Rick Steves is a travel evangelist, always in motion, traversing faraway places and inspiring others to do the same. So when the world shuts down, and Rick Steves can no longer travel, then who is Rick Steves? https://dts.podtrac.com/redirect.mp3/rss.art19.com/episodes/8f7bd3b2-a764-433f-a268-a2fbb9c7f223.mp3 Sam Anderson, a writer for The Times Magazine, profiled the travel guru last year. Today, Sam asks Rick […]

via Interviews: Travel Guru “Rick Steves” (NYT Podcast) — Boomers Daily

Many of you have probably heard about Rick Steves and his European travels at one time or another. If not, he has been doing documentaries and tour guides on European Travel for over 30 years. Like the rest of us, Rick Steves was also grounded by the Corona Virus as it has shut down air travel between the US and Europe. Henceforth he is spending his first summer vacation in 30 years- at home.  I have a pair of articles for you to read about his experiences and how Covid-19 will impact the way we travel in the future. In the link above is an interview done by the New York Times. In the article below by the Washington Post is the future of travel from his perspective. Both are something we need to take into consideration once the vaccination is developed and the virus disappears.

Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/travel/2020/06/22/future-travel-according-guidebook-writer-rick-steves/?fbclid=IwAR0C516YYAaxPUXlReIx7wT4_Y-9IF28Vq0RyjKTm9fEnN4a1_UkNEAgFfU

Enjoy and think about it. 🙂

FlFi10

Christmas Genre: The Green Book

Segregation. A term that regrettably should not have been coined and listed in the dictionary. Yet it has been, because of years of history where whites were degelated to their worlds and blacks (or being more politically correct, colored) to theirs. A place where only whites could have the fancies of hotels, restaurants, restrooms and schools where the colored had the run-down facilities. A place where even a world-renowned artist, like pianist Dr. Don Shirley, feels like a loner not being accepted anywhere in society because of race and social background.

 

That is until he meets a person who opens his eyes to a world that he had never knew existed. One where he is accepted after opening up.

 

If there’s a comment that marks the start of this film critique The Green Book, it would be this: “It doesn’t take a genius but courage to change people’s hearts.”

While this comment came towards the end of the film, it definitely sums up the motive of Dr. Don Shirley’s trip to the Deep South- the southeastern corner of the United States, a region that has a storied history of slavery and segregation of blacks; a region where despite intervention from Washington in terms of war (The Civil War) and laws (including Lincoln’s Emancipation declaration, and Martin Luther King’s Equal Rights Movement), the gap between the white society and the society of the colored people still exists to this day.

The setting of the story was the last couple months of 1962, less than a year before Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech and its subsequent Civil Rights Laws that followed by 1964.  It featured two very different characters from two contrasting worlds. In one world, there’s Dr. Shirley, the pianist who plays like a genius and with passion. He lives in “his own kingdom” above Carnegie Hall, rather spoiled because of the performances in rich settings and high expectations. Playing with only the Steinway piano is a fraction of the high-end life he was used to, whereas his passion for classical music is bordered with the popular culture presented by his chauffeur and body guard, Tony Vallelonga (a.k.a. Tony Lip), the other main character of the story.

Unlike Dr. Shirley, who is sensitive but a philosopher and psychologist with patience, Tony Lip is a very colorful character. Lip is a chauffeur who is unemployed after Copacabana closes for repairs. He had been in a brawl with two members from a mafia who harassed a woman during the concert His ability to annihilate “unwanted” guests, combined with his colorful and sometimes emotional interaction with people in general and creative strategies to either persuade others to do something they don’t want or reject offers that are fattening were the primary reasons why Dr. Shirley hired him to be his chauffeur and bodyguard for the tour in the Deep South. Tony Lip is Roman Catholic and has an extended family, all living in the Bronx, and all who have a passion for Italian culture and baseball.

Dr. Shirley hires Lip to take him through the Deep South where despite his musical performance that impresses the communities they visited, he deals with several forms of segregation that were typical in reality but none that the characters have ever seen before.

Any ideas what they may be?  Use this mindmap below and list them, there are more than what the six points are mentioned:

Segregation

Note: This mind map can be used at the beginning of the film as well as at the end when listing the examples of segregation that Dr. Shirley and Tony Lip witnessed in the film.

Inspite the differences between the two there were many reasons why Dr. Shirley hired Tony to do the job. Likewise there were just as many reasons why Tony took it on, despite the fact that he would be on the road in “No Man’s Land” for two months, away from his family in the Bronx.  An activity below will give you a chance to look at the two characters carefully and help answer the question of why this arrangement took place.

