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Trump, Kim, ‘Dotard’ — and J.R.R. Tolkien

September 22nd, 2017 · No Comments · Books, Journalism

The war of insults flying between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un heated up this week, with the Korean dictator/president for life puzzling many in America by threatening:

“I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.”

I don’t know how Kim’s insults are translated into English, whether it is a bot or an English-speaker with a wide vocabulary.

But it turns out lots and lots of Americans had no idea what a “dotard” is. Despite it being a fine and specific English word for 600 years, give or take a century.

And not to brag, but I knew right off what a “dotard” is — mostly because I first read Lord of the Rings when I was 12 and author J.R.R. Tolkien uses the word at least twice in the third book of the masterpiece fantasy trilogy.

Here is one definition.

Dotard: noun. “a person, especially an old person, exhibiting a decline in mental faculties; a weak-minded or foolish old person”

(Pronounced “DOE-terd”)

Shakespeare apparently uses “dotard”, as well. But I did not read the Bard. (Maybe Kim’s translator did.) I read Tolkien, who loves old words, especially old Anglo-Saxon words.

Here are two usages of the word from Return of the King (and even a 12-year-old can figure it out from context).

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One Fine Day/Night: Dodgers, Rams Win

September 21st, 2017 · No Comments · Dodgers, Los Angeles Rams, NFL

Young sports fan me, ages 9 to maybe 15, would have been very happy with how this day turned out.

My two favorite pro teams won!

Dodgers 5, Philadelphia 4, leaving them one victory shy of clinching the National League West.

The Rams 41-39 over the San Francisco 49ers, their greatest rivals, on the Thursday night game.

Young teen and pre-teen me, however, would not have been able to stay up till 5:15 a.m. (here in France) to see the Rams survive those hideous uniforms as well as some late attempts and self-destruction. The kid version of me would have been pushing his luck to see Kenley Jansen get the final four outs. That one ended about 11 p.m., on the eastern side of the Atlantic.

These two results potentially are important.

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Vienna, Budapest, Prague: 21st Century Tourism Triplets

September 20th, 2017 · No Comments · Budapest, Prague, tourism, Travel, Vienna

And I thought it was my idea. No, really.

Someone already on the continent who is keen to see some well-known capitals of Europe that are not London, Paris, Berlin, et al.

Let’s get out a map …

Hey, wait!

Budapest, Vienna and Prague are arranged more or less on a straight line of about 340 miles!

Shorter than the distance from Los Angeles to San Francisco!

We can do those three in a couple of weeks, before the weather in central/eastern Europe gets chilly.

And off we went!

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Vienna, Day 5: Bingeing on American Movies

September 19th, 2017 · No Comments · Austria, Lists, Movies, tourism, Travel, Vienna

It wasn’t only because we found meals in Vienna to be expensive, compared to nearby cut-rate European capital cities Prague and Budapest, that we avoided Vienna’s restaurants for most of our stay in the Austrian capital.

Though that was much of it.

Another major factor?

A chance to binge on American-made movies in VO (version originale) showings. No subtitles. Same as everyone back home saw them at the multiplex.

Channing Tatum doing a hillbilly accent. Kevin Spacey sucking all the oxygen out of a sound stage. Samuel L. Jackson dropping his own Eff Bombs.

All in their own voices!

If you like movies at all, and live outside the states, A place called Artis International, in Vienna, will exert a magnetic pull on you.

And once we found the place, during a driving rainstorm a few days ago, we kept returning.

To the tune of seeing four feature films in three days. Right there around the corner of an alley in Vienna’s Innere Stadt.

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Vienna, Day 4: Grim Reminders of Austria’s Third Reich Past

September 18th, 2017 · No Comments · Austria, tourism, Travel, Vienna

A canal separates the monument strewn “inner city” of old Vienna, Austria, from the newer neighborhoods to the east.

Behind those housing districts is a sprawling park named the Augarten, where modern citizens and tourists can frolic or exercise or relax.

However, the park has two squat, ugly towers that look out of place. In fact, they are — ugly and out of place.

Each of the buildings is an imposing mass of reinforced concrete, and each was designed, in the latter years of World War II, with two functions: 1) As gunnery strongholds to shoot Allied planes out of the air and 2) as a bomb shelter for Vienna’s civilians.

Right there next to the enormous park are two mute reminders, “flak towers“,  that Austria fought on the side of Nazi Germany in World War II and, actually, was a constituent part of the German “Reich” — having been annexed to the rest of Germany in 1938, a year before the Second World War began.

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Vienna, Day 3: Polite vs. Friendly

September 17th, 2017 · No Comments · Austria, tourism, Travel, Vienna

Living in France, one comes to appreciate the daily niceties, at least in the country’s small towns.

It is considered declasse’, bordering on overtly rude, to pass someone — anyone — in the street without saying hello.

The encounter can be with young or old or snarky teen, and still social conventions call for a hearty “bonjour!”

And if you are introduced to that person, you must immediately announce enchante’! (which literally means “enchanted” but stands for “nice to meet you”).

And if you subsequently meet up with a person to whom you have been introduced, you are pretty much obliged to do the three (in the south) bises (air kisses). Left, right, left.

Here in the Slavic/Magyar/German world we have dwelt in for nearly two weeks?

Can we maybe get a nod of recognition that we exist?

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Vienna, Day 2: ‘Kokosblutenzuckerflocken und Beerenmus’

September 16th, 2017 · No Comments · tourism, Travel, Vienna

Not making this up. The three words in the headline are an actual bit of explanation for an item entitled “Tewa’s cheesecake” on the menu of the comfy bio-bistro where we had dinner, in Vienna.

It reinforced what I have been learning, here in Austria:

I may be able to conjugate common verbs and translate oft-used nouns, but when it comes to German-only menus … I am in deep trouble.

Kokosblutenzuckerflocken und Beerenmus is a good example of a couple of words I never learned from Herr Klenner.

And what does that mouthful of bistro dessert translate to?

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Vienna, Day 1: Beer, Bier, Pivo, Sor …

September 15th, 2017 · No Comments · Budapest, France, Prague, tourism, Travel

If you hope to dine like a local, in central Europe, you start by accepting one condition:

You must order a beer with your meal.

Or else you are an even bigger poseur than most of the rest of the tourists visiting the region.

Which has led me to drink beer for nine consecutive days now. That includes a couple of days with more than one bottle, and total consumption on the high side of a quart.

And I don’t particularly like beer.

Thing is, most everyone around here does.

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Budapest, Day 4: Sources of Confusion … Language and Money

September 14th, 2017 · No Comments · Budapest, Prague, tourism, Travel

We liked Budapest. Quite a bit. We wish we were staying longer.

But a couple of basic issues pertaining to Hungary and its capital city threatened to trip us up any time we left the apartment.

Talking about money … and talking about talk. [Read more →]

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Budapest, Day 3: Liverpool Wins in One Sports Bar

September 13th, 2017 · No Comments · Arsenal, Budapest, Champions League, English Premier League, Football, soccer, tourism, Travel

I get it. Some might consider it silly, ridiculous even, to be headed for a sports bar on a Wednesday night while visiting an exotic capital city.

But keep in mind that 1) the sports bar is about 50 yards away from where we are staying; 2) the bar serves food as well as beer and 3) the place has three big TVs and the European Champions League had eight games kicking off at 8:45 tonight.

Doesn’t that allow for some skimping on the cultural and artistic and gastronomic fronts?

Maybe that should go unanswered. But I did learn something interesting.

At this time and place, a Wednesday night in Budapest, September 2017, the English club Liverpool is the runaway choice for TV exposure from the eight matches on tap.

Did not see that coming.

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