Travel Thursday Encore: Or as Michael Jordan calls it, the Louie, part 2

Archaeology edition.

Not wanting to face another embarrassment for a while, she led me toward the archaeology stuff. She knew I was far more expert at such things, but at least they weren’t open to as much interpretation as art.
She hoped.
We found ourselves in the Near Eastern Gallery after a while of wandering. It was rather dark in there, but when we approached a black stela in the middle of the hall, I recognized it instantly. I quickly left her behind and moved to it, the joy evident in my movements.
When she joined me again, she read the French explanation next to it. “Code of Hammurabi.” Then she looked up at the phallic-shaped piece of black basalt and said, “Not much to look at, is it?”
“I’m surprised you aren’t more excited to see it, considering how much of a feminist you are.”
Again she had her mouth open to speak, then decided not to provoke me and get the lecture over with. She moved her hands into position as if holding a pen and pad. “Go ahead; I’m all ears.”
Since I am always aware of my surroundings, I knew that at the moment we were alone and thus allowed my hand to land on the shapely hip encased in the blue dress. “Not ALL ears.”
She grinned and shook her head, but didn’t say what she obviously wanted to say.
“Hammurabi was an eighteenth century B.C. king of Babylonia–he’s the bearded one standing here with the god of justice–who wrote this code, which is one of the most significant legal documents in history. According to this code, women had many of the same rights as men: own property, have their own businesses, and work as scribes, which was a big thing back then, not like today when writers are treated like a lower life-form. It also stated that the strong should not subjugate the weak and gave protection to widows and orphans.”
The brunette grinned yet again. “Is that all, professor?”
I gave her a dark look, then continued at full speed so as to overwhelm her. “Most of the other laws were pretty harsh, although technically they weren’t laws at all. It was more the literary expression of his social responsibilities and his awareness of the disparity between the way things are and the way he wants them to be.”
Her eyes became either dreamy or bored, so after a quick pause for breath I kept going.
“The stela itself is written in cuneiform, in the Semitic language, covering 49 lines of writing. On the front is a prologue, 65 laws that are easily read–” She leaned forward. “–if you know cuneiform, of course.” She blushed and moved back to her original position. “There are another 40 laws on the front that are almost illegible.”
This time she saw my pause for breath and quickly got a word in. “If you can’t read them, how do you know what they say?”
I glared at her. “Next time raise your hand like a good girl.” She actually turned and looked around before remembering we weren’t in a classroom, but by that time I had continued. “This is not the only copy of the laws; others were found later in Nippur and Nineveh. On the back are 183 other laws and the epilogue.”
She suddenly looked intrigued. “Can you read this?”
“No.”
Which made her completely lose interest, typical model.

;o)

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Travel Thursday Encore: Or as Michael Jordan calls it, the Louie, part 1

Bosch edition.