Tony Vallelonga (a.k.a.) Tony Lip Dr. Don Shirley
 

Profession:

 

 

His character:

 

 

 

His weakness(es):

 

 

 

The reason(s) for taking the job as Dr. Shirley’s chauffeur?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Profession:

 

 

 

His character:

 

 

 

His weakness(es):

 

 

 

The reason(s) for hiring Tony Lip to be his chauffeur?

This can be done after the scene when the two characters are on the road and have stopped at their first concert.

 

But most importantly, we also have the Funnel-Theory, where certain elements merge into one and the differences the two characters have become non-existent. Here we have two different Funnels- the classic one and the reversal one.

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reverse funnel

With the second one it has to do with finding common values which led them to becoming friends in the end.

The Green Book does have an underlying meaning as it goes beyond receiving the tour guide for blacks. It has some grave differences between black and white society that goes well beyond the food and the lodging. It has to do with the mentality that existed in the Deep South and the struggle to accept the values that had been ingrained in the fabric of their culture during that time. A lot of the underlying divisions seen in the film exist even today in the US, but also in other countries, where minorities are sometimes treated as second-class citizens.

Yet the Green Book takes place at Christmas time, where in the end, after breaking down the barriers, both Tony and Dr. Shirley became best friends and were accepted in the other’s culture. It opens the pages to something new and opens the hearts of many that welcome new people who just want to be included and part of society, despite different backgrounds. The film does both- eliminates the barriers and opens the door to new cultures which we can accept and embrace. It’s something we should take with- even beyond the holiday season.

 

 

Advent of Kindness.

This is the holiday season and with that comes Advent Calendars. It’s a custom in many German-speaking households to have a calendar, where you can open a window every day between December 1st and Christmas Eve. Many have sweet surprises. Some have words of wisdom while others have photos for the camera lover.

This one caught my eye recently, as someone made a Christmas list made with a list of gestures to do to benefit those around you. During the times where people have suffered from many forms of adversity, such as losing their homes and farms and being homeless, losing their loved ones as well as being singled out for personal opinions and preferences or being a victim of hate crimes, sometimes we need to take the time and efforts and do something kind for one another, every day, and make the person happy.  The person who created this Advent calendar made a “to do” list of what can be done everyday between now and Christmas.

Maybe we have one too. If not, perhaps its time to do so. After all, it is the season for love and forgiveness. ❤

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Easter Genre: The Beggar’s Greatest Wish

greatest wish

Before saying farewell to Easter, we have a genre piece that is worth a read and something to consider. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the booklet written by Alyce Bergey entitled The Beggar’s Greatest Wish. The book was written with one theme in mind: The greatest wish of one person.

Before going to the plot, ask yourselves this question:

If there was one wish that you had that you wanted badly, what would that be?

 

Everyone has one greatest wish, no matter the circumstances.  Some who are crippled wish to walk again. Others suffering from poverty and other forms of adversity want to be rich. Those who fail constantly want to succeed just one. Yet most of us want peace after suffering from years of conflict, both home and away.

For the main character, Barthimaeus, an old man living in a one-room hut outside Jericho, he wanted to see, for he was blind and was a beggar wanting to find a place in the world, but was rejected by many. Day in and day out, he begged on the street and got next to nothing from the public. Every day he was ignored, spat upon, degraded and taken pity. Yet later in the story, his luck started to change beginning with him receiving a single coin and then culminating to his encounter with Jesus Christ, as He and his followers were walking down the streets of Jericho. He found the beggar and after learning what his wish was, his life changed for the very best.

Based on the story of Luke 18:37-45, the theme of the story was believing in miracles and how they can come true through faith and fate. Faith has to do in the belief that if one works hard and prays for the most important thing in life, it will come true. Fate has to do with encountering the unknown and having that wish granted. It can be through the encounter with the Lord or another person. It also has to do with certain events that puts the events in order of sequence that eventually culminates into one’s wish being granted.  Expected or unexpected, each of us have a special wish based on our trials and tribulations which eventually come true through our own actions and belief. If we didn’t have them, we would allow our world to unfold in front of our eyes that would not be to our best advantage.

When Jesus died for our sins, He left us the belief that miracles can happen if we have the faith and courage to make it happen- if we pray and also do our service. It goes beyond the fishermen story when Jesus came from Heaven to give them fish to feed themselves and their families. It goes beyond Job’s struggles when he lost everything to famine and drought and he got that back. It even goes beyond our own personal wishes in real life- mine has to do with putting an end to global warming and polluting the oceans.  While this book was written for children but has an explanation for parents, the theme is the same. It’s more of a question of what we have for our wish and what we can do to make it come true.

