Those that are familiar with my travel articles, as published in scores of major newspapers, and the few surviving travel magazines, know that Turkey (correctly, “Turkiye”) has long been one of my favorite travel destinations. Now, sadly, it seems likely that major socio-religious-political changes are reversing a century of hard-won, economic and cultural progress, and setting it off on a path to economic and cultural ruin. That extraordinary nation, which, literally and culturally, bridges Asia and Europe, and which fought hard to pull itself up from having been “the poor man of Europe,” to being well on the way to modernization, is, apparently headed down a slippery slope to regressive Islamic rule.
Arising from the ashes of the First World War, a natural leader, who was to become known as Ataturk (“Father of the Turks”), skillfully guided his diverse, historic nation away from the exotic, mystical East, and headed it toward becoming more like Europeans. Until just a couple of yeas ago, it seemed clear that Turkey was well on the road to democracy, capitalism, religious and ethnic freedom and equality, and economic prosperity; now, due only to the most-unfortunate election of a skilled, opportunistic, dictatorial, Islamic leader, that potentially great nation is headed back into the darkness and destruction of Islam. Tourism, along with all else, is already suffering, and it will only get worse, unless a miracle happens — which seems unlikely.
For the moment, let’s ignore the writing on the wall of the mosque, and take a look at the Turkiye which has been rapidly gaining popularity with world travelers. It is where one can find the unimpressive-but-most-important, ruins of the World’s first city (Çatalhöyük); visit the place where, as many believe, the Virgin Mary ascended to Heaven (Miriama, near Izmir); stand on the spot where Alexander sliced the Gordian Knot with his sword; imagine yourself as the golden King Midas; visit the sites of the first 7 Christian churches in Asia, along with places associated with the travels and lives of Saints such as Paul, John, and Peter; stand in awe inside what was built as the greatest church in the Roman Empire, converted to a mosque, and finally to a museum; visit 1,400-year-old churches, built by Armenians, in Turkiye’s Eastern provinces; stroll thru he extraordinary rock-cave-churches of Cappadocia, which were decorated with Christian murals; or even a cave, said to be Abraham’s birthplace. And then there’s fabled Troy of the wooden horse; the famous, WW I battlefields of Gallipoli,; magnificent Greek and Roman cities; the ruins of once-magnificent cities, which were already ancient when Columbus stumbled on America; the home of the exotic, “Whirling Dervishes”; Mt. Ararat, of Noah’s ark fame; isolated palaces with solid gold faucets; abandoned ghost cities; a mysterious, isolated, mountain-top tomb (actual burial site never found) of a vain king; great winter-escape beaches along with snowy winter sports; Roman resorts with natural hot baths; a wonderful, friendly, hospitable population; some of the world’s tastiest food and drink; and much much more. Let’s briefly look at some of the more fascinating and/or enjoyable places to visit in that large nation, which physically, and culturally bridges East and West, Europe and Asia, Christianity and Mohammedism, while being set against a widely varied landscape, with similarly changing climates.
Istanbul (once Constantinople, capital of the shrinking Roman Empire) is not only the most visited city in Turkey, but is also the site of the major, international airport, so visitors usually first arrive there. Best known for its Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace (of jeweled dagger fame), and fabled Golden Horn (an estuary harbor), the hilly city offers much more (e.g., vast, ornate, underground, Roman cistern; World’s largest covered marketplace; Aya Sophia church/mosque/museum; luxury hotels and historicB&Bs; ancient forts; some of the World’s better restaurants; and even a modern shopping district, with all the premium names).
Ataturk relocated the capital from Constantinople to centrally-located, Ankara, which also hosts a major airport. Ankara has both older, historic sections, along with shiny new hotels and shopping centers. Highlights include the fabulous Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, which offers visitors a background that will significantly enhance further travels in country, and the dominating, monumental, must-see, hilltop tomb of the Father of Modern Turkey. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Easy day trips take the visitor to fascinating archaeological sites, dating back some 3,500 years (e.g., Hattusa, of the Hittites).
Cappadocia has become the best-known tourist site — even outstripping still-popular Ephesus. Cappadocia is a unique land made of a mile-thick layer of soft, solid, volcanic rock, called “tuff.” On the surface, a strange, surreal, landscape of nature carved stone cones and other shapes gives the place its unique appearance. Ancient Christians settled there, seeking isolation and protection from Islamic intolerance. They not only hollowed out the surface structures, turning them into homes, churches, and agricultural buildings, but also went underground, hollowing out vast “ant hill cities, wherein they had everything needed for normal life. and where they could retreat, and live, while not being detected by marauding cavalry above. It is said that there were at least one Christian church there for every day of the year; all of which were once decorated with marvelous colored mural, which, sadly, have been defaced by Moslem fanatics. Unfortunately, Cappadocia has, in just a generation, become so popular and commercialized that it has become a sort of amusement park, complete with souvenir stands and camel rides.
Turkey has what, in my opinion, are the best Greco-Roman ruins of Earth. Those most often visited are at Ephesus, near Izmir, on the west coast; on most days, the crowds there look just like those that swarm through Orlando’s amusement parks. The very best archaeological site is at Aphrodisias, which has promise to become the best such site on Earth. Dozens of other such are found at Side, Alanya, Perge, Pergemom, Troy, etc. It seems that Turkiye has more, and greater variety of, historic treasure than any other place on the globe.
We can’t, in this short space, begin to do justice to Turkey’s many attractions for visitors to enjoy, but we can’t leave without recognizing its wonderful Turquoise Coast. Named “turquoise” for the color of the warm waters lapping at its nearly 1,000 miles of southwestern coastline, stretching roughly from Alanya, on the east, to Bodrum on the west, and protected from the north’s winter chill by a picturesque, snow-capped mountain range, this region is immensely popular with Europeans, as well as Turks themselves. So popular, in fact, that the region’s sole airport (at Antalya) is reported to be the nation’s busiest during winter months. The Coast offers a wide variety of accommodations, from modern, highrise, hotels, to charming, old, B&Bs and pensions. Coastal cruises are immensely popular, aboard beautiful, classic, wooden yachts, called gulets; there’s also a well preserved Greek site at Perge, where the massive theater is still in use. Sleepy little Side was my wife and my favorite getaway; we spent several, week-long vacations there, enjoying the charm and hospitality of a pension right on the waterfront, and immediately next door to Greek ruins. There’s even an amphitheater in town, where Claudia and I often sat, alone, at eventime, enjoying a cocktail along with our immersion in living history. We were told that this once was a grand ruin, but the Turks only relatively recently recognized the value of such, and moved to protect them from plunder by foreigners. An aged local resident told me that he often saw ships anchor offshore, to collect artifacts, and take them away. It didn’t bother him.
