Photo Locale of the Month – April 2017

It has been five years since I last visited Europe, and six years since my first, and thus far only, visit to Spain.  I visited with a friend in April, 2011, and flew into Barcelona for two days, which was not enough time by half.  The Catalonian capital was enchanting enough, and the unseasonably warm weather instilled us with high hopes for how the rest of the trip would go.

Alas, eight days of late-season rainfall swept in a few days later, dampening our spirits (no pun intended) to the point that we hightailed it out of Spain one week earlier than expected.  We finished the trip in Paris, which is a delight to visit in any climate and which was greeted by an early summer.  One city we did visit in Spain before the worst of the weather moved in was Granada, a mid-sized Andalucían borough with roughly 235,000 people.  As regards tourism, Granada has one mainstay, the massive, UNESCO-protected Alhambra.

Continue reading “Photo Locale of the Month – April 2017”

Cuba Photo Gallery: The Propaganda

It is no secret that Cuba, for many years a no-go destination for most Americans, is rife with propaganda.  Much of it is anti-American, or anti-Capitalist, and an equal amount of it is pro-Castro, or pro-revolution.  Throughout my travels to China, Russia, the Ukraine, and Syria, I have always found a certain kitschiness in images of Mother Russia, of the working man sowing fields “for the people,” of that great hammer-and-sickle, of the Fearless Leader.  Even Mexico has its share of anti-colonial propaganda, from urban graffiti to the murals of Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros.  Some of these images are impressive, artistically-speaking, while others make me laugh.  The key, I think, is to take them with a considerable grain of salt.

Here is a gallery of Cuban propaganda as photographed by yours truly.  They are in no way a reflection of my political beliefs; I don’t condone the violence that accompanied Cuba’s revolution.

Continue reading “Cuba Photo Gallery: The Propaganda”

Cuba Photo Gallery: The People

I have not, historically speaking, been good at photographing people.  From time to time, I’d notice a person during my travels who had that photogenic something that I knew needed to be captured, and – after getting their permission – I would try my best to photograph them, being cognizant of their time and any cultural sensitivities.  I always made it a point to show them the picture afterwards, and frequently offered to email them a copy of the image.

The results were mixed, however.  That gap-toothed Asian woman along the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall?  I captured the smile but zoomed in too much.  The curious boy standing near the Istanbul tram that ran through Sultanahmet?  He posed, soldier-like, but I forgot to crouch down to his level, and his head appeared the size of a giant pumpkin.

I have gotten better, however.  I felt especially brave – and as curious as that young Turkish kid – while exploring Cuba, and snapped dozens upon dozens of pics of Cuban locals going about their business.  Fishing, singing, selling, relaxing.  The camera gods smiled upon me those three incredible weeks.  Here are some of my favorite shots, along with any relevant commentary:

Continue reading “Cuba Photo Gallery: The People”

A Reunion of Amigos

Q: What do an entrepreneur, a human resources executive, a high school English teacher, a middle school history and science teacher, and a graduate student have in common?

A: They live in Mexico City, and they are my friends.

My long-awaited (for me, at least) return to “CDMX” was a resounding success.  I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to see, nor was I able to hit up every one of my former stomping grounds, but on the whole, I was able to stroll through some of my favorite neighborhoods and spend time with old friends – even if it was just for a quick drink.

Would you like to meet them?  (Apologies in advance to mis amigos for posting these pics – although I don’t think the content is anything too compromising.)

Continue reading “A Reunion of Amigos”

A Few Paragraphs about Cuba

It has been less than one week since I journeyed from Havana to Mexico City, and it has been just two full days since I returned home to Tennessee from there.  I was gone for six weeks, and whenever I settle back in to my normal routine following a trip of similar length, it always feels as if everything “back home” has changed, even though it usually hasn’t.

I am in the early stages of reviewing and labeling the over 6,000 photos that I took during my travels.  That is going to take awhile, to put it mildly, but I did eyeball my pics, looking for a few images that were representative of each place I visited.  This was, suffice to say, not an easy task.  I have much to say about the “real” Cuba, and some strong opinions about “Cuba for tourists” vs. “Cuba for locals.”  These stories will manifest themselves in time, and will be interspersed with tales about my first trip back to Mexico since I left there in July, 2014.

But to whet your appetite and to find a starting point for my own storytelling, I thought I’d write just a few paragraphs about Cuba – one per city visited, let’s say – and post a few pictures as well.

Enjoy…and thanks for reading!

Continue reading “A Few Paragraphs about Cuba”

Photo Locale of the Month – March 2017

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!

Continue reading “Photo Locale of the Month – March 2017”

Oscar 2016-17 – predicting the winners

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

Continue reading “Oscar 2016-17 – predicting the winners”

Photo Locale of the Month – February 2017

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.

00400268912620110405072947891

Continue reading “Photo Locale of the Month – February 2017”

Top Ten Films of 2016

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:

Continue reading “Top Ten Films of 2016”

Photo Locale of the Month – January 2017

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.

leon-viejo-24-st-mary-of-graces-cathedral

Continue reading “Photo Locale of the Month – January 2017”