Today on Travel Thursday, we have a semi-virtual tour of my favorite parts of the Louvre, that gigantic building in Paris that houses the coolest stuff in all of France, with commentary by a mysterious (in her own mind) dark-haired model.
I helped the supposed damsel out of the taxi and then handed the driver a bigger sum than he would have expected, tip included. The man returned part of it and said something in French, which made her blush and say “Merci.”
After the driver left, she turned to see me grinning. With her mouth open to answer, I shook my head. “Never mind, I understood perfectly.”
She blushed again.
Since she was a simple girl who made more money than she knew what to do with, I let her pay the entrance fee. Once inside she turned to me. “Do you want to wander like we did in the Hermitage, or go straight for the Mona Lisa?”
Grimace. “I want nothing to do with that pathetic work. I think we should just wander. . . after I check out Bosch’s Ship of Fools.”
She sighed. “Somehow I’m not surprised.” When I frowned, she hastened to add, “Because of Bosch, not because you’re a fool.”
I shook my head at her, as if not convinced.
As had been our custom in the other museums we’d seen together, we stared at a painting we both liked for a good while before discussing it. On the surface Ship of Fools was easy enough to look at, though you could never be sure at the deeper meanings Bosch intended. It consisted of a tiny boat on some body of water, obviously a small one because of the trees growing out of it. There were two naked men swimming alongside, one holding an empty bowl while the other seemingly tried to get aboard. There were eight people on the boat: one was lying at the front, trying to raise a flask cooling in the water, while another was either attempting to talk him out of it or telling him to hurry it up. {It’s hard to tell if that one’s male or fem, but since it was holding a cup in its hand and looking impatient for the flask, we assumed it was a guy.} There was another figure looking down over the edge of the stern, which consisted of an old tree branch as the rudder; in the center, to the back, was a fat man with an arm raised and mouth open as if doing opera. And the central part was dominated by four people bobbing for a piece of bread hanging before their faces. One of these was a monk, and another was a lute-playing nun.
There were two more figures in the painting: a small man dressed as a joker, drinking from a bowl while sitting in the upper branches of the rudder, and a man up in the tree the ship had bumped into, trying to liberate the plucked body of an unlucky fowl that had been strapped to the mast.
“Rather easy to figure out,” she smirked as we sat down where we could still see it and discuss it without being shushed. “Bosch is obviously telling everyone, including those in the church, to lighten up and enjoy life.”
I would have usually agreed with such a statement about Bosch, but this time logic did not fit. “Why did he title it Ship of Fools, then?”
She had her mouth ready for an answer, then shut it and frowned, obviously thinking about it. Soon enough she pouted, “Well, what other explanation is there?”
“It could be he was warning the people about such fools. For instance, he could be angry at the way certain members of the religious orders abuse their influence. Those people are supposed to be noble and in the service of their god, but they waste their time singing and goofing off and are just as much gluttons as the rest of the people. They might have been the televangelists of their day.”
She smiled, admitting it was possible. “But then he would have made them suffer a bit, like he did in the Hell of the Garden of Delights.”
“He did. Didn’t you see the guy at the rear of the boat, the one leaning over the side, throwing up?”
She frowned again–I hope she wasn’t worried about wrinkles–and got up to make sure I was telling the truth. When she came back she seemed very contrite. “Are you going to tell me I missed something else, or can I say it’s unusual to see a Bosch painting without animals or demons?”
“Ha! You missed the owl in the tree.”
She frowned again, got up again, and walked over to the painting again. This time she did not sit back down on her return, instead grabbing my arm and hauling me up before leading me out of the room and on to another part of the museum. Some of the onlookers chuckled at her antics, especially when I grabbed the doorjamb as if to avoid being led to the slaughter, but this only inspired one guy to say, “I would go anywhere that woman wanted to drag me to.”
She blushed again.
But of course I could never leave well enough alone. “I thought you were dragging me to the ladies’ room for a quickie.”
Thanks for the set-up! her smile beamed. “Pierre. . . cuz my bladder’s empty.”
I poked her in the stomach to see if this was indeed the case, causing her to yelp loud enough to grab the attention of everyone in the next room. Fortunately she was already through the doorway, and made a quick left into the hall. I followed at a more sedate pace, not caring what people I was never going to see again thought.

;o)

Book Reviews: Road trip to the Moon

RoadTrip America Arizona & New Mexico: 25 Scenic Side Trips
As the title tells ya, here’s side trips off what can be boring landscapes along the main throughways, in a vehicle the author named the Dirty Queen. Sounds like an oxymoron, but okay.
The first part features side trips off Interstate 10, which is a great idea, as long stretches of this road can lull you to sleep, especially when driving.
Some highlights:
Carlsbad Caverns is an oldie but goodie.
For Roswell there’s a green alien dressed as a mariachi playing a trumpet. That’s an image I’ll never get out of my head, thanks a lot.
I feel an urge to go see the world’s largest pistachio. . . right now!
The thing about the spelling of “chile” and Texas was hilarious.
Spaceport is cool, but not for four hours, as I recall. I’d rather spend that time at the cliff dwellings.
The Coronado Scenic Trail byway looks like just the thing to make me throw up, but if you like roller coasters, this one’s free.
Given a choice between photographing hoodoos and the Shootout at the OK Corral. . . well, I think the choice is obvious. I do find it hilarious that the Tombstone newspaper is called “The Epitaph.”
I need to go see Oak Creek Canyon NOW!
I’ve traveled extensively through both states, and this book told me about places I haven’t seen, and now want to visit. For that alone this book is worth the money.
4/5

Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon
There are some really long bios on the astronauts, which start interesting but drag far too long. Makes it feel like a standard bio, but I suppose the title should have warned me. Everything that happened to bring the astronauts’ lives to the launch is important, but it’s still at about the halfway point of the book, when the massive rocket actually takes them into space, that things really get interesting. . . just like in real life, I suppose.
I do like that there’s so much here about the wives in the time up to and including the launch, even more so than the astronauts themselves, with their macho “I’m not scared” attitude.
At this point it turns from biography to something more akin to a very technical science fiction novel.
In the middle of the flight the author pauses for a chapter on how the year 1968 had gone, musically as well as politically and socially. I guess it resonated with me because it’s the year I was born, though of course I don’t remember it. RFK was assassinated only a month before my birth, not far from where my parents lived, and as someone who enjoys counterfactuals—what ifs—it’s easy to speculate what might have happened: no Nixon presidency. On the other hand, there’s no way to gauge how far civil rights would have gone if MLK hadn’t been shot. The chapter mentions the Beatles and Stones, but at the end there’s Jimi Hendrix’s version of All Along The Watchtower, and put in this perspective, the lyrics hit home like never before.
It’s a tough road, but if you make it through the first half there’s plenty of reward. Definitely think said first half could have been shorter.
Such a poignant way to end it. . .
3.5/5

