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A new metal door in Venice, Italy is surrounded by abundant evidence of urban decay, photo by author
A new metal door in Venice, Italy is surrounded by abundant evidence of urban decay, photo by author

Detail

Here, in Venice, the “Devil” is (definitely) in the detail. The new metal door recently installed in the much older building, though a little out of place, appears perfectly functional and looks like it is good operating condition.

What needs to be pointed out here is that Venice, Italy is a city, situated just a few feet above sea level and so those cracks in the wall may be caused by the overwhelming presence of sea water in the immediate vicinity.

Furthermore, Venice may also be a bellwether locale, for the distinct possibility that our sea levels are rising and this phenomena may be causing and will cause problems along some coastlines in the near future.

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The Virtual Reality of Rick’s Cafe

Rick's Cafe in Casablanca, Morocco
Today Rick’s Cafe is an upscale restaurant in the Ancienne Medina of Casablanca, Morocco, photo from Wikipedia

Everybody Comes To Rick’s

The storyline for the 1942 movie, Casablanca, began as an unpublished play, entitled, Everybody Comes To Rick’s. The play was written by Murray Burnet and Joan Alison in the summer of 194o, but after failing to find a Broadway producer, the playwrights sold the rights to Hollywood for $20,000. The play was based on real life travels that Murray Burnet made with his wife, Frances,  to Vienna, Austria during Nazi occupation in 1938 and also to the south of France at the same time. Neither of the two authors ever visited Morocco. Instead, the plot revolved around a bar in France that overlooked the Mediterranean Sea. The popular drinking establishment was frequented by a strange mixture of French citizens, Nazis and war refugees. Entertainment was provided by a black jazz pianist.

Title frame to the movie Casablanca
Title frame to the movie Casablanca

Casablanca, The Movie

After extensive rewriting and revision by a team of screenwriters, Casablanca became a movie that was released to a wartime audience in 1942 by Warner Brothers. Although not the most popular WWII film release, Casablanca did go on to win Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. Since WWII, Casablanca has become a classic and is often rated as one of the best motion pictures ever made in the United States.

Rick's Cafe in Casablanca
A still shot of Rick’s Cafe in the movie, Casablanca

Rick’s Cafe Opens In Casablanca, Morocco

It was not until the 21st century that there was ever a restaurant or bar in Casablanca called Rick’s Cafe. Those memorable shots of the popular club seen in the film were created on the backlots of Hollywood during the war, which might explain why such an intriguing set was created. The scenes of the crowds at the bar and the music of Sam at the piano have stayed in film lovers’ minds ever since the cinematic masterpiece was first released.

A Book Called Rick’s Cafe

Actually the full title of the book  reads as Rick’s Cafe: Bringing the Film Legend To Life In Casablanca. The author is a petite woman, originally from Portland, Oregon who pulled the whole enterprise off and now that Rick’s Cafe has become a must-see for those touring the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, the manuscript only gives added insight into the amazing task of making the recreation of this nightclub-restaurant – a reality. Overall, it is amazing story of getting a business started in an Islamic nation, where the King and the royal family still have a lot of clout. Fortunately for the author and story, Moroccan royalty have proved to be a moderate oasis in a region of the world that can be quite irrational and dangerous at times.

About the Author

In the opening years of the 21st century, Kathy Kriger was a U.S. citizen employed by the U.S. Foreign Service in Casablanca, who decided to open a restaurant. Now that the restaurant has been going on for several years and making a profit, Ms. Kriger has decided to put her story down in words, accompanied by a few pictures. Released just this month (November 2012) the book tells a story of how one individual conceived of the idea, raised the money, found a place and then made the interior space conform to the images seen in the movie. It is a heart-lifting story well worth the time spent reading………and perhaps a visit if you are ever in the neighborhood of the ancienne Medina of Casablanca.

