Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Exhibition draw

Toronto must have honey overflowing from its ears because it has the talent of drawing some of the more interesting international exhibits. The Tim Burton exhibit currently at the MoMA will shuttle back to North America from November 22nd,2010 to April 27th 2011 after visiting the down under.

A few years back, during the huge hype of the Lord of the Rings trilogy an art/production display was exhibited in Toronto. Much to the grumbling of my friends from afar, the city even received an encore visit a year later. The initial exhibit took place in a very fitting castle Casa Loma, where some of the crew even recreated parts of the sets, showcased drawings, props and costumes. The second more elaborate exhibit was recreated at the ROM museum/Planetarium with great success.

This June the Royal Ontario Museum will be taking the reins as the place to see (after the Art Gallery of Ontario wraps up the Tut exhibit), and bring a bit of Asia to the masses. Fourteen of the life-size terra cotta soldiers from Xi'an will draw thousands of visitors in one of the most fascinating tombs of China's first emperor, Quin Shihuangdi.

A bit of history, a bit glamour, a bit of weird.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Coffee house

Sometimes it's really irritating moving to a new city, especially if it offers less than stellar brew in the morning. I love love love coffee of all sorts. Lattes, cappuccinos, espressos, and teas. When a particular independent coffee shop goes the full monty and takes great pride in their product it will only be a matter of time before the customers buzz in.

Variations (wiki) of what I can't wait to try...

Bombón ( "confection"): Espresso served with condensed milk. Served in South East Asia, Canary Islands, Cook Islands and Mainland Spain.

Bicerin ( "Little glass") Made of layers of espresso, drinking chocolate, and whole milk. Invented and served in Turin.

Guillermo: Originally one or two shots of hot espresso, poured over slices of lime. Can also be served on ice, sometimes with a touch of milk.

Black eye: A cup of drip coffee with two shots of espresso in it.

Carajillo: ( slang for "nothing"): Espresso with a shot of brandy.

Con hielo ("with ice"): Espresso with sugar immediately poured over two ice cubes.

Carving Perfection

Everyone points fingers to Hollywood for being plastic. If only people guessed what lengths many countries take to win a reputation in beauty. Venezuela, often equated with producing some of the most beautiful women in the world (other than Iceland and Brazil), takes obsession to new heights.

Ever watch Miss Universe? I found an intriguing documentary focusing on how unnatural steps are taken to attain a "Universal" perception of beauty. Produced by ABC Australia, Journeyman Pictures has researched a number of controversial issues around the globe. For China, it could be the issue of height, Africa, skin colour, and so on...

Beauty Obsession - Venezuela watch here
The Sexist Revolution - China watch here

Like Journeyman? I find their chosen subjects intriguing and well made...
Site here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Seen it all? Tired of all reality television, talent shows, singing contests? Stumped to find another new mystery series?

Lord Peter Wimsey, a fictional well to do sleuth created by Dorothy L. Sayers has been adapted a number of times in a similar Poirot/Miss Marple style by BBC. Born into the upper classes, Wimsey is the classic well bred, highly educated gentleman who helps solves crimes more as a hobby than livelihood. The series takes place in the 1920-30s, following his deductions of crime and murder with the occasional appearance of his family members (very different from Sherlock and Poirot) and help of Chief Inspector Charles Parker.

Here are a number of links to various episodes...

side note: Miss Marple Pocket full of Rye here

Festive Fun

Depending on the town or city you live in there are hopefully a number of cinephiles who have gathered together to share and enjoy new and old films.

In Canada, the Toronto Film Festival has blossomed into a mix of commercial fare and the small and obscure. Opening around mid September, it trails after Venice, Cannes and the Berlin Festival and is probably the closest gauge of what a North American audience prefers. I'll admit it's grown too large for my liking, the long lines, traffic, and mediocre theatre facilities have dampened my enthusiasm for many of the headliners.

