid and had no knowledge of architecture. I just want to go there because it looks cool.
The pictures tell more than I can… but here are some timelines of the construction:
1160 Maurice de Sully (named Bishop of Paris), orders the original cathedral to be demolished.
1163 Cornerstone laid for Notre Dame de Paris — construction begins.
1182 Apse and choir completed.
1196 Bishop Maurice de Sully dies.
c.1200 Work begins on western façade.
1208 Bishop Eudes de Sully dies. Nave vaults nearing completion.
1225 Western façade completed.
1250 Western towers and north rose window completed.
c.1245–1260s Transepts remodelled in the Rayonnant style by Jean de Chelles then Pierre de Montreuil
1250–1345 Remaining elements completed
Neuschwanstein Castle –
This place is pretty cool looking as well. I used to have a poster of it on my wall when I was a kid. I recently watched the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and realized that this castle was featured prominently in the filming of the picture. On a side note it was hilarious to see Benny Hill playing a serious role.
Again, more from the Wikipedia
New Swan Stone palace, pronounced [nɔʏˈʃvaːnʃtaɪ̯n]) is a 19th-century Bavarian palace on a rugged hill near Hohenschwangau and Füssen in southwest Bavaria, Germany. The palace was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as an homage to Richard Wagner, the King's inspiring muse. Although public photography of the interior is not permitted, it is the most photographed building in Germany and is one of the country's most popular tourist destinations. Ludwig himself named it Neue Hohenschwangau; the name Neuschwanstein was coined after his death.
The reclusive Ludwig did not allow visitors to his castles, which he intended as personal refuges, but after his death in 1886 the castle was opened to the public (in part due to the need to pay off the debts Ludwig incurred financing its construction). Since that time over 50 million people have visited the Neuschwanstein Castle. About 1.3 million people visit annually, with up to 6,000 per day in the summer. The palace has appeared in several movies, and was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty Castle (1955) at both Disneyland Park and Hong Kong Disneyland.
In 1923 Crown Prince Rupprecht gave the palace to the state of Bavaria, unlike nearby Hohenschwangau Castle which was transferred to the private Wittelsbach Trust (Wittelsbacher Ausgleichfonds), which is administered on behalf of the head of the house of Wittelsbach, currently Franz, Duke of Bavaria. The Free State of Bavaria has spent more than €14.5 million on Neuschwanstein's maintenance, renovation and visitor services since 1990.
Versailles Palace –
Well as you can see architecture is a recurring theme here. I was actually within a few miles of this place as a kid but it wasn’t on the tour. I can still remember learning about this place in 9th grade World History with Sister Alicia, She was somewhat the expert as she was probably there watching them pour the foundation.
Again… more on this from the Wikipedia
The expansion of the château became synonymous with the absolutism of Louis XIV (Bluche, 1986, 1991). In 1661, following the death of Cardinal Mazarin, chief minister of the government, Louis had declared that he would be his own chief minister. The idea of establishing the court at Versailles was conceived to ensure that all of his advisors and provincial rulers would be kept close to him. He feared that they would rise up against him and start a revolt. He thought that if he kept all of his potential threats near him, that they would be powerless. After the disgrace of Nicolas Fouquet in 1661 — Louis claimed the finance minister would not have been able to build his grand château at Vaux-le-Vicomte without having embezzled from the crown — Louis, after the confiscation of Fouquet’s state, employed the talents of Le Vau, Le Nôtre, and Le Brun, who all had worked on Vaux-le-Vicomte, for his building campaigns at Versailles and elsewhere. For Versailles, there were four distinct building campaigns (after minor alterations and enlargements had been executed on the château and the gardens in 1662-1663), all of which corresponded to Louis XIV’s wars (Bluche, 1986, 1991; Verlet, 1985).
