Thursday, July 27, 2006

I get time to write when Angela has to do secret wedding stuff so here I am again. Had a nice surprise a couple nights ago, which I failed to mention in my previous post. We thought we were going to Noci, a small town near Putignano, to meet some people for a drink. Actually, we were going to meet someone, Felice, we had never met before, for reasons which I won't mention right now...

Anyway, yeah, the surprise. We arrived, met one of Angela's friends, and then walked into the historic center of town. After a few cobblestone twists and turns, we found ourselves before a couple of tables made up for dinner right in the middle of a little street, complete with candles and wine glasses. It was one of the most unusual dining experiences I've had. Felice had prepared a meal for us (farfalle with a creamy lemon sauce and baked lamb and potatoes) and, although we had never met, it was a wonderful gift. More about Felice later...

Putignano - Campanella Countryside Casa III - Woodstoves I've posted a few pictures of Angela's parent's countryside house if you want to take a look at where we've been shacking for the past few weeks. This is a picture of the wood-burning ovens outside of the house.

There have been a number of reasons to celebrate since we arrived and those will only continue to grow as we get closer to the big day. It makes for a nice prelude. Yesterday was Angela's mother's Onomastico, or name day. These days are based on the names of saints. They're almost like second birthdays and they're celebrated in like manner. Many of Angela's relatives called or came over in the evening and we all enjoyed panini and vino, and talked late into the night.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Getting much better activity here than at this time last year, when I was also away for most of the month. I'm being, perhaps, a bit more attentive and, possibly, it's a testament to my growing fame. I'm not sure how long I can keep this up as things seem to get even busier over the next few weeks.

The soccer frenzy is dying down now, finally. Angela was fairly enthusiastic the day of the championship match, in fact I had never witnessed such unbridled enthusiasm from her about a sporting event, but I could not imagine what a reflection it was. After we arrived here, it seemed as if the match was on everyone's lips. I CAMPIONI DEL MONDO was a phrase which could be seen and heard everywhere. Also, the French player, Zinedine Zidane (or as the English announcer was calling him, Zee Zee), who used his melon as a battering ram on Italian Marco Materazzi, knocking him to the ground, has become the butt of many jokes in the media.

Otherwise, just killing time right now in town in the early evening while the ladies go try on dresses. Think I'll go grab a gelato...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Putignano - Santa Maria del Carmine Procession IIEverything's going well and well-relaxed especially after two afternoons savoring the sea. Wish you were here, but then some of you will be soon enough...

Another quick post to let you know about some new pictures. Earlier this week, they celebrated Santa Maria del Carmine, which involved a couple of processions, one during the day and one at night, along the main street here in Putignano. Angela's father actually took part in the procession as he is a member of the con fratello del Carmelo. Take a look if you want to get a clearer idea about what I've been witnessing.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Milano - My New Hat & A Valuable LessonIt's been busy over the past week, but I've finally snuck away to get all y'all e-people caught up. Hard to believe nearly a week has passed since we left. We arrived in Milan from Beijing without a problem, transferring planes in Copenhagen. We stayed in Milan for a couple days (thanks again to Silvia for graciously lending us her newly refurnished apartment for a couple of days! <-- this part was written with a minimum of feeling) before catching a train South to Putignano. Here's a picture of me wearing my new hat (Irish linen! or so it says on the label) which I picked up in the oldest shop in downtown Milan or so sayeth the purveyor. I'm still getting used to it.

Matera - Panorama ISeems like we haven't really had a moment to spare since we've been here, although we managed to get to the seaside for an afternoon a few days ago. The next day, Angela had a possible translation job in Matera with the Carabinieri, and we used the opportunity to spend the rest of the afternoon wandering around that beautiful old town built into the rock on the side and top of a rocky hill. You can see a few more pictures in the usual place.

