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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Experience the “Year of the Renaissance”

These days, just about every town or hamlet in the United States boasts of an “authentic” renaissance festival. Invariably, these festivals feature such attractions as “authentic” renaissance maidens sporting authentic renaissance-era, biker chick tattoos and renaissance cuisine like Ye Olde hotdogs or Ye Olde pizza slices.

So most Americans know all about Renaissance festivals from their experiences stateside. However, just for fun, let’s consider the counterpart festivals in European countries where the Renaissance actually took place.

Denmark, for example, the country that brought us those ubiquitous plastic toys, Legos; has designated the entire year of 2006 to be “The Year of the Renaissance.”

Imagine my surprise, a father who has stepped on many a Lego in the dark with bare feet, to learn that Legos have nothing to do with the Renaissance, and were not in fact invented until much later. All along, I had assumed that I was enduring those pesky little toys because it was good for my children’s education. Shows what I know.

OK, back to Denmark. The entire country is open for business to celebrate the Renaissance. Check out these excerpts from Europe Travel News on some of the exciting things you can do and see when you travel to Denmark during the year 2006:

  • “2006 has been designated the year of the Renaissance in Denmark. To mark the occasion, an exciting array of cultural events is scheduled to take place throughout the year in the capital region. Exhibitions, concerts, walking tours and many other special activities, both indoors and out, have been planned to spotlight this extraordinary period in Copenhagen?s history.”
  • ”History lovers, among others, will have all the more reason to visit Copenhagen in 2006, when the city pays tribute to the great achievements of the Renaissance. A wide variety of special events, celebrating that remarkable period of its history, will be held throughout the capital region.”
  • “Kronborg Castle in Elsinore, at the seaward approach to the Øresund Sound, is one of Northern Europe’s most important Renaissance castles. It is also the most famous castle in Denmark, known all over the world as the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet.”
  • “In 2006, Hillerød will host a large Renaissance Festival with participants from home and abroad. There will be stands with food, beverages, handicrafts and entertainment - just as there were during the time of Christian IV. In September a parade through town to Frederiksborg Castle will cap the event followed by dancing, concerts and displays of knightly swordsmanship and horsemanship”.

So enjoy your travels to Denmark and take in all these wonderful experiences. I’m not sure if they will offer hotdogs and pizza slices at these festivals; but if they do, I’m certain they’ll have some Ye Olde Alka Seltzer available.

Oh, and watch your step. Especially when you are barefoot…in the dark.

COPYRIGHT © 2005, C.H. Brown. All rights reserved.

Don’t miss these sights when you travel to Italy

Italy is a breathtakingly beautiful country that will always be one of the highlights for anyone’s travel to Europe. It has everything from the impossibly blue Mediterranean Sea to the spectacular Alps, with fabulous food at every stop along the way. And while you are there, you can’t help but trip over history with every step you take.
Here are few things you cannot miss when you travel to Italy:

  • Venice. Think about it. How many movies have you seen that were set in this romantic city? Well there is a reason. If there is a city with more charm and magic than Venice, someone is keeping it a very tight secret. (Oh sure, I can just hear those Parisians objecting that their’s is the most romantic city, but those folks are hardly objective. Besides, this is an article about Italy.) The “streets” are waterways and the city is gradually sinking into the Adriatic Sea. But don’t worry, it will still be there by the time you get there to see it all.
  • The Roman Colosseum.Talk about the original home for extreme games. You can almost hear the ghosts of gladiators clashing their swords and signing multi-drachma contracts with their agents. The Colosseum is both a spectacular and grim place, considering the many senseless acts of violence that occurred here. Kind of like the beauty pageants are today.
  • Florence. If you aren’t already an art lover, you will be after visiting Florence. Walk in the footsteps of Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Raphael and your life will be forever changed. One word of warning however, if you are already prone to feelings of penis envy or inadequacy, Michelangelo’s 18-foot statue of David, may not be your cup of tea.
  • The Vatican. The art, architecture, history and sheer aura of this place will leave you speechless. (Well except for breathless comments like, “magnificent,” “unbelievable,” and “where’s the bathroom.”)
  • Wine country. The folks in France won’t admit this either, but Italian wines are often every bit as good (sometimes even better) than their French counterparts. Take a tour and you will enjoy the tastings all the more after having seen the sheer craftsmanship and patience that goes into making fine wines. And need I remind you to purchase a few of your favorites so you can bring them home to impress your friends with your refinement and worldly sophistication.
  • The Italian Alps. OK, I will admit that I kept thinking, “these mountains cannot be real. I bet some Hollywood film company put together the ultimate background to impress the tourists.” But in actual fact, they are real. And they are beautiful beyond anything you have ever imagined before in your life. What has always amazed me was that Hannibal surprised the Romans by bringing elephants through the Alps. Elephants were the ancient warfare equivalent of our modern tanks, so you can bet Hannibal had the Romans running for their adult Pampers as soon as they saw his army coming over those mountains.

