Showing posts with label entertainment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label entertainment. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Rome is Fun

It’s been a while since we returned from our last trip to Europe. I have already posted a couple of pieces about this trip, primarily dealing with stressful events, but I promised that I would also describe positive experiences. So here I go, better late than never:

When we go to Europe, besides Holland, where I come from, we almost always hit Italy and France as well. Our most frequent destinations are Rome and Paris. However, we also “diversify,” visiting the provinces, for example Tuscany, the Italian Lake District, the Amalfi Coast, the French Riviera, the Dordogne, Normandy, etc.

We usually combine revisiting favorite spots and new places. In recent years we spent a marvelous week in Berlin and another one in Ireland, both of which were new to us. Sometimes we’ll tour some new parts of Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Scandinavia, Scotland and elsewhere.

This past year, we decided to return to Rome, as we have done almost every year for quite some time, then spend a week in Paris, and finally check out the Southwest of France and Spain’s adjacent Basque country. Today, I’ll just write about Rome. Read more...

Monday, November 5, 2018

Dionne Warwick

On our recent flight to Europe, we met the legendary songstress Dionne Warwick. I am not telling you about this as a silly boast (there is nothing to boast about accidentally bumping into a celebrity, which I am sure has happened to many of you, and which in and of itself means nothing). No, I am telling you this because of the very fun and funny way in which it happened, and mostly because it was an excellent learning lesson for me:

We were on our way to Brussels, Belgium. We had just spent the night crossing the Atlantic, and we landed in Dublin, Ireland, for our connection to Belgium.

We had a couple of hours to spare, so we went shopping a little bit in the duty-free area. I was standing in line to pay the cashier for some minor purchases. Next to me stood a thirty-something man, also buying some trinkets. He courteously said to me “Go ahead, sir.” I thanked him, and we started chatting a bit. He asked me where I was going, and I told him - Brussels, Belgium. I asked him where he was heading. He replied that he and his family were going to some seaside town in England...he couldn’t quite remember the name of the place...

Figures, I thought to myself. Geography isn’t Americans’ forte. Could he mean London, maybe? The guy was probably not an experienced traveler; maybe his first time in Europe? I also thought, how nice, that “common folks” can travel overseas for leisure... Read more...

Friday, October 26, 2018

Getting there is (Not) Half the Fun

My wife Anita and I have been back from Europe for a few weeks. We have finally caught up with the many errands that pile up during one’s absence, so I can now begin to tell you about some of the more “interesting” things that happened during our 4-week journey to Belgium, Paris, Switzerland and Rome.

I use the word “interesting” both in its general positive meaning , and also in the sense of the old Chinese curse wishing someone “an interesting life:”

As one gets older, international travel becomes more challenging, especially for those of us who refuse to throw in the towel, and who continue to travel independently rather than joining guided groups or going on cruises. We still rent cars and brave European traffic, we run around foreign railroad stations and airports for local connections, we take local subways and buses. We do it all, because we value authenticity. We also have friends and relatives in several of the countries to which we go. We are not just tourists. Read more...

Friday, March 2, 2018

The 2018 Winter Olympics: Rankings

93 countries participated in the  recent Winter Games in Pyongchang. 30 of them won 1 or more medals. 63 did not.

I gave each country 3 points for a gold medal, 2 for silver and 1 for bronze.  I then ranked all the countries by total points. For example, Norway had 13 gold medals, 14 silver and 11 bronze, for a total of 82 points. The US had (9 x 3) + (8 x 2) + (6 x 1) = 49, and so forth.

I then calculated each country’s PER CAPITA score. The table below ranks the 30 medal-winning countries by per capita points earned:

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Sleuths: European and American

We just saw the movie “Murder on the Orient Express.” I found it quite entertaining. The cast included Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Derek Jacobi, Michelle Pfeiffer and other luminaries. It received curiously mediocre reviews, both by the audience (IMDb) and by “experts” So be it. To me, it was lovely. Maybe I am prejudiced because I remember fondly taking the Orient Express as a child.