It has been fairly hot and windy here during the day, but it cools down nicely in the evenings. A wonderful change from sill-born Beijing's never-ending humidity and unclassifiable weather purgatory. That's it for now. Hope the rest of you are enjoying your summers wherever you may be. Think I'll go find Angela and then we can look for an espresso before lunch...

Monday, July 10, 2006

This is probably my last post for a while. I'm not sure when or where I'll be back in blog action, but it will happen. Keep checking back and don't give up. If you really need to get your B-O-B fix, wander into my archives and catch up on some of the episodes you might have missed.

Beijing's Millenium MonumentA busy week is coming to a close. We ran around during the day yesterday in the overcast city, busy completing errands before heading out of Beijing tomorrow, less than 24 hours from now, and returned home in the early evening to nap. If we weren't getting married in less than a month, there wouldn't be so much to worry about. Farewell parties, multiple rehearsals and two performances with the Subterraneans, one at Icehouse with Tré (a visiting Blues guitarist from Chicago) and another at the Beijing World Art Museum beneath the millennium Monument (pictured here), only added to the manic pace and exhaustion of these final days.

On top of everything, we needed to be well-rested and awake at 2AM to catch the World Cup final pitting Italy and France. Planning to go to Ritan Park, where we had watched other matches, it had looked for hours like it was going to rain and even began suggestively thundering and lightninging, but no rain fell. We went to sleep at about 11PM and woke up at 12:30AM, ready to get our soccer fix. While getting dressed in my new Azzurri jersey, I looked out the window. People were still eating on the street down below, but I could smell the cool rain in the air. The phone was ringing and text messages were flying as we made and confirmed plans to meet up with various people. Finally, we were ready to go and the rain began to crash down in giant drops. Ritan Park was obviously out of the question, but we weren't going to sit at home and watch the game. Plan B was put into effect. We contacted our friends and then went downstairs to catch a cab, on our way to our new destination, the Goose & Duck. The streets were flooded in seconds and by the time we had taken a few steps in the downpour, Angela and me huddled beneath our little umbrella, our shoes and pants were sopping wet. We sloshed on hoping to find a cab waiting on the street. We found one, and entered, laughing at our misfortune, but we weren't going to miss the game. We were on our way!

We finally made it to the bar, driving quite slowly on the riverish roadways. The bar was crowded and the atmosphere was electric as people whistled and shouted in the waning minutes before kick-off. We were lucky to find good seats and sat down to enjoy our beers and wait for our friends to join us. Unfortunately, the French supporters seemed to outnumber the Italian fans, but that didn't stop us from cheering and enjoying the occasion. Our friends slowly trickled in, some of them drenched from being caught in the wet weather, but everyone seemed to be in high spirits and ready for a good match.

It rained all through the morning as the game rolled on to its dramatic conclusion. Everything went according to plan and our early morning soccer mayhem came to a climax as Italy punched in all five of it's penalty shots, with France missing once, to claim the cup. It was bright and foggy outside as we emerged from the quieting bar, but the rain had stopped and the sun had risen. We wished our remaining mates well, returned home and quickly dropped into a long sleep.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Couple reviews or recommendations for you e-gobblers out there in the blog-a-daisy world. Ever since I quit my review blog a few months back, I haven't reviewed anything. I guess I'm just being more selective. Seems like I'm also finding time these days to post a little more often, especially now that school's done and Angela and me are just about up and out of this piece.

First, a movie. I've been dying to tell someone about Yes, directed by Sally Potter, which caught me off guard. A little more than a year old now, nearly the entire movie is told in verse, that is, it rhymes. Fantastic! I hear you asking if they can pull it off. I think so, and brilliantly. Seems like people weren't rushing to the box offices to catch this one, but it's well worth checking out. Anything that gets poetry off the page and out into the world in an unexpected way such as this is, at least, ambitious and beyond the call of duty.