To close off this genre special, here are a pair of videos that was based on this story. I hope you enjoy and have a chance to read the story to your children:

 

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Speed Limits in Germany: Should they be enforced nationally?

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Entering the Autobahn in Hamburg. Photo taken in March 2017

It is one of the main anchors of German culture. It is a place where you must try when visiting Germany. It is also one where if you don’t know how to take care of yourself, you could end up endangering yourself and others too. It’s the German Autobahn. Introduced over a century ago and expanded during the 1930s, the Autobahn became the quickest way to get from point A to point B. It also became the shortest way to get to your destination. With its famed unlimited speed limits, as seen on the signs, you can get from Munich to Berlin in five hours without any traffic jams; seven when going from Cologne to Dresden. In some cases, travelling by the Autobahn is faster than traveling by train, especially when the Deutsche Bahn (DB) has to handle delays and cancellations on a daily basis. 70% of all Autobahns in Germany do not have a speed limit, whereas speed limits are enforced in blackspots, construction areas and in big cities, and they limit based on the density of traffic on the highways.

Sadly though, it is one of the deadliest places to drive because of reckless driving, disobeying traffic regulations, disregarding other road-users and sometimes, poor conditions on the pavement themselves. In comparison to other European countries, the German Autobahn has the highest fatality rate of all the member states, plus Great Britain. The rate of deaths on the Autobahn per 1000 kilometers is 30.2%, according to data provided by the European Union. The European average is 26.4%. Per billion kilometers, the fatality rate in Germany is 1.6 is double that of Great Britain’s. Comparing that with the US, the fatality rate per mile is still less but the rate may become on par with the Americans in a few years. On 25 of the most dangerous interstate and federal highways in the States, the average death rate is 0.62 per mile. Along the six deadliest, the rate per mile is 0.9!  Given the increase in cars on German Autobahns, combined with distracted driving and even reckless driving, the statistics are sobering.

 

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Attempts were made in January 2019 to introduce a “blanket-style” speed limit on all German Autobahn to ensure that people obey the speed limits. The reason for the proposed enforcement is to ensure that drivers stay within the limit and not race with speeds of up to 250 km/h (in the US: 155 mph.  While this proposal was dead on arrival in the German parliament, it doesn’t mean that it cannot be resurrected at a later time. There are several arguments for and against a nationwide speed limit:

Proponents for the Speed Limit Opponents of the Speed Limit
Other countries in Europe have them: Poland has the 140 km/h limit (85 mph). The Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and Austria, have the 130 km/h (80 mph) limit (which had been proposed by the German government) Belgium and Switzerland have a 120 km/h (75 mph) limit.

 

A map of the countries with the speed limits can be found above.

The enforcement of the speed limit would increase the cost for mobility in Germany, especially with the subsidies involving e-cars, tax hikes for gas, introducing incentives to replace old diesel cars with newer ones conforming to standards and enforcing a ban on diesel cars in big cities.
“Reducing speed limits would bring down the number of fatalities, which is one in four-“  an argument presented by Michael Mertens, Chair of the German Police Officers Union in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Money should be spent on expanding public transportation services, such as trains and busses, as well as bike trails for they provide healthier choices.
He adds further: “By even reducing the speed limit to 130, it would help prevent serious accidents and tailbacks (traffic jams)” To add to his argument: A report showed that 2018 was the worst year regarding traffic jams as over 745,000 were reported, an average of 2000 per day. This was a 3% increase since 2017. The Autobahn is a tourist trap and visitors to Germany would like to experience driving the Autobahn and stop at well-known rest areas and eateries along the way.
Speed limits would reduce carbon dioxide emmissions- in 2017 alone, 115 million tons of CO2 released in the atmosphere in Germany came from cars. The rate has increased steadily since 1990. Reducing the speed on the Autobahn would hurt car sales, especially with the likes of BMW, Audi, Porsche, Volkswagen, etc.

 

A report on mobility was expected to be released at the end of March, outlining the details on how Germany can reduce carbon dioxide emissions without being penalized millions of Euros by the authorities in Brussels. Already the government has come under fire for admitting that its goal of reducing emissions by 8% by 2020 would not be reached due to several factors, including weening itself off of coal by 2038, lacking support for European measures to tackle climate change and the like. Yet the report is expected to include the enforcement of speed limits on Germany’s Autobahn system. While a general speed limit already in place on most streets and two-lane roads, the question is why not introduce it onto German highways, just like in every other state?