With the past and ongoing restoration and conservation projects at Versailles, the Fifth Republic has enthusiastically promoted the museum as one of France’s foremost tourist attractions (Opperman, 2004). The palace, however, still serves political functions. Heads of state are regaled in the Hall of Mirrors; the Sénat and the Assemblée nationale meet in congress in Versailles to revise or otherwise amend the French Constitution, a tradition that came into effect with the promulgation of the 1875 Constitution. Public establishment of the museum and Château de Versailles Spectacles recently organised the Jeff Koons Versailles exhibition. Jeff Koons said that "I hope the juxtaposition of today's surfaces, represented by my work, with the architecture and fine arts of Versailles will be an exciting interaction for the viewer.
Elena Geuna and Laurent Le Bon, curators of the exhibition present it as follow: "It is the city aspect that underlies this entire venture. In recent years, many a cultural institution has attempted a confrontation between a heritage setting and contemporary works. The originality of this exhibition seems to us somewhat different, as regards both the chosen venue and the way it has been laid out. Echo, dialectic, opposition, counterpoint... Not for us to judge!"
Kehlsteinhaus – Hitler’s Mountain Retreat known as Eagle’s Nest
I would like to go here just for the scenery. Not that I have any love for the Little Corporal, but check out the vistas you can see from this place. It was also used in the filming of Band of Brothers, the HBO Series
Again, more from Wikipedia
The Kehlsteinhaus (in English-speaking countries also known as the Eagle's Nest), is a chalet-style building which when built was an extension of the Obersalzberg complex built by the Nazis in the mountains near Berchtesgaden. The Kehlsteinhaus was an official 50th birthday present for Adolf Hitler. Nicknamed Eagle's Nest by a French diplomat, it was meant to be a retreat for Hitler and a place for him to entertain visiting dignitaries.
Agia Triada Monastery – as seen in James Bond film For Your Eyes Only. This is in Greece. It has stairs that go to the top…. Yeah I could talk my fat ass into making the trek up them one time.
Made famous by James Bond, Agia Triada (also Ayías Triádhos, Ayia Triada or Aghia Triada; "Holy Trinity") is probably the most dramatically positioned monastery of the Meteora. It is perched atop a slender pinnacle and accessible only by 140 steep steps, making it one of the most peaceful monasteries as well.
Hermit monks may have lived here beginning in the 14th century, but the present monastery was built between 1458 and 1476.
Until the 20th century, monks, pilgrims and supplies reached the monastery only by means of rope-ladders and baskets. But in 1925, access to the rock was eased by the addition of rock-hewn stairs.
Agia Triada suffered greatly in World War II and the German occupation, during which virtually all its treasures were looted.
Few tour buses stop at Holy Trinity Monastery, so it is comparatively peaceful and some semblence of monastic life is able to continue. It is inhabited and maintained by just a few monks.
The courtyard displays old farm implements and the old winch for hauling up baskets (a funicular now carries supplies to the top), as well as inspirational quotes from 1 Corinthians 13 (e.g. "Love is patient"). The monastic buildings are attractively half-timbered.
The small church (1476) has an exterior of brick and tile and is augmented by a large, unattractive narthex (1684).
It has two domes, reflecting two building phases.
The frescoes in the church date from the 18th century and the those in the narthex from the 17th; they have been well restored. The church contains one of the few portable treasures that survived the 20th century: a Gospel book printed in Venice in 1539, with a silver cover.
Carved into the rock off the passageway into the courtyard is a round Chapel of John the Baptist (1682), which may occupy the site of an early hermitage. Holy Trinity owns over 120 religious manuscripts copied by its monks over the centuries, but for practical reasons these are kept at Agios Stefanos Monastery.