So then, I began to think about the whole genre - crime-fiction, the whodunit, and its central character, the sleuth, the detective, the private eye, the guy who solves crimes and chases down criminals.

I grew up devouring detective novels in Europe. One of my favorites was Commissaire Maigret. He was the quintessentially European detective, created by Belgian author Georges Simenon, who published over one hundred novels featuring this character. Maigret was with the Paris Sureté, the French national police. Read more...

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Me and my Computer: Inseparable Forever

Yesterday, like every other morning, I turn on my desktop PC to start my daily routines - some requiring logging in, some not. For example, I have some bills to pay, and for that, I need to log in to “Pay Online.” Also, I have to write a short piece for a local magazine, so for that I need to open “Word.” So first, I click on “Pay Online.”

However, surprise: This morning, my computer reacts differently: Instead of opening “Pay Online,” I get a pop-up message saying: “You don’t have permission to access this folder.”

What’s going on? I’m not sure how to proceed, but since I also have an article to write, I decide to switch tasks. I’ll try online payments again later. Must be some glitch. So next, I click on “Word.” Same result, only worse: I get another pop-up message. It now says: “I just told you! You don’t have permission to access this folder!” Read more...

Friday, August 25, 2017

Game of Thrones:Metaphor for America Anno 2017

 By now, I am no longer the only one who sees a parallel between the Game of Thrones’ White Walkers and Donald Trump’s “base.” But the analogy occurred to me quite some time ago, so I still claim originality.

The epiphany hit me several weeks ago. The analogy fits. I suddenly realized that Game of Thrones is about the titanic struggle between the resurgent forces of neo-fascism in America, and the rest of us.

In this show, the greatest threat of all are the White Walkers. I suddenly realized that these represent the Trump base!

Think about it: On August 12, we saw the Trump base in action again. A group of white supremacist-KKK-David Duke-following-confederate-flag-waving neo-Nazis held a violent demonstration, murdering an innocent young woman and hurting many others. Read more...

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Overseas Travel: Fun, with some Pain

 My wife Anita and I go to Italy a lot, usually by way of Holland and France. My mother (now 104 years old) lives in Holland, so each year we first spend a couple of weeks with her and then we travel South. We feel that pound for pound, Italy has more to offer tourists than any other country, closely followed by France.

Intercontinental travel gets harder with age. But we haven’t thrown in the towel yet by just going on cruises and organized tours. We still run around Europe independently by car, by train and by airplane. This usually leads to some unsettling experiences.

The last time we flew to Rome from Holland, we had our first “interesting” experience immediately upon landing at Fumicino airport late in the evening:

After deplaning, we both hit the first toilet we could find, a fairly common practice. Then, we proceeded towards baggage claim. Only AFTER we were outside the security area did we realize that Anita - who is diabetic - had inadvertently left her insulin pack in the bathroom which she had just visited. Read more...

Friday, October 14, 2016

Humanity's Future: The Next 25,000 Years

Hi Folks:

About a month ago I let you know about my new book with the above title. At that time, I provided you with a link which enables you to purchase a POD (Print on Demand) copy from Amazon for $9.99. Now, I want you to know that you can also get an electronic version of my book for a mere $2.99 by clicking on the following link: Kindle Store; Humanity’s Future

As I wrote last month, this book is an experiment. Like most people, I grew up on Star Trek in its many generations, Star Wars, and innumerable other science fiction materials, from optimistic classics such as Arthur C. Clarke’s and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 to a variety of apocalyptic prognoses.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Why Are Some Countries Good and Some Bad at the Olympics?

No matter how much this is denied, most people probably link Olympic success with some sort of national, moral superiority. Medals equal national pride. Well, this is precisely the idea  which I will NOT touch with a ten-foot poll in the present article. What I DO want to do is offer some OTHER explanations, or at least correlates, of Olympic success and failure. This is pop sociology, speculation meant to draw your interest.