I've been to the Halifax film Festival (very good), Vancouver Film Festivals, and a Calgary Film Festival. Unfortunately Halifax and Vancouver are plagued with bad timing, most filmmakers are only capable of submitting to a select few in the fall... and Toronto is the place to be. I've been greatly disappointed with the selection in Vancouver in the past few years, many of the most exciting films (ones that I would happily wait in line for) tend to move from Toronto to New York (New York timed to begin about a week after Toronto wraps up).

What many locals overlook are the smaller, less publicized, and specialized festivals that should always be given a chance.

Here are a few all across map (linked):

BFI London Film Festival (Oct 13-28, 2010)


TIFF (Toronto Film Festival - Sept 9 - 25, 2010)
Hot Docs (Best of Documentaries April 29 - May 9, 2010)
Sprockets (Children's Film Festival April 17-23, 2010)
Reel Asian (Asia's best internation releases November 9-14, 2010)

Atlantic Film Festival (Sept 16-25,2010)

New York City
New York Film Festival (The big one, early October, usuall 18 days)

Chicago International Film Festival (Great! Oct 7-21, 2010)
Latino Film Festival (April 16-29, 2010)

Independent Film Festival (April 21-28, 2010)


Los Angeles
Newport Beach Film Festival (Apr 22-29, 2010)
Palm Springs International Film Festival (Short films, June 22-28, 2010)

San Francisco




Friday, April 23, 2010

Deception of the mind

I'm rarely taken aback when I see a trailer. The blink of an eye flashes, "the movie guy voice" (Don LaFontiane) , explosions and over the top CGI, sexy slow motion angles... all the same. Every time. Maybe too many films are made every year, or perhaps the media drowns an average viewer with too much information. Even if you don't watch the news every day, avoid gossip magazines, Facebook, Twitter and television, it's virtually impossible to remain a blank slate.

Which is why I was surprised when I saw the trailer for Inception.

A very good trailer. It doesn't tell you too much, doesn't scream "Academy Award winner!", the pacing won't give you a seizure, and I haven't seen the actors on any tabloids. I miss the days when I could walk into the theatre and not know what kind of film I was about to see. In the first ten minutes when a film managed to grab me by the reins and suspend my disbelief... it could grab hold of me and let me fly...

Lately I'm always getting the feeling of déjà vu every time, and yet I'm always eternally optimistic every time I buy my ticket. Here's hoping for a good year...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sherlock case files

Around the late 80s to early 90s Granada Productions created a number of Sherlock Holmes mysteries starring Jeremy Brett and David Burke / Edward Hardwicke, not all that different from David Suchet for Poirot. I'm not going to bother adding the other sections since part 1 will link to part 2 and so forth. Links in orange... Enjoy!

The Hound of Baskervilles Part 1
Devil's Foot Part 1
The Greek Interpreter Part 1
Wisteria Lodge part 1
The Dancing Men part 1
The Empty House part 1
The Norwood Builder Part 1
The Speckled Band Part 1
The Second Stain Part 1
The Sign of Four Part 1
The Eligible Bachelor Part 1

A great deal of people love, and I do mean love the 1976 film version of Sherlock Holmes, The Seven Per-Cent Solution starring Alan Arkin, Vanessa Redgrave, Robert Duvall, Nicol Williamson and Laurence Olivier. Wow, now that's a stellar cast.

Victorian wit

I love spring, it means that many established Shakespeare festivals are beginning to rehearse for the summer and fall season. Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde plays are another great escape. Their light comedy and wit about serious subject matters, elaborate costumes and slower pacing are a nice change from the smash and awe blockbusters that fill the screens during the year.

George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright who was the first person to be awarded for both the Nobel Prize for Literature and an Oscar. He didn't truly establish his name as a playwright until his 40s, and wrote sixty-three plays during his career. Many of his writings dealt with social problems, education, marriage, religion government and class privilege.