Casablanca Today
A 21st century view of Casblanca, Morocco; from Wikipedia

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Revisiting Columbus Day

Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus
Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, painting by Salvador Dali from Wikipedia

Christopher Columbus

The more we know about Christopher Columbus, the Genoan sailor who ventured across the Atlantic in 1492 and safely landed on the island of Hispanola, the more the great adventurer becomes a modern-day enigma. Though contemporary evidence from Iceland and Newfoundland places doubt on the idea that Columbus was the first European to cross the Atlantic, his knowledge of the sea and his New World exploits are still legendary and shall probably remain so for generations to come. This is especially true, when one realizes that Columbus had to cross thousands of miles of open seas, while the Vikings and Celtic monks essentially traveled  between islands with the largest distance of open sea being only 250 miles.

painting of the Norse settlement of Iceland, by P. Raadsig, 1850

Iceland – Stepping Stone To America

According to Icelandic history, the Norse arrived in 874 A.D. and made a small settlement at Reykjavik with  Ingólfr Arnarson as the founder. However, it is generally believed that the Norse were preceded by Irish monks, who may have made it as far as the mainland of North America. Just a quick look at a map of the North Atlantic will give the viewer the perception that anyone who was able to sail to Iceland, would not have a difficult time traveling the extra miles to Newfoundland or beyond. It is even believed that Christopher Columbus visited Iceland in 1477, 15 years before he made his fateful voyage to the Caribbean. One possible reason for the journey would have been a search for the Northwest Passage to the Orient.

The Four Journeys of Christopher Columbus

After Columbus made his first voyage to the New World, he returned three more times with each trip becoming more and more harrowing, as he ventured further from his original landing point. For a fascinating account of Columbus’ fourth voyage, readers should check out The Last Voyage of Columbus: Being the Epic Tale of the Great Captain’s Fourth Expedition, Including Accounts of Swordfight, Shipwreck, Gold, War, Hurricane and Discovery by Martin Dugard. This non-fiction tale reads like a sci-fi adventure story and should be taken in by any serious student of the Great Admiral.

What Columbus Did

Columbus is an easy person to hate. Before he sailed across the Atlantic he was a slave trader, an adventurer, a courtier to the royal court. He brought Native peoples back to Europe as hostages to prove his exploits and his travels lead to the trans-Atlantic slave trade to America. Still, he was the most able of sailors and sea captains, for Columbus was the first European sailor to understand and detect hurricanes. Also Columbus and the Spanish conquistadors forever changed the balance of power in the New World. This was not always a bad thing, especially when one considers the defeat of the Caribs, a powerful and horrendously terrifying alliance of Indians that enslaved local tribes all across Central and South America. Also in Columbus’ wake there emerged a great exchange of food and raw materials. Without these things our world would be very much poorer today, for nowadays people can make tomato salsa in Italy, while cafe guests can sip coffee in South America with all due respect to the early explorers.

Lightcatchers

A solar prominence
A solar prominence captured on film by the SOHO satellite, Credit: SOHO-EIT Consortium, ESA, NASA

Our Main Source of Light

Even though a minuscule amount of starlight reaches our planet, by far the greatest source of extraterrestrial  energy arrives from our own sun. To an astronomer, the sun can be simply described as our nearest star. In fact, in scientific terms the sun would be classified as a yellow dwarf star, also known as a G V star. Typically, a G V star has a surface temp of 5,000 to 6,000 K and fuses hydrogen into helium to create light. Average lifetime of a yellow dwarf is about 10 billion years with our own sun being considered middle-aged.

High Rise Buildings

Minneapolis tower at sunset
Mirror image of Minneapolis tower at sunset

Recently, I had the privilege of spending a weekend in the Twin Cities, which are  locally referred to simply as “the cities”.  High rise buildings dominate the downtown area, presenting a golden opportunity and graphic challenge for the digital photographer. This one building literally turned a golden color in the fading moments of the day.

old and new towers in minneapolis
St. Olaf’s belltower with tall high rise in background, photo by author

Here is an interesting juxtaposition that contrasts a church tower with a modern high rise.

