August 20, 2006
live free or die!
as if my posting wasn't already spotty enough, i'm now in the middle of The Great Road Trip of the Grandmas, and an internet connection is quite hard to find. T.T. and i are zipping around various Eastern states, visiting a whole slew of my blood relations, including both of my aforementioned grandmothers. we've already enjoyed several days on the lovely island of Nantucket, eating more (and thankfully, better) seafood than a pair of greedy seagulls.
we're currently stopping for the night in New Hampshire, where every license plate sports the in-your-face, ultra-patriotic motto above. it's kind of refreshing; in comparison, so many state mottos have the uncomfortably namby-pamby feel of mediocre tourism ad copy. examples: "Unwind; Hope" (Rhode Island), "Smiling Faces. Beautiful Places." (South Carolina), or "Full of Surprises" (Connecticut). then there's the ones that make me wonder if a convention of real-estate agents were involved: "The Stage Is Set For You!" (Tennessee), "Come See For Yourself" (New Jersey), or "Feels Like Coming Home" (Mississippi). and then there's the one that sounds suspiciously like begging: "Stay Just a Little Bit Longer" (Wisconsin). realising that i have now invited a whole bunch of angry, state-pride commenters to come flame me into oblivion, i say bring it on! come up with a better state motto for yourselves! don't let those goobers in your state tourism office figuring out how to lure Americans into dropping dollars into faded postcards or collector spoons emblazoned with some smudgy coat-of-arms have all the fun!
in the meantime, we'll be seeing Grandma of Dad Side in "So Much to Discover" before heading to "More Than You Can Imagine" to plant kisses on Grandma of Mom Side's weathered cheek. we might be back home in "Find Yourself Here" before i can get to the computer again...
August 10, 2006
way back in the day (that would be the 2nd century B.C.), a somewhat obscure Roman architect/engineer named Philon of Byzantium made a list of the seven most amazing human-built structures in the world. never mind that "the world" at the time consisted of, well, basically, the Roman Empire, and that of these seven spectacles (as he called them), only one still exists: the Great Pyramid of Giza. after writing his little sightseeing tract, Philon went back to writing mathmatical texts on the mechanics of properly duplicating a cube, so that one could build better catapults with which to smush and pillage fortified towns. he never dreamed that his little meme (it is a meme, isn't it? "name seven cool architectural things you wish you'd built yourself") would survive over the centuries, even if the monuments themselves would not.
i remember, in elementary school, having to memorize the list of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, as they are more popularly known, and being very proud that i could say "Halicarnassus" (wonder #6, the Tomb of Mausolus at said location). i also remember asking my father how we knew any of this stuff was for real since it didn't exist anymore, and besides, there were no photos. this launched him into a speech about history, the fleeting nature of man-made ventures, and the enduring awe of God's creative power as seen in the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. i was much more impressed with the Natural list; i had seen photos of almost all those places and knew they still existed. and i was pretty certain that in any contest of man vs. God, God always won. so in a Wonders of the World cage match, the Northern Lights would definitely take down the Lighthouse of Alexandra.
well, the world has changed quite a bit in 23 centuries, and it's high time we had a new list. luckily for humanity, a Swiss filmmaker/explorer/guy with a great imagination named Bernard Weber came up with the very democratic idea of letting Earth's citizenry come up with a new list of Seven Wonders. he launched the project in 2000, to celebrate the new millenium, and now has a shortlist of 21 "finalists." he's defintely got more perspective than ol' Philon; recognising that without proper care, these wonders will go the way of the crumbled Colossus of Rhodes, the purpose of the project is to "document, maintain, restore and reconstruct world heritage under the motto: 'Our Heritage is Our Future.'" showing some marketing savvy, the "New Seven Wonders" will be announced on 07/07/07... meaning there's less than a year left to cast your vote!
i actually really like the shortlist -- it's a powerful international sampling of the best of many civilizations over those 23 intervening centuries. the Great Pyramid made the list again, and is joined by temples (Angkor Wat/Cambodia, Kiyomizu Temple/Japan, Chichén Itzá/Mexico, Hagia Sophia/Turkey), castles (Alhambra/Grenada, Neuschwanstein/Germany), and cities (Timbuktu/Mali, Macchu Picchu/Peru, Petra/Jordan). the monuments span the sacred (Christ Redeemer/Brasil) to the pagan (Stonehenge/England), and the engineering marvels from the ancient (Great Wall/China) to the modern (Eiffel Tower/France). i won't tell you which seven i voted for, but i will tell you that my new travel fantasy is visiting all of these places on a grand tour, including the ones i've already been to.
who knows? maybe in another century this list will become outdated too, with land being cleared for countless more horrible tract homes. so vote while you can; Weber hopes for a hundred million voices to decide the new seven. in the meantime, i'm checking out flights to Easter Island.