Pygmalion (My Fair Lady is based on this play)
Man and Superman
Doctor's Dilemma

Oscar Wilde another Irish writer and poet is famously known for his biting wit and especially his personal life. One of the most celebrated talents during the Victorian era, his social satires have remained as some of the most widely performed plays in history. His only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray has been adapted to screen as well.

Importance of Being Earnest
A Woman of No Importance
An Ideal Husband (1999 version here)
Lady Windermere's Fan (1985 version link here)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Clearing away the Myst

I've seen Alzheimer's at its very worst. The eventual loss of mobility, madness, violent behaviour, and most of all, memory loss of loved ones. No one is exactly sure how to avoid it, however it's always advisable to exercise not only your body, but your mind as well. Memory games, Soduku, crossworlds, trivia, card games are all examples of small things a person can do to keep the mind active.

If you're a visual person there were a number of hit games in the 90's. Myst, a first person mystery adventure game created by Robyn and Rand Miller was first released in 1991 for Macintosh. The game quickly gained momentum, becoming a surprise hit that expanded into a series for Microsoft Windows and other platforms.

With beautiful exotic locations, the player is "dropped" onto the island of Myst in the role of a "Stranger". Like peeling layers of an onion, the player must find clues to discover the back-story of characters bit by bit. With no violence, time limit, or obvious enemies, the game must be solved by logic and patience. Mystery lovers paradise.

Recommended Ways of maintaining a healthy mind:

Reading, playing an instrument, or learning a new language

Take different routes home and to work

Brain teasers and strategy games

Observation. Lovin' mystery is a good thing after all. The 5 w's to solving crime. Who, what, where, when, and why!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Some people are born with the ability, balls, and genius to think outside the box. Unfortunately in many cases, thieves and criminals are the people blessed with those gifts.

Interestingly enough, criminals make great protagonists. Artemis Fowl written by Eoin Colfer is a fantastic series for kids about an unapologetic criminal mastermind in the body of a twelve year old... Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos series of a highly paid assassin... Even Showtime's Dexter satisfies the public's fantasy for a twisted form of justice as they watch a highly conflicted serial killer hunt down his prey.

Hot news? Wired Magazine reports that Neuromancer, the first cyber punk hit novel written by William Gibson in 1984 will be made into a film. Winning the "triple crown" in science fiction, he swept the board taking the Nebula Award, Phillip K. Dick Award and Hugo Award with his published debut.

Thankfully, William Gibson still looks to have a controlling hand in his creation and has not yet picked the director (James Cameron and Guillermo del Toro are currently in the running). This book has plenty of fans, even Pink Floyd is reported to be composing the soundtrack. Backing bands are Radiohead and My Bloody Valentine. (Wired online) Film has stated that Hayden Christensen may be in the running to play Case.

Thick skin

Mirror mirror on the wall...

Skin, the largest organ in the human body can determine a lot in life. Skin indicates health, divides us, protects us, and can kill us if we're careless.

Skin suffocation, an urban myth further spread by the fictional death of the female beauty "Jill Masterson" in James Bond Goldfinger when painted gold. A person could perhaps die from dangerous chemicals mixed in the paint, but other than that... not likely.

People go to great lengths to change their appearance. From Tanning salons to skin bleaching, a "healthy complexion" plays an important role in a person's confidence and identity. The days of using lead in face powder and creams are not over. In America, tanning is a sign of wealth but in countries such as Africa, Latin America and Asia fair skin is highly sought after. Many fraudulent "Skin Clinics" and dangerous bleaching creams containing carcinogenic compounds such as hydroquinone (banned in EU, Japan, Canada) sold both on the internet and the black market can result in permanent scars.

Weird facts about cosmetics...

In Ancient Egypt high society women such as Queen Cleopatra would use exotic ingredients such as crocodile excrements.

Ancient Rome used a mixture of crushed chalk and lead.

Japan has continually used rice flour which would eventually spread to Europe during the reign of Louis the XV.

