Category Archives: Armchair Tourist

Pomp and Circumstance, Part Deux

Hm…where was I…?? Oh, right! The two hour tribute to the National Health Service.

I had to break it off there, because truly it took a very large portion of the program. I must give kudos to Danny Boyle for starting this tribute to the government by tying it in with J.M. Barrie’s bighearted contribution of his work, Peter Pan, to the Great Ormond Street Hospital. It was a very smooth transition. And after all of the hospital beds lighting up, and kids jumping on the trampoline “beds”, and nurses and staff dancing around (and they were great at it, which begs the question: do they have a second job to supplement their income from the NHS??), J.K. Rowling showed up to recite something I assume she wrote, since I can’t find any information on it, and suddenly, figures from every kid’s worst nightmare show up!!

The Red Queen, Cruella De Vil, Captain Hook, and VOLDEMORT!!! And he was HUGE. But not to worry, because an army of Marys Poppins arrived floating down in umbrellas to vanquish the nightmares.

Like Mary Poppins could take on Voldemort… Sheesh…

Moving away from the NHS lovefest, we find esteemed comedian and British icon Rowan Atkinson in his role of Mr. Bean, playing the theme from Chariots of Fire with the London Symphony Orchestra, texting on his phone, playing his chord with an umbrella as he reaches for a tissue in his backpack, so he can blow his nose, and toss the offending tissue to the pianist. Classic Bean, right?? But his chord is rather boring, so he begins to daydream that he is running with the runners on the beach, falling behind, hailing a taxi to take him to the front of the line, and crossing first at the finish line after he trips the guy in the lead. I have to admit, I was in tears from laughing so hard.

And after such a great skit, it goes to Hades again. A convoluted tribute to music spanning decades from the 60’s to today. Apparently, there was no music in the UK until the Beatles. It was full of black lighting, peace signs, and then a clubbing scene where a girl loses her phone, but a guy finds it and texts her he has it, and she texts back, but I have no idea how she can do that unless she also was carrying an iPod, but why would you carry an iPod to a dance club?? And this texting and cell phone and emailing debacle is a tie-in to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the internet. Finally the texting and cell phones make sense. But the choice of a rapper to finish leaves more than a few people speechless.

And then the athletes begin to file out. Greece is first, as is custom, and then alphabetically with the host country going last.

Some of the countries chose well in the uniform department. Among them were American Samoa, Fiji, Australia, and China. Some chose poorly. Among them Germany (pink and baby blue track suits??), Czech Republic (rain boots and shorts??), USA (we looked French), and sadly, Great Britain (gold accents on white track suits??). After they file out, there are more musical acts, complete with cyclists sporting glowing wings. They looked a bit like the Flying Monkeys, which was creepy, in my opinion.

The head honchos give their speeches, and they cut away to David Beckham “driving” the speedboat carrying the torch. Nice touch with Beck. He passes the torch to five-time Olympic gold medalist Steve Redgrave, who brings it in to the stadium. Traditionally, a former Olympian of the host country lights the torch. But not this time. A group of seven young athletes hand-picked by former British Olympians for their prowess and promise run with the torch, and then come back to the Olympians to have six additional torches lit, which they in turn use to light the petals of the cauldron, arranged in a circle, which then rise to make the torch:

The mechanics of it and vision were spectacular, but the cauldron is supposed to be seen from ALL points of the Olympic Village, not just in the stadium, so to me it’s a bit underdone and disappointing. But it is very lovely, nonetheless.

After the lighting, Sir Paul McCartney comes out to close the ceremony with “Hey, Jude”, bringing down the house. I guess because he’s a  Beatle. Personally, I think Sir Elton John would have done a better show. A duet with the two of them would have been spectacular! All in all, it was everything Britain liked, which I suppose that’s the point of the whole ceremony: to introduce to the world the host country.

At least, my droning over it is over. At least for the next four years 😉

Pomp and Circumstance, Part 1

What can I say? I knew I would be in for disappointment!