I read somewhere that Italy is the home of more American ex patriots than any other country. So you should be warned in advance that if you stay too long in Italy, you might never want to come back. With that in mind, proceed with caution.

COPYRIGHT © 2005, C.H. Brown. All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Feeling Really Great

Wow! It has taken me longer to get Loose Cannon Diaries back online than it took to get my brain back in working order (of course that is my view, others may differ).

What I know about HTML is enough to be really dangerous, but I had inadvertantly removed a crucial bit of code off this blog's template, and couldn't figure out how to get it fixed until today.

When I last left you faithful readers (who are you people and don't you have anything better to do with your time?), I was one sick puppy. For over four or five years I have been plagued with almost daily symptoms of dizziness, inability to concentrate, wobbly balance, horrible headaches and almost constant fatigue.

I have also been really hard pressed to do basic things like a read a novel at anything faster than a snail's pace. In fact every mental task has seemed to take an inordinate amount of time to complete, if the tasks ever got completed.

Like I said, this has been going on for several years, but has been worsening over the last two, and getting REALLY bad over the last several months. I have missed a LOT of work, and frankly I have not been consistantly productive while I was at work. Fortunately, my employer has been incredibly gracious.

Around the first week in October an MRA scan discovered I had a brain aneurism, that appeared to be the source of all my problems. But later tests determined the aneurism was not bleeding or leaking, and therefore could not be the source of my symptoms. Since then, however, the aneurism has been treated and is barely a threat to me at all.

Then around mid-November, I passed out in front of my doctor who then realized I was having a seizure. I had never had any symptoms like convulsions, and seizures cannot be otherwise detected unless the patient is hooked up to an EEG machine while a seizure is taking place.

The type of seizures I was having are called Petit Mal seizures, and I was having at least dozens a day, and possibly hundreds a day. My doctor immediately put me on a drug called Depakote and within three days ALL of my symptoms vanished. My mind is clear, I can think, see, intereact with people without losing my place in the conversation, and I can complete tasks in reasonable time periods.

What is amazing to me is how novel it feels to feel good. I had felt sick and dizzy for so long that I had come to accept it as my natural state. Well I've gone on long enough for now, I will try to pick this up again soon. Thanks for all of your prayers.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Life In The Fast Lane

It's been a couple of weeks now since they diagnosed me as having a brain aneurism. I have now seen the dark underbelly of the U.S medical system and have been turned into a Mr. Science Chemistry Set.

Each day I am now taking about eight different drugs (the legal kind) and I have to wonder how each medicine knows where to go when they are all moving into my system at the same time? Wouldn't you think there would be at least some sort of a chance for a chemical traffic jam inside my body?

OK you, the pink pill, you head up to the brain, and you, the yellow capsule, follow her...But not too close. No tailgating.
Now you, the little white pill, no the other little white pill. Yes you. You go to the thyroid. How should I know where the thyroid is? I think it's some where in the throat area, just look for the signs along the main artery.
And you, the "natural male enhancement pill." I think we all know where you are heading. Just hurry, I think he could use the diversion right now.

I have more tests being run on me this coming Monday. They want to see if and how much this aneurism is leaking blood. I guess it sits right in between the two hemispheres of my brain, near my forehead. Kind of like my very own Old Faithful about to blow.

I haven't worked since October 6th and I am going bonkers. I don't have a lot of energy and haven't been exercising (for obvious reasons) other than a slow walk around the block on the days I feel well enough to do so. I got so bored the other day I actually watched Dr. Phil on TV.

Is Oprah next?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

My MRA Exam

"Now Mr. Brown, the way this thing works is you have to remain absolutely still for the entire time, or we will will have to do it all over again. The slightest movement will create a blur on your picture. Do you understand?"

"Do I get to eat ice cream when this is all over?"

"Uh, we don't have any ice cream here, but I suppose you can stop for ice cream when you leave. But do you understand what I mean by being absolutely still?"

"I guess so. They gave me ice cream when I had my tonsils taken out, why don't you give ice cream here?"

