Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Don't Do It, Elway! It's A Dirty Raider Trick!

You may not know it from my present-day hatred of televised sports, but I actually used to like watching the Broncos quite a bit. John Elway was a hero for me (and probably for about 98% of the people on the Front Range in the 1990s).
Anyhow, imagine my surprise when I saw this article after signing out of my hotmail account one day. Apparently, John just got engaged to a former cheerleader from the Raiders.
Obviously, this is just a ploy to steal his Super Bowl rings and take them back to the evil "Raiders' Lair," deep inside the haunted, pirate-infested caves of Oakland, California.
At least no one can say I didn't try to warn him.

(Photo Credit: Fox Sports on MSN)

Monday, 29 September 2008

Se Vende RAV-4

I was planning on writing a lot this weekend, but I was busy taking care of some other pressing matters.

On Saturday evening, my car once again returned home triumphantly on the back of a tow truck. The problem this time seems to be the transmission, so hopefully we�ll be able to get it fixed soon. Fortunately, it happened in the late afternoon, as I was returning from a job fair at work. Usually, I get home at 11:30 or so, which is a much worse time to have your car break down, as you can imagine.

I only mention this because some of the details surrounding the car�s breakdown and subsequent towing seem�to me, anyhow�to be an interesting asterisk related to Costa Rican cultural studies.

The car�s transmission got jacked as I was going down a hill, and I was fortunately able to take it out of gear and coast into a parking lot�a parking lot for a car dealership. After I called Angela to ask her to call the insurance company to request a tow, I started hanging around outside my car. I walked over to one of the employees working at the car lot, and apologized for leaving a broken car in front of his dealership, since I imagined it wouldn�t be great for business.

He said it was OK, that they were closing up anyhow, and that they were going to start bringing the cars �inside� soon (even used car dealers don�t leave their cars outside�such is the paranoia here regarding car theft). We talked a bit more and as it turns out, the guy was named Andr�s, and he lives in Llano Brenes. Llano Brenes is the town just down the road from Berl�n, and as far as I can tell, its claim to fame is a motocross track. I mentioned I was living in Berl�n, and we started talking more about cars.

This is the strange part. He asked me if I was thinking of trading in my car, and I said that I had ironically said to my wife the night before that I wanted to try to find a smaller car to save money on gas. He told me that RAV-4s�the car I have--were in demand, and that he could probably give me a good deal if I wanted to trade. Out of curiosity, I asked him how much I could get for my car which, being laid out in front of him, obviously wasn�t even in great working condition. The price he quoted me was $3,000 more than I paid for the car a year and a half ago.

I thought I�d misunderstood him, and had heard the price in thousands of dollars instead of millions of colones. I told him that the car had 150,000 kilometers on it, and I asked again. He said that was no problem, and told me the same price. I�ve done some investigation since then and apparently, cars here appreciate in value. I still cannot believe this, but everyone reassures me it�s true. And it�s not only got to do with inflation, because the prices converted to dollars also go up, as well.

For example, Angela�s dad�s car�a 1985 Toyota Land Rover--is now worth more than he paid for it when he bought it used three years ago. Also, a Toyota Yaris bought new in 2004 for $10,000 can now be had for $11,000 or even more.

Look, I don�t know shit about mechanics or economics, but should this really be happening? Anyone got a good explanation?

Before I left the lot, the guy even said he could give me a small, economic car like a Tercel or a Yaris as a trade-in for my RAV-4�and that he�d even throw in a Suzuki Sidekick or a Geo Tracker, so that I�d still have a four-wheel drive car if I needed it. Costa Rica is weird sometimes.

In any case, the tow truck driver arrived, and he brought the car to my house. As it turns out, he was from Palmares, and is probably some sort of cousin of Angela�s dad. Even before we knew that, though, Angela had invited him in for coffee and cookies. Johnny�the driver�s name�told us that he used to fix Angela�s family members� various cars, and then regaled us with stories about towing cars that Berl�n drunks had crashed into ditches.

Maybe to you, these events aren�t that interesting, but when I put them all together and take a step back for observation, it just makes me think, �Hmm, I guess that is a bit different than in the U.S.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

history of brittany course

In line with the association's main aim of making the history of Brittany accessible to anglophones, we are offering a course in 2009 in conjunction with the AIKB in Gouarec. There will be a taster day and then three days studying specific periods, with focus on special topics featuring individuals or themes that give a flavour of their time. There will be oral and written exercises using evidence and visual material. The objectives? To understand more of Brittany's past and present, and to have fun. Details are on the association website now.

