Thursday, June 30, 2011

Itsy Bitsy World

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This friend of mine from years ago sent me a note on Facebook today. He was my first friend in Modesto, CA when I moved there in 1986. He is now living in Dallas, TX and is gay. Traveling a great deal for work, he happened to be in Oklahoma City at the time they were having their Gay Pride parade and subsequently met a guy there that he had prior contact with through a gay dating service.


He and the guy met, yada, yada and at some point in their talking he mentioned a friend of his who now lives in Budapest, Hungary runs a B and B, mentioning my name. It turns out that the good friends of this new beau were guests at our B and B. What is even stranger is that just a couple of weeks ago they sent a note 'just to check in and say hi'. This was about a week before all of the dots were connected. Who says there is no intuition. 


Life is amazing at times.

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United and Continental Airlines

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If you have not paid much attention to what you may think is junk mail, be on the alert for any e-mails from Continental Airlines if you have a frequent flier account with them. Continental and United Airlines have merged, but come 2012, the Continental One Pass program, will become a no pass zone. They are doing away with the program. Unlike so many other programs, the One Pass did not wipe out the miles that I had earned years ago when I have not added to them. They were still intact. So what do you do with them?


If you have a United Mileage Plus card, you can and should merge them now. They say you can merge them in either direction, but then in other informational pieces, it states the One Pass will be abolished, so what is the point to transfer them to Continental unless you plan on using them immediately. If not, you are better off letting them sit in the United account. 


Supposedly, this can all be done online, but I hit a brick wall when trying today. The link if you want to try is here. My United account has Dr. Ryan James and the Continental has Mr. Ryan James. Because of that discrepancy, the computer kept kicking it back due to a mismatch. I attempted to edit the information on each account to make them equal, but they would not let me edit my name without sending a marriage certificate or divorce paper. The good news is that I found I can use Skype for call 800 numbers in the US. I had never been able to do that before. 


There were only 11,621 miles in the Continental account, but hey, that may mean the difference between a ticket or not in the future. Now they are merged, it is done and I don't have to worry about forgetting it come December. If you need to do it too, don't put it off.

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Oh Those Hungarians

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This is a little of this and a little of that. First, I want to tell you about a book I picked up after this last Saturday's walking tour. The book is A Country Full of Aliens: A Briton in Hungary by Colin Swatridge. I had no intention of loving the book when I started it. Actually, it was the title that drew my attention, while the back of the book quotes a Hungarian journalist, George Mikes. Mr. Mikes is responsible for calling Hungary "a country full of aliens", hence the title. 

I am not one to mark up books other than academic texts, but even before I desecrate them, I need to pay homage to the spirits of Gutenberg before I dare bring my highlighting pen close to the paper. For this reason, I just may have to buy a second copy of Colin's book. One to mark up and one to keep as a pristine example of Hungarian lore. Yes, I referred to the author informally by this first name; this is due to the fact that Colin and I are of such one mind, I could have written the book myself. Well, had I had the guts to write it, I could have. He has it easier being in and out of the country whereas I am planted and rooted here. 

Nevertheless, this book is such a reflection of my thoughts, my ideas, my observations that I have been reiterating for years, it is almost as if we were one and the same person. Oh my gosh, maybe I suffer from dual personality disorder and my other persona is a married Brit educator disguised as an American. Let me think about this, there was that week that I cannot account for my comings and goings, but other than that life has been in Budapest, stable and routine. 

famous Hungarians: Stephen I of Hungary, Matth...Image via WikipediaThis book should be required reading for all Fulbright scholars who are destined to come to Hungary. It would be interesting to see a similar type book with the U.S. or the U.K. as the main topic, but it will never happen. It has nothing to do with superiority or ethnocentrism, but diversity. If you read my newly found friend, Colin's book you will understand exactly what I mean. If you do read it and either live here or are planning a visit, let's meet for a coffee to discuss it. If I could get students to spring for the 2,500 Huf, I would somehow try to fit it into one of my courses, perhaps Critical Thinking or Intro to Journalism.