"I'll send a memo to management. Now we need to take three exposures of your brain. Each one will last about 45 minutes, so you need to get as comfortable as you can, because__"

"__I know, I have to remain absolutely still. What if I have to scratch?"

"You can't move."

"What if I get a muscle cramp? I used to be quite an athlete and I have lots of muscles you know."

"I bet you do, but you still can't move."

"OK, just thought I'd ask."

So they they strapped me in and the table I was on slid into a tiny tunnel. I was very good and DID NOT MOVE. I did want to scratch because it is a proven scientific fact that when you cannot move, every part of your body sends itch signals to the brain. In fact so many itch signals come into the brain that they all have to take a number.

"Next! Number 44."
"Yes, I'm number 44. I am from that spot right between the right shoulder blade and the spine and we have major itchage down there."
"OK, I'll let him know."

When it was all over they sent me on my way (without ice cream) to wait for my doctor to call me. The call went something like this:

DOCTOR: Charlie, I think we"ve found the problem. You have a brain aneurysm.
ME: How about those Cowboys, Doc. Can you believe how they just took Philadelphia to the woodshed?
DOCTOR: I'm going to refer you to a neuro surgeon. Hopefully they can just treat you with drugs to thin your blood, but they may have to do some surgery to go in to remove it.
ME: Wow, would you just look at the time.
DOCTOR: I must say, you are taking this well.

So that's where things stand for now, stay tuned for further developments.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Emergency Room

I was taken to the emergency room last week and it was quite an experience. It was the first time I have ever been naked around that many women. Every one of the doctors, nurses and even the people who showed an inordinate interest in my bodily fluids were female.

Only the custodian who came in later to empty out the trashcans was a guy (I would have liked to do some male bonding with him and ask what he thought about the Cowboys this year, but he had work to do).

But all the women were complete professionals. No one made a pass at me, no one made an inappropriate remark and no one asked for my hand in marriage. They all showed remarkable restraint.

They were trying to find out why I have been passing out lately. In case it has never happened to you, let me just say, this is not a good thing. It is really hard to impress your boss with your hard work and dedication when he finds you slumped over your computer. The last time, I tried to fake him out with a, “….in Jesus’ name, Amen,” but he wasn’t fooled a bit.

The trouble with being naked in a situation like that (OK, I did have one of those skimpy little hospital smocks on, but the nurses and doctors kept lifting it up to take a peek) is that the male body can absolutely betray you at the most inappropriate times (that’s all I am going to say about that right now, you will just have to figure the rest out on your own). I was so worried about THAT happening that I could have cared less about what they did to me (“sure, you can put that ice cold stethoscope on my bare skin, I don’t care”).

But fortunately, THAT didn’t happen this time around. I got tested, poked, scanned, monitored and sent home with some CT scan photos to take to my doctor.

But at least the admissions lady asked me for my phone number.

COPYRIGHT © 2005 C.H. Brown

Friday, October 07, 2005

Sick of Being Sick

It's time to confirm a stereotype here. Yes, some men are absolute wimps when they get sick. Exhibit #A is me.

I have had cholera, typhoid, gangrene, projectile vomiting, black death, arthritis, alzheimers, West Nile Virus, and the sniffles for the last three weeks; and I all I wanted was for someone to make a big deal over me.

OK I'm a grown man, but just one bedtime story would not have killed anyone, would it?

So now I have drug, or dragged, myself to the computer to tell the world how miserable I have been. I WANT PITY!!

Thank you, I fell much better now.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

A Sick Day

I'm taking a sick day today (migraine), so this is my first foray to the computer. I threw a Killaminjaro-sized mountain of laundry into the wash, put an ice pack on my forehead and tried to watch daytime TV. Gave up on the game shows, Oprah, Dr. Phil and even the history channel (my usual favorite) and wound up watching an old MacGiver rerun.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Loving Miss Huff

No one ever forgets his or her first true love. In my case, it was Miss Huff, my fourth grade teacher. She was tall, blonde and beautiful. She could make us laugh with a gentle ease, and her own laughter was that of an angel. I naturally assumed we were made for each other, and that she would, over time come to realize this. After all, I had a lot going for me. I was reasonably cute, a good student, well behaved and I had a regular allowance.

I was jealous of any attention she bestowed on another boy in the class. But we all faced the same dilemma; how do you capture a woman’s heart when you can barely speak three words to her without blushing?

Actually I wasn’t really afraid the other boys would sweep her off her feet before I could get my chance, I was more concerned that some adult man would come into the picture and steal her away. I could only hope she was not someone easily swayed by such superficial qualities as height, maturity and a steady job.