Friday, 26 September 2008

More Elitism

I noticed just a day or two ago that this week�s Newsweek has a column by Sam Harris that follows a similar logic to my �Elitist� article the other day. The title is �When Atheists Attack,� which is a sort of poor title choice because it doesn�t reflect too well the content of the article. The sub-title is better: �A noted provocateur rips Sarah Palin�and defends elitism.�
Hmm, sounds a little like a description of an article I wrote just last week, right?
Actually, no. I�m definitely not �noted,� even in the most generous application of the word.
In any case, the article is actually quite good, and I�d recommend you take a look at it. Here my favorite lines:

�What is so unnerving about the candidacy of Sarah Palin is the degree to which she represents�and her supporters celebrate�the joyful marriage of confidence and ignorance.�
�When it comes to choosing the people whose thoughts and actions will decide the fates of millions, then we suddenly want someone just like us, someone fit to have a beer with, someone down-to-earth�in fact, almost anyone, provided that he or she doesn�t seem to intelligent or well educated.�

At least I�m not the only one out there thinking along these lines.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Quimper historical walk

Thanks to Karen for this account of our outing
We began our walk around Quimper, one of the oldest Breton cities, at the junction of the rivers Steir and Odet, taking a leisurely stroll along the north bank of the Odet admiring the many Passerelles. We then entered the Cathedrale St Corentin, a beautiful and gothic building constructed between the 13th-16th centuries. The cathedral has wonderful stained glass windows, we also admired the painting of Pere Maunoir being kissed by an angel which enabled him to speak Breton, I am sure many of us were hoping for a similar miracle, but it wasn't to be!! We then walked north and came to part of the old city wall which encloses the 'Jardin de la Retraite', a small garden filled with palms, banana trees and other plants. It was very peaceful and worth a visit. After the tranquility of the garden, we strolled along the bustling streets in Quimper, enjoying the architecture of the old buildings. Many of the shops have wonderful window displays of antiques, gifts, gateaux and chocolate - definitely need to go back and enjoy (and sample!) them at a more leisurely pace! The city has been vulnerable to flooding and some of the buildings close to the river Odet have plaques to indicate the levels to which the water has risen, in the last flood on 13th December 2000. Those of a petit stature should beware as water levels reached over 1.5m in places! We finished our walk by heading West along the South bank of the Odet past the famous Quimper pottery factories (and Biscuiterie!) to the Eglise et Prieure de Locmaria. In contrast to the Catherdral, this earlier building was much plainer, but if anything, more beautiful and atmospheric, definitely, my favourite. (Photo above taken in the cloister there.) Then to the Jardin Medieval next to the church for refreshments. The garden is symbolic of 'Paradis', a series of beds of herbs, fruits canes, arches, rose pergolas, and a fountain, interspersed with benches where you can sit and contemplate. A cup of juice and a delicious slice of bananaless banana cake, and Paradis was complete!

Karen W

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Book Your Flight And ... Remain Home

I just told you that I have to go in Russia from October 2 till 29. These are the dates today. But it was not always so. Here is my sad story about flight booking online.

Some months ago, precisely at the beginning of July or maybe at the end of June, I wanted to see if there are cheap tickets to go in Russia. I'm expert enough in this researches now and it was not so difficult for me to find the best offers. There were different possibilities from 150 till 600 and more euros. But one of them was INCREDIBLE. The direct flight with "Meridiana" from Naples to Moscow -you will not believe!- 92 euros and 86 back.

Could I say "No" to an offer like this? The offer was only for the period of September and October. In September we have some work in our garden, so I choose October. It was not good for me, in October our Lama, Lopon Tenzin Namdak will come in Milan to teach the last part of "The Heart Drops Of Dharmakaya" and I wanted to go there, but it was unpossible with this unique offer I had from "Meridiana"...

Well, about 2 weeks ago, in the middle of September I received a call from the company. The flights from Naples were cancelled, I have to go from Bologna. The flight is at... 6:55 in the morning. Or renounce on the flight.
Because the decision was taken 1 month before the flight, I can have any claim.

It's unpossible to find a ticket with reasonable price one month before the flight. First. So I had to look for the possibilities to go to Bologna. There are trains that come in Bologna at 3:13 in the night. But I couldn't take a bed there, because they do not allow to disturb passengers at that time. I could only have a sit. And than: how have I go to the airport at 3 in the night? Taxi do not answer when I write or call them.

I wanted to buy a ticket online but I made an error and noticed it only when I received the confirmation. It was unpossible to change this ticket online. And it was unpossible to change it in the railway station because I bought that ticket online. Nobody wanted to speak with me.

Now, my life became a horror. I have all tickets now. But I have to come in Bologna at 3:13 and fly in Moscow at 6:55. Trains in Italy never rispect timetable. It is perfectly possible that I will come in Bologna not at 3:13 in the night, but in the afternoon. I did not think about it when I bought the ticket. It said me the man in the railway station.

Do we want to count now how much costs my "very convenient" ticket?