The Olympic Opening Ceremony was yesterday, and I was very, very careful to not peek during the day, since it was going to be preempted here. Before the opening, there was an introduction, nicely narrated, beginning at the source of the Thames and encompassing the beautiful English countryside as it followed the river to London. As the narration began, they showed sketches of famous British icons: William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Darwin, and then John Lennon and Paul McCartney. It was as if there had been NOTHING of import composed or written or discovered in England between Darwin and Lennon. But I let it slide, since most young people here wouldn’t know if there had been, anyway. One thing that struck me as odd was how the narration talked about different nationalities competing, like the Chinese, and even the Massai, but lumped all Latinos. Huh…

The ceremonies opened as my British blogger friend Katipede informed: with a reproduction of a British pastoral scene, complete with livestock and working well and everything!! I had scoffed at it, but it truly was amazingly done. And ZOMG!!! Kenneth Branagh, who is awesomeness, recites from The Tempest!!!

Then as if by magic it began to transform into an industrial scene, and that was beautifully done. Smokestacks rising from the earth and men (and women, too) working in a factory setting, Branagh and Co. watching the transformation, with hundreds of drummers instead of 84 pianos to mark the transition, culminating in the forging of the Olympic Rings suspended above the field. It was masterful from a technological perspective. As the industrial revolution took root, there was then a pause for the War to End All Wars. Now, I’m all for a moment of silence, and was advocating for one specifically in memory of the Israeli athletes murdered at the Munich Olympics in 1972, forty years ago. But the IOC said that would be too political. However, the IOC did allow for a moment of silence for those who had died in the World Wars, as well as for the victims of the 7/7 attacks.

I assume those aren’t political in any way. Yes, I am a bit bitter, why do you ask?? But I had to remind myself that A) the director of this shindig happens to be a left-leaning socialist, and 2) the IOC is not exactly …. unbiased towards certain nation-states. And that’s where I will leave it!

Then it went to Hades.

People began filling the area dressed as members of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and other sundry Beatles films and song references, along with Chelsea Trumpeters and carnival goers, suffragettes, and dark figures representing the wounded. In a sweet tongue-in-cheek moment, Daniel Craig as James Bond escorts Queen Elizabeth II to the games, only to parachute into the stadium. Like that would happen! But she was a good sport, and did a great job for her first acting gig. That was the only redeeming part of this section. Because Danny Boyle decided to make the National Health Service the centerpiece of his tribute.

I am not putting down the NHS. They do have their problems, true. But my problem with this is that Great Britain, the United Kingdom as a whole, has contributed far more to the world than just universal healthcare. In fact, they didn’t contribute universal healthcare at all, since it is their system, not everyone else’s. And this is the OLYMPICS, where ALL countries come together to put aside their political differences and rejoice in the human spirit. Music, literature, medicine, law…there is no end to what they have contributed to the world. But the tribute to the NHS seemed like a discreet push to the government. It was tacky and overdone, and if the NHS is so strapped, why did they use actual nurses and staff to dance around?? GAH!!!

Anyway, stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2. There was so much to cover, I have to break it down in two posts. Trust me 😉

Five Colored Rings

Yes, it’s almost time for the SUMMER OLYMPICS!!!!

I love the opening and closing of the Games, but not for the reasons you may think. For me, the opening ceremony is not about the pageantry of the athletes. It’s about who can make the tackiest show!! I can honestly say the Barcelona Games were the least tacky in my opinion. The most? Los Angeles, 1984. BAR NONE!! C’mon…. 84 Baby Grand pianos coming out of the walls of the stadium while playing George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue will never be beat.

I do wonder what London has up its sleeve, though. Their choice of mascots, no matter the story that inspired them, gives me great pause. Perhaps it will surpass the ’84 ceremony. I know people aren’t too happy about what our athletes will be wearing,  the design of which will only add to the tackiness of the show, in my opinion.

In any case, I shall be glued to the TV watching and laughing at the spectacle. I’ll probably need a bathroom break when Wenlock and Mandeville make their appearance:

Seriously, London?? I mean, I understand the lion has been a mascot, but y’all still had the bulldog!!