Well, there you have it: Turkey is extraordinarily blessed with attractions for just about everyone and anyone. It has been a safe, friendly, inexpensive, and hospitable travel destination, featuring cuisine that ranks with the World’s best (they prepare sheep better than any other nation with which I am familiar, and their primitive breads are unexcelled — seldom even equaled. Tragically, a fundamentalist, Islamic leader has now established himself as a potential dictator, with dreams of turning Turkey into an oppressive, narrow-minded, authoritarian, Islamic caliphate; it appears that he may succeed.
Of Cabbages and Kings is a syndicated feature by j.g.nash. Relevant comment may be sent to him at email@example.com
I have never appreciated that Daylight Saving Time (DST) thing: I prefer it light early in the morning (which is when the best and the brightest of us are at our maximum abilities); then dusk or dark, around cocktail hour, with the world settling down to rest. Let’s do away with that expensive, inconvenient, DST policy.
Ok, I admit to being especially cranked on that subject this year, because the day established for us to waste time by trying to recall how many clocks and related devices we have, which we must, once again, try to figure out how to reset, came and went, and I missed it. I had invited my son in for dinner, at 5:00, on Thursday, March 12th (his wife was away visiting her parents). Because we were supposed to have advanced out time pieces an hour four days before that event, and I hadn’t taken appropriate notice of that national (except for Arizona and Hawaii) “duty,” I was still deep in meal preparation when John Jr. arrived on time. Now, on the morning of the next day, I am still involved in the unrewarding, sometimes frustrating and tedious, routine of listing, then finding, and, finally, hopefully, appropriately resetting clocks, watches, timers, and electronic devices, scattered throughout three floors of my home, and even in the garage.
In total, I think that I have some two-dozen time-dependent devices , which I must reset manually (another handful reset themselves in one way or another). Some, such as conventional clocks with hands, are relatively easy and uncomplicated to adjust: only requiring the adjustor to take prescribed care when moving the hands, so as to not break the mechanism. Others, mainly digital devices, such as wrist watches, demand careful following of detailed steps (e.g., “Depress and hold button D for 3 seconds; the seconds will flash; depress button A to switch to minutes, then depress button B to advance; pressing button A again will switch to hours; pressing button B will advance; depress D to switch back to normal operation.”)
Changing the clock in my automobile seems to require that the engine is running, which is a bad idea if in the garage, so must, apparently, be done while driving in traffic, which doesn’t seem to be a better choice.
What are the benefits of this ritual insanity? Well, the popular argument is that, by adjusting the periods of our waking hours, so that they encompass as much daylight as possible, we save nearly as much oil as we burn by driving the children to soccer practice. In fact the inconvenient and confusing practice of resetting our clocks was started here, by President Wilson, in 1918, so as to save energy needed for the First World War. Public outcry killed the ludicrous practice just 7 months later. It was revitalized by another President (FDR), in 1942; called “War Time,” it was, once again, to help us fight a World War.
But how much energy does this national nonsense save, and are there costs associated with the pesky practice? Well, no one, that I know of, has even attempted to calculate the costs of periodically, and randomly, readjusting time. On just a national level (and the preposterous practice has spread worldwide), changing out clocks requires wide-spread changing of printed schedules for thousands of time sensitive businesses or activities, from transportation schedules to theater showtimes; on an international stage, whereon there is no standardization as to when time is to be changed, nor even by how much, mass confusion results, affecting international business of all kinds, and making it an exercise in futility to attempt to schedule international travel by air.
Even the U.S. of A. has been unable to standardize the operation of DST: our start and end days have been changed more times than I care to try to count; and to further confuse us nationally, Hawaii and Arizona have, wisely, refused to participate with the questionable, confusing, and wasteful practice.
I wonder if the United Nations would accept the task of arranging for the World’s nations to abandon the unstructured, error-prone, wasteful practice of messing with time? If they did, and were successful, they’d, at long last, be able to brag that they’d done something worthwhile.
That’s all for now, I have 14 more devices still requiring wasteful, and bothersome, recalibration.
Of Cabbages and Kings is a syndicated feature by j.g.nash, Relevant comment may be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is clear that, with the speed and seeming simplicity of e-communications, we’re becoming careless in how we use E-Mail. That is unfortunate, because such habits degrade the potential inherent in that marvelous invention.
E-Mail is our only Internet means of rapidly, conveniently, and economically sending a conventional letter; we would do well to treat it with respect, so that it may function as an effective, electronic substitute for correspondence sent via the increasingly inefficient, and expensive, U.S. Postal Service. There are several other means of rapid and convenient means of sending electronic notes (e.g., Twitter, Texting, Instant Messaging, Facebook, etc.), which should be used, instead of E-Mail, when one is unwilling to put adequate and appropriate time and thought into a written communication.
I have long said that: “If what is written can be misunderstood, it will be.” If, and only “if,” we treat E-Mail in a manner similar to that we once accorded the traditional letter mail, will we fully benefit from the new medium. The more time, thought, and care that is invested in a written communication, the better the chance that, what you wanted to convey, will be. Here are a few suggestions intended to improve the use of E-Mail for all of us.
Start your E-mail off with a subject, even if it’s just something such as “Ref: Your mail of (the date)”; then open with a classic salutation (e.g., “Dear Joan,”). Then think about what your write: is it adequately self-explanatory? Compose to communicate, rather than to confuse. When you think you’re finished, read over the letter a couple of times: is the punctuation confusing, or helpful; are there spelling errors. When satisfied, add a closing, such as, “With best wishes,” followed by your name (and contact information, if applicable.
