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In September and October 2017 Wendy and I took another trip to the United States where we wanted to see some of the 'middle bits'.  Travel notes from earlier visits to the East coast and West Coast can also be found on this website.

For over six weeks we travelled through a dozen states and stayed for a night or more in 20 different cities, towns or locations. This involved six domestic flights for the longer legs; five car hires and many thousands of miles of driving on America's excellent National Highways and in between on many not so excellent local roads and streets.

We had decided to start in Chicago and 'head on down south' to New Orleans via: Tennessee; Georgia; Louisiana; and South Carolina. From there we would head west to: Texas; New Mexico; Arizona; Utah and Nevada; then to Los Angeles and home.  That's only a dozen states - so there are still lots of 'middle bits' left to be seen.

During the trip, disaster, in the form of three hurricanes and a mass shooting, seemed to precede us by a couple of days.

The United States is a fascinating country that has so much history, culture and language in common with us that it's extremely accessible. So these notes have turned out to be long and could easily have been much longer.

Much of our time was spent in states that briefly formed a separate country: The Confederate States of America. Thus slavery, The Civil War and its consequences loom large there.

The chapter 'Andrew Jackson's Hermitage' contains my version of the history leading up to The Civil War and beyond and provides a background to many of the locations we travelled to.  Readers with a good knowledge of American history; who violently disagree with my interpretation; who have no interest at all; or who have a short attention span, might like to skip that chapter and 'cherry pick' places that could interest them for other reasons, like Graceland or NASA or the Grand Canyon, from the contents table.

Near the top of our priority list were local museums.  History and natural history museums help to provide insights to the people and their culture and we visited lots including: two Presidential Libraries; the Martin Luther King Jnr memorial; the JFK museum in Dallas; Andrew Jacksons Hermitage; and many more.

Whereas history museums might have similar exhibits and information, every art collection is unique.  North America has some of the greatest art museums in the world.  These enabled us to see unique, influential and sometimes iconic, paintings, sculpture and other media at first hand. Yet it's difficult to give each great work the attention it deserves.  So I took pictures of many works that interested me for future reference and most of these can be seen in the various albums linked to these notes.

Eating, sleeping and shopping in a new location is always interesting and hotels, restaurants, supermarkets and shopping malls along the way provided many opportunities to talk and interact with the locals and to observe them interacting with each other.  Local television and the car radio added colour (color).

 

 

 

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Travel

Laos

 

 

The Lao People's Democratic Republic is a communist country, like China to the North and Vietnam with which it shares its Eastern border. 

And like the bordering communist countries, the government has embraced limited private ownership and free market capitalism, in theory.  But there remain powerful vested interests, and residual pockets of political power, particularly in the agricultural sector, and corruption is a significant issue. 

During the past decade tourism has become an important source of income and is now generating around a third of the Nation's domestic product.  Tourism is centred on Luang Prabang and to a lesser extent the Plane of Jars and the capital, Vientiane.

Read more: Laos

Fiction, Recollections & News

The Royal Wedding

 

 

 


It often surprises our international interlocutors, for example in Romania, Russia or Germany, that Australia is a monarchy.  More surprisingly, that our Monarch is not the privileged descendent of an early Australian squatter or more typically a medieval warlord but Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain and Northern Island - who I suppose could qualify as the latter.

Thus unlike those ex-colonial Americans, British Royal weddings are not just about celebrity.  To Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders, in addition to several smaller Commonwealth countries, they have a bearing our shared Monarchy.

Yet in Australia, except for occasional visits and the endorsement of our choice of viceroys, matters royal are mainly the preoccupation of the readers of women's magazines.

That women's magazines enjoy almost exclusive monopoly of this element of the National culture is rather strange in these days of gender equality.  There's nary a mention in the men's magazines.  Scan them as I might at the barber's or when browsing a newsstand - few protagonists who are not engaged in sport; modifying equipment or buildings; or exposing their breasts; get a look in. 

But a Royal wedding hypes things up, so there is collateral involvement.  Husbands and partners are drawn in.

Read more: The Royal Wedding

Opinions and Philosophy

Six degrees of separation, conspiracy and wealth

 

 

Sometimes things that seem quite different are, when looked at more closely, related. 

 

Read more: Six degrees of separation, conspiracy and wealth

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