July 31, 2007

Guilty As Charged

Call DPS*; a crime has been committed.

At approximately 10:07 PM on the evening of July 29th, 2007 it was discovered that a certain doggy, hereafter referred to as Chompy-Lones, AKA Pantalones Cortez, is a victim of neglect.

According to Chompy-Lones, AKA Pantalones Cortez, himself, it was only after 'months' of desertion that he was finally released from his dire predicament.

Note: the actual amount of time spent in isolation may be off as we are dealing with a canine persona; his grasp of a 'time line' appears vague.

According to the suspect in custody, after performing his ritual Sunday chore of ironing clothes for the week ahead, he replaced the iron and ironing board in the so-called 'third bedroom'.

Note: Suspect seems to be referring to what, at first glimpse, is a guest bedroom/storage room, AKA the scene of the crime.

After this iron and ironing board replacement, no member of the household saw paw nor hair of Chompy-Lones, AKA Pantalones Cortez.

An occasional "woof" was overheard in the midst of loud and intense Ninja Gaiden: Sigma playing. Multiple times the game was paused only to hear silence.

Suspect believed Chompy-Lones, AKA Pantalones Cortez, had simply done what he is known to do most nights: get fed-up with his owners and go to bed.

Suspect repeatedly asked his wife "Is Chompy in bed?" to which she replied "I don't know."

No one checked.

Not once.

From 7:35 pm until 10:07 pm.

That's correct: over 2.5 hours.

At this time, suspect teased Chompy-Lones, AKA Pantalones Cortez by calling for him to come and "go outside".

Chompy-Lones, AKA Pantalones Cortez did not 'come' because he could not.

He had been 'locked' in the 'third bedroom' with no air-conditioning and no lights for over 2.5 hours.

In fact, he had to shake his body, and therefore his collar in order for his so-called parents to 'find' him.

Note: in their favor, once 'found', Chompy-Lones, AKA Pantalones Cortez was taken outside, given water, and loved and played with until content. This was partly necessary because he wanted to go out to the living room and take part in the section of the evening he had missed: sleeping on the sofa until he grumbles and takes himself to bed. As the owners were ready to sleep, this option was not available. He was appeased and then all slept.

Assessment: we shall be keeping an eye on the lot of them.

*Doggy Protective Services

July 24, 2007

Barcelona Overview: Day Two

Our second day in Barcelona began as the first. Once we finished with our breakfast, we headed out to purchase tickets for a guided visit to the Palau de la Música, yet another World Heritage Site. We were very happy that we stopped at the ticket office first because the first English tour was sold out and we had to purchase tickets for a visit later in the afternoon.

Our next stop was the Picasso Museum. Maneuvering the maze of tiny streets in the Barri Gòtic was easy with our mini detailed maps from Rick Steves' Spain 2007 (Thanks BC!). We joined the fast-moving line that snaked down the street and were soon inside.

Señor CC and I both greatly enjoyed this museum. All of the work is presented chronologically and there are guides who ensure that you follow the correct path. It was amazing to watch his work grow...literally and figuratively. We saw small landscapes and village-life scenes painted on wood, some excellent portraits, items from his blue period as well as his more well known modern art. The whole painting exhibit was followed by a small room of his ceramics - now that we'd never even heard of.

My favorites included a portrait of his mother. It was so very real that it appeared as if she could just come off of the canvas and speak to us. I have a postcard of this one, but of course it doesn't do justice to the real painting. Just her ear was so amazingly created...it was unbelievable. I also loved one of the blue paintings - the one titled "desamparats" - of a woman and child. A postcard or photo in a book is interesting, but not nearly as revealing as when one has a chance to view a painting for herself.

Our next stop was the Museo de la Xocolata. I would be surprised if the mouths of all who pass by didn't water from the amazing smells emanating from the museum. One is faced with a cafe selling all kinds of creamy treats upon entering, and once entry tickets are acquired, room after room of eye candy awaits. The history of chocolate is covered amongst displays made almost entirely of, well, chocolate.

In addition to the man above, there are chocolate sculptures of Gorillas, Don Quixote and his sidekick in front of the treacherous windmills, a shoe store display, Casa Amatller, as well as a full model of the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory...factory. I imagine these will be the main focus for children, but scattered between them is loads of information regarding chocolate. There are examples of the machines used as well as interactive media displays to let you guide yourself through the information. Everyone exits through the cafe when they are finished...and many stop to have a drink and a tasty treat.