On a somewhat related note, I am re-posting a news item that was in today's Caboodle, the English news portal. This article is a direct quote or at least the part within the quotation marks, so I cannot take any responsibility for the English grammar or the content. Some of it has me still scratching my head trying to figure it out. I have another short commentary at the end.

"June 30, 2011, 7:34 CET
Survey shows Hungarians hard-hit by crisis, unhappiest of post-communist bloc
By MTI


Hungary was one of the hardest-hit by the recent global financial crisis among countries in transition, according to a fresh survey by the World Bank and the EBRD, national daily Nepszabadsag reported on Wednesday.

Hungary ranked third among the countries of central and Eastern Europe in terms of suffering the largest blows. Two-thirds of Hungarian households were affected, 20 percent more than the average of the sample, taken at 39,000 households in 34 countries, the survey said.

Hungarians were the most unhappy about their life: only 18 percent said they were content with life. Respondents were especially pessimistic about their future, with support for market economy falling to one of the lowest levels in comparison to other countries and since 2006, when the survey was last taken.

Faith in democratic institutions in Hungary was very low compared to western countries. Exceptions were Hungarians' assessment of the government and parliament, which was 5 percentage points higher than the average in western states and nearly doubled since 2006, the survey said."

Okay, now me again. Hello...look at the above paragraph again. Low faith in democratic institutions in HUNGARY, as compared to western countries. However, Hungarians' opinion rose 5 points concerning government and parliament. Well if you omit government and parliament, what is left in the realm of democratic institutions that are of any importance? This paragraph must have lost big time in the translation process.
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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bucharest Voted the Ugliest EU Capital

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Do not confuse Budapest with Bucharest, even if one of the more recent US Presidents happened to do so, but I will not beat any bushes to mention a name.

Apparently joining the EU is not like a beauty contest. You don't have to look ravishing and perform well in a talent competition. Come to think of it, if each EU country had to model in a swimsuit contest, how would they make out, I wonder?

Subliminal message: Do not confuse Budapest with Bucharest. Well, I am curious who voted to name Bucharest the ugliest EU capital? Well, if you are interested, you can read the rest here. It is barely worth my energy to reiterate what the story states, but let it be known if I had any wish to visit the city, I no longer do. There are beautiful little cities and towns to visit in Romania, so head there and avoid the capital. We have been to Cluj and loved it. Once again, the fuller story is here. Subliminal message: Do not confuse Budapest with Bucharest.

Would you believe the Radisson Hotel Bucharest charges upwards of 356 Euros a night? What gall. Subliminal message: Do not confuse Budapest with Bucharest, but if the Radisson here charged that much, it would be worth for this is closer to one of the more beautiful capitals of the EU.
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Wanna Pick My Pocket?

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According to Tourism Review, "Unsurprisingly, most theft from pockets takes place outdoors whereby the attention of tourists is taken by a monument or interesting landmark." Now, I really question the 'unsurprisingly' since I have always been cautioned about crowds, especially on public transport. This was 'surprising' to me, but then again, the crowds around Budapest have thinned lately, but any large group of people inspires me to keep my hands safely on my shoulder bag.

Europe is a treasure trove of places for crowds to gather, so those with frisky hands can be very busy without a worry about becoming redundant in the near future. What admirable job security they have! So where are you in the most danger of having sticky fingers penetrating your inner sanctum where your wallet or other valuables are nestled?  The top hot spots for relieving yourself of your goods are in general the city with a particular 'highest alert' place following it:
Numero uno is Barcelona in general, Las Ramblas in particular
2. Rome in general - especially the Rascals
3. Prague in general, the Charles Bridge in particular
4. Madrid - the entire city, but be extra vigilant around the El Rastro flea market
5. Paris, France
6. Florence, Italy
7. Buenos Aires, Argentina
8. Amsterdam, Netherlands
9. Athens, Greece
10. Hanoi, Vietnam
No, Anna, our dear friend, Budapest is not even close to the top of the list. 

