Old is as Old Does: Natural Museum of Ireland

There are many approaches to showing people the zoological wonders of the world. Documentaries, funny clips on YouTube, maybe magazines like National Geographic, but one of the best ways, in my opinion, to give people a true idea of what lives in this world is to see something in person. A pretty obvious idea, as “seeing is believing,” but there’s something really to be said with that. However, the average family these days may not have access to extinct animals, nor have the money to go to Borneo to see flora and fauna there. This is where the humble natural history museum comes in. As I’ve discussed before with other museums, there are a few ways to teach people about the world, and in the modern age, interactivity is key. The stereotypical dark and dusty shelves and cramped halls full of threadbare animals is no way of interesting people in an electronic age. This, unfortunately, is largely the impression I got from the Natural History Museum of Ireland. Continue reading

Curating New Ideas: Natural History in Budapest

Whenever I go to a new city, the first thing I typically look for is its natural history museum. It’s not a make-or-break for visiting somewhere, but it sure comes close. I recently forced myself into a holiday, going to Budapest for a couple days. They happen to have a natural history museum. Double-plus good.

During a rather sweltering September day, I went to the.. Magyar Termés..Természet..tudomá..nyi Múzeum. Hungarian isn’t exactly an accessible language to me, hold on. The “Magyar Természettudományi Múzeum” which translates, quite neatly, to the “Hungarian Natural History Museum,” is an interesting sort of place. It’s in the middle of a rather large park of other educational facilities, and seems to have a historical connection to the conservation efforts of the Hungarian Zoo. It’s sleek, modern, engaging, yet at times, rather baffling. Continue reading

Baby Jesus and the Brandy: A Czech Christmas Tale Part 2

So as previously discussed, Christmas is not exactly a standardized holiday. Between different nations and/or cultures, the day may be different, the events may proceed differently, the movies are different, et cetera et cetera. There is one rather large part I’ve left out. Food. As opposed to the expected US Thanksgiving, Christmas has no set standard of foods. Some people will prepare turkey (a feverish roll-over from Thanksgiving, I’m sure), but there’s also ham, roast beef, pork roasts, lamb, among others. There’s no one “correct” side dish either, compared to the expected cornucopia surrounding the Thanksgiving turkey.

To the same extent, there is little agreement on desserts, either. Gingerbread men, and maybe decorated sugar cookies? The rest is family tradition or history. Perhaps this has something to do with America’s multi-ethnic and multicultural history, but there isn’t any definitive “American Christmas meal” that I’ve ever known of. The Czechs, however, do have such a thing.

With Vánoce (again, the Czech equivalent of Christmas, please see above link for more clarity and background), their meal of choice is kapr, or, carp. A big ol’ fish. Continue reading

Baby Jesus and the Brandy: A Czech Christmas Tale Pt. 1

Christmas appears to be the one holiday that everyone has at least some kind of response to. For some it’s a wistful memory, some bitter hatred, or even an (often over-)emphasized ambivalence, be they theist or atheist, consumers or retail slaves, or be they human or ancient lizardfolk alike. It’s wildly inclusive if one looks at the whole scope of who discusses it, so I suppose it succeeds in bringing everyone together… at least in some tortured manner. The traditions and norms of Christmas aren’t universal truths, however. My “Christmas” is nothing alike that of a friend’s Christmas, nor is it likely the same for anyone outside of the US.

Christmas was never religious for me. Santa was Christmas. Of course, I wasn’t ignorant of the whole “Christ” bit in Christmas, but it seemed always secondary to my “beliefs,” amusing as that may be in the big picture of things. Continue reading

A Short Digestif for Meals Long Past

Sometimes it can be easy to take the things around us for granted. Enough time spent around a certain stimulus or situation and it will often cease to have the same impact compared to the first time, or returning to it after an extended period of time. Perhaps moving somewhere new, and there’s a particularly pretty commute to work. Or perhaps a particular dish made by a parent or a loved one. You know it’s beautiful, you know it’s delicious, but driving the same place five days a week, or eating the same dish for a week, and the magic is a little dampened, so to speak. You can also have the opposite situation, when moving away from somewhere, and you begin to miss the things that you previously gave little thought, or had just delegated it to one of the regular experiences in your day-to-day. Continue reading

From Within/Without: A Non-Yo-Yoer at the World Yo-Yo Contest

In this world there are great number of societies and communities hidden far from the public eye. It’s sort of been a lifelong interest of mine to see into these esoteric circles, really, it was a large reason I became a journalist (or was trained as one, if nothing else). Seeing how different people live and work fascinates me, and one community I’ve become entangled with for around a decade is a great example of this. Yo-yoing. A few people who read this will likely be a part of this community, and even more so will at least know of my connection to it. Almost all of my friends in Europe are connected to this hobby/sport/lifestyle, or I’ve met people from people who are a part of it all.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the World Yo-Yo competition was in Prague. Over 1,100 people attended, all from an amazing assortment of countries. For three days, they played, practiced, and drank (when legally permitting, of course) as some kind of big festive family. I’ve never had the chance to see a “Worlds,” so this was a great chance to see what it was all like, perhaps one of the only times I’ll be able to in the near future (next one’s in Tokyo, sooooo). Most of my friends in Prague had a direct hand in planning, preparing, and promoting the event, so it was something much more than just a competition. Continue reading

Wine With a Roach

I arrived in Prague after a 12-hour train ride from Lugo, Spain to Barcelona. It was surprisingly pleasant, if you’d imagine such a thing, and it was made just so much better because I actually planned with some semblance of self-decency. I was not going to spend another night in an airport, as I have done for literally every trip since coming to Europe, but instead, getting a proper bed in a proper room in a proper hotel.

 

I don’t regret it for one moment. Continue reading

Fire on the Vltava: New Years in Prague – Part II

After a short repose…

Our evening of protracted fermented indulgence began with myself and a friend, suitably enough, having a couple of drinks. Just a quiet time, to sit and reflect on the day’s happenings, our future plans, and mere cooperative contemplation. In a bar packed with people. People already well on the way to spending their New Years somewhere in the neighborhood of “unconscious.” It was quiet in the sense that there was so much noise that there was effectively no noise at all. Good beer though, and luckily it was not our final destination. That was, and is, a castle dear to me; an old neighbor, really: Vyšehrad. Continue reading