If you are attaching photos, or text, such as prior correspondence, mention such in the body of your letter; but, for Heaven’s sake, there is almost NEVER a reason to just automatically append prior correspondence; that’s usually just an indication that you don’t consider your correspondent to be important enough (to you) to take a minute and start a new message, rather than coping out, and lazily hitting the “Reply To” button (which appends the entire received message). When you used conventional mail, did you routinely enclose copies of all prior correspondence? Of course not; so why are you doing that now? It is increasingly common for some e-mail to be rejected because it’s too large a digital file, which results from routinely “replying to,” instead of starting out with a fresh, new, “letter.” In addition, sending and re-sending the same e-mail over and over again wastes communications resources, which can slow transmission times, or even result in rejection. Use “reply to” ONLY when the content of the thus attached prior correspondence is directly of use in relation to the current message.
Finally, to maximize the effectiveness and personality of your communication, avoid routine use of any of the hundreds of new abbreviations appearing each day. How much better to read “You make me laugh,” than to see “lol.” If you’re the sort of person that used to draw a heart at the close of a letter, to show affection, then use one in your personal mail; but avoid use of the countless icons available to show everything from stomach cramps to a drug-induced high: you are an adult — right?
In sum: if you can recall what snail mail involved, try to apply that discipline to composing E-Mail: if not, visit web sites, (e.g., www.wikihow.com/Format-a-letter) for help.
Of Cabbages and Kings is a syndicated feature by j.g.nash. Relevant comment may be sent to him at email@example.com.
I was born a photographer, although the first apparent evidence of such took nine years to appear.
My father was a talented, devoted, amateur photographer, whom was, I suspect, influenced by the traveling photographers that regularly visited his small, upstate New York village, where they made portraits of those that could afford the luxury. It was likely he that, in 1936, gave me my first camera (a Kodak “Brownie”), which firmly set me on a road to becoming an avid, and much-published, photographer. There were only two controls on that brown Bakelite camera: a film wind knob, and a lever that first cocked, and then released, the shutter, all in one motion.
By the time I had carefully, but anxiously exposed my first roll of black & white film, I had arranged a sort of almost-darkroom, in our sometimes HOT attic. Basically, that photo lab consisted of four 5×7-inch plastic trays for the chemical baths, and a bare light bulb, which I painted red by using an entire bottle of Mother’s nail polish. Amazingly, I produced printable images on that very first roll, which I then exposed for printing, by compressing the negatives with photographic paper, in a wooden frame with a glass front, which was then exposed to ambient light, while counting the seconds (several, but I don’t recall exactly how many). Sadly, none of those negatives have survived, because they were inadvertently stolen, by movers, during a relocation from Carson to La Palma, in the LA. area, in 1967. I might explain, because so very many, irreplaceable photographs were lost in the theft, and this story is about photography, that the movers had, apparently, decided to steal an ornate, antique strong box, which once belonged to some distant relative. The thieves knew that the box contained something, but couldn’t determine what, because it was locked, so they planned to secretly mark the “barrel” (1.e. carton) in which they placed the strong box, then fill that barrel with whatever was available from the vicinity ( a closet in my home office); which, most unfortunately, was mostly composed of boxes of my photography during the prior 25 years.
My Dad passed away, unexpectedly, when I was 14. He and I had never been at all close; he was, however, devoted to, and doted on my older brother. I admit to feeling no particular sadness at his death, but, again, I must mention that, without his genes (and I was his clone, rather that my brother, who was from my mother’s side of family), I would likely never have become so deeply involved in photography. My Dad had been using a semi-professional, view camera (Kodak Recomar 33, which used 9×12 cm, cut or plate, film) up until his death; no one else in the family had any interest in that, so it became mine. I used that fine photographic instrument (see image of it, at the left) for some 3 years, making some very acceptable images, up until I left home to voluntarily be part of WW II. The negatives, and most relevant prints, are all gone, but a few, scanable prints, from a photo album, survive. That Kodak was simply too large for such as my new active life, so I hocked it, and used the money received to buy, the then, only available 35mm camera: a Mercury, Universal II (photo right), which had a rotating, circular metal shutter, and, uniquely, exposed “half-frames” on 35mm film; thus making possible 72 pictures on what was advertised as a “36-exposure” cassette. I used that Mercury II in Europe (photos of bombed-flat cities), on board ships I crewed, and in the Pacific, where I ended up throwing it in the Harbor, at Manila, Philippines, in 1946. You see, I had never been satisfied with the quality of images made with the camera, so, when returning from shooting 72 frames amidst the ruins of Manila, only to find that, because I had carelessly loaded the film, it didn’t advance from frame to frame, so not a single one of those many images was recorded on film; in a fit of frustrated rage, I chucked the hapless camera into the murky waters.
I essentially gave up photography from that moment until, having been drafted to serve in the Korean thing, in 1951. I found myself in Japan, where the post exchange had a display of once-again available German Leicas; I purchased a model IIIf with a 50mm lens, for, as I recall, $129 (photo below). I revitalized my love for photography, while using that superb camera throughout the Korean conflict (along with my first twin-lens reflex [TLR} a Yashica Mat (at right), which created eye-watering images on 2.25-inch square negatives, and a wonderful Voitlander Vitessa, 35mm camera (below, right), which, with its fold1ble bellows, collapsed compactly). Most of those images were of native life and military operations on Okinawa and Miyako Jima; about 80% black & white film, which I processed in a basic lab, next to my quarters, on Miyako; the remainder was Kodachrome (ASA 10), which I mailed back to the states for processing. I continued using the Leica and TLR while next assigned to duty at a remote, early-warning radar site in northern Montana, where I first attempted processing color transparencies, which have faded badly over the years. I continued using them while studying for a degree in electrical engineering, at (negatives all gone, but scanable prints, from a photo album, survive) the University of Colorado, in Boulder, where I met my beloved wife, and started a family, which, of course, needed to be photographed. Both cameras were worked hard while living in Northern Italia for two years; for a few years back in Montana, in the ICBM business; then in the Los Angeles area, where I worked on a graduate degree at USC. The Leica rf camera was my workhorse, and became deeply ingrained in my persona, which I ask that you keep in mind at the end of this saga. [N.B. All negatives and most of the transparencies created with those cameras, during those many years, were part of the theft loss previously mentioned.] Now prepare to shed a tear, or laugh at me, because I shamefully admit to having attempted to service that precision Leica, when it began evidencing shutter problems. I’d always had a knack for fixing things, so, armed with a set of jeweler’s screw drivers, I sat down in the garage workshop of our home in La Palma, Calif., and began taking the Leica apart. SPROING!! springs, miniscule ball bearings, and other tiny parts, flew out and scattered across the cement floor. I suppose that I was trying to hide the evidence of my stupidity, when I threw out the bones of that classic camera.