Houses of worship are everywhere in Spain and Europe. They are usually most extraordinarily decorated and designed. One of the most beautiful I have seen is Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona. This church was burned out during the Spanish Civil War; there are still black marks on the ceiling. There are very few furnishings in the church, which makes it quite different from Cathedrals we've seen. Symmetry throughout the sanctuary created by columns that rise up to towering heights coupled with the beautiful light created by the stained glass windows allows for an awe-filled atmosphere.

Windows line the sides of the sanctuary in Santa Maria del Mar. They were much lower to the ground than those in the cathedrals of Seville, Granada, or even Barcelona. Many cathedrals leave you astounded due to details or the opulence of what they contain; this church made me calm and filled me with a certain amount of amazement and respect. It was simply beautiful.

Hunger begain knocking after our inspiring visit to Santa Maria del Mar, so we headed out to Taller de Tapas for a surprisingly quick lunch. We had a lovely meal which I will describe in more detail another time. Excellent place for a lunch, though - and the menu is in at least three languages, which is always beneficial.

My favorite visit of the day was the Palau de la Música. No photographs are allowed inside, and the exterior section was under refurbishment, so I have nothing to show you but this photo. What is it, exactly? I bet if I tell you to think of tropical trees you can guess. Nature is the name of the game with the Modernisme movement, and this is only a conservative example of how architects and artists (one in the same, where Modernisme is concerned) used nature as inspiration.

Designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, the 'father' of Modernisme, this Music Palace is a sight to behold. If any of you, dear audience, every visit Barcelona, please make every attempt to visit this sight - especially if music interests you even slightly. The 'theme' of the performance hall is nature, and more specifically, a garden. Every piece of every item has been designed to fit within this theme, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Flowers are everywhere, but not necessarily obtrusively so, the stained-glass window up above it the sun circled by angels singing. The nature flows throughout the seating area.

The stage, which was increased in size to hold a full orchestra by building out over the first few rows of seats...which are still visible under the stage curtain, is framed on one side by the Ride of the Valkyres (Wagner) and on the other by the bust of Beethoven. I suppose those two big-wigs balance each other out quite nicely. Surrounding the back wall of the stage are maidens who are half mosaic (2-D; tile) and half bass-relief (3-D; plaster). Each holds and plays a different instrument.

The entire room is overwhelmingly intricate and full of light. Windows cover the outer walls, a new architectural feat at the time of its construction that required support in the form of poles and beams a few meters in from the outer walls. The only way to see the Palace is to join a guided visit, which begins with a short video and then a tour of the performance hall, or to attend a performance. Either way, it is a must-see in Barcelona.

Next on our itinerary was Casa Milà, commonly referred to as La Pedrera. La Pedrera means the stone quarry and when looking at the exterior of the building, I am certain anyone can see why the building has such a nickname. Antoni Gaudí designed and built these apartments in the modernisme style. Again, all is based on nature. Here things are not quite so...opulent as at the Palau.

Perhaps the most fun section of the building is the spontaneous rooftop. Sculptures of different shapes and colors, all based on nature of course, rise up. Some look like melting ice-cream on a cone and others look like heads of some creature (perhaps a lizard), but all are whimsical and fun. As you can see above, from Casa Milà one can easily see Gaudí's most famous work, La Sagrada Familia.

Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia is the full name of this structure. Gaudí spent the last years of his life living here while he built it. La Sagrada Familia is still under construction and will be for quite a few years yet. I expect a massive celebration when it is complete. I will share more on this and Casa Milà in another post or two. It is sufficient to say that this place is awesome. That would not be an exaggeration by any means.

For our evening meal, we headed to an Italian restaurant. I know, Italian in Spain. What can I say, we didn't feel like testing the Catalán waters. Regardless, it was very good. Afterwards we strolled Las Ramblas in a search for churros con chocolate. Were we successful? You'll have to come back later to find out!

July 23, 2007

July 12 of 12

Unfortunately for me, the jet lag struck again. Not in its normal manner, however. This time it joined forces with the entity that is 'vacation' and completely rearranged my internal clock so that I had no idea whatsoever what day it was when I took the photographs for this post.

I can say, with the utmost honesty, that I fully believed it to be the 12th when these photos were taken. Therefore, I shall post them as if my mind was not deceived and simply carry on.

Done and done.

I spent the 12th of July in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Also, the 11th.