Friday, 19 September 2008

Meet the Members (1)

Kay & Steve Attwell (pictured not in Brittany!)

We bought our house in Morlaix, in 2004, after I retired from the Fire Service after 30 years. I worked as a Crew Commander at Sunbury, Esher and Godstone. Kay is a self-employed stone mason and was the first female apprentice to enter the male dominated trade at the tender age of 16. Among her clients are the Duke of Devonshire and The National Trust. My only claim to fame is having played rugby at Twickenham and my Great Aunt is Mabel Lucie Attwell the children's book illustrator.
We chose Brittany for the varied countryside and rugged coastline. Our hobbies are diving and walking so for us it's ideal. We were fortunate enough to meet Wendy (Mewes) at Morlaix market and have enjoyed walking with her ever since. We both appreciate the very sociable outings with Brittany Walks and have discovered many stunning areas of Brittany by joining the guided walks. The homemade cakes are always scrumptious.

Thursday, 18 September 2008


Preparing for our Quimper event next week (Tuesday 23, 2.30pm by Tourist Office) when we will have a guided historical walk around this lovely city, taking in the riverside boulevards, the famous cathedral, bishop's palace, old medieval centre and fortifications, two interesting gardens and the pottery centre at Locmaria, also site of the oldest religious establishment. Quimper with its notable religious traditions, still retains the air of a rural centre, despite being the administrative capital of Finistere, with the green height of Mount Frugy above the city and flowery passerelles spanning the Odet.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

How People Live In Moscow

Continue my virtual walk around Moskow with the photos of the persons living in the capital. These are some views on everyday events there.

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Many -most maybe- persons pass different hours every day to go to the work and to turn back. From the house of my sister for example, she needs about an hour and a half to reach her work. About 40 minutes with metro till the center of the city.

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When youngs meet their friends they want to show how they are free from the rules and near to the culture of US ecc. Sitting on the street, on the grass near the street. Interesting that they don't do it near the houses in the "sleeping parts" of the city, I noticed.

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But in the parks in center you can find often these scenes:
It comes from "capitalist culture" too. "A sign of freedom". It seems to me, that I've never seen something like this many years ago when we visited the capital. But I'm not sure.

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River Moscow alows you to go from one side to other with this river-tram. I don't know if there are tourist river tours, but I think they have to exist.

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Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Final Part Of "K" Music Review

Hi there everybody!
As promised, here is the third and final part of my "K" music review:

When I was at the music store in Palmares, this album caught my attention straight off because of the doubling-up of K�s in the group�s name. It kept my attention when I noticed that many of the song titles were in Italian, and that the album seemed to have been produced in Germany. Hmm, could I have possibly stumbled on a bona-fide Fascist punk album tucked away in the middle of Central America? As it turns out, the album actually has a little badge on the back that says: �We support Cable Street Beat; Strictly Antifascist.� So, in terms of avoiding the moral implications that come with buying music that was literally made by Fascists, this was a good thing, but in terms of having interesting things to write about in a mock music review, this was a negative development.
Basically, this album appears to come from what seemed at first to me like a brilliant, unexplored genre: Continental-Eurotrash Punkrock! However, when I actually listened to the songs, I wasn�t as psyched. See, the songs actually are mostly in Italian, and I don�t know crap about Italian. If you couple that with the fact that I usually have trouble understanding song lyrics in any language, plus the fact that punk lyrics are nearly indecipherable anyhow, then you basically have a fairly loud album with a lot of unintelligible shouting.
The style is mainly a ska-ish style of punk; it�s not unlike an unpolished Ska-P, which is a Spanish ska band whose lyrics I also can�t understand. The songs on �International Soldier� are individually pretty decent, but after listening to 3 or 4 of them, it�s hard to tell if you�re still listening to �Me Wanna Change Le Monde,� or if you�ve moved on to �Tu Vieni Da Garageland.� By the end of the last track (�Oi! Fatti Una Risata��whatever the fuck that means), you just feel like putting on some good, old-fashioned Eurotrash Girliepop to cleanse the palate.
This album is best heard when played loudly over the speakers in a shitty Fiat on the way to an anti-fascist rally in Genoa featuring bad Clash cover bands and 1-Euro cups of grappa.

