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Big France: Visiting the Loire River Valley

September 27th, 2018 · No Comments · France, Languedoc

France is the biggest country in western Europe, in terms of area, which is nothing to sneeze at, considering it is nearly as big as Texas.

A person can visit here many times, or live here for a year or two, without getting around to setting foot in even half the country’s wide array of climates, accents, regional cuisines, housing styles …

So it is interesting to be in the Loire, because it bears little resemblance to our home in the Herault/Languedoc … and even less of a resemblance to the megalopolis that is greater Paris.

Some key factors:

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Long Beach State’s ‘Prospector Pete’ Bushwhacked

September 21st, 2018 · No Comments · Journalism, Long Beach, NFL

And another mascot bites the dust.

The Forty-Niner mascot sometimes known as Prospector Pete was 86’d yesterday by the president of the California university most commonly known as Long Beach State.

Activists from the school’s faculty and student body had agitated for the ousting of the Forty-Niner mascot on the grounds of genocide perpetrated on Native Americans living in California during and after the 1848-54 California gold rush — which brought something like 300,000 Americans to the state in a half-dozen years.

(Long Beach State was founded in 1949, so as a mascot … of course, the Forty-Niner! Or so went the thinking, 70 years ago.)

One might think earlier interlopers into California from Spain and Mexico contributed more to the high mortality rates experienced by American Indians. By 1846, Spain or its successor state, Mexico, had been having their way in California for most of a century.

But more than a few historians believe that California’s Indians didn’t really reach a crisis until the arrival of the Forty-Niners, whose herd animals unsettled the natives’ ecosystem, and whose Old World diseases spread quickly and often proved fatal to the indigenous population.

What happens next?

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The Saddest Phrases in Journalism

September 19th, 2018 · 1 Comment · Journalism, Sports Journalism

The inspiration for this comes from a gallery of “the saddest phrases in the English language”.

It ranges from single words (heartbroken, lonely, melancholy) to actual phrases (time for bed, if only, back to school).

It struck me that we might be able to put together a saddest list that would resonate with journalists.

Here are 10.

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The Journalism Myth of Endless Online Space

September 17th, 2018 · No Comments · Journalism, Sports Journalism

One of the sops thrown out at print journalism reporters at the dawn of the digital age was this one:

“You can write as long as you want!”

That was supposed to allay the fears of reporters and other writers who were alarmed at the shrinking newspaper. The print product. Less space all the time, fewer column inches to tell a story.

What we called “news hole” has been shrinking for decades, after peaking some time in the 1990s, at most newspapers. In the span of a decade we went from Sunday-morning newspapers the family dog could not hope to fetch … to miniaturized, thin, narrow and incomplete products.

The original response to the shift to the online was … write a terse news story and do it in 10 or 12 inches. That little thing will appear in the shriveled print product … and then the reporter can go back to writing as much as he or she wanted — and the complete/expanded version would be posted online.

That was how it was supposed to work. How it could work.

However, like so many aspects of electronic journalism, it wasn’t true. Or accurate. And as the years go by, it becomes less true all the time — as consumers increasingly prefer short-short-short stories on the tiny format of smart phones for consuming their news.

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A Small Town Celebrates Its Roots

September 15th, 2018 · No Comments · France, Languedoc, tourism, Uncategorized

The bells rang on the hour, as they always do, here in “our” French village.

And then a few minutes later the bells at the 300-year-old church rang out again, and this was a gusher of clanging and banging that could mean only one thing at 4 p.m. on a Saturday:

A wedding!

And the little town of 600 or so people enjoyed a bit of renewal, celebrating en masse as a daughter of the village came back from America to celebrate her new life on the other side of the ocean.

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Rams Revolution: Sparing Starters Preseason Punishment

September 10th, 2018 · 1 Comment · Football, NFL, Rams

The Rams offense this summer did something that has never happened in National Football League history:

Ten of their 11 starters on offense did not play a single minute of preseason football, according to The Orange County Register.

Players have been complaining for years about the four-game exhibition season, and so have some coaches. And fans, too — exhibition games are included in season-ticket packages, and the preseason usually is played by guys who are not going to make the team.

But the main reason for keeping starters out of harm’s way?

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A First Visit to ‘Tickets’, Famed/Weird Barcelona Resto

September 7th, 2018 · No Comments · Barcelona, Spain, tourism, Travel

We tried for six years to get a reservation at Tickets, the well-known (and Michelin-starred) Barcelona tapas restaurant based on molecular gastronomy.

We have tended to stay in the Barcelona neighborhood named Poble Sec, where Tickets is located, and when we discovered that … the building seemed to sort of taunt us whenever we walked past, on our way to or from the Placa Catalonia. Never able to get reservations — which are opened up two months ahead of each day, and filled before the day has ended.

What is Tickets?

In simplest terms, it involves small bits of food that do not look like what they taste like. (In the photo, above, that round piece of cheese? Actually cheesecake.)

It involves lots and lots of small dishes — bites, really — with exotic ingredients and perfect presentation.

It also involves the biggest staff I have seen at a not-enormous restaurant. There were at least 20 in the dining room, maybe 25, including a sommelier. For about 30 patrons.

To make a first visit to Tickets without doing some research … is to be completely bamboozled. As I was.

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Pickpockets and Barcelona (Continued)

September 6th, 2018 · 1 Comment · Barcelona, Spain, tourism, Travel

So, back in Barcelona. Hard to avoid the place when it remains one of the world’s great cities … and when visiting friends and family (from the U.S.) stage through the Spanish town on visits to Europe.

But it also has that one major problem that has not been resolved.

And this is not about a potential breakaway from the rest of Spain and independence for the “autonomous region” that makes up Catalonia — where Barcelona is located.

This is more visceral, at least to foreigners.


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Ohtani the Pitcher and Deep Foreboding

September 1st, 2018 · 1 Comment · Angels, Baseball

Media outlets are suggesting Los Angeles Angels fans are excited that Japanese rookie Shohei Ohtani will return to the pitcher’s mound tomorrow night.

I am filled with foreboding.

Ohtani, the most prominent pitcher-hitter since Babe Ruth, has not pitched since June 6, when he exited a game with elbow stiffness — later described as a “Grade 2 sprain” of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right (pitching) elbow.

Ohtani chose not to have surgery on the damaged ligament, opting for rehabilitation instead — a process that returns him to the mound a year (or more) earlier than surgery.

The reality?

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Harvest Time for the Rural Expanse of France

August 29th, 2018 · No Comments · France, Languedoc

(Photo credit: Domaine de Arjolle )

When most of the planet’s people hear “France” they think “Paris”.

Certainly that is the case for Americans.  And I don’t see why it would not be true across the spectrum of humanity.

France and Paris, Paris and France … a duo.

But only about one-sixth of French people — around 11 million — live in metropolitan Paris and its environs — generally known as the Ile-de-France.

Some 55 million (about 83 percent) of France’s 66 million people do not live in Paris. They are spread all over the biggest (by area) country in the European Union.

Which sometimes leads outsiders to forget that France is, in many ways (even in the 21st century), a rural and agricultural country.

We are reminded of that on a daily basis, here in the south of France. Our village has a population of about 700, and most of the economic activity here pertains to la ferme — the farm. And especially the vineyards.

Paris may worry about world affairs, but here in the fertile south of France, the people are far more interested in something much more basic.

The harvest.

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