Reflection of one building on another,
Reflection of one building on another, Minneapolis, photo by author

And here in this scene, the reddish color of one structure is reflected upon the overwhelming blue tint of a different building.

the Mayo clinic in Rochester
Abstracted patterns of the Mayo clinic in Rochester, MN

This image was made in Rochester, which is a small city located about a two hour drive south of Minneapolis. This building  is actually part of the world famous Mayo Clinic, but in this case, it was the striking grid design of the windows that caught my eye.

Modern Architects and Ancient Sculptors

sculpture on Easter Island
Relocated sculpture on Easter Island, from Wikipedia

I know this is pure conjecture, but to me, there is something strangely similar with this sculpture on Easter Island in the middle of the Pacific and the tall towers of Minneapolis. Incidentally, the icon pictured above was only recently returned to its original resting place, as for years, the artifact had been placed on display in a museum. Nonetheless, this sculpture acts in ways that are remarkably similar to some of the more recently completed urban downtown glass towers that can be found in almost any modern city. And this similarity would be that each unit functions as a visual unit, which ever so subtly changes color in the fading light of the evening and early morning hours. True, the high rises have a very utilitarian purpose as well, but in both cases, the play of light on the surface seems to be an intricate part of the viewing process. Furthermore, I think that this was by done by design and original intention.

Des Moines building
Des Moines building caught in the early morning light, photo by author

I Am A Jelly Doughnut

Cover image for ebook, I Am A Jelly Doughnut
Cover image for ebook, I Am A Jelly Doughnut, by Henri Bauholz

What’s It All About

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.

Coming Soon

Movie theater in australia
Movie theater in Australia, photo by Fernando de Sousa courtesy of Wikipedia

Description

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.

Old and new towers in Berlin
Old and new towers in Berlin, including the bombed William Kaiser church

Title

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 shore of the Mediterranean Sea at Finale Marina, Italy
The shore of the Mediterranean Sea as scene from the youth hostel/castle at Finale Marina, Italy

Inspiration

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.

Rainbow over Lake Geneva on the French-Swiss border
Rainbow over Lake Geneva on the French-Swiss border

Two U.S. Hikers Freed From Iranian Prison

Land inhabited by the Kurds covers portions of four nations.
Land inhabited by the Kurds covers portions of four nations.

Freedom

This past week the two male American hikers, who had been detained in Iran for just over two years were freed from their Tehran prison and flown to Oman. Now, several days later, Joshua Fattal and Shane Bauer, are back in the US, where they have been united with friends and family, as well as their female companion, Sarah Shourd, who was detained for just over a year in Iran. Not only does the release close an imprisonment case that should never have occurred in the first place, but it also allows Shane and Sharon to fulfill the  wedding vows, which they exchanged in prison. The Iranians claim the trio were spying for the U.S., but the freed hikers have made the claim that they were held against their will because they were American.

How It Happened

The whole episode occurred on a visit the trio was making to the Kurdish region of Iraq, a region that is considered relatively safe for Americans and western visitors. This region has attracted nearly 500,ooo tourists since 1998. Their first stop on the tour was the city of Sulaymaniyah, where they stayed in a tourist hotel. At the hotel, the American travelers inquired about a place to go hiking. They were referred to a popular waterfall called, Ahmed Awa. Here they intermingled with hundreds of local visitors, who were enjoying not only the natural marvel, but the many food and craft vendors that were present at the falls.

The trouble occurred the next day went they small group went hiking in the nearby, local mountains and followed a trail that lead them very close to the Iran border. It is here where they encountered an Iranian guard and were taken prisoner. The story can be viewed on Vimeo on a short film made by Sharon Shourd upon her return to the US after a year of imprisonment.

Implications

The release is good news. The hikers are home, plus a diplomatic channel to Iran has been opened through the nation of Oman. Unfortunately, a wider view of events yields a more disturbing picture. Were the trio lured into Iranian territory by an over-zealous, armed Iranian, border guard? Even if they weren’t, the whole episode signals a warning that even safe areas may yield hidden dangers for Americans and other western travelers.