A friend, then stationed in Japan, in support of the misadventure in Vietnam, bought and shipped to me one of the new Canon cameras (the first such that avoided openly copying Leicas). That Canon FT would become the nucleus of my first, professional, photographic system; which included two bodies, eight lenses, 2-dozen filters, a light meter, and several flash guns (that fired those one-use, flash bulbs). That treasured, hardworking Canon FT system, which served me very well (from about 1967-1975; in Seychelles, Kenya, Tanzania, Greece, New England, Washington DC, throughout the Caribbean, and while working on travel articles about the Revolutionary War, Cruise Vacations, the Civil War in Virgina) was supplemented by the ultimate TLR (a Mamiya c330f (photo left), which was the only TLR that had interchangeable lenses.
Most of my relatively extensive photography made in idyllic Seychelles, or during several, self-conducted photo-safaris in East Africa, used the workhorse Canon FT, but I had, by this time, studied photographic techniques, and, especially, photo equipment maintenance and repair, at three, excellent correspondence schools (The New York Institute of Photography, the School of Modern Photography, and the National Technical Institute). Consequently, many of my favorite images of that period were shot with a repaired Yashica J camera, which an associate gave to me, to “see what you can do with it.” I had also acquired one of Kodak’s Instamatics (a sort of early point and shoot camera, with newfangled, drop-in film loading, auto-exposure, and a fancy, 4-sided, Flash Cube. I now even had a sub-miniature camera: a classic Minox type (the size of a 5-stick pack of gum), but made by Yashica (its Autoron), which was a present from my family. All cameras (Canon FT, Mamiya 330f, Yashica J, Kodak Instamatic, and tiny Yashica Autoron were put to use during two years in photogenic Seychelles and East Africa. One of my favorite photos of my wife, is of her, holding that Yashica J, while standing out on the vast, Serengeti plains; and my favorite photo of myself with my lovely wife was made, by daughter Mary, using that point & shoot, Kodak Instamatic with a flash cube (see below)
Sometime, around 1960, I think, I began doing limited photo lab work, in which I had to find a “dark” room (often a bath without windows, but with running water). I developed monochrome (black & white) film, and some color transparency (e.g. Ektachrome); I also printed B&W images, up to 8×10 inches in size. It was a hassle setting up those temporary darkrooms, and then tearing them down again when finished working, but I was driven by the love of the craft, which was growing rapidly.
It was around 1970 that my 37-year career as a travel journalist/photographer was, unexpectedly, born. A b&w portrait of a Revolutionary War fifer, made on historic Lexington Green, caught the eye of promoters for the upcoming National Bicentennial (1976), which resulted in the image being used on a poster, sold to help finance that celebration. That wide publicity led to jobs writing and photographing travel. Although much of that early work was shot with the trusty Canon FT, and/or a TLR, my curiosity about other cameras resulted in the addition of the semi-automated Nikon FE and FM to my arsenal. The Canons had a built-in light meter, but no automation of anything; the new Nikon Fe was capable of automatically setting the camera’s shutter speed, in accordance with how I had set the lens opening (f-stop) as dictated by the brightness of existing light, which was quite an advantage, in those days. It was also toward the end of this period in which electronic flash became a reasonable substitute for flash bulbs, although I continued to use both, because each had its own benefits (e.g., with knowledgeable use, flash bulbs worked with focal plane shutters (in most SLRs) at shutter speeds above 1/60th, while electronic flashes didn’t.
Because of flash sync problems (especially with the new electronic flash and focal plane shutters), I eagerly bought a Yashica Electro 35 GSN when it appeared on the market. That nifty camera (about which I wrote a very popular report, published by Shutterbug) featured a leaf, or Compur, shutter, that suffered none of the flash sync problems inherent with all focal plane types; in addition, it had automated that shutter, so that it set its speed in accordance with the f-stop (lens opening) that I had preset. The basic electronic flashes of that age were automated only to the point of controlling their light output to match the film speed and the f-stop set on the camera. So, I could wander about someplace (such as the Pet-A-Pet Farm/zoo, In Reston, Virginia), snapping away with little thought given to varying light conditions. It seemed to be an ideal — and inexpensive — camera for use in the age of the electronic flash. Incidentally, although I had already had several travel-related stories, with photographs, published in newspapers and travel magazines, that job at Pet-A-Pet was my first non-journalistic, photographic assignment.
And it was in those times when I studied photographic techniques, and photographic equipment maintenance and repair, via two, excellent, correspondence schools (School of Modern Photography, and the New York Institute of Photography). Using the knowledge gained in the equipment maintenance courses, I was able to successfully build a shutter timing instrument, as well as turn three disposed-of cameras to functional status (an underwater camera; a basic Yashica J model, which I actually used on safari in East Africa; and a classic Argus C3, from WWII days). I also acquired, and played with, “sub-miniature” cameras, which used 16mm movie film (and even half that size) for still photography.
Instant (i.e. Polaroid) photography was something I also just had to experiment with. The large, bellows style Model 100 (which require manually coating prints, and waiting for them to dry, was my instant-print camera from around 1960 to 1975, when I upgraded to the motorized, spit ‘em out, models; the flagship of which was the leather covered, compact. foldable, SX-70. For several years, before the advent of digital photography, and small, portable printers, I carried an SX-70, just to be able to give prints to some of my subjects, whom had never had a photo of themselves.
With the introduction of in-camera light meters, and then automation of at least one camera setting (e.g., shutter speed or lens opening), the race was on. Canon rushed to produce the first, ergonomically designed, highly automated camera (the T-90, where “T” stood for “test”), which didn’t convince pros to abandon their beloved, Canon F1’s, which became the most used, and loved, 35mm-style film camera ever made.