Eric Stanton & the History of the Bizarre Underground
I enjoy finding out about new artists, and here’s one I had no idea existed.
Right off I can say there’s lots of bondage drawings and comic strips amongst biographic text. Bettie Page shows up, as kinda expected. Exactly halfway through Spiderman gets makes an appearance.
To be honest, it feels like this artist is being celebrated more for longevity than any special artistry. This book is kinda fringe, good for the people interested in the subject. I wasn’t as much as I thought I would be, so I didn’t find it that entertaining in the end.
2.5/5

The Life and Times of Sherlock Holmes: Essays on Victorian England, Volume Two
This book basically takes one small item from a Holmes story and makes a small lecture out of it, but doesn’t really have anything to do with Sherlock. Each small entry feels like something out of the Sherlock Holmes Encyclopedia (which I proudly own) or wiki; in fact, according to the notes at the end of each chapter, some of the information down here is indeed gathered from Wikipedia.
Three of the first five essays cover sports.
While not putting down the research work that went into making each article, much more info could be found by a simple internet search. One can imagine the author never running out of topics in which to write these very short treatises, as only a mention in a Holmes story is required for inclusion.
3/5

National Parks of the USA
This book is geared for kids, but has plenty of info for the adult as well, starting with a brief history of how the park system came about.
After a map showing the locations in the east, each park gets a few pages, the first a stylized poster-like painting, followed by stats and facts. The same scenario is then played out with the central, southwest, Rocky Mountains, and West, although the Virgin Islands seems to be misplaced. At the end is an A-Z of animals and an index, as well as a plea to help protect the parks.
It’s pretty to look at, and the information is nicely presented. I’m not happy with the font, which looks kinda like italics but tougher to read, but everything else was well done.
4/5

;o)

Travel Thursday Encores

To my surprise, someone asked me why I stopped doing my Travel Thursday blogs. Very simple answer: I ran out of stories! And due to some health issues in the family I have not traveled for almost two years now, so no new content. I had tried squeezing some more juice out of trips I didn’t blog much about, like the last one to Jordan, but that always takes a back burner to other stuff.
So instead I’m going to repost some of the old travel blogs, since there are a lot of new subscribers since then. The first few are from a trip about six years ago, when I was hired to shoot a number of places in Morocco and Tunisia, including some of the places where scenes from the original Star Wars were shot. But the first post is about where I first landed. . .

Took Iberian Airlines from Los Angeles to Madrid, the same airline I’ll be using to go to Marrakesh after an afternoon and night in the Spanish capital. This was my first time on this airline, and was pleasant enough, without any problems but lacking the outright lusciousness of Icelandair or Air New Zealand. The flight attendants seemed more peppy than most I’ve seen on a transcontinental/transatlantic flight.
Knowing I had that much time in Madrid, I knew I would immediately toodle over to the Prado museum, because I’d be visiting yet again my favorite painting in the world, Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. It’s like visiting an old friend. Before leaving I once again went through one of my favorite possessions, a giant book that has page after page of incredible closeups of the famous painting, revealing things you can’t see when you’re standing in front of the real thing, though of course it’s even more awesome being in its presence. I still remember picking this book up for about 50 American cents at a used book store a couple of blocks from the Academia San Carlos in Mexico City, then sitting in the Alameda for over an hour, simply flipping through and making delighted sounds that no doubt kept the tourists, locals, and especially the pancake vendors away from my bench.
But as I said, nothing beats seeing it in person, even when you stand there contemplating it for what seems like hours and people jostle for a better look, though careful to avoid me. For once I’m glad I look menacing. . .

;o)

Voting Booth

At first I thought this was just a silly little thing, especially once I saw the other side, but then I glanced at the handout from the “Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum of Assemblage Sculpture,” (outside Joshua Tree) saw it was called “Voting Booth,” and got hit with the a-ha moment.

IMG_0603 IMG_0604 IMG_0605

;o)

Travel Theme: Orange

Orange is the new orange, according to our fearless leader Ailsa. By far my fave color.

Hi, Lily!

Hi, Lily!

The windup, and the pitch. . .

The windup, and the pitch. . .

 

fingerpainted fish

fingerpainted fish

After Midnight, LACMA

After Midnight, LACMA

double vision

double vision

Portland bloodshot

Portland bloodshot

 

So, two shots in the state of Oregon. . . weird.

 

;o)