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  • Chapter 22: 1st lone travel (I) – flying solo

    Nov 10 • Uncategorized • 6705 Views

     

    The white cliffs of Etretat

    HDR panorama of the white cliffs of Etretat. A wonderful place to visit alone, sit, watch and ponder (click to see complete).

     

    If you want to know what this blog is about

    Hello…? Anybody out there…?

     

    I know I said I ‘d be back in September but you know life has a habit of taking your plans and placing them in the garbage can without warning or, even worse, saying sorry. Well, some of that happened. Thankfully, it was for the better, so no complaining on my part, but I must apologize to all of you, thousands of readers, that were left stranded after the interlude post XD. I am back, anyway. Probably not with the same pace as before, but I will try to do my best.

    I think I told you I planned on going on holidays by myself, right? Well, I did. I Left my family at home, took the car and a “2-Seconds” camping tent, and drove to Normandy and back during some 9 days.  There are a few things to say about this lone travel.

    The first one is very easy: Wish I had done this before

    (If you wanna know why, click the read more button, below on the right )

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  • Interlude 1: feathers in the golf course

    Aug 5 • Uncategorized • 2719 Views

     

    mossy beech forest

    Not an Irish forest, but it could be (click to enlarge).

    If you want to know what this blog is about

     Interludes

     

    August is here and I am going to take a break of sorts, because I will be in and out, with no guarantee of having PC, laptop or wi-fi wherever I may roam. And, frankly, because thinking what to blog about is actually much harder than blogging afterwards. 21 chapters after I begun, I am running out of ideas. So it will be scattered short stories until I come finally back, hopefully for the second week of September (if I can finally arrange a week I pretend to spend by myself visiting the beaches of Normandy).

    I hope you are out there doing better things than reading blog entries, even if they are mine, and you won’t notice my absence at all. If that is not the case, feel free to read through my archives. I try to blog about things that do not go out of date…

     

    Golf and Thrushes

     

    I do not play golf. I would love to, but there are no golf courses near where I live, too many mountains, and going to the closest ones is both long and then costly. But I used to go, during my childhood summers in Ireland. It will do for a couple of stories…

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  • Chapter 21: get dirty

    Aug 1 • Uncategorized • 12046 Views

    red baron fokker

    I already used this image in the Prologue but it is a perfect example of three ways to get dirty: Modelling, photography and digital imaging, merged with my love for History. Nice Poker of Aces. The scarf is toilet paper (click for vintage version).

     

    If you want to know what this blog is about

     Grit under my nails

     

    I love it when my brain makes use of my hands. Looks like when you do something with your hands your brain goes elsewhere. And it is actually true with handy-crafts. But only the part that is worried about life, the universe and everything. The other part of the brain, the creative one, just gears in. I have always loved to do things, to make things with my hands. I am not particularly good at any of those things, just like in sports, but I really enjoy practicing them and I think they buttress my mind, they give me balance, they make me richer and help me think in a more complete way. Some of you say you do not like doing things, that it’s just for artists, for people with  some kind of skill or other. Let me try to say this in a soft, gentle and tactful manner. You are all just a bunch of cowards. You are not only selling crap, which might be understandable if done to feed children, you are buying your own crap yourselves. And all for nothing. The simple truth is that using ones hands to do things is a pleasure to any and everyone. There are just a few rules you need to follow to enjoy getting dirty… Continue Reading

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  • Chapter 20: readers saving trees

    Jul 28 • Uncategorized • 3020 Views

    Mossy tree stumps

    The books you read used to be trees. The remains are now phantasmagorical creatures of the wilderness (fragment, click to see complete).

     

    If you want to know what this blog is about

     This is not a post about nature

     

    And then maybe it is. This is a blog about a passion, reading, and a wonderful tool to practice it, e-book readers. I started reading when I was 9 or 10, do not remember, with Michael Ende’s Jim Button and Luke the engine driver. Then I met Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, and from there I cannot follow the trend because it just burst like fireworks. I have read in many directions, SF, terror and Fantasy in my teenage and university years, then I jumped to historical novel, and then to non-fiction. I never quit reading those old genres, but they became more scarce inside a wider theme population. I have discovered one wonderful fact about me: I do not care what the book is about as much as how it is told. Some authors can write wonders around a cow turd and others can bore you to sleep in their telling of the most epic battle of all times. For me, it is not the story anymore. It’s the teller. Well, the story too, but you get what I mean.

    I started reading on screens in 2005, out of necessity. I did not live in a big city where the book offer is ample, and Amazon was not so hot with shipping costs then, so I had to pay twice for each book I read. Considering I used to read one book a week, you can imagine. In 2005 I got my first PDA, a Dell Axim X-50V. I bought it for work and as a GPS navigator, but in no time I was reading books there in plain txt like crazy. In 2008 I got my first reader, a Sony PRS-505, and quit buying paper novels for good.

    People talk about the smell of books, the tact, the pleasure of having a shelf full of books you love. There are many people who think e-book readers are just not for them. I am going to give them some reasons to think again…

     

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  • Chapter 19: toying with eternity

    Jul 25 • Uncategorized • 11511 Views

    Colonnade in la Catedral del Mar, Barcelona raising to eternity

    The Cathedral of the Sea, in Barcelona, commissioned and built by and with the hands and effort of the faithful poor for their own sake. A beautiful temple built by the commoners for the commoners (click to see sepia version).