For several years, most serious photographers were working, at least partly, with one of the other of the fast-appearing, fully automated cameras. In that same time frame, I enjoyed my first, professional, home photo lab, which I arranged to have built in a new home we’d bought in Florida. There, I did everything but develop Kodachrome (a proprietary process); especially, I worked hard at the creation of fine-art, B&W prints, as large as 16×20; that sort of work, then and now, was the pinnacle of photographic art.
Just as I was settled into photographic arts, involving everything from printing color to hand-coloring B&W prints, along came digital photography. Nikon was first, with a pocketable, swivel-headed camera, which produced low-resolution photos that no editor would look twice at, In quick succession, Olympus, and other innovators, brought out increasingly powerful digital cameras; seemingly almost overnight, digital quality increased so dramatically that finicky photo editors were giving those new images a second look.
All of the first, seemingly “acceptable,” serious. digital cameras shared a common weakness: they effectively multiplied the focal length of lenses used — something that no serious photographer wanted. or would even tolerate. There were several abortive attempts (e.g. Kodak-Nikon co-operations, which quickly failed, but Canon, with its sound-barrier breaking EOS1-Ds eventually offered the first, acceptable, full-frame, digital, 35mm-style, SLR. I was thrilled with the advances in digital photography, which 19 of 20 photo editors now unhesitatingly accepted. I closed my darkroom, converting it into a data processing facility, which was used to not only process and edit digital images, but prepare articles about such as photography and travel. No longer did I have to make duplicate color transparencies, package them with related texts, then take the package to the post office, where it was shipped, registered and insured, at great expense in time and money. The world of the freelance journalist and photographer was turned upside down, almost overnight.
Over the 70 years of my love for photography, I probably owned and uses at least 50 different cameras, and even more accessories, such as electronic flash, remote controls, studio equipment, and specialty lenses. I find it interesting that, my final acquisition of a new camera system (2010) was the state-of-the-art Leica M9: a retro digital, with the most advanced innards available, but with no automation, I just couldn’t resist being able to combine the best of digital, with a camera that, once again, required the user to THINK, before pressing the release. I believe that, while full automation is actually beneficial in a few situations, in general, better images are made by a photographer that thinks through the entire process, then sets the camera accordingly, before tripping the shutter.
Of Cabbages and Kings is a syndicated feature by j.g.nash. Pertinent comments may be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
For most of Morocco’s visitors, their impression of the country is one of Casa Blanca’s whitewashed buildings; the circus atmosphere of touristic Marrakech; the commercial glitz of convenient Tangier; possibly the Roman ruins at Volubilis, or the impressive architecture as seen in Rabat or Fes. Those places are, however, only one of four parts of what there is to experience in wonderful Morocco.
I’ve decided to separate Morocco into 4 tourist “districts.” The first, I’ve already briefly described; it’s where perhaps 95% of all guided-tour visitors spend their time in country. The second district is the Atlas Mts, which run north to south, as the nation’s spine. The third is the sun bathed Atlantic Coast, where beaches with gentle surf, and inexpensive accommodations, attract repeat visitors from Europe, each winter. The final District is the eastern side of the mountains, which separate western Morocco from the Sahara Desert. Let’s take a necessarily brief look at all four districts.
I do not intend to suggest that any of my “districts” are more desirable as travel destinations than the others; only that they are significantly different from each other. The district containing the most popular destinations deserves that right and claim: Rabat, Meknes, and Fes are filled with wonderful palaces, tombs, mosques, leather tanneries, monuments, etc., but I, personally, could be quite content in visiting Morocco without ever setting foot in Marrakech, which is simply too blatantly commercial and unreal; and fabled Casablanca ain’t got no Rick’s Americane Cafe. nor Ingrid Bergman (not even a single casbah). Yes, I had an outstanding dinner there (in a place seemingly/thankfully unknown to visitors), but such are available elsewhere in country.
If you’ve never seen Roman ruins, or just can’t get enough of them, by all means join the mobs at Volubilis; I will spend my time in the Atlas Mts, with Berber tribesmen, or in the remote east, where fragrant rose gardens cover the land from here to there; where you may travel for days without seeing another foreigner; where casbahs (real ones) are as common as fast food joints in Los Angeles, and where, surprisingly, there are many luxurious overnight accommodations. And when the weather turns chilly in the desert and mountains, I head far west. past Marrakech, to Agadir (Europe’s favorite), Safi, and Essaouira.
Berbers are Morocco’s “natives.” They today are concentrated in the High Atlas Mts. Visiting with them is a delight, if you are willing to accept, and enjoy their enthusiastic hospitality. However modest their means (many still live in goat-skin tents), they sincerely want to share that with you. Many of them make a living by selling attractive rocks to occasional tourists; we bought many (especially since I have a daughter that likes them).
When one descends from the High Atlas toward the East. the land quickly turns to sand. Here, are some isolated, splendid, tourist hotels (even with Olympic-size pools and date palms heavy with fruit, hanging over your room’s balcony).
Here also are magnificent fortress villages (ksars) containing many real casbahs (simply, a fortified home, for an extended family). And here, they grow the roses that make rose-scented lotions, and even that marvelous rose-petal jam. Trekers and hikers will especially enjoy a walking through the Dades and Todra Gorges, and comfortable overnight accommodations with excellent restaurants have been provided in nearby Tinjhir.
Adventure travelers head to toward the nearby border with Algeria, and the edge of the great Sahara Desert; there, overly commercial Zagora litteraly buzzes with salesmen for desert treks, both day and longer.
I’ll admit it — I like the eastern desert part of Morocco best of all, and the slow trip, from Ouarzazate to Agadir, is my favorite route. Along the way, you will see such as the World Heritage site, Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou, where the crumbling remains of dozens of casbas are clustered defensively, on a hillside; you may also stop at a nondescript restaurant for a spit-roasted game-bird meal, or perhaps to enjoy tea, brewed ceremonially, in a private garden. Even hotels along that road are exceptional: I stayed in one that had an Olympic-size swimming pool, and where I picked fresh dates from a palm hanging over my room’s warm-but-shaded balcony. With that preference established, I could easily spend all winter on Morocco’s warm, uncrowded, Atlantic coast, where the livin’ is easy (and inexpensive). Agadir is the center of European activity in winter, but I lean towards less popular Safi, or Essaouira, a bit to the north. It is reported that 1/3rd of all tourist bed reservations are made in Agadir, where scenery is wonderful, and the accommodations “excellent to superb.”
