Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Hotel Reservations

It's incredible. Nowadays internet has really become a part of our life. Thanks to the net it's possible to do nearly everything. But it's not always easy to understand the importance of such an instrument. Extremely revolutionary. Internet is useful in many ways. For studying. For working out of the office. For the entertainment. But also for other interesting purposes.

Travels could be a good example. Not so many years ago to plan a trip was, without a doubt, linked to travel agents. It was almost impossible to book a flight or an hotel in a different way. Not today. Thanks to the net nothing could seem easier. And cheaper. Yes cheap. Because to book trough internet web site could be a real bargain. The internet era has made possible the start up and the development of many low cost flight companies. And if this has also boosted the collapse of many gigantic, and old, airlines doesn't really matter. What is really important is that for almost any destination is possible to find the best and more competitive solution both for flights and hotels directly from the sofa.

I had recently the proof of it. The reason was a business trip to Dubai and India. But not Delhi or Mumbai. No. My destination is a not so known place. Hyderabad. Deep south of India. After booking the flight I was just thinking on where to go to sleep. With a really low confidence I have started to search the web for an hotel in Hyderabad. In just a bunch of minutes I have found out a really interesting site for the ones who needs to book an hotel. And not only.

Just after putting the keyword Hyderabad in the search engine I was provided with a lot of results. From 5 stars Hotels to very budget ones. With everything in the middle. And I also had the chance to see all details. From prices to descriptions to pictures of the place. Great. I have solved my problem in a very short time. And at a very good price too.

With a lot more confidence I have tried to search again. For a Caribbean resort this time. I have found great opportunities in Bahamas islands. I have also tried to organize a week end in London. And also this time I have been impressed by the available choice.

Ok. If I was looking for the proof that internet is not just sex and music I have it. To plan a trip has never been easier. So I'm really happy about the revolution. The digital one at least!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Banksy - Art or garbage?

It's funny. In a world where anyone would do anything just for personal celebrity someone still tries to hide. And it's much more funny cause the guy is famous. The more he wants to hide the more he gets known!

Banksy. That's the name. Or better that's the nick. He is an artist. If it's acceptable to call artist someone who paints (also) the city walls. Not so much is know about his identity. But it's sure that his pieces of art are part of Sotheby's Auction. At ever increasing sale prices. Maybe that's not enough to call him artist. But his work is strongly discussed. Not only for its quality. That could be liked or not. No. What does really propeller the discussion is that it's still not clear if Banksy is a silly vandal or something more.

To some extent he reminds me Keith Haring. Haring did started to satisfy his artistic needs in the NYC underground. Painting with white graffiti the black paper sheet used for covering "expired" ads. The ones who did "steal" those curious drawings have now a treasure in their hands.

Banksy too operates in the urban habitat. The wall is his canvass. Graffiti are his art. Using the stencil he has decorated the ghetto walls of some of the less nice British towns. He has left his mark all around the world. What makes Banksy different from other Graffiti makers is the message within his artwork. Never light. Always stimulating. He loves to provoke people. He is a rebel. A very self-marketing oriented rebel. Yes, he gives for free his artwork to towns and people but he also has a very active net created to sell it. But this is not something bad.

Once again I cannot tell if Banksy could be considered an artist or not. Probably yes. He paint for the people. He makes the people talk about his work. But he makes them smile too. For sure he makes the people think. And to do so (with any means) is one of the first target of each artist.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Elvis Costello - My aim is true

Sometimes it's really strange the way I choose CDs! Normally I read reviews on specialized magazines. But it's not enough. It's also important the impression after listening a couple of tunes. On the radio. Or on the Tv. Sometimes I search the web looking for some hints. But sometimes the way I choose is a little bit crazy. I'm driven by something that has nothing to do with the quality of the final product.

This is the case of my last choice. An album from Elvis Costello. My aim is true. It was originally released in 1977. It's his debut album. Ok, maybe it's better to start from the beginning. I really don't know much about Elvis Costello. But at least I know his name. I know he married Diana Krall. I know the he his famed to be a good musician. Stop. Nothing more. The first time I have heard some of his music was in a movie. Yes a movie. I'm talking about an Austin Power's episode. I have seen a cameo with Costello and Bacharach playing a nice tune in a Swinging London overcrowded by strange hippies. That's it. All my knowledge about Costello's music is related to those few frames.

No doubt that my curiosity has been touched. But nothing more. For years I didn't feel the needs to understand better. But recently I have fallen in love with a guitar. It's a Fender. Jazzmaster is the name. It was designed for Jazz. It's rare and not fully understood by many guitar players. But what does this guitar has to so with Elvis Costello and with my choice? A lot! Costello is one of the few (probably a little snob?) that did choose the Jazzmaster as his main guitar.

I had a look at the cover of the CD with this man and his crazy posture holding this amazing Jazzmaster. It was impossible to resist. I was pushed to buy the De Luxe Edition. Ok, the De luxe Edition is just marketing (Live + Demos). Probably it's not worth the extra money. But the original version of the album is just surprisingly! Any track is so full of energy. It sounds so fresh and true. It has a lo-fi flavor, like a demo tape. But all the album is absolutely powerful. Romantic tunes like Alison are paired with rock'n'roll attitude like in Welcome to the Working Week, Miracle Man or the wonderful Waiting for the End of the World.