In 1923 the English Company Laughton & Sons began manufacturing compact powder cases with sponges.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Travel size for the lazy

You pick up strange stuff travelling. A friend clued me in on the trick of carrying a clothes line & clips for unexpected rainy days and weird secret pockets to deter thieves. Items like a light weight blanket that doubles as a towel and quality quick dry socks are a must have. Ziplock bags for creams, soaps, liquids and breathable bags for dirty laundry are cheap and useful things that can save you from accidents that will leave you muttering profanity all day. I may not be completely sold on the ipad, but I certainly understand the importance of having a light portable source of endless entertainment while waiting in an airport (imagine Europe right now...)

My iphone/ipod is packed.. and I do mean packed with e-books, tv shows/films and games to keep my brain buzzing when I'm bored stiff watching angry travellers fidgeting on their seats trying to sleep. The most vital things to remember? Light weight, quick dry, small, durable and never too expensive that you'll cry if you lose it. Happy travels!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Clues and Mischief

Detectives are all the rage right now.

2 Months to go. Evidently ITV won't be releasing most of the Marple and Poirot episodes until June. Murder on the Orient Express, Hallowe'en Party, Pale Horse (old ITV version here), Secret Chimneys, and Blue Geranium are not airing until June... Mirror Cracked' slated for May 25th. A pity ITV hasn't considered doing a young Tommy and Tuppence pair... they're quite fun.

However, Foyle's war has been airing in Britain on April 11, 18, and 25. Beginning with The Russian House, Killing Time, and The Hide. Anybody know of any links? Haven't found one yet. Boo hoo. Canucks will have to wait.

The success of Sherlock Holmes has green lit a sequel to shoot this June. One hopes that the infamous Professor Moriarty will be making his debut.

Random links
The Sittaford Mystery (2006) part 1 here
Starring Timothy Dalton and young Carey Mulligan (An Education) before hitting the big leagues.
Pocket Full of Rye part 1 here

America's best sleuths? Right now I've caught onto the Mentalist, since I'm a fan of nongunslinging sleuths who rely more on brains than brawn. Nostalgic? There's the Rockford Files, Remington Steele, Murder She wrote. As for film there's always the Maltese Falcon and Chinatown.

Rising of the East

Asia has a promising crop of filmmakers who have captured the imagination of Hollywood. Or is it just a scheme to recreate a property without all the heavy lifting? Oldboy (plug pulled), The Host, Cowboy Bebop, Akira (may be cancelled), Ghost in the Shell, Seven Days, Tale of Two Sisters, have all been rumoured to be remade in the next few years. The fear from many loyal fans are not completely unfounded, why waste money on creating an inferior watered down western counterpart?

Similar to France and Italy in the sixties, look to the east for a resurgence of great cinema. With the support of their governments, private investors, and a wide public interest in graphic novels (manga), Asian cinema is expanding at a ferocious pace. Expect a slew of inspired films to emerge from the rising generations in Korea (Mother, A Tale of Two Sisters), China (Blind Shaft, City of Life and Death, Red Cliff), Japan (Karigurashi no Arrietty, Outrage), and Taiwan (Yi Yi, Winds of September, Cape No. 7).

Gore Verbinski (Pirates) is slated to produce a remake of The Host (above)
Spielberg and Will Smith were rumoured to be interested in a western version of Oldboy (dropped... so far)
Keanu Reeves is slated for a compressed spin on Cowboy Bebop (could definitely work. Firefly?)
Leonardo Dicaprio was said to be making a two part epic of a neo-New York of AKIRA.
Spielberg for a 3-D western spin on the anime Ghost in the Shell

Many of the projects are now cancelled but some of them could work... who knows? Die hard fans may gasp in horror at the very idea of a remake, but many of the best films are recycled adaptations of classic novels, mythology, or older films. Screenwriters are inspired from journalists, playwrights, poets, novelists, and philosophers, doesn't it make sense that filmmakers look to others for inspiration? Asia is influenced by Western cinema and vice versa. The upcoming Japanese release of Akira Ogata's "Shikedidai no Elevator" is a remake of Louis Malle's 1957 French film "Ascenseur pour l'echafaud". It's all a matter of walking the fine line of "copy" or "influence". Although I must admit, I scratch my head when I read of the rumoured buzz in Hollywood to remake The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Isn't it out in the theatres... NOW??

