Archive for November, 2008

Nov 28 2008

Happy Belated Birthday Teddy (Roosevelt)!

News,Travel | Nov 28, 2008

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Theodore Roosevelt's Birthplace --photo by Lisa

Theodore Roosevelt's Birthplace --photo by Lisa

If you happen to find yourself wandering around Union Square in New York City with an extra hour to spare, might I suggest popping into the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site for an informative tour.  One-hundred-fifty years ago (and one month, his birthday was on October 26th), Theodore Roosevelt was born in a beautiful townhouse at 28 East 20th Street. Apparently, I missed the Birthday Block Party this year, but they still had commemorative Theodore Roosevelt Birthday mugs for sale in the gift shop.

The current house is a reconstruction and was built by the Woman’s Roosevelt Memorial Association in 1923 as a memorial for our 26th President. There is a really interesting gallery of Roosevelt memorabilia showcasing his toys, political cartoons, campaign buttons and the hat that he wore in the Spanish-American War.  Guided tours are offered almost every hour and are preceded by a short film about Roosevelt’s youth.  All of this for only three dollars!

(The Blue Guide to New York was a great source for finding interesting smaller museums to see in New York City so I could escape the cold weather!)

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Nov 24 2008

NPR is Great. Here’s Why…

News | Nov 24, 2008

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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle -by Haruki Murakami

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle -by Haruki Murakami

Some time ago, while driving somewhere inconsequential, I found myself doing what I always do in the car: listening to NPR and day-dreaming about my future Talk of the Nation radio personality and all the insightful questions I’d ask my equally insightful guests. And so it was on this otherwise mundane day that I heard a particularly intriguing program about foreign novels: aired on the heels of Jean-Marie Gustave le Clezio’s award for the Nobel Prize in literature, Day to Day hosts interviewed David Kipen. They discussed the choice of le Clezio for the Prize, why many Americans haven’t heard of him, and why in the words of a certain Nobel Committee member, America remains “too isolated, too insular” when it comes to literature.

While this accusation turned many (American) heads, I was more interested in what came next in the conversation.  See, for someone working in a bookstore, constantly surrounded by new releases and newly released editions, books with pretty covers and books with not-so-pretty covers, it’s sometimes hard to decide what to read next. So I was pleasantly surprised to hear Kipen’s list of “The Best Foreign Books You’ve Never Heard Of” and promptly added some to my To-Read list.

Out Stealing Horses -by Per Petterson

Out Stealing Horses -by Per Petterson

I was also happy to hear some titles that I was already familiar with (all thanks to the GCB’s wonderfully diverse Armchair Travel selection). Taken from Kipen’s list, I can only personally recommend three, but I recommend them all highly: Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson (Norway), The Thief and the Dogs by Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt), and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (Japan). We also have autographed copies of Antonio Lobo Antunes’ What Can I Do When Everything’s on Fire? (Portugal).

For the full list, visit this program’s online summary found on the NPR website. Also, feel free to tell us your favorite translated books so they can stop being unheard of and start being read… by us!

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Nov 22 2008

Times or Oxford -or- The Creation of a Dream Library

News | Nov 22, 2008

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Oxford Atlas of the World

Oxford Atlas of the World

In the future I imagine for myself (on those days when homework is piling up and the money is running low) I have my own library. Dark wood, of course, ladders to the ceiling, a fireplace, fat maroon reading chaises–you know, the usual. I also will own two wooden oversized book stands. On one will sit a worn and perpetually open Oxford English Dictionary. The other will hold aloft, reverently, an atlas.

The question then is: what atlas? As many new ones have come to the store in the past few weeks, the answer has only slipped further from my grasp. The obvious choice for a library out of a 19th century novel is the new, leather-bound Oxford Comprehensive Atlas of the World, which just came out in October. Two-hundred-ninety pages of maps! (I think that deserves another exclamation point: !) And how perfect would its gilded pages look up on that stand? But then there is the Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, also out this October. Slightly fewer pages of maps, but over 200,000 place names and geographical features in an unbelievable index. (!) This decision would require much sitting in a plush overstuffed chair, staring into the fire.