It has recently come to my attention that everyone named Ben is a good guy. Or, at least every Ben that I�ve ever heard of is. Maybe you have childhood stories about some asshole Ben who pinned you on the ground and dangled loogies over your face. If you do, I�ll thank you not to share them with me. But enough theoretical anecdotal evidence aside; let�s look at the facts:
-Ben Kingsley is a great actor, at least judging by �Gandhi� and �Sneakers,� the only two movies of his I�ve seen.
-Ben Schneider is a friend of mine, and he�s a great guy.
Good enough for me!
Also, on the musical front, Ben�s been kicking some ass. You�ve got Ben E. King, Ben Harper, Ben Folds, and Ben Kweller.
This self-titled album is actually Kweller�s third album, and it�s arguably his best. It�s also arguably his worst. How can this be, you ask? Well, Kweller�s style is all about putting out ditties that are solidly-enough rooted in rock to bring in the guys, but poppy and quirky enough to keep the girls from leaving mid-album. This has been the case for his three albums, and the resulting musical style seems to have remained consistent throughout. So, there are definitely songs that I like more than others, but they all generally fall into the category of �Sincerely Semi-Ironic Acoutsi-Pop� (Somebody get me a trademark for that term, stat!).
For evidence of this, just look at his album covers, and when you spy his curly brown mop-hair, you�ll know what I mean. For his first album, �Sha Sha� (a great album that my buddy Dustin turned me on to), Kweller�s wearing a Soviet-style fur cap with earflaps, and he�s even brushing his freaking teeth! To up the irony ante for album 2 (�On My Way�), Kweller had to actually be more subtle: He appears standing in the mountains, and he�s wearing cowboy boots and a sweater vest. Oh yeah, and he�s standing next to three wolves! (Or dogs that look like wolves�I�m not a freaking veterinarian). For the album �Ben Kweller,� his irony was already so thoroughly established that he just has a very simple torso-and-head shot. The only overtly ironic element is the red bandana around his neck, with the calculated effect being that it would be so lame that it would be cool again.
Wow, wasn�t I talking about music a minute ago?
OK, musically-speaking, this album is good. Unfortunately, I don�t think it�s quite as good as his first two albums. Of course, his style and playing has surely matured a bit, and maybe the lyrics on this one are as sophisticated as the ones on the others, if not more. But there are still a few songs that happily putter along without really shining, and there are also a few issues with his choice of lyrics.
The opening song, �Run,� begins with the words, �Over hills / over dales / I�ll run / to you.� This isn�t terribly enlightening to begin with, but in the song it actually sounds like he�s saying �Over here / over dere�� That may be a calculated cuteness, but it�s kinda stupid in the end. Also, the third song, �Sundress,� is just a downer to me for some reason. I know it picks up the tempo mid-song, but by then it�s too late. Sometimes, however, the goofy lyrics can work in Kweller�s�and the listener�s�favor, as in the song �Penny On The Train Track,� which opens with a bouncy, piano-infused beat and the line: �I�m-a just a penny on the train track, waiting for my Judgment Day / C�mon girl let me see those legs, before I get flattened away.�
All these critiques, however, overshadow the end result: this is definitely a good album that I would recommend to my friends. I just bring these points up to help. It�s called �Constructive Criticism.� Look it up.
If you see a Kweller album in the stores, grab it up. Also, I hear word that he�s got a new album called �Switching Horses� coming out, and if you happen upon it in that industrialized and audio-fied nation up north between Mexico and Canada, I�d be happy to hear what you think of it. He�s also great in concert (In the BK concert I went to, he opened with a solo, which was an acoustic guitar version of Vanilla Ice�s �Ice Ice Baby� with customized lyrics). And as a final note, many thanks to Bobby Majzler for giving me this album as a Christmas gift!

Well, folks, that�s about it for this edition. You don�t have to go home, but you can�t stay here. So in the meantime, listen to some music for me! --Ryan Sitzman

Monday, 15 September 2008

green ways

Canals have long provided easy long-distance walking paths across Brittany. Major projects in the last few years have now opened hundreds of kilometres of old railway tracks for walkers and cyclists. Routes from Roscoff to Concarneau and Carhaix to Le-Meen-Le-Grand provide a main axis in the west, with Carhaix taking its traditional place as the centre of a communications network. The concept is admirable, but there are drawbacks and the art of maintaining a balance between development and natural routes is always a fine one. Paths gravelled or even covered with tarmac make for ease of stride but do little to enhance the countryside, and fairly level standard width tracks often lined by tall trees cannot provide quite the same quality of walking experience as the coastal paths or chemins creux and open moorland trails of the infinitely varied Breton countryside. On the other hand, these green ways are a superb resource for straightforward physical exercise and for getting about Brittany, making forages into the wilder surroundings and settlements.
The association is preparing an up-to-date guide to the green ways now available - coming soon on the website (www.brittanywalks.com).