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Revamping Sherlock

Got to hand it to the writers and creators. A Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot reborn in the form of a vengeful, arrogant, playful "Mentalist" Patrick Jane (Simon Baker). The CBS show has an eclectic mix of fun characters and follows the old school practice of solving crimes by logic and human nature rather than science alone. Stripping down suspects by relationships and superhuman mental agility, "Jane" as he's called, reads people like a book. One step ahead of everyone else, his self assured behaviour manages to piss off fellow officers and suspects, leaving poor Agent Lisbon (Robin Tunney) to clean up the mess. Former con-man Psychic genius Patrick Jane and Agent Teresa Lisbon fulfill the classic duo of Watson and Holmes or Poirot and Hastings. Add in a bit of sexual tension, three strong supporting characters Kimbal Cho (Tim Kang), Wayne Rigsby (Owain Yeoman) and Grace Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti), creative scenarios and you have a hit show.

The show titles maintain the mysterious presence of serial killer "Red John" , the Professor Moriarty so to speak. Bleeding heart, Red Menace, Red Johns Footsteps, Seeing Red, Paint It Red, Crimson Casanova... etc. all leave a bloody trail. Similar to Sherlock the viewer always wonders if "Jane" will be driven over the edge. "Red John" his elusive nemesis pushes him to further acts of recklessness as his sadistic taunts continue.


What does a name mean? Can you be fated to live a far harder life simply because your parents so happened to be thoughtless and "hip"? Actors change their names all the time, often to appeal to a wider audience and leave a lasting impression with a more "memorable" title.

Changing the dynamics of your first impression can be a domino effect. Labels serve as an important marketing tool for many of the most successful individuals and companies. So what's in name? Evidently quite a bit.

Shedding your old skin can lead to new beginnings.

Here's a few.

Michael Caine born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite
Bill Clinton born William Jefferson Blythe
Gerald Ford born Leslie Lynch King Jr.
Joseph Stalin (meaning "steel") born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvilli
Mark Twain born Samuel Langhorne Clemens
Nicholas Cage born Nicolas Coppola
Sean Connery born Thomas Connery
Bing Crosby born Harry Lillis Crosby
Tiger Woods born Eldrick Woods
Yogi Berra born Lawrence Peter Berra
Yahoo original corporation name was "Jerry's Guide to the World Wide Web". Yahoo is an acronym for "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle".

Friday, April 16, 2010

Accents of a villain

Why are foreign actors (but not too foreign) always asked to fill the roles of some of the best baddies/sidekicks/turncoats/sadistic killers/wise teachers? On the surface some may believe it's the accent, makeup or clever lines but it could be something more... Burning up the celluloid with their genuine depth of emotion they inject much needed dimension into even the most badly written characters.

Best of the Best

Jeremy Irons
Reversal of Fortune, Dead Ringers, Brideshead Revisited, The Lion King, The Merchant of Venice, Die Hard III
Actor's studio interview here

Die Hard, Galaxy Quest, Robin Hood, Truly Madly Deeply, Perfume: The story of a Murderer, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Harry Potter(s), Dogma, Sweeney Todd.