In our years of travel, we have encountered numerous tricks for robbing us. We have thwarted the majority of them; however, realizing that all friendly people are not out to just be kind to tourists is key. I agree that haivng negative thoughts about that little old lady who is asking you the time is contra indicative of what we should believe, but honestly, I have been hustled by elementary school kids, senior citizens and everyone in between. Avoid carrying too hot items, especially cash. Read up on the common tricks used by the thieves. "It is perfectly normal, in Barcelona for example, for a thief to throw bird excrement onto the shoes of a potential victim. An assisting accomplice would steal the wallet or bag whilst the fake excrement is being cleaned up."

Notice that there are only 2 cities outside of Europe, Buenos Aires and Hanoi in Vietnam where you need to be on guard.
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Monday, June 27, 2011

Paint Up! 2011

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When I heard about the Paint Up! this Sunday night from 10pm to midnight, I had initially thought it was the laser show we have been to in the past. At those that we have attended is where they project laser lighting onto the sides of a building, usually a flat sided one in order to create magnificent colors and geometric shapes. It has not been multiple artists. 


This year's Paint Up! is a competition among various light artists using the Hungarian Academy of Sciences as their canvas. They have a FaceBook page, which you can visit here for more videos and information. Apparently, this has been going on, but has by-passed us in years past. You will find much better examples than what I have. I had forgotten my wide angle lens at home, so used the telephoto lens, but then my batteries died on me. I did not stay for the full show, because it was cool out and I wasn't keen on walking home. I left in time to get the metro.


There are two short videos in my other blog, Ryan and Ron Do the World.
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Caught in a Draft

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Hmmm...it seems that after I wrote this post, I did not publish it, so it went into the DRAFT folder. I just realized it so here it is now, but the events were from Friday.


One of my now former students, Árpád, turned me on to a budget eatery that he highly recommended. We had tried to set up a lunch date before Ron left, but with juggling schedules it was not possible. Today, Friday (see note above) we finally were able to meet. The restaurant is tiny and unadorned other then some old newspaper articles that have morphed from black and white to black and yellow from years of exposure to the confined elements of a dining venue.


With limited seating upon entering, I had thought we would be waiting in line to be served or carry a to go order with us to the little park across the street. But, neither was the case as there is additional seating upstairs. We were promptly offered menus, mine was in English, another surprise for a tiny place. Even more surprising was the fact the menu had today's date. All of that color ink used Monday through Friday for a lunch time rush of diners is quite remarkable. How do they keep the prices so reasonable? Perhaps the owner has a brother-in-law who imports printer cartridges. There will be a complete review in the BudaBaB Club restaurant section.


Upon Árpád's suggestion, I was stingy with my order only because I had been warned of the size of the portions. True to the traditional Hungarian standards, our bowl of bean soup was more than substantial as a meal and quite savory besides. Yes, Árpád, it was truly satiating. 


Meanwhile, László had been in and out of our place that morning with a repair man who needed to fix the cord on our metal blind. While demonstrating it for a guest, I snapped the inner workings and it was as limp as a 90-year-old man who does not have his little blue pill within arms reach. As it turned out, the mechanism was from the turn of the century, so there were concerns about replacing it. He was able to and returned post-lunch to do so.


Once they finished their tasks, our 'nephew' Dorian was in town to celebrate his birthday. I had wanted to visit a new watering hole called 'Instant' where they presumably have 23 rooms, 6 bars, 3 dance floors, 2 open gardens, all in an enchanted forest. Now whose curiosity would not be piqued by that buildup? I find these youthful hangouts much less hostile to we older folks when approached during the day. There is less territorial resentment vibrations seething through the air. 


