Digging up Bob Dylan’s Minnesota roots exposes an icy truth
Travel: On the Road in Minnesota
If you want to understand the story of a man named Zimmerman, visiting the northern town of Hibbing, Minnesota offers stone cold insights into the emotional desolation and snowy emptiness that shaped the Nobelaureate's inner space and artistic obsessions.
By Rod Mickleburgh
On a bleak, wintry weekend in November of 2014, my brother and I made a pilgrimage to “the north country fair, where the winds hit heavy on the borderline” in search of the roots of Bob Dylan. It was an unforgettable trip that richly increased my understanding of the mysterious forces that shaped a relatively ordinary teenager in the Minnesota town of Hibbing and helped turn him into the Shakespeare of our age.
We set out Friday morning from my brother’s home in Thunder Bay. Once across that “borderline,” we travelled south along Highway 61 (Revisited). There was no sign of a promoter putting some bleachers out in the sun. We were soon in Duluth, where Dylan was ...
Canary Islands provide a volcanic perch on life’s big picture
Travel: Canary Islands, Part Two
When you’re a senior tourist, it’s not easy to travel and often harder to trust, but there’s safety in a group -- and often a police escort -- through streets where pickpockets prey upon open backpacks and dangling cameras.
Visiting the Canary Islands without a flap
Travel: Canary Islands
The Spanish archipelago off the coast of Africa offers a unique blend of imported white sand beaches from the Franco era, a 1000-year-old fig tree, and a food mix that includes authentic tapas and branded American burgers.
First Place Finnish
Travel: Celebrating Finland's 100th anniversary
Rod Mickleburgh returns to the land of his ancestors to discover an almost genetic propensity to fight for social justice and a rather bizarre predilection for odd sports
By Rod Mickleburgh
You may have missed it, but the land of my ancestors recently celebrated it’s centennial. On Dec. 6, 1917, small but mighty Finland officially severed itself from Russia, becoming an independent country for the first time. Russia’s new Bolshevik rulers did not protest. I remember leafing through one of my great aunt’s photo albums and seeing a grainy picture of the raising of the Finnish flag in their small community for the first time. A bit more than two and a half years after independence, my mother was born in the fishing/farming village of Sideby. When I first visited “the relatives” in the winter of 1971, I was given the very room where her birth took place. Under the mountain of blankets my two great aunts supplied, I remember ...
Hello Tokyo, How You’ve Changed
Globe Trot: Tokyo
Returning to Japan's teeming metropolis after a 60-year absence offers a distilled glimpse of technological progress and the immutable Japanese character
By Charley Gordon
(November 22, 2016) In the busy Asakusa neighbourhood of Tokyo is the Senso-ji Temple, a major attraction.
Thousands of people jam the narrow street leading from the gate to the temple, which is lined with dozens of shops selling just about anything. Not everything sold relates to religion. In fact, there is a store that sells cookies that are made right in front of you by a machine. Japanese, unlike North Americans, don’t eat on the streets but those cookies are a temptation. Hence a sign, in the kind of Japanese English that has always held a peculiar charm:
"This street is not able to eat while walking."
After being away from Japan for 60 years, it was encouraging to see that some things haven’t changed. The Japanese do things their own way, no matter how much Western ...
Pop This! Las Vegas!
Podcast: Pop This!
Packed with miniaturized monoliths and Disneyfied recreations of the Old World, Las Vegas sits at the intersection of generic sin and stand alone silliness, making for a perfect expression of popular culture
Featuring Lisa Christiansen and Andrea Warner. Produced by Andrea Gin.
A sampling of what you might hear in Episode 15: Visiting Las Vegas
I was at a birthday where they had exotic animals.
One had teeth that looked like they were made out of clarinet reeds.
Las Vegas... has a lot of ladies and dudes on the prowl.
And Mariah Carey.
I'm worried that I don't like magic shows or Cirque du Soleil. But I do like food.
Then you have to go to the Cosmo. [The Cosmopolitan] hotel has the best restaurants, and they have nice drinks at the gambling machines.
Go to the Spanish restaurant run by José Andrés.
They have cool old records as wallpaper.
That's what I want. I want the secret Vegas.
Go to the Thomas Keller ...
Hiking back in time on Burgess Shale
The world famous Burgess Shale Slope offers a visually stunning hike that pays off with a teeming selection of rare invertebrate fossils, sealed into the geological timeline by an underwater avalanche of fine mud
By Alan King
FIELD, B.C, -- Science fiction writer H G Wells didn’t know the half of it. Time travel sometimes takes more than imagination and clever engineering; it can take a lot of nimble, arduous footwork, the kind that gets you up to 7,500 feet above sea level.
Unlike Wells’ lucky Time Traveller who was effortlessly transported millions of years into the future where he met some strange life forms, my son Christopher and I went back half a billion years in the other direction to the Burgess Shale -- an ancient fossil bed where the life forms are even stranger. Its location is a swath of scree 11 km up the side of Mount Wapta, a spectacular hunk of geology looming majestically over Field, British Columbia.
The fossils here are from the Cambrian ...
Will Ferguson’s Road Trip Rwanda – The Ex-Press
I told someone I was going to hear Will Ferguson talk about his new book Road Trip Rwanda. “How can he be funny about Rwanda?” was the question.
By Charles Gordon
Good question. Without having read the book, I knew the answer, as anyone who has ever written humour should. He would be respectful of Rwanda — especially Rwanda — and he would make jokes about himself.
Indeed, it turned out that way. In Road Trip Rwanda, Ferguson, a multiple Leacock Award winner, portrays himself as a well-meaning goof, eager to learn but not always getting it, friendly but bumbling. The Rwandan people, on the other hand, get a sympathetic portrayal.
It’s the only way to do it. Even Bill Bryson, who can be much more acidic, tends to give the locals the benefit of the doubt. Occasionally a writer doesn’t do that — I think of some stuff Dave Barry wrote about China, where the main joke seemed to be that China wasn’t like America, and therefore weird — and it’s a mistake.
Highway 17, the road not taken — sadly
Travel: Ontario's Highway 17
Highway 17, which is the Trans-Canada Highway in Ontario, is surprisingly untravelled -- mostly because Canadians know other countries better than they know their own.
By Charley Gordon
If you’re tired of the predictable travel articles about beaches in Asia, castles in Europe and gourmet food just about anywhere, this is the travel article for you. It’s about good old Highway 17, the one you can drive for four days and still be in Ontario.
Highway 17, which is the Trans-Canada Highway in Ontario, is surprisingly untravelled. This is not because of the scenery, which is often magnificent, or the road itself, which is well-maintained and easy to drive. It is mostly because Canadians know other countries better than they know their own.
It’s a safe bet that more Torontonians have been to Bangkok than to Sudbury. For them, the north begins around Orillia and ends before North Bay. On their summer travels, they don’t get to ...