These companion billboards in Ljubljana, Slovenia, depict a dozen women in various forms of movement.
Where Is Ljubljana?
Ljubljana is the capital city of Slovenia, a small Balkan Slavic-speaking country, which borders Italy in the East……not too far from the noted city of Venice. Like Venice, Slovenia has a window on the Adriatic Sea and also a border with Austrian located high in the Alps. As a result this place is a topographically diverse nation with a population that in the past, has often been associated with the city-states of Venice and Vienna. In recent years, the women of this small nation have often gained more recognition than the men. One such woman, Melania Knauss, is married to a major U.S. presidential candidate, and could possibly become the next First Lady of the United States.
A Few Words On Outdoor Graffiti
To anyone who has traveled in Eastern Europe, one consistent image that might stick in the traveler’s mind is the abundance of graffiti, such as that pictured in the photograph above. It is everywhere in the East, at least in the cities of Ljubljana and Prague, which constitutes my major travels in the region. The stuff is an eyesore to most who visit and also to many who live there. The streaks of spray paint mar the many fine examples of European architecture that abound in the area and often predate the creation of the U.S. Upon reflecting about this widespread cultural phenomena, several things come to mind. The first being is that the spray painting is very basic (not that good painting would be any better) and second is that the government of these far-off places seems to have neither the money, the will or the desire to remove the paint marks.
The Berlin Wall
Another point of observation is that in these Eastern places there is little sanctioned outdoor art, like one might find in Berlin or other Western European cities. In fact, in Berlin, one of the great recipients of the renegade spray can artists was the Berlin Wall, which is defunct, except in a few preserved locales. Even now that the Soviets are gone and wall is down, modern-day visitors can still view numerous galleries and colorful outdoor murals, where younger artists can express themselves.
This coming Friday Scotland gets to vote on whether it wants to be free from the UK. Right now those favoring independence for the rugged patch of land seem to be slightly ahead……But a lot can change in the days leading up to the vote, even among those picturesque hills that cover the northern tip of Great Britain. No matter how you look at it, this vote is big and the results could create political-cultural ripple effects that would travel around the globe.
If Scotland Votes Yes
As a U.S. citizen, I can’t vote in Scotland, but still that does not stop me from voicing my opinion that Scotland would be better off as an independent nation. Nonetheless, there is no way to predict exactly how a yes vote will play out. This scenario could play out badly for all parties involved, especially Wales, which may want to follow in Scotland’s footsteps, if they succeed.
What A No Vote Means
A “No” vote means the status quo remains in place. Still, there will be changes in Scottish-English relations, for there is a very good chance that London will give the Scottish a little more autonomy within the UK union. A “No” vote also means it will be a long time before Scotland is faced with another opportunity to establish itself as an independent nation. And it also will make things more difficult in Wales, for those who wish to secede. By the way the majority of political leaders from the western nations have gone on record as being opposed to Scottish independence, including our own president, Barrack Obama, who made a very briefly statement that he thought it would be best if the UK remain united.
Quotes About Scotland
1. “My point is there’s a hidden Scotland in anyone who speaks the Northern Ireland speech. It’s a terrific complicating factor, not just in Northern Ireland, but in Ireland generally.” Seamus Heaney
2. “Forgive your enemy, but remember the bastard’s name.” Scottish proverb
3. “In Scotland we have mixed feelings about global warming because we will get to sit on the mountains and watch the English drown.” Frankie Boyle
4. “Of all the small nations of this earth, perhaps only the ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind.” Sir Winston Churchill
5. “Oats. A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” Samuel Johnson
6. “The Scottish sun, shocked by having its usual cloudy underpinnings stripped away, shone feverishly, embarrassed by its nakedness.” Stuart Haddon
7. “It is one of the most hauntingly beautiful places in the world, the history is fascinating, the men are handsome and the whisky is delicious. But don’t eat the macaroni pies.” JK Rowling
8. “Learning to pipe isn’t easy. At first it always sounds worse than a chicken yard full of squawking adolescent roosters.” Amy Jarecki, from Beauty and the Barbarian
9. “Scotland is the Canada of England!” Rainn Wilson
10. “Edinburgh is a great big black bastard of a city where there are ghosts of all kinds.” Sara Sheridan, Ma Polinski’s Pockets 11. “The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England!” Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland and The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides
12. “If you make a film about a pig farmer in Wales and you are a huge hit as the pig farmer’s wife, the next thing is you’ll be asked to do a film about a sheep farmer in Scotland.” Kristin Scott Thomas
Quotes About the Independence Vote
1. “I have no time for those who say there is no way Scotland could go it alone. I know first-hand the contribution Scotland and Scots make to Britain’s success – so for me there’s no question about whether Scotland could be an independent nation.” David Cameron