Further north along the coast, the accommodations at Essaouira and at Safi are not quite as plush as at Agadir, but they’re quite acceptable (sort of “beachy”) with plain, basic furniture; open, fresh air breezes, rather than enclosed air conditioning; great, fresh-caught seafood; the surf (and associated “noise,”) ain’t “up”; and all costs are way down.
The beaches aren’t Florida’s powder sand; and the surf is surprisingly gentle (sort of like what laps at Florida’s Gulf beaches), but the winter weather is delightful; the cost of a 2-week vacation quire affordable; the scenery interesting and most photogenic at Essaouira, which I chose as our base in that region
So, for an optimum Moroccan experience, plan for 10 days in country. Go along and visit the the major cities of Rabat, Fes, and Meknes, along with the Roman ruins at Vulubilis — they’re worth seeing — then head for the eastern side of the Atlas Mountains; visiting with authentic, Berber villages along the way. Take time to soak up the beauty of the desert, with snow-capped mountains in the background; stroll through Tadra Gorge, and ride a camel out into the endless Sahara. Enjoy picturesque Ouarzazate, then drive slowly west, enjoying magnificent scenery, food, local color, and great accommodations along the way. Skip overly commercial, theatrical Marrachech, and wind down your tour with a few nights in an old, wooden, beach hotel in Essaouira, where the restaurant serves fish caught an hour earlier. On your way back north to Rabat, for the flight back home. Pause in funky little Safi, and buy a couple of loaves of bread better than any you’ve ever had back home — they’ll let you take ‘em on the airplane, but you’ll devour them before you board, leaving a wonderful taste of Morocco with you for years to come.
Of Cabbages and Kings is a syndicated feature by j.g.nash. Pertinent comment may be sent to him at email@example.com
The Asian subcontinent is one of the most misunderstood, and yet most promising travel destinations on the globe. We hear horror stories of disease, filthy conditions, crowds of beggars, air pollution, and more; yet the truth is that this large democratic nation is friendly, safe, and incredibly diverse; it’s filled with a mind-blowing cornucopia of sights, sounds, colors, and cuisine; populated with a fascinating variety of cultures, most of which are fluent in English, very hospitable, and rapidly becoming one of the better educated nations on Earth. Should you plan a visit there? Let’s look at the pros and cons of a week or two in India.
Indians are a fascinating mix of three basic cultures. First came Caucasoids, down out of the Northwest. Mongoloids (called “Moguls” in India) arrived next, from the Northeast, and soon ruled the entire subcontinent. The third race were the intensely black-skinned, Australoids, that came by boat, from nearby Australia, and settled the South. That multicultural population inhabits land as varied and interesting as its peoples. There are cool and lake-studded mountains in the north; a vast sand desert on the west; lush jungles filled with exciting wildlife in the east; and tropical beaches in the south. Liberally sprinkled about are astounding man-made structures, like none other on Earth, such as full size, ornate temples carved from “living stone” (i.e., one solid rock, that remains fully attached to Mother Earth).
From bustling cities (some visitors find them to be a bit too busy, noisy, and polluted), to rides on elephant back through tiger country, idyllic days on houseboats on quiet lakes, to strolls through ancient ruins of once-grand cities, which were only relatively recently rediscovered, your senses will be overwhelmed, and your mind stimulated as never before. Almost everywhere you may be, there’ll likely be a clean, modern, comfortable hotel available — even with a dining room that caters to European preferences.
When Indians celebrate they go all out. For example, once a year in September-October (actual dates depend on the phases of the moon) hundreds of thousands of them head for a unique festival, on the edge of the Great Desert, at Pushkar, where they combine a high holy day with an unbelievable livestock fair (tens of thousands of camels are always there), along with personal pleasures of traditional music and dance, as well as even a few, modern, carnival rides. Enterprising tour companies set up comfortable tent “villages” there in the desert; they are sold out early each year.
The best way to experience and enjoy India to the fullest is on an escorted tour, but NOT with a tour group as large as 50. I have participated in tours arranged by BestWay, of Canada (800/663-0844; http://bestway.com), which were exceptional, and which I unhesitatingly recommend; they will run a tour for as few as 2 persons, or as many as 14. World travel to exotic places, where a couple is the sole responsibility of capable local guides and skilled drivers; and where they experience hotels used by knowledgeable Indians themselves, rather than those awful, modern, tourist “convention centers,” is the stuff of dreams.
India is indeed so vast and varied, that it cannot reasonably be experienced in a single, 14-day visit; Bestway breaks it down into manageable parts, of around 2 weeks each. I suggest that you take medications for stomach/digestive troubles, which some visitors experience (I, never!). Check with your physician; he may prescribe something to take along, just in case. Another suggestion is to pack a generous supply of socks, since, when you must remove shoes upon entering temples, your socks may become so soiled (from soot and wax of candles and incense) that you’ll want to simply dispose of them at day’s end.
Yes, India can be a cultural shock, but if you have a bit of adventure in your soul, and if you want a travel experience beyond compare, go, and enjoy!
In an earlier post, I discussed the staggering cost of our attempts to prevent another major attack, on the homeland, by terrorists; we also looked, briefly, at how such major, non-productive expenses bleed our weakened economy, and could lead to national, economic collapse, and thus, national destruction. Airport security is the larger part of such national anti-terrorism efforts, so I thought it might be interesting to take a brief look at such security measures, as applied at the World’s busiest airport, the Hartsfield-Jackson International, in Atlanta, Georgia.
The Hartsfield General Manager (Miguel Southwell) admits that “Any system is only as strong as its weakest link,” then goes on to discuss many “weak links” in Atlanta’s busy airport. One of the more significant of those is the essential failure to screen the 45,000 workers, which have badges giving them unscreened access to the airport’s supposedly secure areas. The Atlanta Airport’s TSA screens a reported 55,000 passengers each day; in the same time period, an estimated 20,000 workers have unscreened access.