The Kimberley Hole
Kimberley Hole--- Just a big hole, actually a played out diamond mine. I am NOT going to lie to you folks...I really want to pee over the edge of this bad boy
The first diamonds here were found on Colesberg Kopje by members of the "Red Cap Party" from Colesberg on the farm Vooruitzigt belonging to the De Beers brothers; the ensuing scramble for claims led to the place being called New Rush, later renamed Kimberley. From mid-July 1871 to 1914 up to 50,000 miners dug the hole with picks and shovels, yielding 2,720 kilograms (6,000 lb) of diamonds. The Big Hole has a surface of 17 hectares (42 acres) and is 463 metres (1,520 ft) wide. It was excavated to a depth of 240 metres (790 ft), but then partially infilled with debris reducing its depth to about 215 metres (710 ft) since then it has accumulated about 40 metres (130 ft) of water, leaving 175 metres (570 ft) of the hole visible. Once above-ground operations became too dangerous and unproductive, the kimberlite pipe of the Kimberley Mine was also mined underground by Cecil Rhodes' De Beers company to a depth of 1,097 metres (3,600 ft).
There is currently an effort in progress to register the Big Hole as a World Heritage Site.
Auschwitz - Concentration Camp in Poland
I read Night by Elie Wiesel, he spent some time here. I think I want to see this place just to try and take it all in. Probably depressing but I am thinking that I would still like to see it. Life isn't always sunshine and roses.
Here is more on the camp from Good Ole Wikipedia
Auschwitz-Birkenau ( Konzentrationslager Auschwitz (help·info)) was the largest of Nazi Germany's concentration camps and extermination camps, operational during World War II.
The camp took its German name from the hosting town of Oświęcim. Following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, Oświęcim was annexed by Nazi Germany and renamed Auschwitz, the town's German name. Birkenau, the German translation of Brzezinka (birch tree), refers to a small Polish village nearby which later was mostly destroyed by the Germans.
The camp commandant, Rudolf Höss, testified at the Nuremberg Trials that up to 3 million people had died at Auschwitz. The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum has revised this figure to 1.1 million, about 90% of whom were Jews from almost every country in Europe. Most victims were killed in Auschwitz II's gas chambers using Zyklon B; other deaths were caused by systematic starvation, forced labor, lack of disease control, individual executions, and purported "medical experiments".
In 1947, in remembrance of the victims, Poland founded a museum at the site of the first two camps. By 1994, some 22 million visitors - 700,000 annually - had passed through the iron gate crowned with the motto Arbeit macht frei (Work brings freedom). The anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops on January 27, 1945, is celebrated on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Holocaust Memorial Day in the United Kingdom, and other similar memorial days in various countries.
Petra - The City of Petra located in Jordan, they filmed part of the 3rd Indiana Jones film here, Last Crusade
Petra (Greek "πέτρα" (petra), meaning rock; Arabic: البتراء, Al-Batrāʾ) is an archaeological site in the Arabah, Ma'an Governorate, Jordan, lying on the slope of Mount Hor in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. It is renowned for its rock-cut architecture. Petra is also one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The Nabataeans constructed it as their capital city around 100 BCE.
The site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812, when it was introduced to the West by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. It was famously described as "a rose-red city half as old as time" in a Newdigate prize-winning sonnet by John William Burgon. UNESCO has described it as "one of the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage." In 1985, Petra was designated a World Heritage Site.
The end of the Siq, with its dramatic view of Al Khazneh ("The Treasury").
Excavations have demonstrated that it was the ability of the Nabataeans to control the water supply that led to the rise of the desert city, creating an artificial oasis. The area is visited by flash floods and archaeological evidence demonstrates the Nabataeans controlled these floods by the use of dams, cisterns and water conduits. These innovations stored water for prolonged periods of drought, and enabled the city to prosper from its sale.
Although in ancient times Petra might have been approached from the south via Saudi Arabia on a track leading around Jabal Haroun ("Aaron's Mountain"), across the plain of Petra, or possibly from the high plateau to the north, most modern visitors approach the site from the east. The impressive eastern entrance leads steeply down through a dark, narrow gorge (in places only 3–4 metres wide) called the Siq ("the shaft"), a natural geological feature formed from a deep split in the sandstone rocks and serving as a waterway flowing into Wadi Musa. At the end of the narrow gorge stands Petra's most elaborate ruin, Al Khazneh (popularly known as "the Treasury"), hewn into the sandstone cliff.
El Deir ("The Monastery").
