Photo Locale of the Month – April 2018

Are you a desert rat? I don’t ask that question to be rude; it’s a sort of compliment, actually. Desert rats – the two-legged, humanoid variety, anyway – are my kind of people. These are people who prefer sunshine over rain, and dry heat over humidity.

If you consider yourself a desert rat, you might find yourself at home in the western United States, where places like Monument Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, White Sands National Monument, and the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve punctuate the parched landscape, making the desert more than just a vast expanse of sand.

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Top Ten Marvel Films (So Far)

“Avengers: Infinity War” opens soon, and set a box office record a few weeks ago in terms of opening weekend pre-sale tickets…breaking the record set by none other than the previous Marvel film, “Black Panther.” Suffice to say, expectations are high.

If you are a MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) newbie with plans to see “Avengers: Infinity War” at theaters, count on being in over your head. By my count, there have been 18 films preceding this one, their stories ultimately interconnected, their protagonists’ fates intertwined. Even such seeming stand-alones as “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) and “Ant-Man” (2015) tie in to the decade-long ramp-up of characters and events that began with 2008’s “Iron Man” and culminates in what looks to be a two-part battle for the fate of the universe.

Some Marvel films and characters – Deadpool, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four spring immediately to mind – exist in their own separate universes. But for the connected MCU mega-verse that is presided over by Nick Fury’s Avengers, audiences have gotten to enjoy an uneven, but mostly fun, cinematic ride. Here are my choices for the Top Ten Marvel Films (So Far):

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People around the World: Africa

Any self-respecting photographer will continuously try to better him/herself. Ways to do this include taking classes, buying manuals, upgrading equipment, and, quite simply, practicing. (That’s how you get to Carneghie Hall, man.)

One category of photography that I have wanted to become better at is photographing people. My travels are usually to see places, not people, but it so often is the people themselves that become the “attraction” that lingers longest in my memory.

I am starting a new feature – People around the World. Each installment will focus on a particular region of the globe. Geography notwithstanding, the recurring element of these pictures is the presence of people. Headshots? Not really. Close-ups? Sometimes. Action shots? Often. Staged? On occasion.

For today’s post, my first entry in the series, I’m sharing pictures that I took on my travels to Africa. Although I like each one of these pictures, some are better than others, and all of them could probably be better.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Semana Santa in Guatemala

There are often days when I feel like shutting down my blog because I’ve told all the stories I have to tell. On the other hand, there are days when I stumble upon a picture or piece of writing from my blog, and that discovery ignites a whole ‘nother fuse of memories worth sharing.

Earlier this week, I came across my 2014 post Passion Runs High in Iztapalapa, one of my better entries from my time in Mexico City, and a fun read about the annual Good Friday Passion Play from CDMX’s Iztapalapa delegación. Give it a read and let me know what you think, okay?

But 2014 wasn’t the only time I got to take in the alternating solemnity and joy of Semana Santa (holy week). 2012 saw me spending Easter in El Salvador, and witnessing a procession of penitent worshippers literally march through the streets of San Salvador, and over alfombras, which are colorful sawdust carpets featuring images of peace. Just one year earlier, I spent several pre-Easter days in Andalucía, Spain, observing similar processions from afar in Granada and Sevilla (scheduled processions in Sevilla were rained out, a bummer considering that every hostel and hotel in the city raised its rates for the anticipated crowds).

The Semana Santa memory that lingers largest is the collective series of days I spent in Antigua, Guatemala, in March, 2005. Here, in the one-time capital of Guatemala, where earthquake-toppled churches nestle in the shadow of surrounding volcanoes, the entire community comes together each Semana Santa for a daily series of processions, alfombras, and church services leading to Resurrection, aka Easter Sunday. While not a believer myself, I have always been fascinated by religious rituals. Spending a week in Antigua and experiencing them firsthand was not disappointing.

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Photo Locale of the Month – March 2018

Although this recent winter has been one of the stranger ones in memory, spring is right around the corner. While nights and early mornings are still quite cold, dogwood trees are in bloom and the rainfall has turned the rolling hills of East Tennessee into a verdant quilt of green. Meanwhile, summer is waning in the Southern Hemisphere, where January = July and June = December.

Some below-the-equator regions, however, such as Central Chile and Northern Argentina, enjoy a mild year-round climate, and you can visit cities like Santiago and Buenos Aires well into April and still enjoy what I call shorts-and-sandals weather. It was in March, 2011, in fact, when I found myself enjoying two warm, sunny days exploring downtown Buenos Aires. 

This obelisk, with eight lanes of traffic on each side of Avenida 9 de Julio (the widest street in the world, and named after Argentina’s Independence Day), is the defining symbol of Buenos Aires.

