Spring Into Summer With the Whirled Cup
April - June 2006

 
Continuing my quest to read that-which-is-made-into-movies-so-often-thou-readith-not-the-book-anymore, I read Stefan's copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes , which is a book of short-stories that happen after A Study in Scarlett (which I still haven't read). First off, Sir Arthur Connen Doyle is a really good writer; his dialogue crackles, and his characters are not-only memorable, they are downright hilarious at times. I can't say this about all of the authors I've been reading as part of this quest. And Sherlock Holmes is not at all as he has been portrayed on film (much as I love Basil Rathbone, his Sherlock is too suave and polite by a mile). My only complaint: the stories end abruptly, as though the author has no idea how to end the story. Very frustrating.

I re-read Watership Down , which was still excellent after all these years. And I'm currently reading Elmer Gantry -- ZOWIE what a great book! I thought it would be dated and hard to read. Instead, it is as relevant today as it was back in the 1920s when it was originally published, and the writing feels as modern as ever. I've always been a fan of the movie, but I think I might like the book even more.

Another good read recently was actually online. I don't like to read large amounts of text online (oh, my old eyes...) but I just couldn't stop reading Kevin's Smith blog entries regarding Jason Mewes addiction. It's a nine-part series, all titled "Me and My Shadow." It starts Tuesday 28 March 2006. I sat here at my computer weeping for many an evening. I fell in love with "Silent Bob" and Jay in Clerks, just like everyone else, I guess, and Dogma is one of my favorite movies of all time. I don't know that I'll ever watch the later the same way again after reading Smith's account of Mewe's addiction, which was in full swing in Dogma. Loving an addict -- it's a curse that's beyond description, that I wouldn't wish on anyone. This is the best account I've ever read of what it's like.

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I decided to separate out my recent motorcycle adventures, and thoughts about future motorcycle-related plans.

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If CNN International launches one more freakin' fashion-related segment, or one more stupid show geared only to the richest of the rich and laden with Rolex commercials (Living Golf, Mainsail, Art of LIfe, Design 360, GLobal Office, and on and on), I'm going to SCREAM. How about, oh, I don't know... NEWS?!?!? Or shows about people who can't afford a Rolex, which would be most of us?!?!?

It's my only English TV station... and I really do like their news coverage. I just wish there was more of it.

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We finally cracked open both of the red wine bottles we bought at the Dernau wine festival last year, both from Weingut Reinhold Riske: 2003er Dernauer Hardtberg, Spätburgunder Trocken and 200323 Marenthaler Rosenberg, Dornfelder Trocken. Germany is not known for its red wine production, but as fate would have it, we live just a few train stops from the tiny red wine-producing region. The red wine here is different -- you have to let go of your previous red wine experience to enjoy it. I don't like most of it, but I loved these two particular bottles.

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Another first Saturday in May, another... Rhein in Flammen! Yes, in honor of the Kentucky Derby, cities along the Rhein light red flares, shoot off fireworks and party up and down and on the Rhein river. For the second year in a row, Stefan and I chose to cook out, eat dinner outside, and then watch the fireworks from the comfort of our porch, and then our living room. Very pretty, and very comfy.

I used to love the Kentucky Derby, and loved hosting or going to Derby parties. But my first and only visit the Derby infield, in 2000, turned me off the Derby, maybe forever. I never thought my horrendous disaster of a Spring Break to South Padre Island in 1987 could be topped in terms of misery. I was wrong. The only way I will ever go to the Derby again is if I have a pass to Millionaire's Row.

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And lo, they sawth the chocolate World Cup football selling for 6.66, the sign of the beast, at the grocery store. And they did eat, all of it, over the long European Labor Day weekend. And it was good. Very good.

(Yes, I'm calling it FOOTBALL, because THAT'S WHAT IT IS. That thing the USA plays -- call it either American football or rugby for nancy boys.)

Are they playing the MasterCard "Fever" commercial back in the USA? This totally sums up World Cup madness.