A little further from the Treasury, at the foot of the mountain called en-Nejr, is a massive theatre, so placed as to bring the greatest number of tombs within view. At the point where the valley opens out into the plain, the site of the city is revealed with striking effect. The amphitheatre has been cut into the hillside and into several of the tombs during its construction. Rectangular gaps in the seating are still visible. Almost enclosing it on three sides are rose-colored mountain walls, divided into groups by deep fissures, and lined with knobs cut from the rock in the form of towers.
Evidence suggests that settlements had begun in and around Petra in the eighteenth dynasty of Egypt. It is listed in Egyptian campaign accounts and the Amarna letters as Pel, Sela or Seir. Though the city was founded relatively late, a sanctuary existed there since very ancient times. Stations 19 through 26 of the stations list of Exodus are places associated with Petra.  This part of the country was biblically assigned to the Horites, the predecessors of the Edomites. The habits of the original natives may have influenced the Nabataean custom of burying the dead and offering worship in half-excavated caves. Although Petra is usually identified with Sela which also means a rock, the Biblical references refer to it as "the cleft in the rock", referring to its entrance. 2 Kings xiv. 7 seems to be more specific. In the parallel passage, however, Sela is understood to mean simply "the rock" (2 Chr. xxv. 12, see LXX).
On the authority of Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews iv. 7, 1~ 4, 7) Eusebius and Jerome (Onom. sacr. 286, 71. 145, 9; 228, 55. 287, 94) assert that Rekem was the native name and Rekem appears in the Dead Sea scrolls as a prominent Edom site most closely describing Petra and associated with Mount Seir. But in the Aramaic versions Rekem is the name of Kadesh, implying that Josephus may have confused the two places. Sometimes the Aramaic versions give the form Rekem-Geya which recalls the name of the village El-ji, southeast of Petra. The capital, however, would hardly be defined by the name of a neighboring village. The Semitic name of the city, if not Sela, remains unknown. The passage in Diodorus Siculus (xix. 94–97) which describes the expeditions which Antigonus sent against the Nabataeans in 312 BCE is understood to throw some light upon the history of Petra, but the "petra" referred to as a natural fortress and place of refuge cannot be a proper name and the description implies that the town was not yet in existence.
The Rekem Inscription in 1976
The only place in Petra where the name "Rekem" occurs was in the rock wall of the Wadi Musa opposite the entrance to the Siq. About twenty years ago the Jordanians built a bridge over the wadi and this inscription is now buried beneath tons of concrete.
More satisfactory evidence of the date of the earliest Nabataean settlement may be obtained from an examination of the tombs. Two types may be distinguished: the Nabataean and the Greco-Roman. The Nabataean type starts from the simple pylon-tomb with a door set in a tower crowned by a parapet ornament, in imitation of the front of a dwelling-house. Then, after passing through various stages, the full Nabataean type is reached, retaining all the native features and at the same time exhibiting characteristics which are partly Egyptian and partly Greek. Of this type there exist close parallels in the tomb-towers at el-I~ejr in north Arabia, which bear long Nabataean inscriptions and supply a date for the corresponding monuments at Petra. Then comes a series of tombfronts which terminate in a semicircular arch, a feature derived from north Syria.
Finally come the elaborate façades copied from the front of a Roman temple; however, all traces of native style have vanished. The exact dates of the stages in this development cannot be fixed. Strangely, few inscriptions of any length have been found at Petra, perhaps because they have perished with the stucco or cement which was used upon many of the buildings. The simple pylon-tombs which belong to the pre-Hellenic age serve as evidence for the earliest period. It is not known how far back in this stage the Nabataean settlement goes, but it does not go back farther than the 6th century BCE.
A period follows in which the dominant civilization combines Greek, Egyptian and Syrian elements, clearly pointing to the age of the Ptolemies. Towards the close of the 2nd century BCE, when the Ptolemaic and Seleucid kingdoms were equally depressed, the Nabataean kingdom came to the front. Under Aretas III Philhellene, (c.85–60 BCE), the royal coins begin. The theatre was probably excavated at that time, and Petra must have assumed the aspect of a Hellenistic city. In the reign of Aretas IV Philopatris, (9 BCE–40 CE), the fine tombs of the el-I~ejr [?] type may be dated, and perhaps also the great High-place.