I am as sure as is possible that at least one of those 20,000 could easily be recruited to place an explosive device aboard an aircraft, or in a normally crowded part of the airport building. That appears to be very significant “weak link” in Southwell’s airport security. Why isn’t something being done to correct that glaring and dangerous problem? Why. indeed, spend what we already are on airport security, and suffer its interminable inconveniences and embarrassments, if it is essentially ineffective?
The answer, again, is economics. Southwell is quoted (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 1st) as estimating that facilities needed to adequately screen employees would cost $35 million, and another $11 million a year to operate them. According to a GAO report, screening employees at airports across the nation would cost from $5 to $15 billion for the first year alone, while today’s entire TSA annual budget is already a wasteful $7 billion.
And there are other “weak links” is security at Hartsfield: for example, “known crew members” pass through check points without inspection or delay. Wasn’t it a crew member that intentionally crashed a full passenger aircraft shortly after leaving Boston. Clearly, crew members can be recruited, just as easily as other airport employees. According the newspaper, just last year: an AirTran employee, at Hartsfield successfully bypassed security with a machine gun; JetBlue employees, in Boston, were charged with smuggling cash while evading airport security checkpoints; and a man in California was sentenced to 22 years in prison for his part in a drug smuggling network involving airport employees.
Clearly, TSA’s airport security is filled with those “weak links,” so is it worth keeping and wasting billions on? Or, must we beef it up, and try to eliminate possibilities, such as someone throwing a package with an explosive device over a perimeter fence, which is picked up by an airport employee and placed aboard an aircraft?
At what level of security do we feel safe, and how much of our national treasure (i.e., tax funds) are we willing to pay for such peace of mind? We already spend some $700 billion a year more on government than we take in from taxes; do we want to add another $100 billion or so to that inevitably crushing debt? And, if there will always be that “weak link” somewhere, are we ready to accept steep increases in the cost and inconveniences of air travel, as airports try to recover some of the stated costs of ramping up security? Might it not be better to use the “big stick” approach to deterring terrorist attack (as I proposed in a prior column), than to attempt to plug all possible openings to attack? I don’t have the answer; what’s your opinion?
When “war” is mentioned, we usually think of airborne bombing attacks, barrages of artillery, lumbering, clanking tanks, and waves of occupying ground forces, but war today can be waged solely against a nation’s economy, which, if destroyed, inevitably forces that nation to cease to resist, and ultimately leads to domination by the aggressor.
Terrorism, as exemplified by the highly effective attack on, and destruction of, New York’s iconic Trade Towers, is an extraordinarily cost-effective form of warfare, which, while costing the aggressor only a trivial amount of assets, results in substantial, and long-continuing loss of money and human assets by the nation thus attacked. It is estimated that the destruction of the Trade Towers, and around 6 large, commercial jet aircraft, resulted in immediate property losses of around $7 billion, another half-billion in cleanup costs, and perhaps another half billion in losses associated with law suits, insurance claims, etc. Thus, while the nation suffered an immediate loss in physical assets (i.e., not considering the loss of productive capacity by the thousands that were killed that day) of some $10 billion, the almost immediate creation of A Department of Homeland Security, and the infamous, Transportation Security Agency, has cost every taxpayer in the nation an estimated 2.5 million since 2001. or some $250,000/year. On top of that staggering financial waste, we must also add the significant costs of added thousands of armed guards and other security measures in large public gathering places, such as sports stadiums and shopping malls. All of this takes money, along with physical and material assets, away from the national economy, while putting nothing back in; that’s a very significant net loss to our economy, which was already bleeding red ink, without the added cost of homeland security (which does not include any part of the Defense Department and our military forces).
What has that thus-far eminently successful “war” on America cost the enemy? Next to nothing! Just the trivial cost of training a dozen or so men to take over, and then drive captured aircraft into chosen targets. And the fanatical terrorists continue to win the battle to destroy our economy, without essentially spending another dinar, riyal, or dirham; all they now need do to excite us into another escalation in spending, on physical security of public places and transportation, is to simply place a cost-free threat on something such as Facebook.
As long as we react predictably (by ratcheting up physical security somewhere), and spend more and more of our shrinking national wealth on unproductive security, every time someone suggests that another 9/11 is being planned, the successful enemies of the USA will continue to wage war in that manner. Clearly, if allowed to continue, there is a real danger that our economy will be so undermined by growing debt that it will collapse; along with it the entire nation. But how can we combat such “attacks”? There appears to be no acceptable answer, because the only way to combat this sort of warfare is through direct, counter-terror. One must fight terror with terror.
It approaches the unthinkable, but if attacks, such as 9/11. or the mall massacre in Nairobi, are to be prevented, one must be ready and willing to so severely punish terrorists that they will decide that such barbaric tactic isn’t such a wonderful way to wage war after all. The problem here, obviously, is how do we punish terrorists (which hide amongst populated centers) without causing unacceptable suffering by innocent persons? The answer is that, for our “counter terror” to be effective, it will almost certainly, have to be applied, harshly, and a couple of times (think Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which brought an end to Japan’s fanatical effort to rule Asia and the Pacific). Yes, if we warned potential and active terrorist groups (e.g., Islamic, fundamentalist extremists) that, the next significant act of terror against us will result in a massive, obliterating, attack on whatever their capital city may be, and if we were forced to carry out our threat, once or twice, the civilian population, which now tolerates, if not supports such terrorists, would rise up and stop those terrorists from any such continued activity. The war on terror would end, just as did the terrible war in the Pacific, in the 1940s.
Is it possible for this nation to reach the resolve necessary for such drastic, but not unprecedented actions? I don’t know; but I am sure that, if we don’t FIGHT terror, and not merely try to defend against it, we will eventually be defeated — quite possibly by economics alone.
Of Cabbages and Kings is a feature produced and copyrighted by j.g.nash. Pertinent comments may be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Communications between humans can be represented by a pyramid, whereon the most efficient and effective methods appear toward the bottom, or foundation. We, today, appear to be moving closer and closer to the peak, which seems to be the wrong direction.