The day I got back from San Francisco, at the Bonn/Cologne airport, there was a group of white fans devoted to the Ivory Coast football team stood on the curb side, drinking beer and enthusiastically singing while waiting for their ride. After the had tourney started, I ran into some delightful English fans outside the Koblenz train station, on their way to catch a train for Frankfurt and the England/Paraguay game later that day. They were admiring the strawberries for sale near the station entrance. I took their picture with the strawberries, then Albi and I had our picture taken with one of the guys, and then I firmly corrected one of the guys who made the oft-repeated mistake made here in Europe about Jack Daniels being from Kentucky (it is most certainly NOT. Yuck).

Team USA looked downright embarrassing in their opener with the Czech Republic, like they had just gotten out of bed and hadn't had their coffee yet and weren't really sure what this whole "soccer" thing was really all about. It's one thing to lose to a superior team -- it's another thing to look like you aren't even really trying. So I guess the coach gave them quite a come-to-Jesus talkin' to, as they were a completely different team the following Saturday against Italy, one I felt great cheering for.

Germany's opener win was a huge relief of its citizens, but many were upset that they still allowed Costa Rica two goals. All was forgiven at their second game against Poland, though strike after strike after strike by the Germans with no goal sent me cussing in three languages and scared my dog enough that she hid in the bedroom for the rest of the night. Once Germany *finally* scored, almost at the end of the game, there was great rejoicing all around the neighborhood. Germans are having fun being allowed to be a bit nationalistic at long last, putting up flags and painting their faces in black, yellow and red. And from what I've seen of their behavior to visiting fans, I'd say the world has nothing to worry about.

Now that I'm following a World Cup tourney so closely, I at last understand how a tie game in football can be exciting (Trinidad-Tobago against Sweden was a blast to watch in particular). It's great to see teams that are supposed to get wiped out hang on for the draw.

I really don't want to see Brazil repeat -- I don't like how their players (and those of Argentina) writhe in pain on the pitch over the slightest tap, nor how they only play when they really want to, nor how they rough house it but then complain like little girls when someone taps them. That said, if you want the best fan party in Germany: go where the Brazilians are.

Stefan and I decided to watch the US-Italy game at an official Fan Fest, which are official FIFA parties around big screen TVs set up in ALL the towns where games will be played, no matter which city is actually hosting the game being played. We got to Cologne and were greeted by an incredible mural on the ceiling of the Cologne train station in honor of the World Cup (it's like Michalangelo meets football). We were passing the Fan Fest at the cathedral just as Ghana made their second goal, and you haven't lived until you've followed a group of Ghanaians down a packed street, getting congratulated by Mexicans, Iranians, Dutch, and, ofcourse, the Germans. It was football mania everywhere, with groups of people singing and dancing everywhere. I asked one of the kiosk workers if all of the fans had been nice, and she said, "Oh, yes. Except the English, ages 18 to 35. They are... are... what's the word? Too aggressive." We got into a mass of people trying to get into the Fan Fest at HeuMarkt, and security closed the line *just* behind us. It wasn't too crowded at all inside -- very glad they are closing sites before it gets too crazy inside. I stayed near the back of the crowd, where some boisterous German, Swiss and Dutch fans were pulling for Team USA -- the majority of the crowd was for Italia, and the Italians were all down in the front and middle of the crowd. A lot of people were just there to be a part of it and weren't pulling for anyone at this particular match. That I was truly the only American in our part of the crowd became apparent when Pope was carded, and I alone started chanting, "Bullsh*t" at the top of my lungs. Stefan and I were both stunned at *this* Team USA -- they were amazing. But officially, they still have NOT scored a goal in the World Cup. As we headed to the train station, I high-fived a group of women Ghanian fans. And then thought, oh, shoot, we play them next, and I had intended to pull for Ghana to make it to the final... No country appreciates a World Cup game win like the Africans, and I would love to see an African team pull it off at long last.