Ian Holm
Alien, The Sweet Hereafter, eXistenZ, The Madness of King George, Brazil, From Hell

Ian Mckellan
Gods and Monsters, X-men (&2), Lord of the Rings 1-3, Apt Pupil, Last Action Hero
Actor's studio interview here

Up and Coming?
Jonathan Rhys-Meyers: Matchpoint
Javier Bardem: No Country for Old Men: Die another Day,

Honorable mention.
He's not even "foreign" and perhaps reknown as having an "eccentric" personality but Joaquin Phoenix held his own in Gladiator. It simply wouldn't have the same chill without his talent.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

i world

Claws have come out with Apple's recent expansion and media push for the new iPad. On a quieter note, Gawker has reported of Apple's "new rule for all new apps: they must be originally written using one of four programming languages blessed by Apple (Objective C, C, C++ and JavaScript)."

I'm far from a techie however this sounds tantamount to being a calculated chess move to crucify the competition (hello Adobe!) Gawker's article here "The Dark Side of Steve Jobs". As I've been travelling lately I've been struck by the sheer media machine that is Apple. Expect to see uber cool ads with celebrities and rockin' pop music. I tested it a bit, but frankly I think it weighs too much, and honestly has to be a target for theft. Most of the population is more likely to watch videos, create and edit youtube pieces and surf the net tending to their Twitter/Facebook accounts.

I'll give a few years before it become paperlite and cheaper? I wish, not for Canucks. Your wallet will drain faster than the battery.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Starting with art

Seen any films made before 1960s? Do you ever wonder... when is this bloody film going to begin? Watching old films such as Spartacus, How to Marry a Millionaire, 2001 Space Odyssey you realize that audiences not only had a great deal more patience, but that watching a film was an event.

It was spectacle.

It was beauty.

James bond has always had distinctive direction, established by art director Ken Adams in the 60s, matched with excellent and memorable songs. Does anyone ever forget Goldfinger by Shirley Bassey, Nobody Does It Better by Carly Simon, or Live and Let Die by Paul McCartney? Not to be out done there have been a number of modern filmmakers who have taken great care with the opening credits.

Catch Me if you can has to be one of the best. It tells you what the film is about, it sets a mood with music, and it's artistically captivating. That's what the very best do, they settle the viewer into a necessary mind space. (Simpsons created a spoof seen here on )

A few others of note: (you can scroll on the site above, click on the movie of choice, and the image when selected will play the title sequence)

The Thing
Seven (above)
Twelve Monkeys
And of course the absolute pro, Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Green Isle

They swap links here there and everywhere. Foyle's War returns for a seventh season in their much anticipated return this April... at 8pm will air Broken Souls.

A regurgitation of links before...
Here's an update on Poirot: The Clocks here (part 1)
Marple: They do it with Mirrors here (part 1)

HBO adaptation of George R. R. Martin's first novel Game of Thrones seems to be flowing smoothly. Reported on the fan blog site winter is coming are a bundle of pics, and rather odd Lord of the Rings obsessive info about the world. A linguist to create the Dothraki language, photos of actors practicing, and Jennifer Ehle replaced by Michelle Fairley for Catelyn Stark. I'm making a not too wild guess that they will launch the trailer at Comic Con in San Diego?? That would be the logical debut. A good laugh is link of Neil Gaiman's retort to an excitable fan that "George R. R. Martin is not your bitch".

I highly doubt the fan means anything in a bad way, it's simply because the last book was... four years ago was it? It's a coin toss, no fan wants bad work or anything but I imagine that many fans worry he'll never complete the series. Strangely enough I've forgotten about 60% of the story details and will not re-read the books. Who has the time? Which is why I relish having an HBO version... so much quicker...

Skellig?? What the heck is this?? Well it has a stellar cast with Tim Roth and Kelly Macdonald to start with. What is it about? I just stumbled upon it. Here's a link... part 1

Seeing red

What constitutes having a good time varies greatly from person to person. I see red when I'm repetitively dictated by others to do things at their pace, standard, and forced to follow their opinions. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm usually the odd ball. When you're known as the genial, happy go lucky person... life is hard. I often swallow jibe after jibe and very rarely do I dish it back. Why? Not because I can't think of a retort, simply to keep the peace. Most often those who bully people live in rather fragile glass houses. It's best to pocket your stone and keep it for a more interesting target.