2. “I think that the people who would like to see the break-up of the United Kingdom are not the friends of justice, the friends of freedom, and the countries that would cheer at the prospect… are not the countries whose company one would like to keep.” Tony Abbott Prime Minister of Australia
3. “Scottish independence throws up the possibility of a more progressive England. We won’t be British any more, we’ll be English.” Billy Bragg
4. “The simple truth is that Scotland is subject to the same 21st century pressures as the rest of the world. The more I listen to the Yes campaign, the more I worry about its minimisation and even denial of risks.” JK Rowling
6. (Scottish Independence) “is too good an opportunity to miss” Sean Connery
7. “Thank you very, very much and Scotland – stay with us.” David Bowie
8. “Staying in the United Kingdom presents greater certainty and stability.”Barrack Obama
9. “I’m deeply suspicious of patriotism. People following the band, you know? I don’t want to be part of it. It’s paved with fools.” J.K. Rowling
10. “All division worries me. The secession of a nation without a history of forced unity has to be handled with tweezers and analysed case by case.” Pope Francis
A More Conservative England
Despite Billy Bragg’s rosy optimism, an independent Scotland could result in a more conservative England. This may be come as a major surprise to anyone residing in the USA or Canada, but the elected Scottish representatives serving in London are a very left-leaning bunch. Take away these politicians and not only will GB be more conservative, but the Labor party, which has a lot of support in Scotland will be significantly weakened. “There’s something fundamentally wrong with a system where there’s been 17 years of a Tory Government and the people of Scotland have voted Socialist for 17 years. That hardly seems democratic.” Sean Connery
A Glimmer of Hope
Most observers seem to agree that a “yes” vote for independence would spur other cultural minorities to seek independence from their respective Motherland. Even before the vote takes place, independence movements have been spurred on in places like the Catalans in Spain and the Flemish in Belgium. Even though it is possible that these movements might succeed in the near future, there is one place, where a new independent nation might be particularly beneficial.
And that my friends is the Middle East, where a internationally recognized Kurdish nation is long overdue and greatly needed. If Scottish independence translates into a Kurdish nation, down the road, then I’m all for it.
Copernicus was a Polish astronomer, who revolutionized the study of astronomy, when he theorized that the sun, and not the earth, was the center of our solar system. If Nicolaus were alive today he would be 540 years old. Copernicus’ observations were quite astounding for his day and age, even though they were not published until just a few months before he died in 1543.
The Copernicus Revolution
Copernicus first devised his revolutionary ideas in the 30 to 40 years before he died. Today, it is widely believed that the Polish scientist delayed publishing his heliocentric theory for so long to avoid undergoing the harsh criticism and ridicule that his ideas might precipitate. Strangely enough, his belief in a sun-centered solar system met with little opposition in the first few years following his death.
Galileo Defends Copernicus
This situation soon changed and so for at least a hundred years, Copernicus was made the scapegoat of scientific theory, especially by the church in Rome. However, it was Galileo that took the brunt of the criticism some 90 years later, when he supported Copernicus’ theory. For this, Galileo had to face charges of heresy and eventually recanted on the idea that the earth orbited around the sun.
Finally, in 1835, some 300 years after Copernicus first considered the possibility that the earth revolved around the sun, did the Roman church finally drop their censoring of Copernicus and his revolutionary ideas.
Orthodox Christmas Not everybody in the world celebrates Christmas on the 25th of December. The most notable exceptions are the Orthodox churches of Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, Macedonia, Moldovia, Montenegro and Serbia, along with the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Merry Christmas to all those who are celebrating today.
My New Year’s Resolutions For Writers
Since Christmas is finally coming to an end and the chilling cold weather of January is about to descend on us, perhaps it is time for all dedicated writers to snuggle up next to the fire and start putting pen to paper. We may be glad we did, when winter turns to spring and our literary endeavors are rewarded with publication credits and movie rights……… Just dreaming, but here are my ten resolutions anyway.
1. Post more often at Yeyeright(This resolution probably won’t last through the month of January, but it’s worth a try anyway)
2. Say Good-bye to the content market (presently, I have content available at Demand Studios, Hub Pages, Associated Content and Helium. Although I now receive only monthly royalties, Demand Studios has been the only one that was worthwhile, and even that was close to marginal)
3. Attend at least one writers conference (Several years ago I attended the Grub Street conference in Boston and I enjoyed it very much. I think it’s about time I try another conference)
4. Finish my uncompleted novel (It’s been uncompleted for several years)
5. Finish my uncompleted screenplay (Screenplays are much easier to finish than a novel, but very difficult to sell. Actually, this is the one resolution I might skip.)
6. Party more(This might be the most important resolution for any writer, no matter what his or her genre may be)
7. Join a writer’s group maybe ????????(I have never been much on writer’s groups and don’t think 2013 will change that.)
