Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Namibia, where stars are born?

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie holed up in Namibia, Africa, to await the birth of their child. Well out comes baby Shiloh and up go the headlines: Jolie-Pitt newborn puts little-known Namibia on tourism map (USA Today).

Let me throw out some figures and then ask the question on all of our minds:

Combined salaries of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for Mr. & Mrs. Smith - $80 Million (I made this up, but it has to be in the ball park)

Per Capita Income in Namibia - $7,300 (I didn’t make this up. I would have guessed it to be lower).

Cost per night per person to stay in a private resort surrounded by paparazzi - $313

THE QUESTION:

If you are a movie star that marries a movie star, and you have a baby with that movie star, and you go to an impoverished nation to birth your first love child, and the government of the impoverished nation provides security to protect you from the paparazzi, and you are paying $626/night to stay in a private hotel on the beach, if you have a baby do you have to pay an extra $313/night? Or do children stay for free?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Remembering Kosovo

I try to avoid politics as much as I can when writing. This piece Bill-Clintonville is hopefully the closest I will ever come.

A few years ago I visited Kosovo and spent a few days playing Playstation, hiking, and hanging out with some guys who were nice enough to show me around the area. If it wasn’t for us, as in the capital U.S., sticking our “nose in other countries' business” my friends in Kosovo and their families would likely not be alive today.

I still keep in touch with one of them, Luigi, via email and recently learned that he is in love with and soon to be married to a beautiful young lady.

Maybe someday I’ll have a friend in Iraq crediting US for the chance at life he has been given. Although, the way things are going… OOPS I was about to get political there….Sorry.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

A boy named Kelsey

For the first 15 years of my life my name was a guy’s name. Now that every other girl born is given the name Kelsey, my gender is often misidentified. When I was receiving info from colleges trying to woo me into attending, I received one letter from St. Mary’s all-girl school located in South Bend, Indiana. I’ve always been a fan of Tom Hanks in Bosom Buddies and it humored me to no end thinking about four-years of cross-gendered hijinx.

Over the years I have received some interesting mail addressed to Ms. Kelsey Timmerman, including one letter asking me to join AARP. Still trying to figure that one out. Not only did they think I was female, they also though I was over 50-years-old. Yesterday I received one of my more memorable pieces of mail, a postcard from the American Greetings Card Company looking for freelance writers to write cards. It was addressed to….

Countess Kelsey Timmerman

Holy hell! I’m a countess!

I think I know what happened here. A few months ago I attended the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop (where I met Dave Barry and Craig Wilson) and while filling out the online registration form I chose “Count” as the prefix to my name. It was late at night and I was feeling punchy and I was cracking-up at the amount of prefixes to choose from. I could have been a Commandant, Commander, General, Duke, you name it. I chose “Count” because I am a huge Dracula fan, plus, it kind of goes well with Kelsey.

Count Kelsey… Wah-ha-ha-ha!

I was bummed when I saw my name tag at the conference - no “Count Kelsey” just plain ol’, boring, “Kelsey Timmerman.” The thing that gets me is that someone sitting at American Greetings company looked at my name on the list of conference attendees, saw “COUNT Kelsey Timmerman” from OHIO, and thought, “Geeze that can’t be right. They must have meant Countess. Kelsey is a woman’s name.”

Come on American Greetings paper pushers! Which is more unbelievable, that there is a guy with the name of Kelsey or that there is someone in OHIO - land of no castles and or royalty - that is either a Count or a Countess!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

My New Hero...ROCKET GUY!

My new Hero…ROCKET GUY!

Brian Walker, aka Rocket Guy, plans to launch himself 20 miles out of the world’s largest crossbow housed in the back of his pickup truck. His aircraft, modeled after those found in Star Wars and Battlestar Gallactica, will be mounted on a 24’ long rail and launched by a carbon-fiber bowstring. To help cover the 20 miles his aircraft has a jet turbine mounted on it. To slow his descent, he will use hydrogen peroxide rockets best known for their use in jet packs in the 1950’s. For protection he’ll wear a $15,000 Russian Space Suit.

The engine, the suit, the truck, the carbon-fiber bowstring – all very expensive, but still just a drop in the bucket when compared to the cost of the bushels of pot he surely smoked to conjure up such an idea.