I flew into Atlanta, Georgia on July 3rd and joined my brother and his family at a lakehouse for the normal July 4th boating and fireworks activities. Which lake? Why, Granddaddy's Lake, of course! Honestly, any lake near my brother's house appears to be initially called Granddaddy's Lake - but that is no matter to little minds.

On Saturday the 8th we drove up to North Myrtle Beach for our annual Beach Week with Granny. This involves Granny, of course, her four children, and their respective families. I believe eighteen people attended this year.

I have looked through my photos, and I did, in fact, take quite a few on the real 12th. All of them consist of our eighteen shining faces in various groupings. Since I have no idea if anyone wants their photograph online for the world to see, I have to make do with what I've got. Besides, it was the 12th of July somewhere in the world while I was taking these photos...and for a few of them it was the 12th in Spain.

This month's bonus photo is based on the word hot, as decided by Chad, creator of 12 of 12.

My 'vacation' from Spain (HA!) version of 12 of 12 - July, 2007:

9:46; North Myrtle Beach, SC

May I introduce you to the most fabulous pair of shoes on the planet? They are fantastic indeed. I have them in three colors, but this new pair is my favorite. I can stand in them through a(n) (American) football game - including all of the pre- and post-game activities, and my feet, legs, all of me, feels fine and dandy. Or I can wear them while touring around a place like Sevilla or Granada, where one ends up walking on pavement, cobblestones, and various uneven hard surfaces all day long and feel completely fine afterwards. I highly recommend them...if you couldn't tell.

9:47; North Myrtle Beach, SC

Someone bought these for breakfast. Mmmm....sugar and fat to start the day - is there any better way?

18:24; North Myrtle Beach, SC

These dear bears have replaced Hat, so it seems. As in the Cat in the Hat. I am sure you recognize Pooh. His dancing friend is called Baby Bear. I imagine it is because it is small.

18:25; North Myrtle Beach, SC

One of my purchases from yesterday - new running attire.

18:26; North Myrtle Beach, SC

A gift for my husband - birthday and anniversary come one day after the other, so I have to be prepared with many gifts when I return from the beach.

18:27; North Myrtle Beach, SC

Ah - the shoe thief! Granted, this is a shot of her wearing her own shoes. Do not let the tiny toes and itty-bitty soles fool you. She will wear, very successfully I might add, any size shoe to any location. Sandals, flip-flops...even smelly running shoes have been known to...relocate...with the help of this one's tiny tooties.

18:29; North Myrtle Beach, SC

Ah, Sly Kat will not like this photograph. She will be thinking ewww! while the rest of us think MMmmm!

18:37; North Myrtle Beach, SC
Bonus Shot: Hot

Oh yes, they are indeed hot! It only took forever to get them going this evening. There was a bit of a breeze...

18:39; North Myrtle Beach, SC

Dad finally got these beauties on the grill...just in time for the wind to really pick up and...

18:45; North Myrtle Beach, SC

Time out - my nieces are both brown-eyed, and my brother loves the song, so here it is. Yes, they both have this shirt and they wear it on the same day.

19:04; North Myrtle Beach, SC

Back to the regularly scheduled program...just in time for the wind to really pick up and... blow so hard that umbrellas, chairs, trashcans, and anything else on the beach went flying! A massive storm came through and we had to move all of the steaks upstairs to finish cooking. We had a delicious meal regardless of the chaos. Of course, that is what beach week is really all about anyway - the chaos of our family - and we always have fun!

19:18; North Myrtle Beach, SC

Back inside after a few shots of the storm, and Brown-Eyed Girl numero uno is taking photos just like me! She uses her Mom's cell-phone...and when she fills it up, someone just deletes them all so that she can start again.

00:56; North Myrtle Beach, SC

Once we were all full from the meal, a few of us went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I enjoyed it very much and I am very happy that I was able to go see it while I was home; otherwise I would not have seen it on a big movie-screen. We got back a little late. Here's the clock right before I went to bed.

So that's it. My 12 of 12...some on the 11th and some on the 12th. Hey - I did the best that I could!! I have more to write about. I'll be completing Barcelona information soon and I have a request to detail what my visitors to Spain can look forward to doing, so stay tuned - there should be more very soon!

July 3, 2007

All My Bags Are Packed; I'm Ready to Go

I'm leavin' on a jet plane.

I'll be back on July 17th.

