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Archive for January, 2009

Of Gladiators and Chariots

By Linda Tancs

You know the old expression, “everything old is new again.” Now that applies to gladiators and chariots, too. In Rome, city representatives are contemplating an authentic re-creation (read: no puppet shows) of gladiator battles at the Colosseum, less commonly known as the Flavium amphitheater, in an effort to bring ancient Rome back to life. In another resurrection planned for over a decade, the O2 in London will present Ben-Hur, complete with its signature chariot scene made famous by Charleton Heston, in September. Presumably the show will tour Europe if all goes well in London.

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Coming of Age in Japan

By Linda Tancs

On the second Monday of January each year, a public holiday known as Coming of Age Day (Seijin no hi) represents the marking of adulthood for Japanese twenty-year-olds. In a nation deeply bound by tradition, the day’s festivities are ever more significant in this age of decreasing population, as reflected by the statistics of the Population Census Division. Between the years 1899 and 2004, live births (per 1000 of population) have sunk from a high of 33 to a low of 8.8. For this year’s ceremonies, that translates to up to 680,000 men and 650,000 women taking part in rituals ranging from a visit to the local shrine to local government events and get-togethers with family and friends. For young ladies, in particular, it is a time to dress in kimono, no doubt assisted in the intracacies thereof by family or shop attendants. In modern society where its use is confined to special occasions like this, the art of kimono may get lost among a shrinking populace. Let’s hope that’s not the case.

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European Culture East to West

By Linda Tancs

Year-long festivities are kicking off in Lithuania and Austria as the cities of Vilnius and Linz, respectively, take top honors from the EU as a European Capital of Culture. In Lithuania’s largest city and capital, the program of events coincides with the country’s millenium celebrations and its contest to anoint a new Lithuanian Capital of Culture for the town or city with the best cultural project. A particular high note for the EU’s honoree is the song and dance festival in July, during which 30,000 voices will unite in song. On the western front, the Danube city of Linz (Austria’s third largest) will showcase its art and art exhibitions, including summer’s famous street art fair and Ars Electronica, the world-renowned media arts festival in early September. So which will it be–Lithuania or Austria? Why not go Baroque and visit both.

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Continental Soars on Biofuel

By Linda Tancs

Continental took its maiden voyage using biofuel today in engine #2 on a flight to nowhere beginning and ending at the airline’s hub at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport. The fuel in this instance is a mix of algae and jatropha oil, which purportedly reduces the voyage’s carbon footprint as these elements consume carbon during their respective lifecycles. The test flight is a first for a North American carrier and also represents the first use of algae. Recently, Air New Zealand conducted its own successful test flight using jet fuel combined with jatropha oil. The oil is derived from the seeds of jatropha plants. Commonly found in southeastern Africa and Asia, the plant is capable of growing in non-arable land and therefore doesn’t compete for space with food crops. However, the New Zealand carrier did not dedicate an engine solely to the use of biofuel as Continental did. Last February, Virgin also embarked on a flight using an alternative to traditional jet fuel–in that case, coconut oil. Nice to see so many airlines thinking outside the box.

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Casinos Bet on Airport Expansion to Boost Revenues

By Linda Tancs

If I were a betting person, I’d bet the odds are long that an expansion of the airport serving Atlantic City, NJ will bring in more slot players. For one thing, the 13-mile hike to the boardwalk once graced each season by Miss America is less than ideal as are the transportation options. From the airport, you can hail a taxi, rent a car, or take a shuttle service that only accepts cash. And given the economic crunch, it’s unlikely that any new carriers will enter the space or that the airport’s prime tenant, Spirit Airlines, will be able to offer significant new routing options. Still, fingers crossed. Time will tell. Here’s hoping that good ol’ AC can turn the tides.

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Norway Celebrates Culture

By Linda Tancs

The Norwegian government has designated 2009 the Norwegian Year of Cultural Heritage with an emphasis on everyday life. To that end, a site has been created to highlight cultural trends and present articles from a vast cross-section of the public on Norwegian ways and customs. Gratulerer, Norge!

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