“Dude, you know that ship in Empire Strikes Back? Empire was the best. Do you think someone could actually survive in the cold by cutting open a harmless beast of burden and crawling inside?”

“What about the ship? And yes I think it is possible to survive by beast of burden immersionization.”

“Oh, yeah the ship, it will be like one them ships that goes real fast. I’ll strap a jet engine on it. I bet I could go like 20 some miles.”

“Cool.”

Walker also invented a 300-gallon water balloon launcher.

I admit I am somewhat jealous. I aspire, just like the rest you, to someday be an eccentric billionaire playboy inventor. Until then, I’d get a big thrill out of writing Walker’s obituary if, god forbid, The Force fails him.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Shaolin Shakedown

THE SHAOLIN TEMPLE In the mountains of China’s Henan Province has been a place where countless monks have studied the way of Buddha, but the temple is best known for the physical feats of its monks. In the entire world you cannot find a greater number of grown men wearing saffron who can take a swift kick in the groin without even flinching. It’s the magic of Kung Fu.

Kung Fu may be heaped in ancient tradition, but that hasn’t stopped the temple from embracing modernization. The Shaolin temple is big business. Last year over 1 million tourists visited the temple and paid the $12.50 entrance fee. The monks tour the world putting on shows. They have cell phones. Many of them are studying for their MBA’s. They established a copyright in 1997 to combat misuse of their name in movies such as Shaolin Shakedown , which is a movie title I completely made up, but one I would consider purchasing. I even have a movie summary in mind:

Shaolin Shakedown: A coming of age story in which a young monk launches a hip-hop dance craze based on the fluidity of Kung Fu and the movements of small, friendly woodland creatures such as moles.

The temple is even getting in on the reality television craze. They will host a sort of Kung Fu Idol in which contestants compete for a position in a Kung Fu movie.

You can learn more about the Martial Art Moguls in a recent feature in the Asia Times.

In the interest of full-disclosure, I studied Southern-style Shaolin Kung Fu for a few years. My school was somewhat less prestigious than THE TEMPLE in China as it was in a strip mall in Ohio next to a Domino’s. I won the student of the year award once. If you don’t believe me prepare to face the wrath of my years of training, which means, that I will throw my 5x8 Kung Fu Award Plaque at you and runaway a safe distance before looking back to see if it inflicted any damage.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Today's Inspirational Photo

Kyle is on his way to the deep, dark jungle of Honduras. He will encounter a poisonous snake, a crazy biologist, and one malaria carrying mosquito on a mission.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Inspirational Photo


A big thanks to John Scalzi of Whatever for directing me to the "Motivational Picture" maker. As if I already don't have enough things to waste my time on.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Travelin' Touron - Episode 3


A Living Lesson, Casa Guatemala, Pogostickin' world records

Add to Google

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Only 11!

Below I’ve pasted a portion of an article and poem sent to me by Writer, Elizabeth Horner. You won’t be able to tell it from the writing, but Elizabeth is only 11 and she does not have an MFA in creative writing (that I know of).

To put this in perspective…

When I was 11… I shot myself at point-blank range with a BB gun in the leg – it was only one pump, but one pump was enough to have me jumping around the yard cursing.

When I was 11… I placed a sweater de-fuzzer on my tongue to see what it felt like. To save you the trouble of testing this out, you know those little bumps on your tongue? Well, they are the tongue’s equivalent of fuzz and a de-fuzzer removes them. There is blood involved and a strict no salt diet for at lest a week.

Elizabeth is 11 and she frequently contributes poems and articles to her local paper, which happens to carry my column as well. She recently has been awarded the Lowell Thomas Literary Award. Did I mention she is only 11?
The following appeared in a recent edition:
…I am very interested in different cultures and would like to do a lot of traveling myself someday. I’ve also wanted very much that kids from different schools around the world would write or send e-mail to each other as part of their Language, Art, Science and Social Studies Classes to learn from each other or even just to be a pal. In one of his e-mails to me Kelsey wrote, “Most people are great people and I never cease to be surprised at the hospitality and kindness that people all over the world display...The most important thing is to be a good person. If you smile and treat people with respect, no matter how far you leave home behind - you will always be greeted with open arms.” Kelsey’s e-mail and also thinking about Mother’s Day inspired me to write this poem.
The Language of your Heart
by Elizabeth Horner

Whether it’s in New York, Paris or Tokyo
The language is not the same
But our hearts speak the same language
One of love and pain

No matter where you travel
Or who it is you meet
We all know the joys of victory
And the lessons of defeat

But if we judge by our hearts
And not by our native tongue
All around the world – you will see
The same songs are being sung

The language of the heart
That is understood everywhere
It is one of kind deeds and love
Understanding, patience and care

Trust and believe in that language
And it will help you go far
To another country
Or to the farthest star

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Monday, May 15, 2006

Graduation Parties, Muggings

I attended a graduation party this weekend made up of people that, for the most part, I did not know. After a couple drinks and a belly full of food, I was happy to attain fly-on-wall status – observing, day dreaming, eating peanuts.