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Politics, Part 2 of 2: The Elite

I remember that during the last couple of elections, one of the things that people were talking about when discussing the presidential candidates was the question of which candidate they thought was more genuine and �down to earth.� One expression of this thought was the question, �Which candidate would you rather sit down and have a beer with?� Now, to me, this question is patently absurd. That�s the kind of criterion that you examine when you�re looking for a drinking buddy, not when you're electing the president of your freaking country!
Basically, though, over the last few election cycles the prevailing sentiment was that George W. Bush would be a better drinking buddy than either Al Gore or John Kerry (Nevermind the fact that Bush is a reformed alcoholic and supposedly doesn't drink anyway). Still, Kerry was seen by many to be out of touch, and he was sometimes called an �elitist,� which is a term that has now been tossed at Barack Obama, as well. Now, call me an old-fashioned relic or an imperialist bastard or whatever, but I want my presidents to be elitists. If I wanted a �regular, everyday guy� to run my country, I�d vote for my mechanic. And about 20 minutes after his inauguration, all that would be left of the country would be a giant, smoking hole. No siree, I want someone who is incredibly capable to run my country.
I�m a pretty nice guy. If you don�t believe me, ask anyone who knows me. I�m not a genius, but I�m not really that stupid, either. I actually have an MA, and I can speak three or four languages with a degree of coherency and fluency (and English is one of them). Still, the fact that I�m a nice, smart guy says nothing about my ability to become a president. The way I see it, I�m selling my country short if I vote for anyone who isn�t freaking amazing. Sure, the person I vote for can be nice, but they better be so smart that they just about have brains coming out of their ears. They better make me feel like a freaking assbrain in comparison. And I don�t care if my presidents speak condescendingly to me or if they prefer doing crossword puzzles to watching NASCAR, as long as they are really, really, really smart. Oh yeah, and they can�t be a disgusting hypocrites, either.
I�ve never really understood the point of politicians who try to lower themselves to the level of society�s Lowest Common Denominator. Indeed, a president is the leader of every citizen, whether that citizen is a billionaire genius like Bill Gates or a dipshit societal mooch like Kevin Federline. But that doesn�t mean that a presidential candidate should have to try to appear �folksy� just to get votes. Obviously, it�s necessary to have support throughout the broad spectrum of society in order to win an election, but shouldn�t a president be somewhat above that? Wouldn�t the ideal president be such an amazing, upstanding, and intelligent person, that the whole country would be proud to refer to him or her as one of the finest examples of its citizenry?
These are all just my thoughts, but to finish these musings and wrap up my two-part political special, I�d like to give my opinion on the current candidates and whether I�d like to drink a beer with him or her (after all, I�m still part of that earlier-mentioned Lowest Common Denominator that talks about this crap). For the vice-presidential picks, it�s a hard race to call. I have a feeling that Sarah Palin would probably have some interesting stories about�well, ice, I guess�but I can�t imagine that she and I would have that much in common to talk about. In fact, she might be the Anti-Sitzman. Joe Biden seems like he'd be kind of friendly in the right kind of circumstances, and I can actually imagine drinking a couple of beers with him, mainly �cause he�d lose track of the time. Plus, when I�d go to have a whiz, I�d return to find that he�d already paid the bill.
As for our possible future presidents, I honestly can�t imagine drinking a beer with John McCain. The only circumstance in which I could see this happening is if I were still underage, and I tried to get him or any other sufficiently old person to buy me a six-pack at the liquor store. And Barack Obama? Well, I can�t actually imagine drinking a beer with him, either. In fact, after getting slightly trashed with Joe Biden, we�d probably call up Obama, and even though it�d be like 2 AM, we�d ask Obama to come and give us a ride home in his Celica. Sure, he�d be pissed, he�d get annoyed when Biden and I would shout while arguing about whether Use Your Illusion I or II is better, and in the end Barack would probably give us a lecture on how we needed to grow up and be more responsible in the future. But still, he�d probably come through when you really needed him.
Maybe I�ll vote for him.

(Comic credit: "Get Your War On," by David Rees. More available at www.mnftiu.com. Interestingly enough, this one is from 4 years ago.)

Continuation of "K" Music Review

Hi Everyone,
Well, my brother has his "D" music review finished, and it's up on his site. You can read it by clicking on this link. It's pretty good, despite the Celine Dion (ha ha!).
And, not that you're necessarily interested, but here is the second part of my latest music review, for the letter "K." The rest of it can be read at www.ryansitzman.com, or in a few days, when I post the final part.