Dorian was on board and did not seem to sense a danger in our going there, considering my age. At least if he felt it, he stuffed the feelings well enough that I did not sense hesitation. Once we were perched on bar stools at a table in the main room on street level, my eyes traveled to and fro taking in the other sights. Once one beer was fully installed or in-still-ed, courage rose to the surface to explore the other ground floor rooms. The one we were in was the most remarkable; the others were blase at best. Perhaps the mood and atmosphere changes in the evening when filled with youthful exuberance and pheromones. After a few beers, it was quite an interesting place, come to think of it. This too will find itself reviewed in the BudaBaB Club, but I think I need another beer first.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Do You Believe in Wishes?

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I came across this site today, which I found interesting enough to share. It is Causes - Wishes. Besides just donating through the site to various causes they have listed, and there are plenty to choose from for everyone, you can create your own. Tired of getting birthday presents? Create a wish instead and have all of the money people would normally spend on your birthday presents go to the charity of your choice. You can do the same with wedding wishes, memorial wishes, run/walk/bike wishes, holiday wishes, and personal wishes. How much more STUFF do you need anyway? 

I will advocate for this service, but I still am wishing for a good bagel if anyone is coming this way.
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Art Nouveau Classic Walking Tour

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Not sleeping well yet, I was up in plenty of time to join the Underguides, Art Nouveau Classic Walking Tour. By the time the guides appeared, it was rather shocking to see that there were about 60 people crowding the street in front of the Writer's Bookstore where we were to meet. Having planned ahead, the tour company had 3 guides ready to break us into groups. My group of English speakers consisted on another American, myself, and two Hungarians who wanted to utilize their English. One of these was a student of mine from years ago.


The tour included a number of bits that I didn't know and filled in other bits for which I had a skeleton knowledge. Having only 4 in the group was lovely; there were no issues about hearing over the traffic noise or while walking. The tour lasted for two hours, but really sped by, not feeling that long at all. 


Photos from the walk are in the other blog: Ryan and Ron Do the World or just click here.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Lend Me Your Arm

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Ron had wanted to get security bars on the windows so that we could rid ourselves of the alarm system. At first I was resistant, but now with summer here, I am loving having the windows open all day without worries. I can airily leave the kitchen and our bedroom windows open when going out not having fears of anyone being able to invade the place...

At 11pm, last night while watching television, I had this urge for dessert, so I headed down to one of the gyro places to get some rice pudding. When I returned, as I was unlocking the door, there was an older guy standing behind me staring at the buzzers. He looked like the guy who lives on the ground floor, so I thought he was waiting for me to open the door or get out of the way. After he followed me in, he went to the mailboxes and I went to the elevator, but never heard any noise from the mailboxes, like one opening and closing. As I am riding up on the elevator, I had a creepy feeling and was glad to be inside the apartment.


The rice pudding was worth the trip, but as I continued to watch television, I noticed that the sensor light by our front door kept going on and off, which made me suspicious. Then I heard a noise, so I went to investigate. 


As I got closer to the door, the light had gone out again, so I guessed one of my neighbors had walked by previously or they had a late night guest; this would have been strange since all lights were out when I had returned with the pudding. I am standing in front of my door when suddenly the sensor light is triggered again. Facing me is a young man with his arm through the window of my door and his hand on the door handle. We are now staring at each other with enough light to make both of us recognizable, but he does not stop attempting to open the door. I yelled "What are you doing?" He responded with "Claudia", but they pronounce it CLOUDIA. I am thinking, if Claudia did live here, would you break into her apartment? Ever hear of a doorbell?


He turned to look to the side and seemingly was speaking to another person, but I was not going to open the other window to see who he was speaking to. He kept up his charade like he really thought there was a Claudia here and could not imagine how he could have misplaced her. Now, that I think back, there have been numerous times when the sensor light has gone on and off while I thought I had heard noises at the door. Thankfully, we are obedient about locking the door when the window is open. I don't think he was Hungarian; he looked very similar to the other immigrants who have opened multiple restaurants on the street. 