The conversation weaved around embarrassing moments of the graduate’s childhood, chemistry, Mountain Dew, Columbus, and at some point - muggings. This got me thinking…

Why haven’t I been mugged? Now, I’ve been plenty of places where that kind of thing wouldn’t be too much of a surprise, but it just hasn’t happened. Maybe muggers can pick up on the fact that I studied martial arts for years (two years – just enough to deserve the plural).

Nah, that can’t be it. I never really studied any animal styles like TIGER style that might lead to a detectable confidence in my gait. I’m not sure if I made it anything past the little known, seldom-feared HAIRY EARTHWORM style. That’s right, I’m far less a fierce jungle predator than fishing bait.

Eureka that’s it! The reason I have never been mugged is because I look like easy pickin’s, too-good-to-be-true, come-and-rob-me bait. I am such a target for being mugged that potential muggers assume that somebody has already beaten them to my passport and pocket change.

I’m too good to be true.


No one did ask me whether I had ever been mugged or not. I doubt I would have arrived at an answer better than “Nope.” By the time I worked-out why it was that I hadn’t been mugged the conversation had turned back to embarrassing stories about the graduate, which got me thinking some more…

Which is the lesser evil: being mugged, or having your family tell stories about you growing up to all your friends and any flies-on-the-wall in listening distance?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Traveling Touron - Episode #2

Midnight inThe Jungle, framing a story, David Blaine, and Ugly America.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Circum-pogostick-ulations of the Globe

Who doesn’t want to travel around the world and set a World’s record at the same time? The problem is that it’s all been done, right? Wrong.

Sure people have walked, sailed, motor-boated, balooned, and I even read about some guys who peddled (bikes and boats) around the world, but there are a lot of ways to get around. Here’s a list of 80 of them, including tractor, dump truck, combine, and my personal favorite pogostick - #3 on the list!

I was actually kind of surprised that no one has pogosticked, or is it pogostuck, around the world, but after some investigative googling I found this to be true. One fella who holds the World’s record for most World records (102) pogo-ed up Mt. Fuji, some other guy went something like 14-miles, but other than that the pogo records seem wide open. I wonder if pogo-balling would count?

What I’m trying to say is that if you’ve got the time and your John Deere combine is just sitting around collecting dust, fire that bad boy up and let the adventure begin.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Hulk-O-Mania Around the World


I’ve gone weeks without thinking of Hulk Hogan. The last time I did was when I flipped by his reality television show, Hogan Knows Best. I believe my thoughts regarding Hulk Hogan at that moment were something like: Gee, Hulk Hogan sure does seem like a good father. I wonder what he would look like with a hair piece.

I used to have a rubber Hulk Hogan action figure (no bandana – it was pre-hair-loss). At one time I even tried to rip my shirt off. Followers of Hulk Hogan are known as Hulk-o-maniacs. I was a wannabe Hulk-o-maniac but I just couldn’t come to terms with Hulk Hogan’s yellow speedo.

I’ve suppressed most memories of my juvenile fascination with pro-wrestling, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t escape Hulk Hogan.

Recently, I was reminded of Hulk Hogan when I heard about this Kiwi fella who is trying to circle the globe in 65 days in a motor boat; it would be a new world’s record. His boat will be solely powered by B100 bio-diesel which is made up of various organic materials including some fat liposuctioned off his butt. What does this have to do with Hulk Hogan? Check out the boat Mr. Kiwi is going to be using. Remind you of anything?

Does Thunder in Paradise ring a bell?

What, am I the only one who remembers Hulk Hogan’s 1994 22-epidsodes-before-getting-canceled hit, Thunder in Paradise - tagline: Danger. Excitement. Adventure. It's just another day in paradise?