As it stands, I have no library. I have bookcase upon bookcase of books I’ve read, books I’m going to read, and books I pretend I’ll get to some day. I still want an atlas, though, and am considering upgrading from my 1999 Oxford with this year’s also new standard sized Oxford Atlas of the World. The sale here brings it to $68, which is, of course, another selling point. Sure, it’s not as big as the Comprehensive, but that way it doesn’t need that atlas stand from the dream of my future–my bed can suffice for now.

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Nov 19 2008

Upcoming Winter Fun in West Virginia

News,Travel Tips and Resources | Nov 19, 2008

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Raven Map of West Virginia

Raven Map of West Virginia

Why do we, warm-blooded mammals, particularly dislike the winter season? The answers are apparent: it’s dark, it’s cold, and your bus is always twenty minutes late for the sole reason of torturing you and making you turn into an icicle on that desolate street corner.

But on the other hand, why don’t we take a more optimistic look at the upcoming winter? That will come to you easily, especially after a mug of hot chocolate, don’t worry. Yes, winter can be escaped only if you are taking a vacation in the Caribbean. So if it is inescapable, why not to try to have some snowy fun? After all, global warming is coming, you know, and snow is becoming more and more precious.

To catch some of it (or sometimes quite a lot), I would personally recommend West Virginia. Don’t be surprised! They have all the trails open right now with 8 to 16 inches of that white stuff, which we probably won’t get for another month here in Boston! And for those who just started shivering, the experts say – it is never cold when it snows unless it is a serious blizzard. However, there is always a cure for that disaster, like a ski resort cabin with a cozy fireplace, for example. That is certainly something you would appreciate and enjoy when it’s 15 degrees outside.

So, grab your skiing or snowboarding gear, your kids, dogs, friends, and put them all into the car and go. There is more fun to winter than the fear of cold, I assure you.

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Nov 17 2008

Europe, Backpackers, and the Budget Traveler

News,Travel | Nov 17, 2008

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Let's Go Ireland: On a Budget

I often travel by myself.  Sometimes it is great; I love the freedom and flexibility to do whatever I feel like doing at that particular moment. Sometimes it is not so great, and I become so painfully lonely that I shop just so I can talk to sales clerks. I used to think that I was not the “tour group type,” but lately I have started to take some traditional tours, and not only have I enjoyed them, but I have made lots of good friends. The problem seems to be finding the right tour group.

Recently a friend told me about a group of backpackers who organize trips to Europe that are based in the North End of Boston. There was also a great article about them in the Boston Globe today (Local Backpackers Flock Together). Since I just found out about them, I haven’t actually participated in a tour. However, I am glad that they are on my radar for future trips.

As a side note, the new 2009 Let’s Gos have arrived. They are a longtime budget traveler favorite. New titles include: Britain, Europe, France, Italy, Spain & Portugal with Morocco, Western Europe, Australia, Buenos Aires, Costa Rica, Germany, Hawaii, New York, Paris, and Thailand.

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Nov 14 2008

I Danced My Way to Texas

Travel | Nov 14, 2008

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Raven Map of Texas

Raven Map of Texas

I have recently returned from Austin, Texas.  Everyone says the greatest things about Austin, and I have no complaints.  I’m sure it was lovely.  I bet it was spectacular.  Maybe it would’ve been my future home.  I will never know. I went to Austin not to see the city and its sights…I went to dance!!

There I was on stage in front of 2000 lovely people, or so I assumed, but the lights were so bright!  Not too bad right?  There is a catch though, this was the opening night for the world’s largest drum convention called The Percussive Arts Society International Convention. PASIC asked the Berklee West African Drum and Dance Ensemble to perform the first ceremony of the convention.  So as a drummer and dancer, I was in front of 2000 other drummers and I hoped and prayed that we were all on the beat.