This year, once again, the usual countries dominated the medal count. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US has usually been dominant, with China rising as somewhat of a competitor in recent years. During the Cold War, the Soviets and their vassals (particularly East Germany) were in the forefront of the medal count, thanks to massive cheating.

At first, a country’s most obvious advantage seems to be a large population: The top eight countries in the overall medal count - the US, the UK, China, Russia, Germany, France, Japan and Italy - are all among the world’s twenty most populous nations. However, such rankings are unfair, as they do not take population size into account. Is China, with nearly a billion and a half people, not entitled to more medals than Grenada, with a population of 100,000? (There are fourteen thousand times as many Chinese as Grenadians!).

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Old Friends

I met an old friend yesterday. He had been living in a little corner of my mind for the past twenty years, because that’s when we abruptly lost touch. He suddenly fell off the face of my world, for no apparent reason, and I often wondered what had happened to him.

When I first saw him at the grocery store, I thought ‘hey, that guy looks so much like Jeremy, it could be his twin brother,’ and I continued shopping. But the Madeleine from 20 years ago took over and approached this old, balding stranger: ‘Are you Jeremy?’, she said boldly.

I expected a polite 'no, sorry', but a familiar smile spread across this stranger's face and he leaned over to give me a big hug, I wasn't prepared for the real Jeremy. The Jeremy in my head kept competing with this look-alike. Maybe I was talking to a body-double, an alien who had taken over his body, like in the movie 'the body snatchers'. Read more...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Of Sleepy Ants and Crickets


A Children's Story

Once upon a time there was a cricket and an ant. The cricket was really happy. He was so happy that you might wonder if it wasn’t too tiring for him to be so happy all the time. I mean, he was always dancing and singing and he didn’t even have to carry an instrument to accompany himself, since he could make music just by rubbing his legs together.

The ant was not really that happy. She didn’t have much time to dance or sing, because her mother had told her that ants have to work hard to be good ants. So she worked and worked, built her nest, gathered food, even in the dead of winter when the ground was frozen and all the other insects were either not born yet, or hybernating. She didn’t smile a lot, only when she fell asleep and dreamt of feasting on an especially large bowl of sugar, because ants like sugar as much as you like chocolate chip cookies. Read more...

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Tour de la France 2015

The Tour de France is the world’s greatest annual sport event. It is viewed by four billion people electronically (half the world) and by 15 million live - most of them French, many of whom misbehave. Despite all of its problems, I remain an avid fan, and I keep writing about this (see for example my article Tour de France Factoids) .

Nowadays, this bicycle race is about twenty-two hundred miles long, divided into twenty-one stages covered over a period of twenty-three days. It takes place in July and it goes around France, with forays into adjacent countries. The decisive stages are in the high mountains of the Alps and the Pyrenees. The arrival always takes place on the majestic Champs Elysees in Paris. There are nearly two hundred participants. They come from several dozen countries, and are divided into about twenty teams. The race was introduced in 1903, and it has taken place nearly every year since. 2015 was the Tour’s one hundred and second edition.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Favorite Music

Today, I’ll try something different: I’m sending you a bunch of beautiful music. It’s very haphazard, just a smattering of popular music that I recently enjoyed hearing (again):

1. I just discovered (through a friend) this Franco-Italian-International group called The Gypsy Queens. I LOVE their rendition of L’Italiano. This was originally a hit song in Europe by the Italian singer Toto Cutugno. The present version, by the Gypsy Queens, came out in 2012.

Here are some of the lyrics:


Thursday, June 4, 2015


I am fascinated by paradoxes. Sometimes, they can serve as amusing conversation pieces at a dinner party.

Here is a familiar one: “This sentence is false.” This is of course an exercise in circular logic: if the sentence is indeed false, then wouldn’t it be telling you the truth by telling you it was false? And if the sentence was true, then wouldn’t its declaration of falsity render it untrue?

