Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Half the Fun Is Getting There—As Long as It Includes Japanese Toys!

Half the fun really can be getting there. It helps to be flying instead of driving long hours. It also helps if you pass through the San Francisco International Airport. They’re just finishing up a wonderful exhibit on Japanese Toys from Kokeshi to Kaiju put on by the San Francisco Museum.

Who knew that toys could be quite so much fun? Because I was simply trying to kill time between flights on my way to Left Coast Crime, the big West Coast annual mystery conference, I happened to walk through Terminal 3 instead of taking the tram. I was completely delighted by the display of all kinds of Japanese toys.

The exhibit had old-style toys that were built during the Meiji period. It had wind-up toys and battery-operated toys and toys modeled off German and U.S. versions.

The most fabulous ones stemmed from Japanese TV, movies, and manga. There were Godzillas and speedmobiles, Ultramen, robots, and superpowers.

I had a big revelation. The little toy that Japanese friends had given us was not a cat, as I had supposed, but a dog! At least now I know what’s on my dresser.

One of the most surprising displays? A big pink and white dress made of Hello Kitties.

I went through the exhibit several times, taking pictures, taking everything in. Then I started people-watching. At first I had assumed the exhibit was for kids, but adults were stopped dead in their tracks at nearly every display. They were scrambling to find their cameras. They were taking pictures of the displays and posters and taking pictures of themselves with those displays. I had to really fight to get a picture with the Hello Kitty dress, for example!

At first I was puzzled as to why there were so many adults happily snapping pictures. Then I finally got it. It wasn’t that they were bored and trying to waste some time between flights. They were enjoying the rare opportunity to look creativity in the face and say, I love you.

That’s an important moment indeed.

Photos by D.R. Ransdell
For more on my mystery writing, please see http://www.drransdellnovels.com

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What Happened to Spontaneity?

Technology has its price. One is spontaneity.

It used to be that if you arrived in a European city such as Florence by noon, you could find a hotel for the night. But with the help of on-line booking, people book weeks and even months in advance. If you don’t do the same, you wind up staying in an inconvenient, expensive hotel that’s far from where you want to be.

In other words, you have to join the crowd. In many ways, this is a big shame. How can I guess right now how many nights I really want to spend in Nice? I can’t. But I have to make a decision anyway.

Phuket, photo by D.R. Ransdell

I suppose in some ways this new system is useful. It forces me to think about things ahead of time. I have to plan my summer trip in April instead of as I go along. But I can think of plenty of times when it was great to be able to change my mind at the last minute. A prime example is when we were on the island of Phuket in Thailand. 

Patong Beach, photo by D.R. Ransdell

We’d gone on a day trip to Phang-nga when it started raining. And raining some more. The tour guide nonchalantly explained that the monsoons had started, and we could expect rainy days for the next weeks.

Phang-nga, photo by D.R. Ransdell

My friend and I immediately booked tickets to fly to Koh Samui, which is on the dry eastern side of the county. Our final days in the country were lovely. But what if we’d had reservations on Phuket that we couldn’t change? We would have been stuck in the monsoon playing cards in our room.

Perhaps we should have been more aware of the monsoon season! But no matter how much you plan, there are always things you just don’t count on.

Koh Samui, photo by D.R. Ransdell

When it comes to fiction, though, it’s no fun to have characters plan their trips ahead of time. Travel snafus make for great fiction! Hence in my novel THAI TWIST, the Campanello sisters combat the monsoon the “easy” way by making plans to go somewhere else. This is why I love fiction. You can be sure to make everything work out.

What about your own travel spontaneity? Has technology made traveling easier or better for you? How far in advance to you plan your trips? How often do you wish you could change your mind?

I’d write more, but I have to book hotel rooms for Paris before everyone else beats me out. I’ll be there at the end of June. In today’s world of on-line reservations, that’s just around the corner.

Happy traveler with a nice place to stay!

For details on THAI TWIST, please visit http://www-dr-ransdell.com

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Chihuly Night Owl Magic

Visiting the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix to see the Chihuly installations by day was great. I loved every minute. But my friends and I had planned carefully. We'd chosen the 4-8pm shift so that we could enjoy the exhibit by day and also by night.

Photo by D.R. Ransdell

The images that had dazzled us a couple of hours earlier were even more mysterious and wondrous by night. (The lighting effects were excellent.) Thus we went through the whole exhibit all over again, taking photographs as best we could.

These purple columns looked like they belonged on the moon! During the day they had snaked up from the grass pleasantly enough, but by night, they were Halloween, they were imagination, they were outer-wordly!

Photo by D.R.

So was the boat floating in the lagoon. It was quiet, peaceful, and nearly unbelievable. You wanted to reach out and touch it. You wanted to wade right there in the water and swoosh the boat gently from side to side.

Photo by D.R.

Instead we merely walked around, marveling at the glass and the color and the lights. We were so thankful we had enough time to get all the way around the exhibit.

Photo by D.R.

It was a Saturday, and as we left, other people were arriving for the nighttime viewing, which is from 8pm to midnight on selected Saturdays. I was amazed and thrilled by how many people were pouring in to see the exhibit. And here I thought Chihuly and his work were little-known secrets!

Photo by D.R.

If you can possibly get to the exhibit, you'll be well rewarded.  (It goes through mid-May.) Whether by day or by night (and hopefully by both), you're sure to find a dazzling array of images. They'll sparkle your imagination. You might not ever want to leave.

Photo by D.R.

For THAI TWIST, a novel that makes use of my traveling adventures, please check out my website, http://www.dr-ransdell.com

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