It’s not that I was very sophisticated about love and sex. These days, your typical nine year old could probably conduct a seminar on the subject; but this was back in the 1960s, and my highest romantic ambition was that we would one day hold hands and gawk into each others’ eyes.

But even getting to first base with such a breathtaking woman seemed impossible. The great pick up lines men use later in life, like “may I buy you a drink” or “what’s your sign?” just don’t roll smoothly out of your mouth when you only stand four and a half feet tall. Besides, I couldn't even buy myself a drink at that age and the only signs I knew of were of the "Beware of Dog" nature.

So I opted for the only course I knew, I raised my hand high into the air anytime she asked for a volunteer to do some little task for her.

One day she came to school with two large boxes of old magazines. Our art project that day was to make collages. The idea was for each of us to cut out pictures, individual words and/or phrases to paste on sheet of construction paper. When a collage works, it is a surrealistic composition that is more than the some of its parts.

Usually my art projects tended to resemble Rorschach ink blots gone hideously wrong. But my fourth grade brain immediately took to this idea of a collage and I plunged into the project with much greater zeal than I had any other creative endeavor. I cut out pictures of cats and dogs, children and cars; as well as random words and phrases, like “The Quicker Picker Upper” of “Laxative.”

And then I found the picture that made me giggle. It was a woman in a bra ad. It is important to understand that bras in the sixties were not intended to be even remotely alluring or sexy. It wasn’t like today, when a man can walk by a Victorian Secret store with his eyes averted, and still have to go home to take a cold shower.

Bras made in the 1960s were designed for the sole purpose of keeping men from discovering the existence of breasts. Who knew what kind of havoc would reign on the earth if men learned about that little secret, and it was up to the Platex Corporation to keep the world safe from men and their evil lust. Not only were these bras not intended to be revealing, they were constructed to secure the goods behind a vault of heavy duty canvas-like fabric, that doubled as a handy floatation device in case the wearer were ever in a shipwreck.

My giggles increased and the boys sitting next to me looked at what I was about to cut out. “Are you crazy?” they hissed, but I was overwhelmed by my creative impulses and gave them no heed. An artist, of course must be true to his art, and soon I had the woman’s bust cut out of the magazine ad and glued onto my collage.

It wasn’t until Miss Huff collected our collages with the announcement that they would be on display for the next PTA meeting, that I began to sweat. What if she thought I was a disgusting little pervert and would have nothing to do with me from here on? What if she called my parents and arranged the parent-teacher conference that would surely end my life?

At nine years old, your entire life can pass before your eyes in about thirty seconds, so I had plenty of time to worry. But the next day nothing happened. Our collages were posted on the bulletin board and the offending picture had been neatly removed from the scene, leaving an empty hole that actually stood out more than the picture would have.

Miss Huff never said a word to me, but it seemed that she was just a little more amused with me than before. She called on me a little more often when she had small task that was needed, and she was a little more patient with my questions about math.

Eventually, I decided she must like her men cute and sweet, with just a touch of roguishness thrown into the mix.

And once my classmates realized I was not in trouble, I became the hero of the other boys, who looked at me as if I had iron cojones. The girls just looked at me as if I had crawled out from under a rock, but I didn’t mind. At least Miss Huff still seemed to like me.

The next year, when I was in fifth grade, she got married (presumably to someone taller and with a steady job) and the year after that she moved away. And the fact that she is probably a grandmother now doesn’t overshadow the fact that she was my first true love

Monday, September 26, 2005

I Love Being an Uncle

I spent the evening "babysitting" for my two nieces. They are ten and six and just the most adorable girls alive (yes, I realize you may have cute girls in your family too, and I am sure they are wonderful, but this is my blog and I get to say who is the most adorable here).

Anyway, I took them to their gymnastics practice while my brother and sister-in-law were elsewhere, fed them pizza and read the little one a story while her older sister finished her homework. No matter what screwy things happen in my life, the kids put the joy right back in.

I'm working on a longer (hopefully funny) essay about the crush I had on my fourth grade teacher (to the best of my recollection, she was a cross between Meg Ryan and Kim least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Anyway, it might be too long to publish here on Loose Cannon Diaries, but if I get it finished and can get it published, I'll let you know where it is.

I took the day off yesterday and didn't write anything, but I did find a funny, funny site, check out Tony Calabrese's Fugetaboutit: ::How U Doin'? I've seen him on Comedy Central and really enjoy his humor.

Well folks, those kids wore their uncle out, so I am going to bed. See ya.

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