     

    If you want to know what this blog is about

    Playing with the infinite

     

    They say it is not good to talk about religion, politics or sports, particularly if you are trying to sell your products to as many people as you can. I do talk politics now and then, albeit tangentially, and I touch spirituality. I will not risk my sky-rocketing sales and zillions of reading fans for sports. So let’s talk religion.

    I am not a religious person. I have no faith. I used to, but it faded with the years. Nothing dramatic, it just slipped away by the time I was eighteen. It just didn’t work for me. The universe is so big and old, bigger and older than what our minds can grasp, that a God that has His attention focused on us humans of Earth is just unconvincing to me. We are not that important and besides, given half a chance, we behave rather miserably. We would not deserve such a God. I don’t go for the polytheistic religions either. I do not believe in karma, in reincarnation or anything similar.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not against faith. I think people with faith have answers to questions people without faith do not have. You either have faith or you admit you do not know. There is no alternative to faith but a different faith. Some of us are OK not knowing. We will see when the moment comes if our beliefs work for us, the same way the faithful discover if their faith is enough. After all, faith and reason are two ways to cope, to understand our place in this incomprehensibly huge and ancient universe, beyond which we are not even capable of formulating questions. I do believe in eternity, though. My own rational eternity. If you are not bored already, keep reading…

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  • Chapter 18: of castles and sieges

    Jul 23 • Uncategorized • 9321 Views

     

    Carcassone

    The walled city of Carcassonne, with its enclosed castle, stands on a hill that commanded the surrounding area (fragment, click to see complete).

     

    If you want to know what this blog is about

    The times when we killed each other with craftsmanship

     

    Imagine you are a warrior of the Middle Ages (mind me, not a middle-aged warrior). After months of siege, hunger, cold, disease and the endless fear of returning fire from the defensive catapults and trebuchets, your own siege weapons have made a practicable breach on the rampart walls. Your time has come. You don your leather jerkin, the little metal plating you can afford, your war-beaten helmet and your boots. You drink a little more to pluck up courage, do not eat much because belly wounds on a full stomach will usually end up badly —not that the ones on empty stomachs end well—, although you know it is actually you are not hungry at all. You pick up your dagger, sword and shield, and grab the ladder you made a few nights before next to your companions.

    The bugles order march and you start to walk towards those damned ramparts full of enemies waiting to kill you. You are lucky and didn’t get into the first wave. This time there is a chance you get to the top. When you reach the line where the first corpses of your former mates lie scattered around arrows driven on the ground at an angle, the walk becomes a trot. No sense in staying in this dead zone too long. Won’t avoid your journey up the ladder unless it ends your journey anywhere.

    You realize your trot has turned to a clumsy run over uneven terrain, bodies and arrows growing more abundant and hard not to step on. You realize your brothers in arms are screaming, and you with them. You hear death whistling past and sometimes catch its blurry shape with the corner of your eye. You raise the heavy shield up again, your shoulder screaming in agony under the weight, your back hurting from the awkward position you are running in. You know the noise an arrow makes when entering the ground and when entering a body and you are hearing both versions too often now to do anything but run on. You see dead and dying companions, most you don’t know and that’s a blessing. Some you do, but you still run on. Nobody’s getting help until all is done and victory is yours. If there is no victory, nobody who cannot do it on his own will leave this place alive. No mercy  for the loser. You are a veteran warrior, you know the worst comes now…

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  • Chapter 17: time travel to the stone age

    Jul 21 • Uncategorized • 8450 Views

    Pyramid of the Sun Teotihuacan

    Nothing prepares you for the sight of this massive pyramid and the experience of the climb to the top. Can you see the man up there? (fragment, click to see the complete ).

     

    If you want to know what this blog is about

    The influence of one single book

     

    When we say stone age we always think about prehistoric caves, Neanderthals, saber- toothed cats and the like. We tend to think of “industrial ages” as homogeneous times covering the whole world, and that’s wrong. Some Amazonian tribes still live in the stone age. So did all the pre-Columbian civilizations of Central America, the Maya, the Aztec, and all the others that existed before and at the time with them.

    I read Gary Jennings’ Aztec in 1990, or so. I am a big Jennings fan. There is no arguing he was a dirty-minded writer that could make the hair on your neck stand on end with the sexual nastiness in his books which, for me, was way too disgusting at times. That said, there are very few historical novel writers that can take you back in time the way he did. Through Aztec, I saw Tenochtitlan, met the Aztecs and other Mesoamerican cultures of the time (around 1500 AD), visited Teotihuacan, and learned how these people of the stone age lived. I walked their streets, saw them dress, eat, fight, live, die… I was totally immersed. After Aztec, I read quite a few books about pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica, mostly about the Maya, and knew I would go visit some day. I finally got there in 2001.

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  • Chapter 16: remembering Apollo 11

    Jul 18 • Uncategorized • 5770 Views

    Apollo 11

    On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landed humans on the Moon for the first time (right on the red spot). From there they took this picture of the Earth, that is now part of global culture (click to enlarge).

