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Montgolfiere Weekly

An exploration of culture in its many forms

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Under the spell of Malcolm Lowry

by Carolyn Brown

Day of the Dead — when the boundary between the land of the living and that of the dead becomes porous — could not be stamped out of Mexican culture by Spanish missionaries and was instead uneasily grafted onto All Souls’ Day. Over the succeeding four centuries, its primordial appeal has never flagged. “We Mexicans have a weird relationship with death,” explained one of my students as we drove by a cemetery festooned with marigolds and tables of offerings — ofrendas — for the festival. “We laugh at it, and we hate it.” Continue reading “Under the spell of Malcolm Lowry”

Playing with robots

By Patricia Lightfoot

I have been thinking about Nora Ephron’s account of her obsession with Scrabble Blitz, “a four-minute version of Scrabble solitaire,” which left her with “all the symptoms of terminal attention deficit disorder,” as she dreamed about scrabble, fell asleep memorizing two- and three-letter words and tuned out of conversations. I am now beguiled by the Bridge Base Online (BBO) app. I play the anonymous form of the game with three robots. My symptoms are not as pronounced as Ephron’s, but there’s no telling how far this might go. Continue reading “Playing with robots”

Schweine Museum

By Amy Flora

Walking up the road in the 30-degree heat I wondered, “How will I know exactly where the museum is?” Fortunately, an enormous pink pig–themed school bus appeared on the horizon: the first of many surprises. Continue reading “Schweine Museum”

Welcome to Montgolfiere Weekly!

This blog exists because I wanted to do a different kind of writing from the writing I do in my day job, and I even managed to persuade some of my friends to contribute their thoughts on culture in its many forms, from the visual arts, letters and music to human health, habits and customs, with occasional references to hot air ballooning. There is a whole world out there, and this is a small way of exploring it.

If you like what you find here, please visit again. And if you would like to join the conversation by either commenting or sending me a contribution, just let me know. It would be great to hear from you — Patricia

 

The China trip continues

By Anita Hamilton

After we left Chenjiagou, we took the train to Luoyang in order to see the Longmen Grottoes — over 2,000 artificial caves and tens of thousands of carved Buddha sculptures (from bunches in finger size to several metres high) in the side of a hill. This, our first train ride in China, started on a stressful note as we found that on our tickets (which we hadn’t inspected closely in advance) we were seated in two separate carriages on the train, four carriages apart. It wouldn’t have been so bad if we hadn’t had all our suitcases (all way too heavy) to lug around with us. Continue reading “The China trip continues”

Tai chi boot camp

By Anita Hamilton

We’re back from yet another trip — this time to a tai chi boot camp. Seems that we’ve repeatedly changed plans from travelling to Cambodia and Viet Nam for years now and this year has been no exception. I’m starting to doubt we’ll ever get there ….

After taking up tai chi at the beginning of 2016 here in Germany, we decided to study it intensely for a month in China at the same school where our teacher studied. Intensely meant six days a week, six hours a day. When we left, we’d reached the point of basically knowing the 75 moves of the old-style Chen tai chi, first form; however, we were not yet able to do the whole routine all on our own at that point. Continue reading “Tai chi boot camp”

The list

My take on travel planning has always been impulsive, so I was intrigued to learn about a friend’s more methodical approach. This friend prefers not to leave a digital footprint, so her name is not included here. PL

 Please tell us about your list

As far back as I can remember, I have had what some people call a “bucket list.” It comes from my childhood, when my parents impressed upon us that we shouldn’t take life for granted and then regret missed opportunities. Embracing the next travel opportunity, both near and far, was a common topic of conversation and, arguably, the glue that connects us as a family. Some travel adventure stories make for great dinner conversation, like my father recounting his unorthodox journey to find the Hanging Gardens of Babylon or my sibling’s first trek to Machu Picchu. While other stories, often the most meaningful experiences in my view, are best shared only with those we love. I remember what the sun felt like while exploring the Cinque Terre or how the air smelled like citrus in Capri, which doesn’t exactly make for tantalizing dinner conversation, but these are some of my favourite memories nonetheless. Continue reading “The list”

My Little Free Library

by Marnie Wellar

A few years ago in Montreal, I saw a charming little wooden cupboard set up on a post outside a coffee shop. A notice on the little door offered free books, and the cabinet had a variety of books inside. What a beautiful idea, full of goodness! I decided I would make one someday.

Last year I was deep into a major DIY project: a minimal-waste, salvaged-materials sustainable kitchen renovation. It’s a rewarding approach, but also painstaking and protracted. Taking a week off to make a Little Free Library would be the perfect side project, one I could enjoy accomplishing quickly. Continue reading “My Little Free Library”

A pint of plain and #dotMED16

by Pat Rich

It was probably inevitable that what was intended to be a sincere post about a unique conference in Dublin that combines the humanities and medicine (#dotMED16) would ramble a tad unsteadily into ruminations about Flann O’Brien and the Platonic theory of forms as it relates to Irish pubs.

Frankly, it was Samuel Shem, the keynote speaker at the dotMED conference, who brought the disparate elements together when he explicitly referenced O’Brien’s The Third Policeman and how Shem had incorporated the two large (both in size and importance) policemen from that book into his own novel, The House of God. Continue reading “A pint of plain and #dotMED16”

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