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Nov 10 2008

Get Lost! -or- Neighborhood Tourism

Travel | Nov 10, 2008

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Red Maple --photo by Llalan

Red Maple --photo by Llalan

The other day, cooped up in my room, computer on, windows closed and thermal, black-out-style curtains drawn, I realized I felt rightfully trapped. I rolled across the floor in my desk chair and folded back a small corner of my curtain. Blinded! The sun was out and singing loudly in a bright blue, cloudless sky.

It occurred to me that I might feel less claustrophobic, anxious, antsy, and frankly depressed if I got out of my dark cube of a room. After all, Mom had said as much when I talked to her on the phone earlier that day, and she’s always right.

So I swapped out the slippers for some sneakers and grabbed my point-and-shoot just in case anything caught my eye. And then I got lost.

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Nov 08 2008

A Lesson in West African Drum and Dance

News | Nov 08, 2008

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Berklee Ghana Dance Ensemble

Berklee West African Drum and Dance Ensemble --photo by Jess

For such a small country, Ghana sure does have a lot of distinct musical traditions, each marked by unique rhythms, instruments, and dance styles. I learned all this first hand when I saw the GCB’s favorite bike-riding, drum-playing, book-selling employee, Dan, perform with the Berklee West African Drum and Dance Ensemble in a show titled Ghana: A Musical Landscape, directed by Joe Galeota.

At the store, we often hear about Dan’s love for West Africa, drumming, and dancing – but hearing about it (no matter how enthusiastic he is) does not compare, even slightly, to going to a show and seeing his entire ensemble, including native Ghanaians, perform for nearly two hours.

The show, which was exhausting just to watch, showcased six traditional musical styles from different regions of Ghana – Kete, Bamaaya, Yilla/Guola, Bewaa, Adzogbo-Todzo-Le, and Kpanlogo. For each style, the dancers wore the traditional dress to provide a more complete portrait of Ghana. Besides just seeing Dan in his dancing element, a highlight of the show was the gyil solo by Bernard Woma, lead drummer of the National Dance Company of Ghana. The gyil is a type of xylophone constructed using wooden bars hung over various sized gourds (see photo when post continues).

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Nov 05 2008

The Beer Book -or- Beernography

Book Reviews,News | Nov 05, 2008

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The Beer Book --edited by Tim Hampson

The Beer Book --edited by Tim Hampson

The Beer Book pronounces right off the bat that it “is not a book for beer snobs.” And they are absolutely right. Editor-in-Chief Tim Hampson takes pains to make this “drinking companion” not only a book accessible to casual beer drinkers who want to expand their knowledge of the styles, but also appealing to the more knowledgeable drinker who wants to see what else is out there to try (to mark off on their “life list,” if you will).

Easily recognizable by its cask conditioned cover, it is not at first glance what one expects from a book by Dorling Kindersley (DK), publisher of travel guides known for glossy covers with spectacular photos. The inside, however, has the obvious look of a DK guide to anything. Nearly 1,700 beers are lovingly pictured in The Beer Book’s encyclopedic examination of brews from all over the world. It is drool-inducing.

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Nov 02 2008

The View from Goa

News,Travel | Nov 02, 2008

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Anjuna Beach from a lounge chair - photo by Nicole

Anjuna Beach from a lounge chair - photo by Nicole

After three weeks in bustling Bangalore, I decided that I needed some time away from the smog, traffic, and (above all) the autorickshaws.  But where is one to go, when you’re stuck in Bangalore and are hankering for some time away from it all (especially the autorickshaws)?

Luckily, I had some help deciding.  The Hindu holiday Diwali was last week, and with a few days off from work to get out of rainy Karnataka, some of the girls I am staying with were headed to Goa.  A week at the beach?  Count me in. Continue Reading »

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