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Oscar 2017-18 – predicting the winners

And so it is Oscar time once more. Last year’s host, Jimmy Kimmel, will be returning for his second at-bat, and the 90th annual Academy Awards show will be filled with stale jokes about the show’s running time, about the #metoo movement (no Harvey Weinstein nor Kevin Spacey in the audience, you can guarantee it), and about whether, as was the case last year when “La La Land” was erroneously declared the Best Picture winner, there will be any last minute envelope mix-ups.

Despite 2017 having been such a banner year for mainstream movies – and for superhero movies in particular – the slate of nominees is, some would, say, disappointing in terms of its ordinariness. “Wonder Woman,” so empowering and successful, walked away empty handed, even in the technical categories. “Thor: Ragnarok” was also snubbed across the board, as was “Lego Batman,” which didn’t even score a customary nomination for Best Animated Feature. “Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi” earned a few technical nominations, but the only true *hits* to receive above-the-line nods were “Dunkirk” and “Get Out.” (Okay, so “The Shape of Water” lead the pack with 13 nominations, but its “R” rating and graphic nudity worked against it at the box office.)

Will “Dunkirk” or “Get Out” win, reminding audiences that the Academy is not out of touch with popular opinion after all…or will it be something much artsier – “Phantom Thread” perhaps? My gut tells me it will be none of the above. To learn more about those and other nominated films, check out the official Oscar website. For an educated guess on who will win, however, you can do worse than to keep reading the following paragraphs for my predictions.

(GringoPotpourri disclaimer: Although I’m no insider, I have seen all of the nominees mentioned below, and my batting average is well above .500. So there’s that.)

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A Civil Rights Lesson in Memphis

The last two weeks have been interesting in my world. I found myself quitting a job that was simply never going to meet its full potential in favor of what I hope will be a better career opportunity. In the short term, as these things go, the move is lateral, and it actually has a longer commute, but I hear nothing but good things about the place, so I will do everything I can to quell the cynical side of myself that – all too often – comes to the forefront.

I pride myself on being punctual, hard working, and loyal to any company that I work for, so changing jobs isn’t as easy or commonplace for me as it is for others. I do have a weird vibe about the fact that I left my last job without giving proper notice, but I simply didn’t have the chance to give a proper two weeks’ notice.

You see, I had to take a week for myself. This included catching up on errands, going for a hike, and visiting my sister, who as Loyal Readers know lives in Memphis. The last time I saw her down there was in Thanksgiving, 2016, just two months after our mother passed away.

Many of my blog introductions begin with the following sentiment, but it really is true: Where does the time go?

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Photo Locale of the Month – February 2018

The Olympics are in full swing and the South Korean city of PyeongChang – certainly not to be confused with Pyongyang, in the North – is enjoying an influx of tourists, athletes, and advertising dollars. At press time, the medal count is Norway 17, Germany 15, and Canada 13. The U.S. is in fifth place, with 8. These standings will surely change.

Although I’ve never been to PyeongChang – nor to Pyongyang, for that matter – I have been to Seoul, the vibrant capital of South Korea and part of a greater metropolis that, all told, is home to almost 26 million people, according to worldpopulationreview.com. Seoul is a teeming city that never sleeps, but, like Tokyo, Beijing, and other East Asian mega-cities, its skyscrapers are punctuated by verdant green spaces. This month’s gallery pays homage to Seoul’s urban gardens and palaces.

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Best Picture Winners by Year – Part Two

This concluding entry about every movie to win the Academy Award for Best Picture doesn’t need the four-paragraph intro that Part One did. All you need to know is that the list begins with the 1970’s – generally believed to be the best decade for quality filmmaking – that my all-time favorite movie is on the list, and that after March 4, 2018, another movie will join this list.

(Also, films in italics are especially worth watching. Read on.)

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Best Picture Winners by Year – Part One

It was just two weeks ago that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced the 2017 films, film stars, and filmmakers that were nominated for Academy Awards. There weren’t many surprises, certainly not among the nine films nominated for Best Picture, among them “The Shape of Water,” which leads the race with a not-quite-record-setting 13 nominations, followed by “Dunkirk” with eight and “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” with seven.

You can watch for my predicting-the-winners post closer to Oscar night, which this year isn’t until Sunday, March 4th. I will wax poetic at that time about who I think will win, as well as who I think should win. For now, I’m still trying to catch up on some of the nominees, particularly in the categories of Best Documentary Feature and Best Foreign Film.

In the meantime, I’ve had a chance to write up a summary review of the previous 89 winners of the Best Picture Oscar. If this seems like a lot of work, know that I first had the idea last year, but it literally took me 12 months to gather my thoughts, and to rewatch some of the winners in question.

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