Yes follows an Irish-born American woman in a lifeless marriage with an English bloke who has an affair with a Middle-Eastern man. She tries to come to grips with her own responsibility in directing her own life amid religious and political issues which quickly cloud matters. The cultural make-up of the starring and supporting actors, highlighting the influence of beauty of English, also made the movie unique. Might be a little steamy for some of my G-rated readers out there, but marvelously filmed and well-worth tracking down.

And lastly, a CD. Victim of Truth, the debut album by Nneka, a Nigerian-born singer, which has been getting regular rotation on my CD-player. One of my colleagues recently turned me on to this funky and soulful music which might even appeal to some of you hip-hop skeptics out there. Nneka's positive message and creative vocals and music make it easy to swallow, aside from getting you out of your seat to shake your thing. Download some tracks, give it a listen and then go buy a copy!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Independence Day to everyone out there in America who tunes in here! Take a listen to a special edition of The Goodnight Show if you know what's good for you.

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My last show for the Summer. A short-lived try-out with the Mipo Radio gang (thanks to everyone over there, especially Didi!), but I expect to be back in audio action in September with something new after I return to my Beijing studio.

Monday, July 03, 2006

China is not a bad place, contrary to popular Western myth. Sure, things are goings on behind closed doors, but where aren't they? I'm having a fantastic time here. I've met many wonderful people, not as many desperate directionless types that I had met in Japan, but some real serious hard-working people whom I now consider to be among my closest friends. And there are only few of those, truth be told...

Beijing is working hard now to change things with just about two more years before the 2008 Olympics. Still, as with every place, there could be more improvements. The public transit system has probably undergone the most visible change. Shortly after my arrival two years ago, I noticed advertisements on the flat-screen monitors (the monitors themselves, a remarkable feature) on the buses, whimsical animations of people and all the behavior that should be modified: spitting, throwing things out of a window, forming a line, talking loudly in public places. Many of the buses have been replaced altogether with swanky new plastical models, electronic card-readers have been installed for people who use bus passes, and the attendants now force people to enter from the front door and exit at the back door. Joy of joys! No more fighting to get off the bus! It's still a bit of a fight at the subway, which is a bigger more mayhemous dragon to tame. In its defense, signs have been posted in the subway stations which picture people lined-up in a courteous way at the sides of the doors to allow people to exit the subway car before entering themselves. The unenforced effect, though, is still unnoticeable.

Will Beijing meet the challenge and get its act together in time? Here's a list of my suggestions, without overthrowing the government (85 years last Friday since Communism was founded in China and going strong), to help Beijing brighten its image:

- Trash receptacles: Increasing the number of places to throw away refuse would be a brilliant first step. I can't believe that, in some neighborhoods, people just pile their garbage on a corner and someone comes to take it away. Aside from the unsightly piles and horrid odors, it would really help to improve the appearance of most neighborhoods.

- Traffic regulations: There are almost no rules on the roadways here for both pedestrians and the other. My ride to work each morning is often a nerve-wracking experience as we dodge in and out of lanes and cut-off unsuspecting pedestrians or other drivers. I'm afraid to ride a bicycle here. The police presence on the streets seems to have no effect on drivers. If there is a red light, there is almost always someone who will run it. Motorcycles and cars routinely drive on sidewalks or on the wrong side of the road. Pedestrians are equally guilty. People dangerously cross the streets whenever they like. A country with the largest workforce in the world! Cut back on the internet tiddlywinks and instill some order.

- More respect for the environment: Zero respect for the surroundings, and this relates to the first point I mentioned. People spit in the supermarket and just about anywhere else. Children relieve themselves on the street or sidewalk. If I had a nickel for every ice-cream wrapper I've seen thrown on the street... National treasures and tourist places aren't in much better shape. When people eat on the sidewalk, and there are many sidewalk restaurants, all trash just goes under the table or blows away. Although, recently, I've noticed some of our local eateries in the neighborhood no longer provide outdoor seating. Things are looking up.

- General handicap access to places, such as providing ramps and elevators.

That's enough complaining for now.