I was so paranoid, I barely slept last night. 


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Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Rose Is A Rose

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Not all roses are created equal. This rose was left for me by guests Kathy and Richard on June 15th. This photo was taken yesterday, but it has not changed in appearance today. This rose like the memory of great guests lingers longer than one would  expect. They left the wine bottle for recycling, so I did.

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Why I Won't Use Wikipedia

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Some of my students think Wikipedia is the beginning and end in doing research. Please re-read some, not all before you e-mail me. When I was in elementary school, we were allowed to use encyclopedias, but we were encouraged to use other books as available. In junior and senior high school, encyclopedias were taboo for a research paper. Today, there is Wikipedia.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Araz Restaurant

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Apparently Araz means gold leaf dangling from the chandeliers, because if you enter the dining room of the Araz restaurant in the Zara Continental Hotel, you will see it blowing in the breeze of the air conditioning. I was waiting for a piece to float down like an autumn leaf, into my place setting, it didn't. Since it would have no cash value anyway, it was no loss.


With Ron gone I thought I would test new waters and sample some restaurants I had not been to before. Generally, I make it a habit not to eat in or review hotel restaurants, feeling they are more of a tourism trap than for world at large. However, I pass by this restaurant often as I walk to the university; my gastronomic curiosity was stimulated by the menu offering Hungarian/French cuisine while my senses were stimulated by the decor. 


The gold dangles are not showing in this picture.
The university provides us with restaurant coupons each month and Araz accepts them. Win-win! Because of the ambiance, I did change from my ratty shorts to black jeans, but I was still hot and scruffy looking. The staff treated me like I was just as special as their best guest. One waiter took my beer order, though he did sniffle when I asked what was on tap. Another brought bread with a plate upon which he poured olive oil and balsamic vinegar. On a second plate was a fancy tablespoon with a dab of something I could not understand when he told me, but it tasted like hummus. 


For an entree, I chose this. Let me backtrack a minute. Their menus outside have all of these choices that range from 1,500 Ft on up and look scrumptious, but none were to be seen when I sat down. They are the lunch time specials. 


When my duck arrived, I started making plans to pick up a pizza across the street on my way home. It was a pleasant surprise to feel fully satiated at the end of the meal. However, to my surprise, I had forgotten what was supposed to be served with the duck, so the brownish pond of cream that the duck was sitting on was neither strongly identifiable as chestnut nor hazelnut, but chestnut it had to be as the sauce on the side had a definite hazelnutty nuance to it. I was quite pleased with the flavors and textures even if they did not stand up and shout CHESTNUT. 
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Wino Wonka, Without Willy

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Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory must be copyright protected still or else this is just his older brother Vino Wonka. After reading about a wine and chocolate bar, oh, I mean a wine and chocolate salon in Funzine, I had to check it out. With the full moniker Vino Wonka Bor es Csokoládé, it created a curious temptation to hunt it down.


Sitting on a side street off of Ráday u., it is positioned at 
the lonely locale of Erkel u. 14B. How anyone will find it there is anyone's guess as was apparent while I was there. I was the only interested party to grace the business. This is a shame, because it has a cozy warmth with the chocolaty brown walls with a distressed wood tone wainscoting half way up. The red chairs give a British flavor, like you are in great, great, aunt Gertrude's living room after she tried modernizing, while partaking of fancy chocolate bits with a swish of vino as a chaser.


Before you get all teetotaler, they also have superb coffee which is delightfully happy to be served to you. If you are more of a grape rather than a bean person, they have a board which lists the wines that are open and on offer each day. 
The gentleman working did speak English, automatically adding value in my mind, because a shop like this will need tourism trade to last; they cannot do it on the local economy alone. Unfortunately, they are off the beaten path, so it will be a "discovery" unless they do some heavy duty marketing. 

My coffee with the 3 chocolates was a reasonable 890 Ft tab. 
The fact that they offer free WiFi and air conditioning may be a reason enough for some to visit. Let's hope. I waited an hour to get a glimpse of what others who were attracted here may look like, but alas I was still stag by the time I left.

