Category Archives: Places I’d Like to Visit

New Tales of the City

“When I first got off the bus years ago, I had the strangest feeling that I’d come home.”
—Laura Linney as Mary Ann Singleton in Tales of the City

Oh, yes, Mary Ann, in this you are not unique. The first time I was in San Francisco, I had exactly the same feeling.*

And now, thanks to Netflix, we’re going home again.

“inspired by the books of Armistead Maupin, the new Netflix Limited Series Tales of the City begins a new chapter in the beloved story. Mary Ann (Laura Linney) returns to present-day San Francisco and is reunited with her daughter Shawna (Ellen Page) and ex-husband Brian (Paul Gross), twenty years after leaving them behind to pursue her career. Fleeing the midlife crisis that her picture-perfect Connecticut life created, Mary Ann is quickly drawn back into the orbit of Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis), her chosen family and a new generation of queer young residents living at 28 Barbary Lane.”

Tales of the City had its start as a three-times-a-week serial in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Author Armistead Maupin mixed real and (mainly) fictional characters to capture the essence of San Francisco in the 1970s.  Maupin succeeded in doing for The City what Tom Wolfe failed to do for New York in Bonfire of the Vanities, probably the most overrated novel of the late 20th century. The column became must-read material, and a cult was born.

The first novelization of the serial was published in 1978, followed by five more volumes published at two-year intervals, with three more books released after a 20-year gap.

In 1993, Channel 4 (UK) turned the first book into a superb miniseries, which was shown on PBS in the US in early 1994. Here’s the trailer:

Good news! That original series is currently streaming on Acorn.

The new series will be released on Netflix on 7  June  2019.


Bonus Track

The great Laura Linney makes an uncredited appearance in this video for the also-great Aimee Mann. Watch closely, and see if you can spot her.


* Granted, I also had exactly the same feeling the first time I was in London, and the first time I was in Paris. Never had it in my own hometown,  though, for some reason….

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The Good Place Returns, Not a Minute Too Soon

Important

As of this week, the first two seasons of The Good Place are streaming on Netflix. This is one show that must be seen from the start. You have time. The third series premiere is on Thursday, 27 September, so you can easily binge the backlog by then.


The Good Place, the funniest, smartest, most original American sitcom since the first three seasons of Arrested Development, will be back with new episodes later this month. Kristen Bell plays Eleanor Shellstrop, who discovers, post mortem, that she’s wound up in The Good Place, even though she clearly doesn’t belong there. Ted Danson gives what might be the best performance of his v long career as Michael, the architect of The Good Place.

In the first episode, he tells Eleanor that most religions only got things about 5 percent right in describing the afterlife. But then there was Doug Forcett.

And here, Michael explains how people make it into The Good Place:


Even Better

The supporting cast—D’Arcy Carden, Jameela Jamil, Manny Jacinto, and William Jackson Harper—are all just about perfect.

I mean, what the fork are you waiting for?

“No One Does Feasting Like the Tudors” — Discover Henry VIII’s Kitchens

This summer, Hampton Court Palace is inviting the public to travel back to 1538, when the Palace hosted 800 courtiers and ambassadors celebrating the birth of Edward, Henry’s son and heir.  Those guests had to be fed, and it was up to the 200 cooks and dining staff to make it happen.

“Feeding the court was a complex business all done without modern conveniences as 1.3 million logs burned in the hellish fires every year. From boiling cauldrons to roasting spits, join the day-to-day grind of Henry’s cooks as you pass through this labyrinth of kitchen spaces.”

The palace’s website promises—or maybe warns—there is even a chance to lend a hand turning the spit!

Along the way, you’ll meet kitchen staff like John Edlyn the purveyor, William Chester the yeoman butcher, and John Dale the master cook, presumably played by actors, since they’ve all been dead for 400 years, although the website is a little vague about that.

If you time things right, Hampton Court is an easy 45-minute trip by Tube and train from central London. It’s a delightful place to spend a day, and there’s always something special happening on the grounds. Here are my notes from a 2015 visit.


You might want to combine your kitchen visit with the Hampton Court Palace Food Festival, which runs from 25 August 2018 through 27 August 2018. The Festival, in the East Front Gardens of the Palace, features more than 100 artisan producers and companies, and offers “everything from oysters to sausages, and brownies to crepes.”

Prague, Beautiful Prague

This is a live stream from Prague, provided by a company called CamStreamer. The Czech Republic is six hours ahead of US East Coast time, so the stream is best viewed between late night and early afternoon in the East. When it’s dark in Prague, the images are murky and uninteresting.


If I could live anywhere in the world, Prague would be near the top of the list. The great disqualifier, for me, would be my inability to learn the difficult Czech language this late in life. While English is the de facto common language in much of Europe, it’s far from universal.

For a certain kind of American, Prague in the 1990s was what Paris was in the 1920s, or what San Francisco was in the 1960s—the Red Hot Center, the Happening city, a culturally rich environment with a thriving creative class, free from the conformist restraints of buttoned-up America. It didn’t hurt that the cost of living was a fraction of what it was in the States.

In the video stream, the camera pans from the Charles Bridge over the Vltava river, past the Prague Castle and the St. Vitus Cathedral, to the Strahov monastery and back. Walking across the ethereal, haunting Charles Bridge in the evening is one of those things that everyone should do before they die. It’s magical.


The background music is “Vltava”, the tone poem that serves as the second movement of Bedřich Smetana’s Má vlast, which is best known in English as My Country. The Bedřich Smetana Museum is one of the endpoints of the video stream.

Since 1952, the Prague Spring International Music Festival has opened on 12 May, the anniversary of Smetana’s death. The opening concert has always been a performance of Má vlast.

Here’s the 2018 concert:

I’m Back from Fall Euro-Break 2017

Well, that was refreshing.

I went to Budapest, where I wandered along different streets, breathed different air, and listened to different voices.

And now I’m back in Washington, revitalized, with a clear head and a renewed sense of purpose.

More to come over the next few weeks.


You know, I don’t think those little planes you see on airline flight monitors are drawn to scale….

More Images from the Bosch, Brueghel, and Arcimboldo Experience

I’ve found more images from this year’s Carrières de Lumières program, which features the works of Bosch, Brueghel, and Arcimboldo.

Even these still photographs are awesome. Seeing them in motion, with a soundtrack that ranges from Carl Orff to Vivaldi to Led Zeppelin, must be amazing. There’s a brief video at the above link that will give you a hint of what visitors to the site will experience.

(All photos found on the Net.)

“The Fantastic and Wonderful World of Bosch, Brueghel, and Arcimboldo” is open now, and will run through 7 January 2018.