Monday, June 28, 2010

Rome, Italy

I spent two fast, wonderful, and tiring days in Rome.  It is indeed a beautiful city- mostly old and rarely new.  Flew over business class (nice) and back in coach (not so nice, but I slept most of the way).  I gained two new friends, and enjoyed spending time with an old friend.  Through the generosity of one of my new friends, we were able to stay in a very nice apartment directly across the street from the Vatican.  It was less than a block to the entrance of the Vatican Museum.  We toured the city, with Simona as our guide.  Being from Italy, she knew the city and shepherded us from one site to another.   On the first day, at the Trevi fountain, we ran into two of the flight attendants from our flight over.  It was enjoyable to connect with them in the midst of a crowd of tourists.  We ate wonderful Italian food, and enjoyed gelato.  We spent time walking through St. Peters and taking in the museum.  St. Peters is large and beautiful.  I realized that it is a church that honors mostly those who served the church, rather than about spirituality.  Unfortunately, many of my interior photos did not come out as good as I would have liked.  We toured the Sistine Chapel and I took a few clandestine photos of the famous Michelangelo ceiling frescoes.   There is a bit of what seems to me to be ghoulish in Roman Churches.  Bodies and skeletons are encased below alters.  Not sure why it’s necessary but in some cases it seemed liked Madame Tussaud’s without the admission fee. 

The wealth of the church is no more in evidence than in Rome.  From its gold leaf to its gold chalices, it reeks of worldly wealth.  I kept thinking of those who died in order for the church to accumulate all that it has, and how those starving the world would look upon the church’s booty. 

The city of Rome is very interesting.  I could see no signs that anything new has been built in the recent past.  I started to take pictures of the buildings thinking that I would run out of historic places to photograph.  In truth, I could take photos for a week and not run out of old, wonderful buildings to take pictures of.  Most buildings do not exceed four stories, so it is scaled for people.  The streets are narrow and there is an uneasy alliance between the auto and the pedestrian. There are few sidewalks in Rome so one frequently is walking on very uneven cobblestones.  The city does have, however, extensive public transportation, including a subway and surface trolleys. 

The Tiber River runs through the city.  We wanted to walk along its walkway, but were cautioned not to do so because of the threat of being accosted by drug dealers.  The river itself appears to be dirty, but its turbidity may have little to do with pollution. 

One major disappointment about the city is the graffiti that appears everywhere- I mean everywhere- in the city.  Beautiful old buildings have been tagged extensively.  To me, it is sad.  There are probably places that should be open to taggers (such as railway corridors) in order than their energies might be concentrated without desecrating history. 
Please enjoy my photos. 

Knoxville, TN- Nice!

Founded in 1786, Knoxville is the third-largest city in the U.S. state of Tennessee, behind Memphis and Nashville, and is the county seat of Knox County. It is also the largest city in East Tennessee. As of the 2000 United States Census, Knoxville had a total population of 173,890;] the July 2007 estimated population was 183,546. Knoxville is the principal city of the Knoxville Metropolitan Statistical Area with a metro population of 655,400, which is in turn the central component of the Knoxville-Sevierville-La Follette Combined Statistical Area with 1,029,155 residents.  To read more, go to:,_TN

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Knoxville surprised me.  It has interesting buildings and parks.  The leftovers from the 1982 World’s Fair include a grand plaza, an art museum, several fountains and a man-made river that is a nice addition to downtown.  The iconic tower from the Fair remains, but is not grand or particularly creative.  Downtown Knoxville has an old town area that has become a pedestrian walkway an in lined with restaurants for al fresco dining.   It works better than many downtown pedestrian-oriented malls.  The main street of downtown has many old buildings that also have become restaurants, and some have become loft apartments/condos.  The Tennessee Theater is nicely restored and maintained, although the street facing box office is nonfunctional and houses chotskies.  There is an interesting general store with –you guessed it- general merchandise.   I bet there is great turnover in the restaurants, since there are so many and the population base is fairly small.  I really like how the city has preserved its old storefronts and major portions of classic building interiors.  There is, however, one of the ugliest Marriott hotels I have ever seen.  I bet when it was built it was considered really avant garde, but that can only last so long!

All in all, Knoxville is a nice city.

Cincinnati, OH- A beautiful downtown and a Liebeskind

Cincinnati  is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio and the county seat of Hamilton County. The municipality is located north of the Ohio River at the Ohio-Kentucky border. The population within city limits was estimated to be 333,336 in 2000, making it the state's third largest city. According to a 2008 Census Bureau estimate, the Cincinnati Metropolitan Area had a population of 2,155,137 making it the largest MSA in Ohio (surpassing Cleveland which ranks 26th and whose MSA has nearly fallen below 2,000,000) and the 24th most populous in the United States.   Residents of Cincinnati are called Cincinnatians.

