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Showing posts from July, 2010

Book Avalanche!

29. Redwall by Brian Jacques This is the first book in a series that was around when I was a kid, but as it was popular with those I considered less sophisticated readers than myself, I scorned to read it, and in hindsight missed out on a carefully crafted, archetypal "animal fantasy" that would probably have been helpful to my development as a reader and writer of fantasy. Fortunately, it's not too late, and I recently read this mouse-centric tome with the excuse that we are teaching it to the kids in our summer program Modern Fantasy class. Redwall is primarily the story of the small novice mouse Matthias, of Redwall Abbey, and his triumph against the war-mongering rat Cluny the Scourge. Classic references abound, as the old sage gatekeeper mouse is called Brother Methuselah and the pink fingers of dawn rise more than once (oh Homer, could not your Muse have left us to ponder that in peace, just once or twice?). Matthias itself brings to my mind a reference to the or

Toledo

During our time in Madrid, we took a day trip to Toledo, the ancient capital of Castilla and Leon. Toledo is breathtaking and steeped in history, I wish we had spent more time there. The medieval walls of the city and many of the medieval structures are still present and catching a sight of Toledo seemed like stepping into thirteenth-century Castilla. We saw the cathedral, as well as the two remaining synagogues from the fourteenth century. We went inside Sinagoga del Transito, whose size and opulence astounded me, since I had come to expect an ultra-low-key Jewish presence in Spain, where there is one at all. Case in point, the synagogue I attended during my semester abroad was the first floor of an apartment building, with no markings on the outside door. Anyway, Sinagoga del Transito, was built in the beautiful style of Moorish architecture though decorated with Hebrew lettering as opposed to Arabic. It is now the Museo Sefardi, a museum of artifacts from Sephardi communities not ju

Madrid

We were in Madrid from May 12-16, which turned out to be a very exciting time to be there. We arrived the night Atletico Madrid won the European Cup in football (soccer in the US). We stayed off Gran Via, the heart of the city, and all around us cars honked, people shouted, waving flags out of windows, running down the street in jerseys and Atletico Madrid colors, it was pandemonium, or shall I say, fiesta! Before I came to Spain, I greatly underestimated the significance of fiesta-in Spain, fiestas involve parades, all night parties (I'm talking coming home at 1 in the afternoon the next day), stages in the street, costumes, and firecrackers in abundance. Also, of course, dancing and liberal amounts of alcohol. So we arrived on the cusp of not one, but THREE fiestas. Celebrating the Atletico Madrid victory, celebrating 100 years of Gran Via, and celebrating the day of Madrid's patron saint San Isidro on May 14. That day, Gran Via was blocked off and swathed in blue carpet.