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Archive for September, 2010

September 29th, 2010

The English Had London, The French Had Paris, And The Germans Had…Er…Lots of Castles…

Germania:
In Wayward Pursuit of Germans and their History
by Simon Winder

I have this in my iPad book library and the biggest thing it’s taught me so far is how absolutely pathetic my grade school history lessons were.  The history of Europe in the middle ages I was taught, was exclusively that of England, and not really very much of that.  We didn’t get to the rest of Europe until the Renaissance and even that didn’t cover much of Europe.  I knew nothing of this thing called The Holy Roman Empire (which actually bore very little relationship to the Roman Empire of the Cesars) until I started reading this book.

I’m finding that individuals engaged in a personal exploration of their world tell a Much more satisfying tale of history then academics, although their accounts need to be paid attention to as well.  That “street level view” of history often provides you with so many little telling details the high level view does not.  Case in point being Sebastian Haffner’s Defying Hitler, which just completely floored me as to how little I really knew about that period of time, despite having World War II history drummed into me throughout my childhood in school and on TV, in comic books and the movies.

In this case, Winder, an Englishman who became fascinated by Germany for somewhat different reasons then I did (I, after I reconnected with my first high school crush who is German, Winder after his father took his family to the Continent one vacation and he had his eyes opened to a whole ‘nother world), tells us about the history he meticulously, even obsessively uncovered for himself.  And we sense that history in his retelling of it as one interesting or puzzling or amazing discovery after another after another after another.  Text books so often, and tragically, kill that sense of learning something new as an adventure.

His book engages you.  But also, and this is what makes a personal reading of history so worthwhile, you see how digging up the history of another land and its people brings him some insights on the history of his own native land for him. So here in this book I am getting insights into both German and British people and their histories and their relationship past and present to each other.  A different teller would tell it a tad differently, but still authentically, and that would give you, the reader, a few more telling details that the high level histories would have overlooked, because that is not where they go.

I’m glad I stumbled on this book.  Yes, sometimes Winder tries a little too hard to be humorous and it comes off just flippant.  But better that then dry and boring.  And he’s completely wrong about German food.  At least what makes it across the ocean here is just wonderful.  But I suppose that’s true of all local eats.  The lousy stuff tends to get left back home.

And…gosh…I can’t believe I went through a pretty decent U.S. public school education and walked out still being so ignorant of so much history.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

September 14th, 2010

Calling Professor Nordheim and Smitty…Calling Steve Zodiac…

The space age may end up looking like I used to think it would after all

NASA is looking hard at a way to blast spacecraft horizontally down an electrified track or gas-powered sled and into space hitting speeds of about Mach 10. The craft would then return and land on a runway by the launch site.

The rail launcher, known Advanced Space Launch System is one of a few new launch systems a team of engineers from Kennedy Space Center and several other NASA centers are looking at that would use existing cutting-edge technologies to offer the space agency a next generation launcher to the stars, NASA stated.

Ah…  Just like us space cadet kids always knew it would be…

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

September 13th, 2010

Eating At The MacDonalds In London…

Atrios wonders about something I’ve been shaking my head at since chain store and restaurant shopping took over America…

I certainly don’t claim to have my finger on the pulse of the American consumer, but recession issues aside I’m puzzled by the apparent belief by developers and retail experts that when people travel to tourist locations what they really want to do, most of all, is visit the same shops that they can visit in any high end mall all over the country. Maybe they’re right. What do I know?

They’re right, but here’s what you know: if all you want from travel is what you already have at home, then all you’re doing is spending money, running out the clock on your life, and getting nothing at all out of it.

Back in 2002 in a post of travel notes I wrote, “You didn’t come all this way for another Big Mac.” Apparently a lot of people do however.   They’re not just wasting their vacations, they’re wasting their lives.  Several years ago some friends of mine took me on my first ever trip outside the country, to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and I will be forever grateful that they decided on staying in the old part of town and not the newer touristy one.  Swear to god on the way into town from the airport I saw a Chili’s and my jaw dropped a little.  What the hell does Mexico want with one of those??? But of course, it was the Yankee tourists who wanted it there.  We ate at the Chili’s in Puerto Vallarta…it felt So Authentic!

Whatever…

Puerto Vallarta was Beautiful…

Just Beautiful…

Very Beautiful…

Er…yes…

Just imagine all the fun I could have had, shopping at all the same stores I can shop in at home, and eating out in all the same restaurants I can eat at in the Towson Town Mall.

There should be an international convention that bars chain restaurants and stores from crossing boarders.  I would be in favor of  a constitutional amendment banning them from crossing state lines too.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Eating At The MacDonalds In London…

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