The best way to describe the crowds I've seen both first hand and on TV so far, and heard about from others, would be good-natured, loud, and just happy to be here -- or, in the case of Germans, enjoying the spotlight for all the right reasons. Even the weather has been on their side, and almost all of the games really have been highly entertaining. I love seeing two groups of fans from different countries with no common language trying to congratulate each other for wins. I really do hope that Germany benefits, tourism-wise, from all this exposure. My favorite image from the World Cup so far: a Saudi woman, covered except for her face, sitting and talking casually with a German guy in full Bavarian dress. I got a lump in my throat... ofcourse, I also have to note that such a conversation couldn't actually happen in Saudi Arabia.

The thing I've liked most about watching the World Cup games so far -- I can start a conversation with just about anyone, no matter what country they are from -- and sometimes no matter what language they speak. The second thing I've liked most: the hysterical commerical tie-ins.

Does anyone know why there was a French fan at the game against South Korea with a live rooster on a leash, holding it aloft proudly during the French national anthem? Has anyone informed this person that this is exactly what the USA thinks of the French?

If you want a really good idea of the spirit of the World Cup, check out the CNN Fan Zone, where fans all over the world are uploading photos, videos and songs from their World Cup experiences.

And, one final note: the Associated Press is reporting that fans in southwestern Bangledesh, wielding bamboo sticks, attacked an electricity office after multiple power failures interrupted coverage of two World Cup matches. Ah, that's the kind of World Cup news we're all used to.

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Yes, Albi got to take her first train ride. I managed to take Buster and Wiley on the city bus a few times, and Buster got to take the U-Bahn once, but this was the first time I've taken a dog on a train. She did brilliantly, ofcourse -- she laid down most of the time. She just accepts whatever craziness I put her through. We went down to Koblenz and then on to Stefan's parents, where he was helping put in new patio stones. Albi and I took a nap under a tree. Then we joined Stefan and his Dad for a long walk -- there are so many beautiful hikes all throughout Westerwald. She got to walk off-leash most of the time -- yes, she's that good. And then we ate too much yet again.

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I'm really enjoying Yahoo's featured travel column Traveling Light - Rolf Potts. It's for "independent" travelers -- whatever that means. Best column so far: "Searching for the Cave of Evil." The "Adventure" travel columns, most by Richard Bangs, are also excellent.

If you haven't yet, check out the new section of my own web site, A Broad Abroad, written especially to encourage women to travel.

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I'm not much for pop music -- I never have been. But sometimes, I do fall in love with a pop song. Lately, it's "Put Your Records On," sung by Corinne Bailey Rae. I just love it. It's not at all in the style I usually like, but there's just something about the words, and the way they fit the rhythem...

The other song I love right now is Pink's "Stupid Girls." I heard the song for the first time when I saw the video, and came running up to Stefan when he came home to say, "I've found my new theme song!" He said he'd already heard it and had immediately thought of me. Awwwwwwwww...

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The most geeky question I've read in years:

"Could the USS Enterprise take out the Death Star?"

And what's really sad... I've been thinking about it.

Speaking of ongoing battles, I guess you heard that I WON!! George Lucas has finally given in to the cries across the universe, and my own constant whining, and the original, unaltered , Han-shoots-first versions of the Star Wars trilogy will, at last, be made available. I'm sure it has more to do with the distributors hunger for even more money than any realization on Lucas's part that the originals are far superior films to his post-original-release meddling... and don't give me that, "oh, but they're his movies." We're not talking Orson Welles here -- the first two movies were great because of collaborative efforts, not one man's vision. In fact, other people saved those movies from being really, really bad.

The originals don't come out until September, and will be sold only through December. Until then, I get to enjoy the newly-arrived tapes from the Lee Family that they made from the original laser disc releases (before Lucas started revising them). As I sat watching the original "Star Wars" for the first time in probably 15 years, I was reminded yet again what made the movie great: the chemistry between the characters, and the FUN. You could remake the movie as a Western and it would still be great. The second movie had all those qualities too. And then, it all went away...