But right now, I just want to select a few “numerical” paradoxes that I have had on my mind over the years. To mathematicians and statisticians (neither of which I am), this post will appear innumerate and dilettantistic. Nevertheless consider the following:

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Things that Didn't Happen

Today so many things didn't happen to me, that I feel I should write about them. On other days, things start to happen as soon as I wake up. I trip over some carelessly strewn about item on my way to the kitchen to make my first cup of coffee, but today I made it to the kitchen without stubbing my toes. I didn't find the coffee jar empty and didn't have to resort to the dreaded emergency decaf container; I didn't burn the milk and didn't have to spend half an hour cleaning the stove.

While I was not doing all these things, I couldn't help but notice other things that had not happened: the pile of laundry was still waiting patiently next to the washing machine and the dirty dishes had not seen any action either.

As the day progressed, more and more things gathered on the didn't happen pile. While I was taking a shower, I noticed that the paper thin sliver of soap had not been replaced by a healthy, new fresh bar and the hair ball in the drain had not budged, giving my feet a good 15 minute Read more...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

I am a Closet Dancing-With-The-Stars Watcher

So On May 19, Rumer Willis and her professional partner Val Chermkovskiy won the 20th installment of  Dancing with the Stars.  Rumer is the daughter of super stars Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. A close second were singer-songwriter Riker Lynch and his professional partner Allison Holker. In third place were Iraq war veteran and amputee Noah Galloway, superbly coached and accompanied by Sharna Burgess.

This very popular American reality show, now completing its 20th season on ABC,  pairs up a dozen professional ballroom dancers with a dozen celebrities who usually don’t dance very well, and they compete with each other, receiving scores from a few judges. Each week one of the competing couples is eliminated, until only one survives - the season’s champion.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Street View

In a bout of nostalgia, I googled 'Sevres, France' the other day, a suburb halfway between Paris and Versailles, where my family moved to, after the War. Not only did I google it, I ogled at it with Google map's 'street view' , zooming in on the minutest details of the place where I grew up. This turned into a daily obsession and I found myself maneuvering my way around the narrow streets of a place that until now had the decency of only existing in my memories and my dreams.

I knew Sevres still existed, but who cared? 'Apres moi, le deluge' was my motto, when it came to memories. But street view burst my bubble. There was no deluge apres moi. Sevres was as alive now as it had always been. It hadn't even changed an iota. I felt cheated. What was the use of lugging all these memories around, when some present day high tech camera can drive around and record in a few minutes what had taken me a life time to preserve in my head? Read more...

Monday, March 9, 2015

In Varietate Unitas?

Once upon a time there was a large family with lots and lots of children. They were always fighting with each other and causing a lot of trouble. One of the children, whose name was Germaine, was a little bigger than the others and quite aggressive by nature. She wanted all the other children’s toys, so she broke into their respective rooms, beat up the children and stole their toys.

A distant uncle by the name of Sam, didn’t like what was happening in that family and decided to put an end to it. He went over there and kicked some ass until Germaine had to run back to her room with her tail between her legs, so to speak.

After Germaine was duly punished, the children realized that they had made a mess of things, always fighting and breaking things. It would be in everyone’s best interest if they were nicer to each other. So three of the children by the name of Ben, Ned and Lex started a Fan Club. At first only a few of the children joined, but as they saw that being a member of the Fan Club had many advantages, like access to good restaurants, good sports clubs and good hospitals, many of them wanted to join. Read more...

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Over 70? Driver's License Renewal? Take a Written Test

I passed 70 a while back, and more and more of my friends are doing so as well. If you are in the same boat, I hope that this article helps you:

Until now, whenever I had to renew my drivers license, it was a cinch. But this time, there was a nasty surprise: for the first time in half a century, I had to take a written test.

When I first got my renewal notice a few weeks ago and I saw that I had to take a test, I was cavalier about it, thinking that this was a formality. But then, I talked to some acquaintances and neighbors, and I discovered that many people FAIL this test. Web sites report first-time failure rates up to 72% (!).