Photo Locale of the Month – March 2017

29 Mar

It has been less than 24 hours since my plane touched down in Knoxville, marking the end of an unforgettable, nearly six-week trip to Mexico and Cuba.  I slept like a baby last night, and have spent much of this morning sorting my dirty laundry and uploading pics – thousands of them – to my computer.  The trip itself had the usual ups and downs, with plenty more highs than lows, but lots of time for self-reflection.  I thought about previous travels to Latin America and to places all across the globe.  I thought about my old life in Mexico City, and about the possibility of settling down there again in the not-so-distant future.  I thought about my mom, whom I miss terribly.  I thought about my dad, who I know has had trouble sleeping and filling the void in his life left by my mom’s passing.  Lastly, I thought about my own mortality.

So you could certainly call the trip “profound.”  I know that many of my Loyal Readers are looking forward to seeing trip pics and hearing stories about what it was like to return to Mexico for the first time in two-and-a-half years, and about whether Cuba really is as colorful, as anti-Capitalist, as – dare I say “backwards” – as it is often portrayed in the West, particularly by the U.S. media.  Those stories are coming; I have dozens to tell.  But first, the completist in me wants to continue my monthly travel photo gallery series.  The images below were uploaded prior to my recent trip, as a way of back-logging content for March.

Colonia del Sacramento – “Colonia” for short – is, for many travelers, the only part of Uruguay that they take the time to visit.  Most of them, myself included, see the small colonial city on the banks of the Rio de la Plata, just upriver from where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean, as a day trip from Buenos Aires.  It was March of 2011 when I woke up before daybreak in my Argentine hostel and stumbled, bleary-eyed, across the city to the Buquebus ferry terminal.  Border formalities are handled before boarding, and I found myself with two more stamps in my passport.  Less than 90 minutes (and two coffees) later, I was in Uruguay!

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Oscar 2016-17 – predicting the winners

25 Feb

Behold, it is Oscar time again.  Jimmy Kimmel will be hosting the 89th annual Academy Awards, and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Brie Larson, Mark Rylance, and Alicia Vikander – last year’s winners in the acting categories – will be among the presenters.

The nominated films this year run quite the gamut.  Arrival, which finds linguists decoding an alien language, is out of this world – literally!  Fences, about the literal and figurative fences we erect in our lives, is a powerhouse of emotions.  Hacksaw Ridge inspires and mortifies with its gory depictions of Pacific Theater heroics in World War II.  Hell or High Water, a western disguised as a heist movie, sets the film’s stakes by the title alone.  Hidden Figures, revolving around a trio of African-American female NASA scientists, makes math cool again.  La La Land, an old-fashioned musical set in modern day Los Angeles, aims for the stars…of the Griffith Park Observatory, if nothing else.  Lion, about an Indian boy who has lost his way, hearkens back to 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire…which won eight Oscars.  Manchester by the Sea sounds British but is as American as movies get, detailing the five stage of grief.  Finally, Moonlight shows what it must be like to grow up poor, black, fatherless, and gay.

Which movies will Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voters choose to honor?  Continue reading for my predictions…and enjoy the show!

Best Picture

Nominees:
Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

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Photo Locale of the Month – February 2017

20 Feb

Asia is the largest continent and home to 60% of the world’s population, according to UN estimates.  If you visit worldometers.info, you can literally watch the population “uptick” by one person per second.  Despite these statistics, however, I have spent less time in Asia than I have in most other regions of the world.  This needs to change.

One Asian country that I have had the pleasure of visiting is Thailand.  The country, a peaceful monarchy east of Myanmar and north of Malaysia, is famous for its warm waters and sandy beaches, often backed by towering cliffs.  There is so much more to see, however.  Elephant camps, jungle villages, steamy urban cities…and temples.  Lots of temples.  I was particularly taken by the Buddhist temples of Bangkok.

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Top Ten Films of 2016

12 Feb

Last year wasn’t a good year for movies.  It seemed that every other weekend saw the release of a second-rate animated film, or of yet another superhero sequel.  I still haven’t seen Moana (which, as it happens, garnered strong reviews) or X-Men: Apocalypse (which did not).

There were several bright spots, however.  Most of them came late in the year, and by the usual troupe of go-to writers, actors, and directors.  Robert Zemeckis teamed up with Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard for Allied, a throwback to classics like Casablanca.  (If only it was shot in black-and-white.)  Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks worked together for the first time on Sully, one of the shorter – and better – movies of the year.  Meryl Streep, Denzel Washington, Amy Adams, Jeff Bridges, Emma Stone, and Michael Keaton all showed up…some of them (the five-times-nominated Ms. Adams) more than once!