In 106 CE, when Cornelius Palma was governor of Syria, that part of Arabia under the rule of Petra was absorbed into the Roman Empire as part of Arabia Petraea, becoming capital. The native dynasty came to an end. But the city continued to flourish. A century later, in the time of Alexander Severus, when the city was at the height of its splendor, the issue of coinage comes to an end. There is no more building of sumptuous tombs, owing apparently to some sudden catastrophe, such as an invasion by the neo-Persian power under the Sassanid Empire. Meanwhile, as Palmyra (fl. 130–270) grew in importance and attracted the Arabian trade away from Petra, the latter declined. It seems, however, to have lingered on as a religious centre. Epiphanius of Salamis (c.315–403) writes that in his time a feast was held there on December 25 in honor of the virgin Chaabou and her offspring Dushara (Haer. 51).
The Nabataeans worshipped the Arab gods and goddesses of the pre-Islamic times as well as few of their deified kings. The most famous of these was Obodas I who was deified after his death. Dushara was the main male god accompanied by his female trinity: Uzza, Allat and Manah. Many statues carved in the rock depict these gods and goddesses.
The Monastery, Petra's largest monument, dates from the first century BCE. It was dedicated to Obodas I and is believed to be the symposium of Obodas the god. This information is inscribed on the ruins of the Monastery (the name is the translation of the Arabic "Ad-Deir").
Plan of the Byzantine church, 5th century CE
Christianity found its way to Petra in the 4th century CE, nearly 500 years after the establishment of Petra as a trade center. Athanasius mentions a bishop of Petra (Anhioch. 10) named Asterius. At least one of the tombs (the "tomb with the urn"?) was used as a church. An inscription in red paint records its consecration "in the time of the most holy bishop Jason" (447). After the Islamic conquest of 629–632 Christianity in Petra, as of most of Arabia, gave way to Islam. During the First Crusade Petra was occupied by Baldwin I of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and formed the second fief of the barony of Al Karak (in the lordship of Oultrejordain) with the title Château de la Valée de Moyse or Sela. It remained in the hands of the Franks until 1189. It is still a titular see of the Roman Catholic Church.
According to Arab tradition, Petra is the spot where Moses struck a rock with his staff and water came forth, and where Moses' brother, Aaron, is buried, at Mount Hor, known today as Jabal Haroun or Mount Aaron. The Wadi Musa or "Wadi of Moses" is the Arab name for the narrow valley at the head of which Petra is sited. A mountaintop shrine of Moses' sister Miriam was still shown to pilgrims at the time of Jerome in the fourth century, but its location has not been identified since.
El Deir ("The Monastery") in 1839, by David Roberts.
Petra declined rapidly under Roman rule, in large part due to the revision of sea-based trade routes. In 363 an earthquake destroyed many buildings, and crippled the vital water management system. The ruins of Petra were an object of curiosity in the Middle Ages and were visited by Sultan Baibars of Egypt towards the end of the 13th century. The first European to describe them was Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812.
Because the structures weakened with age, many of the tombs became vulnerable to thieves, and many treasures were stolen.
And Finally, Back home in America... Monument Valley... John Wayne Made Movies Here... N'uf said
There you have the 12 places I want to visit before I die.
Friday, November 13, 2009
I realize that I am considerably older than most of you who read this blog. I realize that many of the things I talk about may be things that are from an era which passed before you were born. In this instance I am going to talk about something that occurred even before I was born. One of the things I want to write about in the blog in general, not just this specific entry, is classic television. I have been a fan of TV ever since I can remember. This entry will be dedicated to a classic TV show that I have just recently had the pleasure of viewing thanks to Netflix.