I guess so.

Anyhow you should definitely check out Earthrace’s website. It’s nice to know that there are people out there with way too much money who spend their money like I would spend their money.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Slaves of the Throne

We’re all slaves of the (porcelain) throne, except for David Blaine. How does he do it?

Tonight Dave came out of his Plexiglas sphere filled with water after 7 days – Impressive.

Tonight Dave attempted to hold his breath underwater for 9 minutes, but only managed to do it for 7 – still Impressive.

But most impressive of all was the fact that during the seven days that Dave was in the sphere he didn’t poop. Not one floater in the entire sphere!

Now that’s magic.

I have to admit that I only watched Dave’s TV special tonight during the commercials of 24. During the seven - what I am sure were excitement filled - minutes where Dave held his breath, Jack Bauer landed a plane on a freeway in order to avoid being shot down by a fighter plane and then managed to escape unscathed from an entire military platoon that had been ordered by the President to track him down.

Sorry Dave, Jack is just more exciting.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

More from the Multi-cultural food file

To owners and gamblers at the Kentucky Derby, $1,000 isn’t that much. But even they have to balk before ordering the The Woodland Reserve Mint Julep with its $1,000 price tag.

Why so expensive?

The crushed ice used in the drink is glacier water from the Arctic Circle, the mint is flown in from Morocco, and the sugar is from Mauritius. As you can imagine with the current price of fuel, transporting all of the ingredients to Kentucky is kinda pricey. Oh yeah, it’s also served in a 24K gold-plated cup.

The proceeds from the drink will go to a thoroughbred retirement center.

On a somewhat different note: I’ve got some ancestors who were moon-shiners in the hills of Kentucky. They would dump gallons of water from a nearby stream, bran from the local bran store, yeast from the local yeast store, and 100 pounds of sugar from the local sugar store, in a bath tub. Sure it wasn’t quite as classy or multicultural as The Woodland Reserve Mint Julep, but it was cheap and would get you real drunk – so says my Grandma.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Kokota Photos

More photos from the first ever baseball game on the island of Kokota.

World Hum

One of my favorite websites/Blogs, World Hum, has a post regarding my recent piece in the CSM. If you haven’t checked out World Hum, you must. It is one of the best places anywhere (books, mags, or online) to find quality travel writing.

World Hum in their own words:
We don’t see travel only as a way to spend a couple weeks’ vacation every year. For us, travel is a way to see the world when we’re abroad, but also a way to see the world when we’re at home. Travel is a state of mind.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Published in the Christian Science Monitor

I was so distracted yesterday trying to get my stupid podcast up and running that I forgot to plug my story that appeared in the Christian Science Monitor's Home Forum essay section.
Feel free to email the monitor and tell them how much you enjoyed the piece!!
I'll let the CSM's website exlplain exactly what it is. Really, there are no other newspapers out there like it:
The Christian Science Monitor is an international daily newspaper published Monday through Friday.
Is the paper a religious periodical?
No, it's a real newspaper published by a church — The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, Mass., USA. Everything in the Monitor is international and US news and features, except for one religious article that has appeared each day in The Home Forum section since 1908, at the request of the paper's founder, Mary Baker Eddy.In an age of corporate conglomerates dominating news media, the Monitor combination of church ownership, a public-service mission, and commitment to covering the world (not to mention the fact that it was founded by a woman shortly after the turn of the century, when US women didn't yet have the vote!) gives the paper a uniquely independent voice in journalism.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Podcast

To check out the first episode of my new PodCast, Travelin' Touron: A behind the scenes looks at travel writing, click this posts title.

Each episode I will read from my column, Travelin' Light, and discuss some of the backstory and decisions that went in to writing it.

The only other feature appearing on episode 1: The Land of Tourons is a reading and discussion from a random page in one of my travel journals. I can't believe I randomly chose the first page I did. You'll have to listen to see what it is...

Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Yank in the Tank Part II



My old buddy David Blaine is at it again.

Okay, okay, I don’t really know him, but when you have seen a fella suspended in a Plexiglas box over the Thames River in London, and that same fella urinated into a small tube and you watched his urine slowly trickle down out of the box, you feel like you know him. Know what I mean?

I was a witness to Dave’s 44-day fast in London. I was there on day 30. He looked tired and hungry. I wrote about the experience (READ It’s a Kind of Magic).