The bottom layer, or foundation, of such pyramid, is face-to-face discussion, complete with body language, gestures, vocal inflection, and, especially, facial expression. This remains the most effective means of human communication.
One, smaller layer up (thus less effective) is the voice only means, such as is provided by telephone and radio means. By giving up the face-to-face feature, a huge chunk of mutual understanding is now lost.
Hand-written letters are a still smaller layer of the pyramid, because they take away even the signals we receive from a speaker’s voice. It is the first layer about which it can be wisely said: “If what is written can be misunderstood, it will be.”
The layer representing the arrival of electronic mail includes those famous ungrammatical telegrams, where STOP replaced the period, but it is most concerned with messages sent and received on computers. Although, unlike telegrams, the length and composition of e-mail was essentially unlimited, and delivery to the recipient instantaneous, its very simplicity and speed encouraged careless, often thoughtless composition, so there arose much misunderstanding about what was being written in that way, and that slice of the pyramid shrank significantly, and continues to shrink today, even as new, ever-smaller layers are built atop it.
When compared to the centuries between the bottom layers, and years between those that came later, new layers on the structure of communications seemed to be put in place almost overnight, and each shrank noticeably. With tweets, titters, social networking sites, and even texting, made possible by exploding advances in electronic communications technology, some “communications were no more than a few letters, numbers, or other characters, such as “UR4ME, WTF, 4Q, LMAO,” or even “:>”. It is not just possible to misunderstand such gibberish: it is certain.
It appears that, as we get closer and closer to the pointy tip of the pyramid, we’ll have lost the ability to effectively exchange thoughts, ideas, concepts, and emotions when communicating over distances (e.g., from the kitchen to the children’s rooms upstairs). There is, however, a glimmer of hope in this rush to kill human communications: some computer programs, such as Skype, when coupled with the worldwide scope of the Internet, have the capability of restoring just about every useful facet of primitive, face-to-face communications. Trouble is: to effectively use person-to-person, live video communications, one must be seated at, or at least in front of, a computer, but we seem to be living in an age where the computer is being replaced by the cell phone, wherewith, unless one hangs the phone way out in front of him (on one of those idiotic looking, selfie poles) he can’t carry on a video conversation while walking down a city street, or shopping for groceries, which are places many of us now seem to be trying to communicate via cell phones.
One wonders, how much longer before we’re able to beam ourselves anywhere, anytime, so that, as far as communications go, we’ll be back at the base of the pyramid, with most effective, face-to-face communications, but in real time, and from anywhere — even Mars?
Beam me up, Scotty!
Of Cabbages and Kings is a syndicated, copyrighted column, by j.g.nash. Pertinent comment may be sent to him at email@example.com.
All reliable, available data shows that illegal immigration significantly drains resources (medical, education, law enforcement, etc.), adds significantly to dollars flowing out of the nation, with no offsetting return, takes jobs needed by legal citizens, and undermines government at all levels (e.g., it’s well on the way to control of California’s city and state governments).
Yet emotions block many of us from recognizing those cold, hard facts, and we thoughtlessly sympathize with the illegals; especially when they have, usually intentionally, given birth to another illegal immigrant, while unlawfully here. The President, whom clearly demonstrates a lack of interest in national security, welfare, and economic strength, encourages and supports efforts, by misguided, uninformed, but well-meaning groups, to not only do nothing to slow the epidemic of illegal immigration (especially across our southern border), but indeed acts to encourage increases in that destructive invasion, by granting citizenship and forgiveness to the millions of illegals now here and destroying this nation. This is a most serious problem; one that requires long and thoughtful discussion, which isn’t reasonably possible in this short space; so let us, at least briefly, look at three steps we must take to attempt to save our nation from inevitable destruction, if the President’s present course of inaction is permitted to continue.
If water is leaking into your home, pumping it out is necessary, but essentially useless, if the leak isn’t found and plugged. We simply must significantly secure our southern border, so as to slow the tidal wave of illegals crossing there everyday to, at the least, a controllable trickle.
Discouraging such illegal immigration will do much to slow the stream of illegal hopefuls, and make border control more effective, and less expensive. The only seemingly reasonable, if harsh, action appears to be a well-publicized policy, whereby anyone, identified as here unlawfully, is immediately incarcerated, their assets seized, then quickly sent to internment camps, somewhere in the southwestern deserts, where they are confined for 6 months (1st offense), and where they must work to produce much of what they need to survive. It should be punishment, which is designed to discourage the present practice wherein those which we do deport, often turn right around and return illegally.
Thirdly, we must take immediate action to change the provision for citizenship being conferred automatically on those born here. I have seen estimates that something over 20% of the illegal immigrants have planned to give birth shortly after sneaking into the U.S.A., thus creating an “anchor,” that protects them from deportation. That provision for native born citizenship is common in many nations, but more and more they require that such birth be made and respected only when the parents (both of them) are in country legally. We must change our applicable laws immediately, so that automatic citizenship is conferred only on children born here, by parents that are clearly here within applicable immigration laws and provisions. Until that is done, the illegal immigrant parents of children born here, must be deported posthaste, and in spite of predictable moaning and wailing by bleeding-heart liberals. It sounds harsh and heartless, but for as long as sneaking across our border illegally, and then giving birth so as to protect oneself from deportation is allowed, it will not only continue, but grow to epidemic proportions. If illegals care at all for their anchor babies, they’ll take them with them when they are interred and subsequently deported; if not, we can provide measure to handle those that are abandoned. Keep in mind that, if we granted citizenship only to babies born to couples here in compliance with immigration laws and procedures, this problem wouldn’t exist.
Bottom line — Illegal immigration, especially across our southern border, is a serious and present threat to our nation; harsh and immediate measures are needed if we are to have a chance of stopping that looming disaster. Our inexperienced, Harvard-lawyer President seems to want to allow the threat to be ignored; even acting to encourage increased illegal immigration. Our only hope seems to be in the new Congress acting in concert, to combat the President’s irresponsible behavior. Will that happen?
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Of Cabbages and Kings is a copyrighted feature by j.g.nash. Pertinent comments may be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.