I tend to send not so subtle hints the person has crossed the line and generally try my best to steer the conversation to safer waters. If that doesn't work the conversation will gradually run silent into an uncomfortable feeling of tension and sometimes that's not a bad thing. To those who believe that quiet, nice, easy going individuals are push overs... you are sadly mistaken. Their tongues will be sharper than a guillotine when pushed too far and woe betide you if you can't take a punch back.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bath houses

Greeks, Romans, Muslems, Japanese, and the Turkish have erected some of the most beautiful bathhouses.

During the 16th century the world fell into the "Dark ages" where superstitious beliefs of the Church equated cleanliness with self indulgence and sin. A new Christian trend emerged where dirt was a symbol of one's spirtual purity and indicated restraint against sexuality. To ward off the overwhelming stench that must have been prevalent during the period, the use of powders, perfumes, wigs, cosmetics and layers of clothes became a necessity. Snuff was used to clear the nostrils if a particular whiff would cause a sudden faint.

Fortunately in the 19th century investigations revealed the necessity of hygiene, and that clean water helped prevent and cure many diseases such as typhoid and fever. Epsom, mineral and sulphur baths became popular, and Spas became all the rage over Europe.

In the modern day and age it's a common practice in many countries. Spas, steam rooms, saunas and public bathhouses are a daily/weekly tradition for families and friends.

The type of bathhouse custom varies by culture. Here are a few.. if you want to know more. Travel sites, especially luxury ones have piles of info where spas can bleed your wallet dry.

Budapest, Hungary (Thermal bath)

Known for their Thermal Baths there are many to chose from. Popularized in 1565, buildings are built around a natural hot spring creating an authentic way of acquiring mineral rich waters for health. The eclectic Széchenyi Baths, prestigious Gellért Baths, and neoclassical Lukács Baths are among the best.

Istanbul, Turkey (Turkish Bath: Hammam)

Some people worry about cleanliness however there are numerous 5 star hotels that offer traditional Turkish Baths with no communication difficulties. Similar to ancient Greek and Roman practices, a bather first relaxes in a room that is heated by a continuous flow of hot and dry air to encourage perspiration. The bather is then ushered into a hot room before splashing themselves with cold water. They complete the process with a full body wash and massage. Retiring into a cooling room the body is left feeling rejuvenated.

Japan, Ibusiki Osen, Kagoshima (Ryokan)

One of the Kyushu Islands's top spas at the southernmost tip. Famous for the black volcanic sand that is heated by the subterranean hot springs. The Hakusaiken Ryokan have their visitors wrapped in cotton yukata gowns where they lay down on warm sand and are buried in hot sand up to their necks. The process is reknown for its health benefits, and after a rinse, they can relax in a series of hot pools.

Finland, (Sauna, steam bathing)

Not for the shy or abashed. Nudity is how to do it right. Used to combat the harsh realities of a long winter, the original Finnish Sauna was a smoke sauna. A fire is lit under stones in a sauna room (wood house), and the smoke escapes through a hole in a wall. Afterwards, when the fire is put out, the hole is shut and fresh air is let in to enjoy an ideal germ free sauna environment.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Vanishing into thin air

It all sounds like an Agatha Christie novel. Many will say (myself as well) there's a logical explanation to everything, Poirot certainly would. If anything, these situations are examples of ingenuity, hoaxes, crime, then again you never know. On the Unexplained mystery site there are a few unsolved mysteries that border on urban legend rather than fact. Simply a successful crime? A missing wealthy diplomat goes to a crime ridden bar? Well you don't even need to be Sherlock for that.

Disappearing Acts

Child Star disappears without a trace
Promising actor child actor Joseph Pichler (Varsity Blues, The Fan) vanished after a party in the early hours of Jan. 5, 2006. With no signs of foul play his apartment was found unlocked with a television on and his car abandoned parked behind a Mexican restaurant. His file remains an active missing persons case.