The anticipation is killing me. I hope it’ll last 😉

68 Years Ago Today

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!–
Dwight D. Eisenhower, June 6, 1944

I regret never taking the opportunity to visit Normandy while stationed in Germany. I did get to visit the  Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial near the village of Hamm in Luxembourg. The cemetery was established in December, 1944, by the U.S. Third Army during the Ardennes Offensive. General George S. Patton is buried there. Walking alongside the crosses, listening to the beauty, it felt as if Time was waiting for something. I think it still is.

These men had their victory. I pray we have in our spirit the same abilities to achieve our own.

Terminal Madness

Hubby got back from Hungary last night. Normally it’s a long trip. This time, it was a nightmare. Plane delayed due to a passenger’s missing paperwork in Heathrow, then plane redirected to OKC due to bad weather, then missing the connecting flight here, only to get the last flight out, which in turn was delayed on the tarmac due to many flights having been redirected. He finally arrived at 1 AM. At least the drive home was without traffic.

Anyway, while I was waiting for him, I kept busy watching people. I have to admit I do enjoy people watching. It’s fun, and I tend to make up stories about them. Like the gentleman who was wearing a business suit and carrying a garment bag. He obviously looked like a travelling business man, but could be a hitman just as easily. Oh, and the lady looking at her watch was obviously waiting for her significant other, but could also just be watching for the coffee shop to open. Kids are easy, though. They just run around and have fun in wide open spaces while ignoring their elders commands to shut up and sit down. However, sometimes you find one person from which you just can not tear your eyes!!

Most of us hope for Brad Pitt or Kate Upton, but I got the equivalent of Rebecca Black.

She was sitting behind me, flirting with a young man who was waiting for his ride home. Her voice was as smooth as sand in cogs. Her attire was appropriate for being out and about, especially the streets. But is was her sheer stupidity that drew me like moth to Bonfire™. Apparently she was waiting for someone to come in on a flight, she was just unaware of which flight. All she knew was that he would be carrying an instrument. Suddenly she spied a gentleman with bulky baggage, and practically sauntered in her 5 in platform wedges to him, asking him if he had been waiting long for her, etc. Confused, the man kept shaking his head, and pointed to the baggage, saying something that made her titter and leave. She comes back to her friend and laughs shrilly, saying he was carrying golf clubs!! I just cringed. Finally the flight came in, and she went to meet it. And her friend, the man that was supposed to be carrying an instrument, turned out to be a woman carrying a tote bag. And she said she forgot. How do you 1) confuse genders, and 2) confuse baggage?? Well, she managed, but not before running into an older gentleman and insisting his name was Mr. Peterson, something the man vehemently denied, four times.

Last night I came so close to weeping for the future. Thank goodness I was wearing mascara.

Bacchanalia, Texas Style

Yesterday we went to the 9th Annual Wein and Saengerfest hosted in the lovely old German city of New Braunfels. Basically it’s a very large wine tasting featuring mostly wineries from across the state, though some out-of-state wineries were also featured. I didn’t bother much with those, since I was interested in the local stuff that I can get at the grocery store easily. Ok, I didn’t bother with them because I was too busy looking for the Sangria tent.

Which we found right off the bat!!

The way the fest works is, you purchase five tickets for five samples and get a free wineglass. You then have the option to purchase more tickets for $3 each. Total ripoff, but worth it when you consider you are away from the house and having semi-adult conversations with friends your own age. Wait…. Hm…. ok, close to your age. I just realized I was the oldest in the group. Had I realized that yesterday, I would have bought more tickets.

Ignore the manicure, look at the glass!

As soon as we find the Sangria tent, sponsored by a local favorite, Dry Comal Creek Vineyards™, we fork over two tickets. Yes, it cost two tickets, but you get a full glass of cold, delicious Sangria. And though the temperature was only 88* F (31* C for my Metric friends), the humidity was at about 1,890%, which explains the hellacious storm that came through the area last night, dumping roughly 2 inches and scaring the everloving life out of the dogs and Little One. So at least I can scratch “water the lawn” off my chore list today.