IX. Erkel u. 14a
Monday to Friday 8am to 9pm; Saturday 8am to 10pm.
Telephone: 06-20-460-7424
www.vinowonka.com
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Free Art Nouveau Tours

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These are free walking tours sponsored by 
budapestUNDERGUIDE - Go Local!      www.underguide.com 

This is one of the tour companies I have in my Frommer's guide. They are excellent!


Art Nouveau Splash Tour
July 2nd and July 23, August 13 and September 3
Meeting: 9.45 at drinking fountain in front of Gellért Hotel.
Your guide will have a coloured scarf.
Guiding: 10:00-11:30     


Classical Art Nouveau Walk
Lipótváros walk dates:
July 9th
Meeting: Ferenciek tere (Ferenciek square), in front of the Franciscan Church of Pest.
Your guide will have a coloured scarf.
Walk: 10:00-12:00


City Park & surroundings walk dates:
July 30, August 20, and September 10
Meeting: Yellow metroline ‘Vörösmarty utca” station in direction of Oktogon, on the street
Your guide will have a coloured scarf.
Walk: 10:00-12:00


Art Nouveau Lifestyle Walk
June 25, July 16, August 6, August 27, September 17
Meeting: In front of the "Írók boltja" bookshop, (Andrássy avenue 45, close to Oktogon)
Your guide will have a coloured scarf.
Walk: 10:00-12:00

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Ryan's Popularity Up in the Polls

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I just want to think it is a coincidence that I gain popularity when Ron is gone. There is this fear that I am really emitting some loneliness pheromone that I am not aware of causing people to be drawn to me like moths to a light bulb. Honestly, I am not lonely, but the attention is quite pleasant as well. 


Monday it was good-bye lunch with a Fulbright professor who was leaving the next day for the US. Tuesday was a coffee with a Hungarian poet/screenwriter, today I was stuck at home with guests coming and going and our cleaning person, but he never showed. The guests did. Tomorrow, I have lunch with another American who is a poet and writer, living here for twenty years. Friday, one of my former students is exposing me to a new budget eatery, my favorite kind. 


These and now having to clean the apartment myself, are just pushing things on my to-do list back from the top into the middle, and perhaps down to the bottom, but I have to enjoy the attention while it lasts. Come fall, no one will ever have heard of me again. 


Starting tomorrow, I will not have guests for a full week, so one distraction will be out of the way, so then it is serious concentration on those things to accomplish. 

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What does the name Korda Sándor or Sándor Korda, however you want to lay it out, mean to you? Does it ring any bells? Hmmmm...I am waiting for an answer, unless you are a Hungarian living in Hungary, then forget it. You don't get to play this game. Okay, to be fair, he died in 1956, so you may well be too young to recognize the name unless you are an avid movie buff. Korda was a major force in the development of motion pictures, but being Jewish, he and his family found refuge elsewhere. Sándor made his name and fame in England, where he was knighted. 


Now the name is associated with the movie lot sound stage named for him in Etyek, just outside of Budapest. You can view information about the stage here. If you watched the Showtime series The Borgias, it was filmed in this studio, yet sad to say, there were no Jeremy Irons spottings around the city. How did he keep such a low profile? See a sneak look here.

So why all of the hub-bub now? Well, let me tell you all about it. As of July 1st, the first Hungarian film theme park will open at Korda Studios with an annual expected visitor rate of 30-40,000. That will bring some moolah into the economy. I am not a fan, but if you are into the Hellboy series, Hellboy 2 was filmed here. Sets from the movie will be part of those attractions open to the paying public. Who needs Southern California after all?

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Resolutions

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Many people have the custom of making New Year's Resolutions. I learned long ago that that never works for me. For the last eighteen years, I have been everywhere but home for New Years with one year exception. When you are vacationing at New Year's in some exotic land, all things seem possible and probable including the fulfillment of resolutions uttered in hapless repartee. 