     

    If you want to know what this blog is about

    The feat we took for granted

     

    We are reaching the 45th anniversary of man’s first landing on the Moon. Just a few decades after Neil Armstrong took that first step, mankind has grown accustomed to this astonishing fact. It is part of our culture. However, by becoming an old story we have ceased to see it for what it was. We just say the phrase, we acknowledge the fact, without really thinking about it, about its meaning, about how difficult and improbable a cause that was, how unthinkable. Our attention is often more focused in conspiratorial theories around it, or the wonderful mockumentary called “Dark Side of the Moon”, involving Stanley Kubrick, the filming of 2001 and the Apollo 11 mission. We take this incredible feat for granted.

    The same way many of the people who lived through this have failed to transmit its relevance properly, the new generations are failing to fully comprehend and appreciate the unprecedented difficulties and risks it supposed, or the extraordinary determination and courage of the men who faced and overcame them. This cannot happen. We need to re-remember, we need to retell, to rethink this moment when, for a few hours, mankind stood in two different stellar bodies for the first time ever.

    This cannot be forgotten.

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  • Chapter 15: girl at spiral staircase, Rome

    Jul 16 • Uncategorized • 13849 Views

    Spiral Staircase scala elicoidale Giuseppe Momo

    The Spiral Staircase in the Vatican Museums. Simply breathtaking.

     

    If you want to know what this blog is about

     Rome, October 9th 2009. 13:31

     

    The place, the moment. I shot this picture steadying my camera with both hands against the banister at the top, which is round, with the camera tilted down. No tripod. Exposure time: 0.3 seconds. Chances of getting a blurry picture: extreme. I shoot 9 pictures in three different positions. Never saw the girl until I came back home and edited the pics. I always see her since. Today I’m trying to find her.

    I have a big canvas with this staircase, the Scala Elicoidale di Giuseppe Momo, in my room. I consider this picture special. You will find thousands of photos like this one in Google, but I have never found one that has both arms of the spiral, the one on the top going left and the one at the bottom going right. One of them is always missing. Not in this one. This one is complete.  I normally don’t go for square pictures but I just love this one in so many ways… and the spiral always takes me to her.

    It is like an unfinished business, you know? I made this picture and a girl happened to be in the right spot to be the hidden focus. It is only right that I should try to find her and send her a copy. It makes me wonder how many of us will probably be the unintended center of someone else’s wonderful picture. Wouldn’t it be nice to be reached and told?

    It is like closing the circle.

     

    girl under the spiral staircase scala elicoidale de giuseppe momo

    The girl at the spiral staircase (click on the image to see the gallery)

     

    So, there you have, the place, the moment. Do you know somebody who was there about that time? She is a little blurry, guess she shifted her shoulders, but I think she is recognizable. And she is out there… She could be from anywhere, a local girl, an exchange student, a woman on holidays (cannot be certain about her age, although my money is on twenties-thirties)… Can one person find another with just one picture and some help?

    Let’s try. Your move. Continue Reading

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  • Chapter 14: dinosaurs, nice bloody creatures

    Jul 14 • Uncategorized • 35577 Views

    tyrannosaurus rex skull dinosaurs

    Tyrannosaurus rex, the favorite of all kids (click to enlarge).

     

    If you want to know what this blog is about

    Love for Dinosaurs

     

    Amazes me how kids are afraid of closet monsters, but love dinosaurs. And the bloodier the better. They like those big long-necked herbivores like Brontosaurus or Diplodocus, but they prefer the ones with spikes, horns and plaques like stegosaurus or triceratops. However, their favorites will be the carnivores, and the bigger the jaws, the better. They are not scared at all. They demand posters, toys, T-shirts… Nothing like a good old T-rex with some other poor creature hanging limp and bloody from their jaws. And they rejoice in that.

    My kids love Jurassic Park. Nothing is explicitly shown, except for maybe Samuel L. Jackson’s arm and the guy that gets eaten in the toilet, but there is carnage all over the place. And my sons love it. If I change those dinosaurs for vampires, werewolves or zombies I know I will have them sleeping in my bed for days. But not with dinosaurs. Whomever they eat.

    I think it’s got something to do with the fact they are extinct. They were big, actually they were huge, noisy cruel and bloody, and reigned for zillions of years, but they are gone. And our kids, small and fragile, are still here. Victory. I think this fact takes the edge of being small and bossed around all day long. Dinosaurs give kids a certain measure of vindication.

    It probably has a lot to do also with how simple their life is presented. Eat without being eaten, run, fight, overcome and breed little dinosaurs. Nothing complex, no small print. Nothing boring.

    Apart from these factors, there is the obvious fact that dinosaurs are just soooo cool. Even us, adults, love them. Next time you visit one of these museums with full size skeletons of these big fellows, look around. Anyone craning their neck to look at them will be smiling with more or less intensity. And so will you. And if you have no seen one, you are already late.

    A very clear sign of this fascination is that Dino-documentaries are probably the only cultural show that will catch kids’ attention automatically. This is something we can use…

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