All in all, we had a great time. I only had to buy one extra ticket, so that was good. Like I said, the Sangria was worth two tickets, and I was rather thirsty. Besides, I didn’t have to drive at all. The stars don’t align like that very often, you know 😉

Tuesday in the Park

Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day here. The weather and the clouds co-operated during the photo shoot for the kids at the Japanese Gardens. Elizabeth walked them around the area, while I entertained myself walking with her little boy. Luckily it wasn’t too crowded. We did see several families there with the same purpose as ours, so that made it challenging to wait for turns. But overall, it was a wonderful morning spent in serene surroundings. We did manage to get distracted, though.

That’s right: they spend the morning getting all gussied up and prettified only to want to stick their hands in the water to pet the koi. They get that from their father. But who am I to dissuade them from petting glorified goldfish?

Afterwards, I surprised them with plans to walk down to the zoo, which is just a couple of blocks from the gardens. But as we looked at the throng of people migrating in that direction, we realized that the zoo would have to wait. It appears that everyone goes to the zoo on Spring Break. So, we headed for home, and made plans to go to Fredericksburg later this week.

Of course, plans are bound to change at the last minute around here, so I’m not holding my breath 😉

Best Laid Plans

Well, as usual, I try to make plans for Spring Break, and as usual, they come to naught. Not because I make grand plans or anything, but because invariably the kids’ schedules for school tend to creep in somewhere. So this week, we shall be travelling around the area playing tourists. First stop: The Japanese Gardens!

Pretty, isn’t it? It is a hidden jewel, but one worth enjoying. A picnic lunch after walking around, and then a trip to the zoo, just a few blocks down from there. And yes, tradition holds the kids take a picture of their mother with the flamingos. Tradition also holds I never show it to anyone 😉

Things I have Done That I Will NEVER Do Again

I have written about my Things to Do Before I Die List™ before. There are romantic places, some innocuous things like camping, and even looking at fossilized bones. I have a weird personality.

But there are some things I have done that I will never, EVER do again. Frankly, I’m amazed I had the courage (or stupidity) to attempt some of them.

#1– Go scuba diving.

I went once when I was 16 or so with my cousins, and it was amazing. I really enjoyed it. Fast forward to my honeymoon. I tried putting on the mask, and claustrophobia set in. I just can’t do it. It’s sad, because Hubby and our friend The Nomstress and her hubby love to go scuba diving. I guess I’ll just be content sitting on the beach, drinking a daiquiri and being waited on by Paolo.

#2– Dive in a shark cage.

I was not drunk. I was a guinea pig. My uncle wanted to do it, and none of my cousins (cowards) would go into the cage with him. My only thought was, “I’ll show them who’s brave…”, and in I went. The whole experience lasted maybe five minutes. In retrospect, I was not as aware of the danger as I should have been. I was in an area of Puerto Rico where once you go ankle deep in the water, you are an active member of the food chain.

Oh look! Sardines!!

Chalk that one up in the “Stupid Tricks” column.

#3– Dance contest.

And yet, alcohol was not involved. I was asked to be the designated driver for a group of managers who were in town for a district meeting. Being the only one familiar with the DFW area, it made sense for me to drive. Well, my manager friends decided to go to a club downtown, to a club that specialized in dance contests. It was like a sing-along bar, only dancing, not singing. And we all had to participate. The song? Madonna’s Vogue. Did I know what “Vogueing” was?? Nope. But I did win a free soda for being the only sober person dancing. That one goes under “courage”.

Believe me, there are many more. The list is pretty long.

And people wonder why I live a boring life 😉

Getting ready!

Tomorrow is Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday. People gorge and drink and carouse and celebrate because the following day is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent.

And though I shall remain at home, laughing at the weirdos on TV, I shall celebrate as only an Aggie of my stature can.

I hope y’all take it easy tomorrow during the festivities. Or at least score some pretty beads while you celebrate.

Pearls are optional 😉