When I was a kid growing up I often heard my Mom & Dad talk about the show Rt. 66. For some reason it never really seemed to be shown in reruns on Nick at Night or TV Land so I never got to see an episode until I subscribed to Netflix. The only thing I really knew about the show was that it featured an iconic convertible Corvette and that it had a really great theme song written, arranged and orchestrated by Nelson Riddle. Beyond that I really didn’t know anything about the show.
I got the first episode and viewed it. I was instantly taken back to a time that preceded my childhood but so many things I saw things were consistent with the television of my youth. For one thing, I noticed that television of that era relied heavily on dialogue and pathos. It required a more sophisticated audience than the shows of today because things were more subtle. Today’s dramas, what few remain in this era of so called reality programming, just simply throw the dialogue out there with no subtlety or nuance. The dialogue in classic TV shows might initially be considered hokey or lame on first examination. But when one carefully watches and listens, it is soon apparent that it is actually quite intelligent and somewhat profound, at least in this particular series.
The show debuted in 1960 and ran through 1964. Rt. 66 focuses on the adventures of Todd Stiles and Buzz Murdock as they travel about the country in the Corvette that Todd’s father bought for him, presumably as a college graduation gift as was often customary in the 1950’s and 60’s. The back story unfolds a little more with each episode. From what I can tell, Todd Stiles, played by Martin Milner, is the son of a wealthy shipping merchant in New York. It seems that Buzz, played by George Maharis, was employed by the shipping family and was unofficially asked to look after Todd when the old man died. Because the two often discuss how little money they have as they travel, one can only assume that Todd is not yet of an age to access his trust fund or something of that nature because the two are forced to work odd jobs in order to scrape up food and gas money, rent, etc.
The vehicle for each episode, pardon the pun, is not the corvette, but rather the unique individuals that Todd & Buzz encounter with each new locale. Inevitably they stumble upon an individual or a family who is in the midst of some interpersonal crisis. Once Todd & Buzz befriend these people, the two nomadic sages begin to assess the situation each from their separate and unique points of view. Todd is an Ivy Leaguer who often quotes poetry and philosophy while Buzz is a product of the streets with monumental amounts of common sense and emotional intelligence. It seems that between the two of them they are usually able to right the apparent wrongs and solve everyone’s problems.
They usually don’t attempt to bring about world peace or cold fusion or even dust for prints or run anything through CODIS. What they are quite adept at is mediating disputes between one or more persons. Often the person of interest is an individual who is down on their luck or seems to be inextricably tied to the baggage of their past. The premise of the show is somewhat maudlin when viewed in a contemporary context but given the era in which the show aired it was very applicable. As mentioned earlier, the plot and story line are carried primarily by dialogue. There are no montages which show unnecessary techno-glib as fillers because the writers were unable create the required amount of dialogue, just basic verbal human intercourse with well thought out stories. Oh yes, the show does have a liberal dosage of fist fights because Buzz loves to scrap. I guess they had to have something for the entire family.
I guess it would only be fair to say that not always do they right all the wrongs because not all of the episodes end on a happy note. That is one of the more realistic aspects of the series that I both respect and enjoy. Sometimes they don’t always save the damsel in distress or cure the drunk who is mindlessly bent on self destruction. There is no way the show would make it in today’s market. It doesn’t purport to be a reality show, it doesn’t involve grisly crime scenes nor does it contain graphic discussion of sexual assault. Instead this show relied upon an audience that was able to follow a simple plot and see the deeper undertones concerning human interaction. I guess the thought that most readily comes to my mind is literature for the eyes.
Well again, if you have read this far I certainly appreciate it. The show might not be your cup of tea but if you would like to view a couple of episodes let me know. It is available on DVD, at least Seasons One and Two anyway. Oh, and while I see this as an indication that a show is likely to be good, you all might find it a harbinger of disappointment, but the show is in black and white.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Turandot was the last opera written by the great Giacomo Puccini. It was written 1921-1924 but Puccini never really completed this work, he was about 7/8 of the way through when he died from cancer of the throat. I realize that most of you are about to click the X up in the upper right hand corner and go back to Facebook or something and that’s certainly understandable. This is not going to be the most interesting blog I’ve written, not by a long shot. So you have been warned, here is your last opportunity to turn back.