This time Dave has locked himself in a Plexiglas sphere because, as any good street magician/physical-feat-master knows, boxes are so 2003. He plans on staying in it for 7 days until his live ABC broadcast at which time he will go off of his breathing apparatus and attempt to hold his breath for 8 minutes and 58 seconds – longer than any living person ever in the history of non-dead living humans.

You can follow Yank in the Tank Part II HERE where you’ll be treated to groundbreaking coverage like this, “Then slowly we were able to discern David, the man we'd just seen standing around like any other human, swimming around a sphere like a fish. It was more beautiful than can be described with words.

I ended my column It’s a Kind of Magic with the following passage:

A heroic act or a stupid publicity stunt - 84% of those polled on CNN.com think the latter. One man in the crowd at David Blaine’s last day in the box may have summed up this viewpoint best, “Moses fasted for 40 days and brought back the 10 commandments - Blaine goes up there for 44 days to promote a one-hour television show.”

Granted this time there are a few differences. As I already pointed out, he’ll be in a sphere not a box. Instead of 44 days he’s only hanging in for 7 (he’s gone soft). And he’s not promoting a one-hour TV show, but a two-hour TV show.

Dave’s hoping for big ratings.

If I were him, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Search for Ugly America

We’re fat. We’re loud. And we’re proud to be American. Screw the rest of the world! That’s what I say.

Think about Bram Stroker’s Dracula for a moment. Was it one of the tea drinking British twits that took out Dracula, the blood sucking Romanian, in the end? Heck NO! It was red-white-and-blue-bleeding, straight-talking, bowie-knife-toting, Yankee Quincy Morris.

I keep hearing this stuff about Ugly Americans and I don’t like it. Sure I agree that we are kind of fat and greasy, but Ugly?

Business for Diplomatic Action (BDA), a non-profit organization, is launching a program this month to teach Americans to be less Ugly. In their publication, The World Citizen’s Guide, they lay out how this can be accomplished: speak lower and softer, don’t use any slang, listen as much as you talk, and dress up.

Apparently, no matter how fast or loud we talk to foreigners they won’t be able to understand us. Who knew? And if we are wearing flip-flops and a tank top there is no way they will be able to understand us because they won’t be able to stop staring at the tufts of hair on our shoulders and back.

I am just as guilty as the rest of us. I try to be nice and polite. I don’t wear tank tops, but I have been known to talk with a strange accented, fast-paced, loud staccato when trying to get my point across to non-native English speakers. Usually this doesn’t annoy people, but it makes them laugh. It makes me laugh.

Does that make me Ugly? No, but my long straight nose does.

I do understand what the BDA is trying to accomplish. I had a friend traveling in South America on business and his co-worker was an Ugly American. They were at a market and the merchant told him how much money he owed in the local currency and my friend’s co-worker said something like: “How much is that in REAL MONEY? IN DOLLARS?

As a nation we are culturally-isolated – we border as many oceans as we do countries. Unlike Europe, where a three hour drive may take you through three countries, here in the US a three-hour drive may take you from Ohio to exotic Indiana - maybe. We aren’t used to dealing with people who don’t sound like us, who don’t use our currency, and who don’t know all of the words to “Take me out to the Ballgame.”

So we are a bit Ugly. But the French are a bit rude, the English a bit prissy, the Aussies are drunks, the Germans are perverts, the Israelis conceited, etc. etc. As humans we can’t help but label nationalities with certain qualities even if they are wrong. This sort of prejudice is not pretty, but it exists.

I’ve had foreigners tell me that I am pretty nice for an American. Of course I am. I was raised in a small town in the Mid-west by loving parents who instilled in me a strong sense of values. The Americans that these foreigners met must have been from the East or West Coast.

People on the East coast are loud and annoying; Westcoasters are a bunch of pot-smoking hippies. That’s where the Ugly Americans are. In the Mid-west and the South we’re pretty. Well maybe not people from Kentucky and Arkansas. But people from Ohio. Except for people from Cleveland or Akron – they’re strange. But people from my part of Ohio we’re great, real winners, with genuine likeability. Well, not always people on Elm Street seem to be bunch of jerks…

Regardless, of our inherent lack of beauty, if it wasn’t for the brashness and boldness that our great nation engrained in Quincey Morris the world be overrun with vampires. We’d all be minions of Dracula.

Think about that!