This is where the question between culture and conformity come to mind- Are we ready to rein in speeding at the cost of tradition or do we have bigger environmental issues to tackle and speeding “…defies all common sense,” as mentioned by German Transportation Minister, Andreas Scheuer?

 

 

Questionnaire: Should Germany enfore its speed limit on its Autobahn system? If so, what speed is acceptable?

Feel free to vote and also write your thoughts in the comment section. Click on the highlighted links to read more about the speedlimits. 

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fast fact logo 16131_tempolimit_130_km_h_zulässige_höchstgeschwindigkeit:

  1. According to German Traffic Laws, drivers are allowed to speed up to 100 km/h on all roads and 130 km/h on expressways and designated stretches of the German Autobahn. When in town, the speed limit is 50 km/h unless posted. Some speed limits allow for 60 km/h.

60 kph

2. Beware of the magic number! The 60 km/h limit is the most commonly used speed limit in Germany, used on many different occasions. One will find it inside the city,  on speed limit signs designated for trucks (although the maximum speed is 80), and in construction zones- even on Autobahns.  The second most common speed sign is the 70 limit, which is found in cities but is required at all highways intersections.

3.  Blackspots are defined as areas that are most proned to accidents. They can be found construction sites as well as areas along the highway- curves, intersections, built-up areas in the city and other dangerous spots where accidents  most often occur.

 

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The America I Grew up In- A Comedy by Jeff Allen

Here’s a fun but yet sobering reminder of our childhood that we had- the best times where we could take the chances and experiment, risk getting hurt but learning the lessons the hard way. The childhood of today has risks but in the sense of fear of taking these falls, the risks and trying new stuff.

The America I Grew Up in is a comedy gig by Jeff Allen, who compares his childhood to what is seen today. Can you list what he and his friends did for childhood examples? Then compare them to what you (as a child growing up) did. What was the same? What was different? What would you like to do what this comedian did? What would you do differently, had you had a chance to turn back the clock for one day?

Try that wherever you go, but not before watching this rather funny clip. 🙂

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TED Talk: The Disarming Case to Act Now on Climate Change by Greta Thunberg

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There have been some talk about the Fridays for the Future Demonstrations and all of the advantages and disadvantages of students walking out of school to demonstrate for climate change. On one side of the spectrum, skipping classes to demonstrate has had a resounding effect on politics and policies of each country, forcing governments to reconsider their laws and heed to the demands of the demonstrators. There are enough examples, big and small, that support this argument, including the top three that I have:

  1. The college demonstrations in the US against the Vietnam War- Starting in 1968, these demonstrations, albeit bloody, resulted in President Lyndon Johnson’s decision not to run for a second term in office. He was replaced by Richard Nixon, who wound down the war efforts by withdrawing troops and contributing to brokering a deal between North and South Vietnam. The war ended when the North Vietnamese troops captured Saigon and the rest of South Vietnam in 1975, hours after the last US troops left.
  2. The Monday Night Demonstrations in East Germany- Starting in September 1989, the demonstrations that started every Monday evening at St. Nicholas Church ended up becoming a nationwide demonstration demanding change to a communist system that was considered broken. The end result was the downfall of Erich Honecker on 19 October and the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November. In the end, the peaceful protest also marked the beginning of talks for a reunified Germany, which happened on 3 October, 1990, and the domino effect that led to the end of Communism in 1991.
  3. The Parkland Massacre Demonstrations of 2019- After a shooting spree that resulted in the deaths of 17 people at a high school in Florida, a group of high schoolers started a protest to address the use of guns in the US and the lobby group NRA. The end result is a shift in tide from the right to have guns to the right to protect our children, even if it means voting out every single NRA supporter who rejects stricter gun laws.

But by the same token, many teachers and parents, as well as some politicians feel that skipping school to protest climate change is just a waste of time and that time should be spent discussing this in the classroom.

But as you can see in the TED-Talk speech by 16-year old Greta Thunberg, there has been too much talk and too little action. Many turn a blind eye for the sake of popularity and money. Too much  money has been wasted for conferences and speeches. And when the situation becomes unbearable where even the youngest generation walks out to protest the changes in our environment which are slowly becoming irreversible, then the time for talk is over and the time to act is now. The talk looks at the origins of the Friday for the Future demonstrations and how it has evolved since she started the walk-out process at her high school in Sweden.

Watch or listen to this speech and ask yourself what can be done to stop the destructive changes that are taking place to our planet. There are enough things to be done without talking about it.

 

 

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