I for one, wait for a different time when things are more realistic. I make Ron Gone Resolutions. For months before Ron leaves for his annual American (cannot use US, because us doesn't go to the US) vacation, I secretly make my Ron Gone Resolutions or the things I want to get done when I am home alone. My list this year was rather ambitious, but it is always best to set your sights high. It is kind of like the slingshot in Angry Birds. If you don't aim high, the trajectory is just crap. 


Now, I am really fretting. Ron left on Wednesday, today is Sunday, and what have I crossed off of my list so far? Not much. Let's see what is on it.
1. Lose twenty pounds without exercising - Nope, not yet.
2. Join a gym, hire a personal trainer who tells me I look fabulous and then he quits - Never gonna happen, see number 1 above
3. Schedule and have a nose job - This idea smells of narcissism, but I don't care.
4. Volunteer a day to pick snails out of the Margaret Island flower beds - It will have to wait for my manicure to grow out.
5. Teach homing pigeons that there is more to life than home.
6. Count the number of websites on the WWW that start with the letters in my initials, end in dot hu,  and then put them in alphabetical order. If you say hu, hu, hu three times fast, what does it sound like?
7. Make English labels for all of the groceries in the supermarket so I and other ex-pats will be able to shop faster in the future. 
8. Create a new business that caters to desperate Icelandic men in search of a Hungarian puli to adopt. 
9. Finish the best selling memoir that is burning a hole in my brain.
10. Write the proposal to find an agent to sell the best selling novel that is burning the hole inside me.


Now that I have put it all out there publicly, I have a moral responsibility to keep you abreast of my accomplishments. Keep your fingers crossed for me and send positive thoughts for now. You can send cash or travelers cheques later on. The calender is ticking. Maybe I need to put "Eliminate mixed metaphors" on the list also. 


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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Don't Drink and Pedal

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One of our guests mentioned see a strange "bicycle-like contraption" around the city, but since he had also shared his was on meds for a delusional disorder, we just ignored it, but with smiles and "oh is that so". Today, as I was walking home, this bizarre contraption was steadily moving down the street resembling a boxy wooden centipede, but making quite a commotion. 


As if we don't have enough problems with the British Stag party revelers who come in groups the size of football team federations, get sh*tfaced, and practice their lung control like neglected newborns. Now we have something new to attract them, get them drunk earlier, faster, and they can pedal their ass around the city while they do it. 


Wait! That may be the selling point. They are pedaling around the city, not staying in one place, so after a minute their cheers of unintelligible rejoicing will fade like a worn out echo. So there is a silver lining to this after all.


For those who have consumed too many fluids, imagine seeing this coming down the street? Three stars to the company who runs and markets this as a "city tour". Yea, right! Funny people!
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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Aaron Wrote...

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Aaron has left a new comment on your post "Too Much Poetry": 


"Well done with the poems, but god if that isn't one of the saddest photos I've ever seen."


I know, it made me want to start a Teddy rescue service, but I am not sure our building allows pets. 


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Too Much Poetry

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I must have been to too many poetry readings. I came across this, took the picture and then wrote three poems for it. Choose the one you like the best and leave the rest behind.


Ted Haiku

Flung in the gutter, (5)
Teddy weeps over his loss; (7)
Forever came too soon. (5)


Í  Í
Another Hungarian shakes the bonds of dependency. 
Casting the childhood crutch to the curb,
Trying to smother feelings in recycled plastic
The Í Í –s stare uncomprehendingly back into emptiness
Probing the sewer searching for answers as to why?


Being UnBearably Obnoxious

Imbibing until his eyes forms flattened beads,
his skin became translucent blue with oxygen starvation
the well supplied bachelor party was a raucous event for all.
Strung out and strung up, trapped into wearing plastic fetish
ware, Ted was pitched street side when he was no longer fun.