The Bennington Triangle

Another take on the Bermuda Triangle or Devil's Sea? There are numerous explanations of why planes and ships have disappeared in the ocean, human error, weather or other 'Acts of God', but this town does sound a bit creepy.

"Between 1920 and 1950, Bennington, Vermont was the site of several completely unexplained disappearances:

* On December 1, 1949, Mr. Tetford vanished from a crowded bus. Tetford was on his way home to Bennington from a trip to St. Albans, Vermont. Tetford, an ex-soldier who lived in the Soldier's Home in Bennington, was sitting on the bus with 14 other passengers. They all testified to seeing him there, sleeping in his seat. When the bus reached its destination, however, Tetford was gone, although his belongings were still on the luggage rack and a bus timetable lay open on his empty seat. Tetford has never returned or been found.

* On December 1, 1946, an 18-year-old student named Paula Welden vanished while taking a walk. Welden was walking along the Long Trail into Glastenbury Mountain. She was seen by a middle-aged couple that was strolling about 100 yards behind her. They lost sight of her when she followed the trail around a rocky outcropping, but when they rounded the outcropping themselves, she was nowhere to be seen. Welden has not been seen nor heard from since.

* In mid-October, 1950, 8-year old Paul Jepson disappeared from a farm. Paul's mother, who earned a living as an animal caretaker, left her small son happily playing near a pig sty while she tended to the animals. A short time later, she returned to find him missing. An extensive search of the area proved fruitless. "

Disappearing Diplomat

"The British Diplomat who Disappeared: In 1809, British Diplomat, Benjamin Bathurst, was returning to Hamburg with a companion after a mission to the Austrian Court. After stopping to dine at an inn, they approached their horse-drawn carriage. Bathurst’s companion watched as Bathurst walked to the front of the coach to examine the horses, and vanished into thin air. Several sources report the story in a different way. Bathurst left the inn alone after dinner. His German courier, Herr Krause, followed him shortly thereafter. When Krause reached the coach, he was amazed because he found it empty. Bathurst was nowhere to be found. Theories abounded. Then, in the spring of 1852, a house near the inn was demolished and a male human skeleton was found. Autopsy determined the cause of death to be a fractured skull. Even though Bathurst’s sister was called in to identify the skull, the true identity was never confirmed. The mystery of what happened to Benjamin Bathurst remains just that, but as he was a man of wealth and the city near the inn contained a high criminal element, it is highly likely that he was murdered."

Vanished Cripple

Foul play? Not without a body I suppose.

"Owen Parfitt had been paralyzed by a massive stroke. In June, 1763 in Shepton Mallet, England, Parfitt sat outside his sister's home, as was often his habit on warm evenings. Virtually unable to move, the 60-year-old man sat quietly is his nightshirt upon his folded greatcoat. Across the road was a farm where workers were finishing their workday by pooking the hay. At about 7 p.m., Parfitt's sister, Susannah, went outside with a neighbor to help Parfitt move back into the house, as a storm was approaching. But he was gone. Only his folded greatcoat upon which he sat remained. Investigations of this mysterious disappearance were carried out as late as 1933, but no trace or clues to Parfitt's fate were ever uncovered. "

A Colony deserted

"The Disappearing Colony of Roanoke: In 1587, John White founded a colony of 114 men, women and children in the new world on Carolina’s coast. They struggled to survive on Roanoke Island, but as times were tough, John decided to return to England for supplies. When he returned 3 years later, to his amazement the colony had disappeared. He could not find a trace of anyone anywhere, yet personal belonging remained in place, untouched. The only clue spotted was a carving in a tree trunk of the letters CRO."

On there seems a viable explanation. In 1719 over a century after the mysterious desertion, a tribe of Indians just 100 miles inland from Roanoke were discovered to have attributes of unusually light skin, some with gray eyes, who spoke English. The 1790 census was that 54 of the 95 family surnames were of the lost colonists.