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There is this commercial for FinnAir (the national airlines of Finland) with this spunky little animated panda bear doll touring all the places FinnAir flies, and I don't know why, but I almost cry every time I see it. I can't figure out why. He's so cute... and all his little expressions at what he's getting to experience... he looks how I feel while traveling. I get this big lump in my throat...

Unless... unless the commercial for "Greece: Live Your Myth" comes on right after. Then, I want to dance... and sometimes I do...

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At long last, I've been to Italy -- Naples, in fact. I've now been to or lived in 18 countries. I'd like to hit 20 before I leave Europe. I'm sure people outside the USA aren't very impressed with that number, but given that the vast majority of people in my country don't even have a passport, I'm impressed with myself.

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I got to see several movies per my recent trip to San Francisco -- I would have seen even more, but the entertainment system on Virgin Atlantic was broken on the return trip. I feel much more caught up now on film viewing, something you all know is very important to me:

I'm saving Syriana, Good Night and Good Luck, and Murderball for when I can watch them with Stefan, and Brokeback Mountain and Capote for home viewing, as the sound wasn't great on the plane, no matter how much I turned it up. And that's just last year's movies that I want to see...

Also on the plane, I watched "Arrested Development." That's the best TV show I've seen in years and years -- definitely adding it to my list of things to rent. What a shame that it got cancelled.

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Editing and music for a movie can make all the difference in how you perceive the film. They can be used to radically alter a film, from a drama to a comedy, and vice-versa. Don't believe me? See how editing and music make for a starkly alternative trailer for The Shining. Or, Sleepless in Seattle. Or The Ten Commandments.

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Oh, it just had to be said: "Unless the loser on 'American Idol' pulls a gun and opens fire, that show belongs in the entertainment section and not on my front page." More at AlterNet.

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Why isn't the media covering the rampant, epidemic use of methamphetamine (crank, tweek, whatever) in the USA the way they did crack? I don't personally know anyone who ever used crack -- but I've got a list a mile long of people I know who use/used crank, or had their lives ruined by such.

Why the silence?

But in the defense of the media on another issue, I wrote the Kansas City Royals to let them know that "I condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the revoking of press credentials for Bob Fescoe of WHB and Rhonda Moss of KCSP." I told KCR that "You are in the United States of America, where tough, confrontational questions by the press are part of what makes our country great. Shame on you for punishing reporters for *doing their jobs*, and for your acting like... Soviets."

I just wish the media would ask MORE tough, confrontational questions, especially when they are interviewing the present federal administration... THAT would make me proud to be from the USA.

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"All animals are a part of Allah's creation and belong to Allah (swt). Muslims are custodians of this beautiful planet. How we care for animals and what we use them for we will be accountable for to Allah (swt). All of creation is Muslim, submitting to Allah's willčonly man and jinn are granted a freedom of choice. So yes, even animals are Muslim." So says Dr. Ayoub M. Banderker (BVMCh), veterinary surgeon. You can read more enlightened views of Islam and dogs, by practicing Muslims. What an excellent resource. I wish I could get it translated into Arabic and have it distributed throughout the Middle East, and read from every public square there.

Also, "Regardless of our race, color, religion, or country of origin, we were one community of civilized dog lovers." You must check out Love My Dog, Love Me: The great Arab-Muslim-American puppy story by Ahmed Tharwat (and see the cute picture of Ahmed and Oliver). Everyone I sent this link to LOVED it.

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Today's required reading: the definition of scientific method. This will help those of you who aren't the brightest bulbs in the box to understand why evolution meets the rigorous requirements of a scientific theory and while "intelligent design" is a myth.

Ofcourse, there's also what's true, and that is, ofcourse, the origin of the world as revealed by the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Also highly recommended, this easy-to-read article from livescience.com: Behind the Controversy: How Evolution Works". Also see the Top 10 Intelligent Designs (or Creation Myths)

"Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is one of the best substantiated theories in the history of science, supported by evidence from a wide variety of scientific disciplines, including paleontology, geology, genetics and developmental biology."
-- LiveScience.com
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Just a few additional things to check out:

 
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