Of the four albums reviewed here, this is the second best. I�m pretty sure Keane is popular somewhere, but I�m also pretty sure that �somewhere� is not Costa Rica. So when I saw the CD in the store, I recognized the group�s name, but I didn�t know what type of music they sang. Interestingly enough, as I was putting this album onto my i-tunes, I realized that I already had an entire Keane album, �Under The Iron Sea.� I actually don�t know where that came from, but for some reason I think my brother Paul may have had the CD in Colorado, and I indiscriminately added it to my hard drive when I was there. As a result, the musical style sounded vaguely familiar the first time I listened to this CD.
In fact, �vaguely familiar� is a very good description of Keane. Ronny, the guy who owns the (only) music store in Palmares, described the group as �Britpop,� and said it was like Coldplay. Fortunately, it�s not too similar to Coldplay, because I don�t like Coldplay. There, I said it. I believe Paul and I talked about this before, but it seems like we agreed that both Coldplay and �hardcore� Coldplay fans are only slightly better than mediocre. That�s too bad, because basically everyone likes Coldplay (except me and my brother, it would seem). For me, Coldplay is like jazz: for some reason, you have to like both to be considered acceptable by the majority of poseurs in the western world, but in the end, both types of music will leave your ears as well as your musical soul feeling sonically underwhelmed. So, I suppose that if Coldplay ever releases a jazz album, I�ll be royally fucked.
But hey! This isn�t a Coldplay review. It�s a Keane review. Like I said, �Hopes & Fears� delivers the goods, and it does so in a relatively unpretentious way. And�I�m sorry, but I can�t resist drawing a comparison between Keane and yet another British band�it�s easy to sit back and relax while listening to this album, and to think, �Hey, Travis has still got it!� Because basically, Travis and Keane are just two different flavours of the same Limeypop. Not that that�s bad. When my votes are counted, �Under the Iron Sea� is better than �Hopes & Fears,� but both are better than most Travis albums. I guess that every Keane needs its Travis, just like every Nolte needs his Busey, and just like every Denzel needs a sad, sad Snipes. (A similar effect has been described in both the Malkovich/Lithgow Theorem and the Bateman/O�Connell Postulate).
Oh, and the last song on the album, �Bedshaped,� sounds like a song by a Pink Floyd that was trying to get in touch with its sensitive side.
So, I guess all British music is basically the same, yeah?
This CD is best listened to if you ever find yourself smack-dab in the middle of an emotional breakup scene in the second season of Smallville (or any TV show from the WB, for that matter).

Oh, freaking KISS. I have to admit that while I went into this review with a previous bias against KISS, I nevertheless tried to keep an open and positive mindset when listening to this album. After all, I did like a few KISS songs--like�Rock and Roll All Nite��when I was in high school. But remember, I went to high school in the late 1990s, and that was a time when people liked all sorts of shit from the 1970s, for whatever reason.
In college, however, I gradually moved into the anti-KISS camp, and my status there was solidified by conversations with my friend Andy Parsons about how much KISS sucked. I don�t really remember why he hated KISS so much, but it seemed to make sense at the time.
Generally-speaking, then, I remained contra-KISS until last Christmas, when I read Fargo Rock City and a few other great books by Chuck Klosterman, who is an adamant KISS lover. That sort of awakened my curiosity, since I admire Klosterman�s writing style and his musical opinions (He has a great snippet in one book about how a Radiohead album foretold the events of September 11th). Around that same time, I also noticed that there were strong societal undercurrents based on admiring and obsessing about KISS. This love is evidenced by the strange phenomenon of the �KISS Army.� You know, I�m just doing some impromptu thinking here, but Costa Rica hasn�t had an army since 1948, and many Americans--especially KISS fans�really like their guns�Let�s just hope that the KISS Army never goes in search of a defenseless country on which to perform a military coup and establish their new homeland.
Um�where was I? Oh yeah, so I thought, �Maybe KISS isn�t that bad.� Unfortunately, that thought was wrong. KISS kind of sucks, when it comes down to it. I know that the standard argument against them is that they�re basically a bunch of dumb, brutish S&M clowns that can�t play their instruments or write intelligent lyrics to save their lives. I also know that the standard counter-argument to this idea is that a viewpoint like that is elitist and snobbish, and that music isn�t about intelligence, it�s about evoking a feeling. My personal take on KISS is that they�re dumb, brutish S&M clowns that actually can play their instruments and write lyrics, but the songs and lyrics that they write, although supposedly rocking or shocking, are actually just dull. The two times that I tried slogging through this album while driving in my car gave me two of the most boring, mundane, and restless commutes that I�ve experienced in a long time.
Oh, by the way, here�s a brief commercial pause, paid for by one of our sponsors:
So, we�re back. This album is best when listened to the volume turned really low, with some good music playing loudly to drown it out.


Famously mispronounced by Americans as Clove-ly, Clovelly lies on the North Devon coast between Hartland and Westward Ho! It is a privately owned village estate and as such an entrance fee is payable as you pass through the visitors centre. �15 for a family ticket (the woman on the desk agreed with me that family tickets should be for three children, but alas they are only for two.) So we paid for an extra child. We also collect two Fun Trail quizes. Oh no! I thought, not more questions we have to search for the answers to instead of just wandering around and enjoying ourselves, but this quiz proved to be both informative and Fun - just like it said on the tin.
I used to come to Clovelly often as a child (you didn't have to pay then), and it has changed little, but I saw places today that I have never seen before. And that was thanks to the quiz. There is a Fishermans Cottage set up as it would have been 100 years ago, complete with old fisherman to direct you to the correct places to look for the answers to the questions. And just next to this is Charles Kingsley's cottage, complete with Charles Kingsley (only a model this time). This cottage is where he lived whilst writing the book Westward Ho!