My aim is true is a great debut album. It's pure rock'n'roll well spiced up with some punk, jazz and blues. It's the product of a fresh talent. Maybe a little bit rough here and there but so funny. It sounds new. Even today. It's a little bit surprising to me that Elvis Costello after all is not so known to the mass. Maybe it's a choice. I don't know. But after all what makes me smile is that my crazy method of choice was (this time too?) successful and made me find a real jewel.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Shantaram - An Indian tale

I remember with pleasure the summer break. Far away from the school. A little less the homework. Saved for the last 10 days of holidays. I remember about book reading assignment. Two, three or four books to be chosen from a list of classics. Normally the criterium of choice was just the number of pages! During those days to read a 200 pages book seemed almost impossible.

After some years I have luckily grown a true passion for books. Now the choice is a little bit more serious and based on the argument of the book. But again, for some strange reason, I'm a little bit scared by bigger books. To start the reading of over 300 pages volume I still need to be really excited by a review or by its introduction. If the excitement is not sufficiently high I prefer to swap it with a lighter, at least from a physical point of view, one.

It could be a little strange but I have decided anyway to read Shantaram a 1.200 pages story about the true experience of the author. Just to hold the book could be difficult. But as long as you read the very first rows you understand that this is a jewel. This book is about a big part of the (real) life of the author: Gregory David Roberts. The story is mainly based in India. And probably this is the reason of that kind of magic that characterizes any page of the book.

The book starts with the arrival of Greg in Bombay, India. Here he tries to restart his life from scratch. Trough many experiences, also very hard ones, Greg learns again to love himself. And the others too. He will become many person: a tourist, a doctor in a slum, an actor for Bollywood, a member of the local Mafia, a criminal and finally the defender of the weak. In this extraordinary trip Greg learns how to be an Indian. He learns to love Indian people. But more than all he teaches to the reader to like this unique and full of contrast country.

Shantaram. The size of the book could be scarring. But to read it is really easy. G.D. Roberts has been able to drive deep emotions along with his writing. The passion is deeply present in any page. It's not a case if Johnny Depp, one of the most intelligent actors from Hollywood, has bought the rights to produce a movie. It's not a case if the direction of it has been given to Mira Nair, an Indian director. No one else could describe better the magic about India, its people and the amazing story of G.D. Roberts, named Shantaram, man of peace, by his own Indian friends.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Jaco Pastorius & 9/11

I've recently been at a Billy Cobham show. Great technique. A real rhythm machine. Not so great when talking about emotions. Drum is a rhythm tool. Not a lead instrument. A drummer cannot be the main attraction in a band. The same is for bass guitar. It cannot be the lead instrument. Otherwise it could turn out to be really boring. This is the rule.

But any good rule has its own exception. In this case the only exception is an American guy quickly destroyed by his own madness during a short life dominated by any kind of excess. Jaco. For the ones with a minimum musical knowledge it's useless to tell anything else. Behind this name there is the greatest bass player ever. The only one able to break all the rules. The only one to turn bass guitar into a lead instrument. Simply incomparable.

Like it's said for Jimi Hendrix for Jaco Pastorius too is true that:"...the star that shines the double lives half time!". And his life has been too short. As soon as he did reach some fame madness started to appear. In a few months his decline has started. He introduced himself to Joe Zawinul as the greatest bass guitar player in the world. And he has shown to be it despite of the initial fu...ff received as an answer. With success he did also experience some mental disease that shortly took him away from the showbiz. And from his own life too. In the very last months of his life Jaco lived like a homeless. Without a dime in his pocket. Deeply addicted to alcohol and drugs. At the age of 35 he did meet his Death. Early. Too much early. And violently.

Jaco's legend started in 1976 when he was only 25. In that year he released his own masterpiece: Jaco Pastorius. This album kicked him directly into history. To hear Portrait of Tracy could be a shock. The way he plays the fretless bass, the deepness of his sound and the emotions coming out from his music could drive anyone to stop playing bass guitar. For ever. No human being can reach such a level. It's not a problem of technique. It's something related to feelings. No one can learn it! From this point he started many projects with well known musicians. Weather Report, Pat Metheny, Joni Mitchell just to name a few.

As long as his success got bigger also his mental disease did. Favored by the alcohol and drugs (ab)use. He always walked on the razor's edge. Until the final day. 9/11 is without any doubt related to NYC and the Twin Towers. Anyway also music has its own 9/11. On 9/11/1987 Jaco had a violent fight with a security guy outside a disco. He was seriously wounded and the result was his death after a few days. Twenty years ago, during another sad 9/11, has been killed the greatest bass guitar player ever. Jaco Pastorius. One & Only!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Some (un)usual things to do in Paris

For sure Paris is one of the most fascinating city in Europe. Probably in the whole world too. It's rich. It's wide. It's modern and ancient. In one word it is simply wonderful. Paris could be really expensive. If you are looking for hotels in Paris you must be ready to pay higher rates than in other European cities. Anyway, using some web sources, it's not so hard to find cheap hotels with a good level of service and comfort. After having found out a good place to sleep in the city it's time to go. You can live Paris as a common tourist. Take a look at it with one of those nasty Sightseeing Bus. Or you can choose differently. You could try to live Paris in a slight different way. Maybe with the help of a local. Or at least you could try to do both. Visit the main tourists attractions. And then spend some time to discover hidden or just unusual places.