July 2, 2007

Sardana in Cathedral Plaza, Barcelona

I love this photo:

I have seen candles in cathedrals before; usually they are tiny tea-lights. These, in the Barcelona cathedral, are fabulous. Once we got past the geese in the cloister (honk!) and entered the rest of the building, a red glow highlighted each area. Tea-lights are still the candle of choice, only here most burn in red glass holders. Each chapel had a set ready for use and most sets had a healthy glow about them. The ambiance was great.

Had there not been such a crowded feeling about the cathedral, Señor CC and I would have spent more time exploring inside. It is fortunate that we did not since we exited the building just in time to see the Sardana. This dance is a Catalán tradition and it is said that wherever there are Catalans, there is a Sardana.

One of the best places to view the Sardana is in front of the Cathedral. Dances occur every Sunday at noon and usually on Saturdays at 6:00pm; we were lucky enough to catch a performance on Saturday.

I say performance, but you should know that the Sardana is more or less spontaneous. Granted, the band, called a cobla, shows up and sets up their music stands and warms up their instruments - giving everyone a hint as to what is about to occur - but there are no professional dancers waiting in the wings to perform. The locals who happen to be around that afternoon form a circle, drop their bags in the center, join hands held high and begin to dance. As more people show up - or pass by, whichever may be the case - the circles increase in size and number until eventually the whole plaza is filled with dancers.

Dancing a Sardana is not very physically demanding; young and old participate. The pride in the Catalán tradition is very evident as heads are held high and all dancers stand tall with hands held unfalteringly above their shoulders. There was a time when Catalans were not allowed to speak their own language or dance their dance. All was forbidden during the dictatorship of Franco. It is a testament to the dedication of the people of Catalunya that their heritage has survived. They fought for what they believed in and succeeded. Now anyone can experience their heritage simply by visiting the city.

In addition to the dance, which originated in the 16th century, there are a few instruments in the cobla that are fairly strictly Catalán in use. The modern cobla consists of twelve instruments played by eleven people. Some of these instruments are easy to recognize: the contra bass, two trumpets and one trombone. Two fiscorns, as they are called in Catalunya, are part of the cobla as well. You may know the instruments better as baritone saxhorns. Saxhorns in a cobla, have their bell turned forward, much like that of a flugelhorn. The following video has a saxhorn (left - without a turned bell) and a euphonium (right) playing the theme music for everyone's favorite plumber:

Aside from the string and brass instruments already mentioned, there are some woodwinds and one small percussion instrument. These are the Catalán instruments. I had to look up the Sardana here when I got home in order to figure out just what exactly I had seen and heard in Barcelona. In fact, most of the information in this post comes from that great site.

The loudest instruments in the cobla are the Catalán shawms. There are four in a cobla, two called tible and two called tenora. Tible means treble and tenora means - you guessed it - tenor. These instruments look and sound much like an oboe. Shawms differ because they have a larger bore that is shaped so as to make it louder and more suitable for outdoor playing. Shawms are also constructed a bit differently in that they are made from one long piece of wood instead of sections. Also, the reed/mouthpiece is a different shape; it fans out quite widely unlike the rather straight shape of the oboe reed. Many shawms have a bell (the bottom of the instrument) that has been reinforced with metal. This makes it louder, and apparently also allows the musician to use it as a weapon if necessary...medieval times must have been very rough and exciting.

The last two instruments in a cobla are the flabiol and the tamborí, both of which are played by one person. The tamborí is worn on the left arm just above the shoulder and the flabiol is held in the left hand. In this way the musician can hit the tamborí with a mallet held in the right hand while using the left to play the flabiol. A flabiol sounds very much like a piccolo and it is this instrument, along with a beat on the tamborí that begins each sardana.

The music itself has a strong two-beat rhythm to it, whether in a 2/4 meter or the more commonly used 6/8 meter. You can have a listen to a version of each of those here and here. I enjoy the latter of the two the best and it sounds more like what we heard in Barcelona when we watched the dance of Catalunya.

Want to know what it was like to be there? Watch this(not mine):

Experiencing the song and dance that is the Sardana was a highlight of our visit to Barcelona. It was fascinating that people simply stopped in the square on their way to or from work, the market, church, or shopping to participate with others in a dance. Perhaps they knew some of the people with whom they were dancing. I imagine that in a city the size of Barcelona, this is not always the case. Instead they are dancing with people with whom they relate for one reason only: they are Catalán. How wonderful for that to be enough to keep this tradition alive for so many years and through such hardship. Amazing, indeed.