Clovelly is largely a pedestrian only zone and as you can see from the photo the walk up and down from Visitors Centre to Harbour is along steep cobbled streets. The residents of Clovelly use sledges to transport goods around, and donkeys, and the donkeys are around for the obligatory tourist shots and on certain days for people to ride. Today was their day off.
When we reached the harbour we stopped for an ice cream. There is a pub/hotel at the bottom of the hill and many people were sat along the Quay in the sunshine today drinking beer and wine. That seemed like a good idea to me but my husband was still suffering from a night out with the boys. So we strolled along the Quay walls while I had several small heart-attacks envisioning my children falling off the side, then headed for the long walk back up the hill.
Once back in the Visitors Centre we went to watch the 20 minute introductory video we probably should have watched at the beginning of our visit. I actually found it better this way around as we were shown things we were much better off discovering by ourselves. The video, narrated by Joss Ackland, a resident of Clovelly, answered some of the quiz questions we'd missed out. The quiz was then handed in to the desk, where the children were awarded their prize. I was convinced this would only be a small portion of chocolate by the children were allowed to choose from a selection of small toys. My youngest chose a bouncy ball and the middle one a hanging star mobile thing to put in her room. I was dead impressed. All in all Clovelly is definately worth a visit.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

day in the life of Brittany Walks

Fairly typical day of association business today: answering email messages from members, making arrangements for the History of Brittany course we are offering in 2009, writing publicity material, preparing the Autumn/Spring programme for printing, listing items for inclusion in the October bulletin, writing out recipes for the booklet we are publishing before Xmas. That was the morning. This afternoon, an exploratory walk to check if a route is suitable for the group for future inclusion in the programme. Yes, it is!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Politics, Part 1 of 2

Oh man, politics are terrible.
I think that�s a statement that few people would disagree with, regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum. So far, I�ve been trying to keep this blog free of politics, partly because it gets people riled up and annoyed, and that doesn�t work for this blog; Sitzblog is a uniter, not a divider. Also, the other reason I don�t mention politics much is because�let�s face it�it�s pretty boring to read about politics. So I�ve generally tried to machete-carve a different path through the blogosphere jungle, but for this post and one that will go up in a few days, I�m going to roll up my sleeves, get my hands dirty, use some tired clich�s, and talk about politics.
I have to admit that McCain�s vice-presidential pick, Sarah Palin, has at least gotten people talking. Or that�s what it seems to me. I haven�t actually watched a TV news show since�well, for months and months. I also missed Palin�s apparently electrifying RNC speech, which I guess lit a fire under both Republican and Democrat asses. I get basically all of my news about the U.S. through the internet media, and there are inherent advantages and disadvantages to that. One of the advantages, though, is that the delivery of eloquently-written and fired-up speeches is largely lost, and only the written content and ideas remain. As a result of this, I have begun to favor Obama, while at the same time I�ve begun to seriously question the veracity of McCain and the competence of Palin.
Let me explain this in an roundabout way. I have been continually amazed over the selling points of Palin, which basically all seem to revolve around three ideas, namely, that she: 1) is a working mother; 2) is a lifelong member of the NRA; 3) apparently can kill and butcher a moose. Somehow, all of these three points are supposed to illustrate that she�s a capable leader who is still �in-touch with the common people.� To me, however, she seems a bit like my mom�if my mom were bat-shit insane and had access to a large arsenal of hockey sticks and guns, both of which she would use to kill moose. Now that I think about it, I still don�t believe that my mom would make a good vice-president (Sorry, mom, but I love you just as you are, and I wouldn�t want you to be "changed" by Washington!), but she would probably be as good as�or even better than�Sarah Palin.
As to the other two gun-and-moose related points, all I have to say is this: If John McCain is elected president, there�s a very real possibility that he wouldn�t finish an 8- or even 4-year term. He�s statistically in the danger zone, health-wise, and if you couple that with the fact that a good number of presidents haven�t lived to see the inauguration of their successor, then you should probably start becoming concerned. Do you really think that she�s qualified to be our president? If so, then vote McCain-Palin. But be sure you can confidently answer a few questions: Sure, Palin can shoot and field dress a moose, but can she do that with an unruly foreign dictator? Sure, she�s mildly attractive in a Republican, if-that�s-what- you�re-into type of way, but she still can�t hold a candle to the Ukranian prime minister, hottie Yulia Tymoshenko (Shown in the picture on the right...her hair reminds me of a delicious bread). And finally, sure, Palin flip-flopped and was against a bridge to nowhere after she was for it, but technically, isn�t all of Alaska basically considered �nowhere�?
All of these questions should be on the mind of the nation, but especially on the minds of Republicans. About 10 years ago, I held no political affiliation, but I personally leaned towards a sort of Traditional, Green Social-Conservo-Democrat-Islamofascit political outlook (I include the �Islamofascist� part because it�s a word that's so hilariously ridiculous and overblown that it makes me chuckle every time I hear it). In the 2000 election, I probably would have voted for McCain, had he been the Republican candidate. I was also one of those who said that if Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination, I would vote for McCain. But after seeing the woman that John McCain thinks is the most qualified person in the entire country to take over power should he die, I now realize that he�s just as crazy as she is.