Two trends revealed themselves as the nominations were announced: films starring minorities, and films based on actual events.  Hidden Figures introduced us to the black women who worked, unheralded for many years, in NASA’s computing team, while Loving showed us what went down when a white man married to a black woman was told that he and his wife could not live in Virginia.  Both movies took place in the same state, and around the same decade, and the events depicted in them really happened.  Stylistically, however, they couldn’t be more different.

Hidden Figures and Loving each earned slots on my top ten list for the year.  They are joined by eight other worthy films…three of which, like the two mentioned above, are based on actual events!

GringoPotpourri’s Top Ten Films of 2016:

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Photo Locale of the Month – January 2017

21 Jan

León is the longtime liberal stronghold of Nicaragua, and the nation’s second-largest city.  Founded in 1524 by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, León, 11 miles from the Pacific Ocean, has for centuries battled with older Granada, on the western shores of Lake Nicaragua, for ruling supremacy.  They took turns assuming the role of capital of Nicaragua for centuries, until neutral Managua, somewhere in between the two cities, took over the role permanently.

But the León of today is different than the Leon of the 16th century.   Modern León, in fact, sits 20 miles east of León Viejo (Old León), destroyed by an earthquake less than 100 years after its founding, and subsequently buried under layers of volcanic ash by nearby Momotombo, the still-active volcano that sits across another lake, Lago de Managua, from the ruins.

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2016: A Year to (Not) Remember

31 Dec

It has been four years since I made a year-in-review post such as the one you’ve just started reading.  But 2016 has been an interesting year.  I was promoted twice, took a few day trips, and bought a car.  On the other hand, my mom passed away, as did countless artists and celebrities, all of them before their time.  Additionally, my general stress level seemed to increase tenfold.  There have been times, during these last two months in particular, when it seemed as if 2016 would never end.

2016 highlights and lowlights

What a year it’s been!

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Photo Locale of the Month – December 2016

26 Dec

Nuremberg, Germany recently celebrated its 950th birthday.  (Eat that, Dubai!)  My love affair with the Franconian capital and home of sausages, lebkuchen (holiday gingerbread cookies) and Nazi War Crime trials began when I was still a child.  My father spent three years of his life (“The best three years,” he sometimes claimed) in the U.S. Army, stationed on a base just a short train/bus ride from Nuremberg.

Although my dad’s Army time was during the height of the Cold War and his station was less than 60 miles from the border with Communist Czechoslovakia, his time in the Army went without incident, the Cuban Missile Crisis call to arms notwithstanding.  My dad raved, throughout my childhood, about how much he loved Germany, the German people, and medieval Nuremberg in particular.

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Christmas Markets of Europe

23 Dec

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There is nothing quite like the Christmas markets of Europe around this time of year.  Cities like Chicago, with its Daley Plaza Christkindlesmarkt, do a fair job recreating the atmosphere, but the surrounding skyscrapers don’t quite carry the same ambiance as the centuries-old brick homes and cobblestone squares of Germany, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, and elsewhere in the Eastern Hemisphere.

Below is a series of pictures taken from my visits to various European Christmas markets during my travels.  Bundle up, sip some mulled wine, and enjoy!

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Holiday Travels – Part Eight

11 Dec

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Well, another year has come and gone without me having traveled anywhere of note.  For the first time in my post-college life, I will end the calendar year with almost three weeks of unused vacation days.  I had better check with Human Resources to make sure they will roll over into 2017; I know that days accrued this year will roll over, but I still have days that I earned last year, too!

I hope, early in 2017, to visit some place warmer than East Tennessee, where the high for today is 37.  I have friends in both Nicaragua – a country I have never visited – and Mexico – a country I lived in for almost two years.  In addition to those places, I am also Jonesing to visit Cuba, sooner rather than later…and certainly before Donald Trump presumably sends our country’s burgeoning relationship with post-Castro Cuba back to the Stone Age.  Ugh.

What do Nicaragua, Mexico, and Cuba have in common?  Warm weather!  Historically, I have enjoyed spending the holidays in such snowy climes as Stockholm and Copenhagen, but it’s been almost four years since I last set foot on a tropical beach.  Here, in continuing my blog tradition of sharing my favorite holiday season travel memories, is one such story…and a tropical one at that.

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Even More Great Holiday Songs (21-30)

6 Dec

12-31-2015

Winter came late to Tennessee this year.  Although it is December, there are still leaves on the trees in my front yard.  Two days of moderate rainfall hearkened the start of the cold season, and, wonder of wonders, aided in efforts to combat the nearby Gatlinburg fires.

But it has definitely turned cold.  And speaking of fires, I wish I had a fireplace of my own to curl up in front of, perhaps with a glass of red wine in one hand and the dog by my side while we listen to some of my favorite holiday carols.  And with that, I present, for the third year in a row, my ranking of ten (more) favorite Christmas songs.

Ten More Holiday Songs (with YouTube links):

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