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Take the Travel Show on the Road

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This morning when I opened my e-mail, I found this note from Margaret McMullan, who was a Fulbrighter here last semester in the outer regions of Hungary. She was gracious enough to come to Budapest to speak at the Budapest Creativity Group. While she was here, she left two of her novels for us: When I Crossed No-Bob and Sources of Light, but highly recommended young adult historical fiction.



Hi Ryan:


Hope you all are very well and enjoying a lovely summer!


I've been here in England running a summer writing program at our campus in Grantham. Today is our last day, and already we're planning for the summer of 2013, which will be the next time we come to England to run the program. I'm writing to ask if you think you would be interested in coming to talk about travel writing, and also, how much you think it would cost to get you here. Do you think you could come up with a sum? I really think you would be a terrific addition, but I have to say, we don't have a ton of money. You could come for two days, stay in the manor house, give a craft lecture or talk, maybe a reading if you would like. Whatever you think would be a good idea. Just let me know.


My very best wishes,
Margaret McMullan
Professor of English
Harlaxton College
The British Campus of the
University of Evansville


You won't need to guess at my response.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

End Times

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The end times are here again, the time to say good-bye repeatedly until it forms a mantra for renewed tranquility. This evening I met with Dr. Karla Kelsey for dinner at a little Thai restaurant before we walked to the bookstore where she and a Hungarian poet were doing readings from their works. My experience with poetry readings has been limited to this semester, but this one seemed to be beyond the norm, not only from my infinitesimal experience, but from others' comments as well. There was a moderator who actually interviewed and prepped the audience for what we were about to listen to. This made the world of difference as my enjoyment level barometer reached a never before achieved level marking a new high.


Interestingly, a few of the people from my now defunct Budapest Creativity Group were there and another poet I had met. The store was trying desperately to close by 9pm, but we pushed and shoved their good nature until 9:30 before we released their space no longer keeping it hostage. 


Karla, Allison, Jeff and I went bar hopping with no intentions of doing so. The first place we went did not have a table to spare nor a table to share. One would have thought it were a weekend night during a festival for the crowd was thick. The next place was equally non-obliging until a couple of guys in the far reaches of the back seating area took pity on us and relinquished their table into our custody. 


The chatter was a mixture of the obligatory questions with Allison as the target: What were your highlights during your time here? What did you hope to do that you did not? What will you miss the most? We have to exclude Jeff from the last answer as he is staying on. These were intermingled with fresh stories, fun life experiences, and general jovial ramblings accompanied by a beer. Close to midnight, the youngsters were yawning, transitioning the conversation to mellow moods with restful chattering about bed, sleep, and tiredness. 


Allison was merry meet, merry part and hopefully merry meet again.

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Brain Drain - Ron Gone

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Many countries suffer from brain drain, when their brightest and most promising leave for greener pastures. I am suffering from Ron Gone. Ron left today, not that it was unexpected. He had been planning this for some time now. Unfortunately, he left while I was at school. I had to be there for State Exams today, the euphemism for thesis defenses. 


Now, before you send me sympathy notes or those of congratulations, Ron is on his annual trek to greener pastures...eventually, he will be in Iowa. For now though, he is starting off in Golden and Fort Collins, CO followed by testing the American train system, Amtrak to IA. The town there is so insignificant, not even its over sized county map has a dot pointing it out, but it will have green pastures for sure. His final jaunt will be a flight to Pittsburgh, PA and finally home again, home again after a month of attention and being somewhat pampered.  


I have not been back to the States since January 2003, but that is another post entirely. Anyway, when I came home feeling lonely, without the computer screaming out political commentary from Rachel Maddow or humor from Jon Stewart, the Ron Gone sunk in. Yet, I did find this left by the two guests who left after both of us did. It was a pleasant surprise to brighten my day.
 So this evening, I am meeting Dr. Karla Kelsey for dinner and then going to her poetry reading afterward. I need to plan my "To Do While Ron is Gone" list.

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