Monday, May 5, 2014

Dümènica potpourri: Part 2

Tirano in Valtellina with distinctive south Alpine architecture
I like to occasionally use Google Maps.. more than Google Earth. Google Earth has too many whistles and bells for me. Awhile back, I was “getting on the ground” with Google Maps at the Brescian Comune of Paisco Loveno in Val Camonica. Actually, it is located in a smaller side valley called the Paisco Valley. Although I had done this numerous times before, I decided to follow the road heading east, passing this group of villages which are up on the hillside to the right. Much to my surprise, I found the road immediately heading into heavy woods, with a river (a tributary to the River Oi to the west) on the lower left side and a mountain on the right side. Above the river on the left was what appeared to be a larger mountain. This “Google drive” reminded me of many areas through the mountains of northern California, and was very rugged and beautiful. After about five or six miles of winding though mountain passes, the narrow valley road opened up and I could see the stunningly beautiful little town of Schilpario in Bergamo. The town was so beautiful, as was the stunning 360 degree view of all the mountains.

I tried the same thing with the small city of Tirano, which is north of Val Camonica on the eastern end of the Valtellina. In some ways it looked like many towns in California, maybe Sonoma County. It was in a wide valley, sunny, open, I could see a girl riding her bike. The mountains were more in the distance. I then tried a road just south of the city, through villages, and it was beautiful, woods and heavy brush, but not as steep as Val Paisco. The houses were wonderful, all with thick exterior wooden shutters. I almost don’t want to use the over-the-top adjective phrase “everything was perfect”… except that everything was perfect! The Alps of eastern Lombardy… Heaven on Earth.

There have been many cable tv programs about legends of “monsters” (‘Monster Quest’, ‘Monsters and Mysteries in America’, etc.). I think anyone who has done any hiking can tell a few stories, myself included, of hearing some strange sounds from the wood and brush. I have heard some strange ominous low growls on occasion. I don’t think they were “monsters,” but it had to be something. The only thing I could compare it to is a wild pig, but not quite as squealy-sounding.

At the base of Mount Fuji in Japan is an infamous area known as Aokigahara, or “Suicide Forest.” This area is the scene of many suicides, year after year. Due to certain factors, there is little wind, it’s unusually quiet, and there seems to be no wildlife there. In Japanese mythology, the forest is associated with demons. There is a lot online about this, including one popular documentary on YouTube called Suicide Forest in Japan. It’s very eery.

I have covered Upper Michigan on this blog, partly because there is a sizable number of people of Lombardian descent there, and because my family is from there. "Yoopers" usually see themselves as a separate state, or identify more with Wisconsin. There is a regional culture, including a distinct dialect, music, and cuisine. It's really not unlike, for example, Cajun culture; except it's Northwoods instead of Swamps. I know, not every Cajun lives in the swamps; and not every Yooper lives in the woods. On a separate note, the Northwoods is filled with folklore, and that's another item that I want to learn more about, as there are numerous books on the subject. It's more than just old stories, as many people claim to have experienced things there. Getting back to Yooper culture, the following is from Wikipedia regarding "Yooper cuisine."

The Upper Peninsula has a distinctive local cuisine. The pasty (pronounced "pass-tee"), a kind of meat turnover originally brought to the region by Cornish miners, is popular among locals and tourists alike. Pasty varieties include chicken, venison, pork, hamburger, and pizza. Many restaurants serve potato sausage and cudighi, a spicy Italian meat. Finnish immigrants contributed nisu, a cardamom-flavored sweet bread; pannukakku, a variant on the pancake with a custard flavor; viili (sometimes spelled "fellia"), a stretchy, fermented Finnish milk; and korppu, hard slices of toasted cinnamon bread, traditionally dipped in coffee. Some Finnish foods such as juustoa (squeaky cheese, essentially a cheese curd, like Leipäjuusto) and sauna makkara (a ring-bologna sausage) have become so ubiquitous in Upper Peninsula cuisine that they are now commonly found in most grocery stores and supermarkets. Maple syrup is a highly prized local delicacy. Fresh Great Lakes fish, such as the lake trout, whitefish, and (in the spring) smelt are widely eaten. There is minimal concern about contamination of fish from Lake Superior waters. Smoked fish is also popular. Thimbleberry jam and chokecherry jelly is a treat.

Lake Michigan
The following is the opening text from an article entitled 'Lake Michigan Triangle: Paranormal activity on the Great Lakes'..... "Besides the Bermuda Triangle, few areas in the world have a reputation for the bizarre like the Lake Michigan Triangle. Although it is relatively unknown on a global scale, especially compared to Bermuda, it has as storied a history of the unexplained as any place on earth." There is a lot online about this, including many video documentaries. One is from the 70's mystery program 'In Search Of', which was a forerunner of so many programs today. In Search of the Great Lakes Triangle - Part 1 (part 2 and 3 will show up on the right). 'In Search of' was great, and it still stands up just as well today.

I haven't been to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema yet, but it sounds like an interesting idea. I'm actually not a big movie fan, but there are new and old movies shown there, and it sounds like a very comfortable place to visit. They're springing up all over. I first saw the ads on the Independent Film Channel. On one hand I don't like the idea that every movie theater needs to be some large "megaplex," but on the other hand, some of them are quite comfortable. In other words, you may get there a bit early and have some coffee, sit in a comfortable couch-chair, etc.

To go way off topic for a moment, the example of the 'In Search of' program being an inspiration for so much of what we see on cable tv today reminded me of another old program. Probably few remember a late-night variety program called 'Thicke of the Night' from the 80s. That program, as much as a highly-touted flop as it ended up being, actually is very much like so many comedy/variety programs on cable tv today. It was so different. Alan Thicke was the host, and Arsenio Hall the co-host. I'm not even that crazy about those two, but they were really funny on that show in my opinion. Thicke would often ask strange questions to put the guest on the spot, and Hall would often even harass guests from the other side. Most guests seemed to enjoy it, while one (Wally George) stormed off the set. The times that the late Frank Zappa was a guest, in particular, provided for some strange and funny dialog. There were a lot of strange, cheesy skits; and dry sexual innuendos without overdoing it. Some of the old footage is on YouTube... and yes... a few people even have some fond memories of the show. As to whether anyone could say that it was a forerunner of those similar programs today, I don't know. I think it was part of that evolution.


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