For the institutional part of the trip it's wise not to forget a visit at the Tour Eiffel. Nothing is more tourists related than taking a picture of the tower. But anyway this is a true symbol of Paris and it would be a real madness not to take a close look at it! At least one time in a life it's a must. Another special place, packed with tourists, is the Louvre Museum. No one while visiting Paris should miss this place. Just to have a look at the outside of the building and at the broad square where it was built is simply a breathtaking experience. If you want to deeply visit the exhibition it would take 3 to 5 days. Too much. Just skip anything but the Mona Lisa. It would be perfect if you have recently seen the Da Vinci code movie. Visiting the Louvre will be a completely different trip! To conclude the first part of the itinerary a quick visit to Notre Dame Cathedralis just perfect. Stop here. Nothing more. This would be enough to tell your friend about usual Paris.

Let's now start with the fun. Or at least with the less usual track. The starting point could be a free walk in the Marais. It's very nice to walk within this district without a goal apart the building-watching. It's amazing to breathe the special atmosphere propelled by the crowd of young crazy designer and their ateliers. After this could be really nice to stop in one of the thousand Cafè just to relax as a real Parisienne drinking a cup of coffee.

For the night, if the budget is not a problem, a valid option is a dinner at Buddha Bar. One of the most glamorous restaurant in Paris. Anyway a visit for a drink to see the place is strongly recommended. For a 5 star experience a glass of a vintage champagne at the Hotel de Crillion is a very luxury way to treat yourself. After dinner and till late the right place is Harry's Bar. Just say "Sank Roo Doe Noo" to the taxi driver and you will reach a real piece of the history of Paris. Have some fun with a jazz gig in the lower level and prepare yourself for a real French night.

Last place to conclude the unusual tour of Paris is Pere Lachaise. It's a little bit strange place to visit. Pere Lachaise it's a cemetary. But really unusual. It's made in a very strange way. It's like a garden with a lot of sculptures inside. It's a nice place. But the thrilling thing is that it's populated by the graves of many famous persons like Chopin, Proust, Bellini or Modigliani. More than other two graves must be visited. The one of Oscar Wilde. A big squared block of stone covered by thousand of kisses left by the fans with their colored lipsticks. And to finish the one where Jim Morrison is buried since 1971. Probably the most visited grave in the whole world. A real mystic trip for any rock'n'roll lover.

Paris is unique uncomparable and probably forever unbeatable. A trip to Paris it's always a special adventure anyone should have.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Tottimotori: the photo session book

To play any kind of game is really important for a child. Through the game he can make a lot of experience so important for his development. For adults too games and toys are essential. But there is a big problem. Two big problems indeed. The first one is that until you are a child adults buy toys for you. Once grown up you must provide by yourself. The second one is that adult's toys are normally really expensive. Very much.

Boys loves toy cars, toy boats and toy bikes. Once grown up they prefer Porsche cars, yachts and rare and expensive motor bikes. Analyzing in details the last point it looks clear how men do prefer special unique bikes. The ones that brings lot of emotions and that help you to emerge in the crowd. But only the lucky ones could ride real specials built by the masters.

A considerable part of the specials appeared in European bike magazines during the recent years have been designed and built in a lonely farm lost in the countryside surrounding Bologna. The Master who crafted those masterpieces is named Roberto Totti. During my frequent oniric-lisergic dreams I see him as a novel Santa Klaus able to mold any kind of material for the pleasure of his customers and to realize their most crazy ideas.

During his long career he has built an unknown number of masterpieces, only in part revealed to the public. Unbelievable examples of his art are bike like the Pregnant Duck, extreme rebuilding of an obsolete CBX 6 cylinders; the Vale Rossi Tribute, a great Urban Motard based on a YZ dirt bike; the modern interpretation of a classic Ducati Apollo; the wonderful Stinger, able to give a soul to the almost aseptic CCM bikes; the unholy marvelous Bonneville Hommage, extreme Super Motard based on a classic Triumph bike; and to ends up the Slim Race 24, light years ahead anything.

Roberto Totti and Tottimotori are all of this. And much more. Classic era, present and future. Superb technique and simple intuition. Pure Custom bikes. Not everyone can have the pleasure of riding a special by Tottimotori. For many reasons. For time limits. He works alone. Or maybe for budget reasons. A special built by Roberto could cost some tens of thousand EUR. But anyone could have a piece of his history.

Around Christmas will be released a limited series of its first photo book, Made in Italy. Anyone could buy it on-line. Through the book anyone can enter his magic world of special bikes. Inside are described the milestones of his career through the photographic analysis of his best bikes. A one and only occasion for the ones who didn't have the pleasure of seeing one of his bike live. Not to buy and own this book would be a real crime!!!