I guess it should be stipulated that I did not actually go to the opera itself. What I did attend was a live simulcast which was being broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera House in NY, NY. I attended my viewing at the Quail Springs Cinema, theater 13 to be exact. Each year there are 9 of these simulcasts each offering a different opera. They are broadcast live to many different nations around the globe. The live performances are aired on Saturdays beginning at Noon with repeats the second Wednesday night afterward.
The average length of these performances run anywhere from 3-4 hours but they are generously appointed with intermissions which last from 15-30 minutes depending upon how much time the stage crews need to change out the sets and props. The best thing about intermission is that you get to see what goes on behind the stage. I had no clue that it took about 40 carpenters and fabric layers and other various stage workers to change the sets out. This was an extremely lavish set so the transition time was longer than normal and one intermission went a full 30 minutes.
The opera is a three act opera so naturally there are two intermissions. The music for Turandot is somewhat lively. There are a few slow arias but they are generally pretty short. There are several pieces in which the chorus is used. I myself prefer these pieces as opposed to solos. I guess I like the sound of 40-50 voices singing in unison better than one. Of the arias included in Turandot , one is called Nessun Dorma. It is one of the most popular pieces of operatic music and is often associated with Luciano Pavarotti. Even those who are not familiar with opera or classical music in general would recognize this melody because of its use in pop culture and commercials. Obviously Pavarotti did not sing the role of Calaf in this production.
In this rendition, the role of the Calaf (The deposed prince) was sung by Marcello Giordani and the role of Turandot (The wicked princess) was sung by Maria Guleghina. In the story, Turandot is supposed to be so ravishingly beautiful that men will risk their lives to win her hand in marriage. Let’s just say that Maria can sing very very well, and as far as the beautiful part is concerned… well sometimes using one’s imagination is part of the fun. But hey, she can sing like an angel and I am sure she has “A Great Personality”.
I am not going to get into the plot because that would only bore you or ruin it if you have any intentions of seeing the performance. If one really wants to know more information about the plot and other details, Wikipedia has a great entry for this opera. I will say this much however, as far as my musical tastes are concerned I enjoyed the performances of the 3 court attendants, Ping, Pang & Pong more than I did either the male or female protagonists. And when speaking of the female roles I preferred Marina Poplavskaya in her role as Liu to that of the female lead. Whether it was the songs or the voice I do not know but Maria’s performance just seemed to be more genuine.
I still find it odd to go see an opera sung in Italian being performed by singers dressed up to look Chinese. The opera is set in China but sung in Italian. Of course I do not speak Italian but there are ample subtitles explaining the words to the songs. Knowing the language however does not mean you will understand the lyrics. I have seen a few operas in English that I still had no idea what they were saying. Anyway to make a long story short I have to say that with the exception of one aria, Turandot is better than Puccini’s other opera set in the Far East, Madame Butterfly. All in all I enjoyed the performance and I would recommend this to anyone who is curious about opera.
I know that I said I was going to limit this piece to the opera Turandot but I am going to take a few more lines to talk a little bit about opera in general. I like opera because for me it is a totally relaxing 3 hours where I can sit in a dark theater and listen to wonderful music and totally escape. The next offering is on December 19 and we will see the lovely Anna Netrebko in The Tales of Hoffman. She is one of my favorite opera singers. In case you were wondering, my favorite opera stars are as follows:
Judith Leusink, Nicolle Steins, Donij Van Doorn, Carmen Monarcha, Carla Maffioletti, Suzan Erens, Kalki Schijvers, Anna Netrebko, Renee Fleming, Maria Ewing, and Kiri Te Kanawa
Bela Mavrak, Thomas Gruel, Gary Bennett, Andrea Boccelli, Luciano Pavarotti, Russell Watson, and Sherill Milne
So there you have my blog and a little extra. If you read this far you are truly a great friend and I appreciate your time. Thanks