For more, click here:

To see all of my photos, click here:

Cincinnati has a beautiful downtown core, full of nicely maintained classical-style buildings and several notable modern structures.  It is walkable and compact.  Its streets are somewhat narrow, giving the tall buildings ample opportunity to shade the streets.  There are some very nice green spaces in the city core. An example of a failed revitalization attempt is the Tower Center, which has a nearly vacant shopping mall in it.  These once thought to be miracle- cure-for-downtown-ills malls seem to fail in many cities. I suppose this is because their goal is to draw people inward rather than to assist their flow through the excitement of the downtown streets.  One drawback is the limited interaction between the city and the Ohio River which divides Ohio from Kentucky.  There are plans to address this issue, but presently, the river shoreline remains rough and cut off from the city by a freeway.  Like other cities, Cincinnati has invested enormously in riverfront baseball and football stadia.   There are several department stores in the downtown area, as well as theaters and museums.  the Contemporary Art Museum was most impressive.

Dayton, OH- could be worse

Dayton is Ohio’s fourth largest metropolitan area. Click on this link to read about it:,_OH.

Road Kill

Dayton seemed like a nice, albeit unexciting Midwestern American city.  Its streets are wide which, for those of us who like dense downtowns, tends to make the city seem unexciting, and well, dull.  I did visit the downtown on a Sunday morning and there were very few people on the street.  I could find one restaurant that was open.  One large building on the main street has a large “Biltmore” sign on it.  I assume it was a hotel in its glory days.  Today it is housing for the elderly.  Like other cities, it seems like Dayton’s downtown may be a social service ghetto.  There was no department store and the newest buildings were either for banking or medical purposes.  The most recent additions to the skyline are vintage 1990’s.  These buildings are uninspired.  The post-modern style of the era are now stale, but maybe in twenty years we will think they are great.  

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cobb Energy Center

The Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre is a performing arts venue located in the Cumberland/Galleria edge city, just northwest of Atlanta, Georgia. The $145 million facility celebrated its grand opening on September 15, 2007 with a concert by Michael Feinstein and Linda Eder.

Located in Cobb County near Vinings, the venue is owned and operated by the Cobb-Marietta Coliseum & Exhibit Hall Authority, and took over two years to build. The naming rights for the facility were acquired for $20 million by Cobb Energy Management Corp. Real estate developer Williams' personal donation of $10 million led to the theater itself being named in his honor.

Its a great looking auditorium.

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"Adventureland"- a nice movie

“Adventureland” is a 2009 comedy-drama film written and directed by Greg Mottola, director of Superbad. The film stars Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Margarita Levieva, Ryan Reynolds, Martin Starr, Bill Hader, and Kristen Wiig.

For a plot summary, click here:

“Adventureland” is an enjoyable film about two young adults who, because of family issues, work together in an amusement park. The two main characters, James (Eisenburg) and Em (Stewart) fall in love, and, of course, mature in the process. Eisenburg plays James as a low-keyed guy who most parents would likely be happy to have their daughter married. Stewart plays Em as slightly depressed and angry at her father, who she feels remarried to quickly after her mother died of cancer. They are absolutely believable.

The film was billed as a comedy but it really is a love story. Maybe the studio was afraid that it would drive viewers away if they knew it was not a “Superbad”-inspired sex comedy. But this is a far better movie.

There are a few misfires in the film. The first is Ryan Reynolds. But, then he is a misfire in every movie he is in. His training as a Keanu Reeves wannabe really shines through. The other misfire is the Matt Bush character. His sole purpose in life seems to be hitting James in the privates. Maybe the director thought it was hilarious or maybe I am missing something.

“Adventureland” was filmed in Pittsburgh, including at its famous Kennywood amusement park.

I highly recommend this movie. It’s not profound, but for the most part, it is enjoyable and a gentle love story.

Do laws matter anymore?

Jonathan Turley presents a discussion of why American are becoming so disaffect from their govrnment and the rule of law.  This administration is moving us further and further away from "We the people..." to "We the monied..."  What a sad state of affairs.  I hope we vote out all incumbents but, like good sheeple, we probably won't.  Copy this link:

Monday, June 14, 2010

Memorable lines

from TV talent contests:

You are what is this competition is all about.

You are going to have to step up your game.

You have raised the bar tonight!

America has spoken!

For the first contestant cut:  I only wish I could have been able to show America my real talents at: cooking, designing, painting, modeling, etc.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bill Maher's season finale

Maher's show has been bothering me lately. I think his show may have jumped the shark. On his show last night the allowed Mahar gave way too much time to Bill Frist, the former republican leader. Frist is a self-serving rupublican mouthpiece. Another guest, Oliver Stone can't get to the point even if he tried, and I bet his points would be good ones. The worst, however, was the interview with Queen Noor. I believe she has real concern about nukes and there is little doublt that we should be attending to their proliferation. But Mahar's question about whether she thought that the instituion of a monarchy and her being queen is uncesssary and anachronistic in this modern time. She is a poised woman but seemed a bi ttaken about by the rude question. I personally have no objections to monarchies as long as they are benevolent, and not in political leadership. Manarchs are symbols of a country just like our flag, which to us, represents our country, and just as Queen Elizabeth represent the history of England. If cultures want monarchs- go for it. I only wish I was born one, since I would make a helluva king. I deserve to be called "Your Majesty."

Again, American exceptionalism rears its ungly head.