By the way, if, like me, you happen to be living abroad during this coming election, then there�s still a good chance you can cast a ballot. Follow this link to the Federal Voting Assistance Program to find more details about having the last state and county you resided in mail your ballot to you. I did it, so we�ll see if the democratic process�as well as international postal service�really works.
(Tymoschenko photo credit: www.ukraine-observer.com)

wild wet walking

The Monts d'Arr�e are best seen in wild weather. Yesterday the association outing of 14 courageous individuals braved heavy rain to view the neolithic all�e couverte at Mougau Bihan, but chickened out of walking the Korrigan trail on planks through the marshes. We went to my house for coffee instead. Once fortified with cake in traditional Brittany Walks style we ventured out again, having a short walk at Le Relec and visiting the 12th century abbey church before going on to meet Dartmoor ponies on the moorland of the Landes de Cragou. The theme of the day was landscape (landes et tourbi�res, moor and marsh) and man's earliest traces in this distinctive region, the highest hills in Brittany. We finished at the menhirs of Pont-an-Illis. The name ('the bridge of the church') recalls a legend of St-Conven whose followers attempted to build a church between the two menhirs but found their work destroyed during each night. Finally a statue of the saint was put on an ox cart and the beasts allowed to wander where they would. At the final stopping point, the new church was built. They were clearly patient animals, as the current position of Plougonven indicates.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Moscow Seen By Non-Politics -My Virtual Trip

I was tired to listen and to hear all these political stupidities and decided to look at the photos made by the persons living in Moscow. Than I thought you could be interested to make this virtual trip with me and post here some of the photos I like. I have photos I made a year ago too, but I wanted to see this city with the eyes of it's residents.

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Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Places To Live In

Linkinn.com (where are these photos from) is one of my favourite sites. I find there often very interesting photos that remember me something interesting or -as in this case- something like a dream. I wrote often that I'm surprized where the persons can live. In the last period I wrote about Salerno. The old town is based on the walls build in the Roman times.

Here you can see other interesting solutions. Would you like to live in a place like this all your life? It's difficult that the residents can/could have the modern education for their children or to have great earnings. These are Houses on stilts at Fisherman�s Point, Orinoco Delta, Venezuela.

Here we are in Town of Koh Pannyi Phand, Nga Nay, Thailand. Incredible, mmm? Some days ago I've seen a documentary where in the houses like these there were hen-houses and gardens too.

But this is a real dream. The Corcovado overlooking the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This is the best photo of this city I've ever seen.

"What to see before you die"... as publicity writes.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Braunton Burrows

After our meal at the Williams Arms yesterday a brisk walk was in order. So we took the turning just opposite the pub and followed signs to Braunton Burrows and Crow Point. The Burrows is the largest sand dune system in England and is an SSSI, National Nature Reserve and a UNESCO biosphere reserve. There are several different ways to access it but the easiest is to follow the toll road. It cost �1.50 for cars. The single lane road is a mile and 1/4 long and is full of speed bumps but is well worth it for the amount of wildlife you can spot. We saw a white bird we didn't know the name of, moorhens, swans, ducks, and a heron, all in the stream that follows the road.

Once you reach the car park you can either climb the sand ridge over onto the beach or follow the boardwalk for a stroll through the dunes to the same beach but further out towards the estuary. We chose option 2. The landscape in the burrows is very strange with lumps and bumps everywhere. Lots of different vegetation grows. We particularly like the evening primrose. There were bumble bees darting in and out of flowers and lots of different species of butterfly flitting around.
And the beach there are fantastic views across to Appledore and over to Westward Ho! We followed the beach out towards the sea for a while then headed inland again to try the adventure of finding our way back to car park without using the boardwalk. We did eventually manage it and all that up-hill-and-down-dale effort was worth it for the photos I took. I'll post some of these on my PhotoJournal blog tomorrow - just follow the link.