8. Travel to Europe (I have been there twice already. Another visit may be in order.)
9. Submit ideas, articles and short fiction to more markets.
10. Sleep-in more often (This resolution goes hand-in-hand with resolution #6)
So there you go with my New Year’s Resolutions. Let me know what resolutions you intend to make and actually keep.
This is the ebook cover for a small (11,000) word collection of essays that I have just self-published at Smashwords.com. There are about 10 essays all total, covering such diverse topics as Icelandic yogurt and the Vienna Opera. It is not all original writing for some of the writing has appeared online at various journals and general interest websites. The title comes from John Kennedy’s speech in Berlin of 1963, when he reassured West Germans and warned Russians that the US supported the small enclave in East Germany 100 per cent. Later, the story circulated that JFK’s famous words, (Ich bin ein Berliner) really implied that he was a jelly doughnut. Since the news item broke (it was reported at such prestigious places as CNN, the BBC, MSNBC and the NY Times), this viewpoint has been pretty much relegated to the realm of urban fiction. Still, the life of the story makes for a good tale.
Besides JFK’s remarks made in Berlin, the text includes travel stories about Iceland, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Italy and France. The material is a result of two month long voyages, I made in 2003 and 2006. For a link to the book you can click on the image.
Putting the Cover Together
I had fun putting the cover together. I started with a NASA photo of distant space, then I added the jelly doughnut on a plate. I picked this image up on Wikipedia and I believe the image comes from Berlin, which is the geographical locale of the Jelly Doughnut story. Finally, the text was added. Everything was done in an old Photoshop Elements software program, which I paid 25 dollars for years ago. Photoshop was necessary to isolate the dish and also to get curved text. To be honest I am quite pleased with the way everything came out. Having a good cover is very important to promoting an Ebook, for most interest come from curious individuals, who see the image online and then become intrigued by the text. That’s kind of how it works at least for me.
Though a French holiday, Bastille Day in the US is celebrated in many urban areas, including New Orleans, Baltimore, San Francisco, Philadelphia and New York City. Around the world, you can find lively festivals in Hungary, Belgium, the UK (London) and Quebec Province in Canada. Like the Fourth of July in the US and Canada Day (July 1), this July holiday provides a convenient excuse for lighting up the summer’s night sky with a flurry of fireworks. I guess there is something in our human nature that wants to do this kind of activity on some of the shortest and warmest nights of the year.
The Bastille was originally a fortress built between 1370 and 1380 by King Charles V of France. However, over the years, the mighty structure was used more often to keep prisoners in rather than invaders out. And so over the following centuries, the towering walls were frequently used to contain the favorite enemies and threats to the Kings of France. This change occurred most notably around 1600 during the reign of Henry IV and his son Louis XIII. The heyday of the prison occurred during the reign of Louis XIV, when over a thousand prisoners, mostly political were housed here. By the time Louis the XVI came to power the prison was mostly used to hold a small number of petty criminals and degenerates.
And in 1789, when the building was stormed by protesters the place only held eight only prisoners with over a 100 troops defending the gigantic edifice. On the day the Bastille fell, nearly a hundred protesters died, while just a few of the defenders perished. Still, the attackers managed to get inside and seize much-needed ammunition and gunpowder for their cause. They also captured several Swiss defenders and executed them in the street.
Importance of the Bastille
The importance of the Bastille was more symbolic than anything else, for it represented two centuries of rule by powerful French kings, who had no second thoughts about incarcerating royal dissidents. The building’s destruction also gave the revolutionary movement a cause and something to cheer about, even though the most hideous days of the prison had long passed.
Sometime in the next week I am going to be publishing a collection of some of my travel essays about traveling in Europe. The way things go for me the actual collection won’t be available till the beginning of next week and then the writing will only be available as an e-book on Smashwords and Amazon. Even though most of the material has already been published on the internet, I am spending more time editing and collating the articles than I originally planned. I have yet to put together a cover, for the book, so that will probably happen at the last minute. Nonetheless, putting together the old material has required more work than imagined, mainly because I can’t run through an old essay without making at least a few editorial changes.
The title for this collection goes back to President John Kennedy’s famous speech inside Berlin during his term of office. While speaking to the German audience he made the wonderfully comical statement, “Ich bin ein Berliner”, which can be translated to mean, – you guessed it, “I am a jelly doughnut”. This is just one of the many interesting things, readers will discover, while digesting these traveler’s tales.
The inspiration comes from two journeys I made to Europe in the new century. My first overseas voyage took place during October 2003, when I visited Denmark, Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria. Three years later, I made a six week journey that included repeat visits to Denmark, Germany and Austria, as well as new explorations into Slovenia, Italy, France and Switzerland. Who knows when I will return again (hopefully soon), but my initial experience did open me up as a writer.