Let’s face it, if you don’t try very hard, you can choose a career path that adds little to no value to your own self worth or to humanity in general. You could be a mandatory Jersey gas pumper, mime, day trader, second hand snake oil peddler, investment banker, or komodo dragon wrangler.
But studies in the past have shown that most human beings think that if they were appointed emperor of Earth, that the world would be a better place. Which says a lot about us as a species, because it’s patently untrue. But hey, just take a look at who just got elected to Congress, and it’s easy to conclude your next door neighbor’s four year old is both better qualified and a better person.
But now here’s a chance to become not just your own boss, but your own royalty. Per the BBC, an entire abandoned village in Salto de Castro, Spain can be yours for like $250K, or about 11% of the price for a one bedroom flat in Frisco. Here’s an aerial shot of your future kingdom:
Now my first thought is the village is on top of a mountain because like a lot of the planet’s villages they were built on hills for defensive purposes against [insert any human or natural calamity here]. And I was wrong. The village was built in the 1950’s by a power company to house workers building a reservoir. You can just see the water on the right of the above shot.
So it’s not like it’s an ancient village, but I’m sure there’s history there. The Iberian Peninsula has a ton of history. And you can make your own history, for after your purchase of Salto de Castro, you can just straight go ahead and claim independence and appoint yourself to enteral, divine rule. Any person on the planet can apply to become your subject, for a fee, of course. I mean, you’d be royalty, and need coin.
Why should Monaco or Andorra have all the weirdo small state fun? Get in on the action, while you can. What’s the Spanish Army [cue laughter] going to do? Attack? [cue even more extensive laugh track] You could even get some mercs on the cheap to act as your royal bodyguard.
I hear there are a bunch of mercs in a place called [shuffles through notes] Ukraine who are having a hard time with their current boss and looking for a new gig in which they are not cannon fodder for a failed invasion. You could get them on the cheap. Though it would increase your chances of regicide by 723%.
In all seriousness though whoever buys this place is a fool. For $250K you get the honor to have to plow like $56M just to make it livable again. And it’s all industrial strength faceless buildings from the 1950’s that I doubt are seeping with culture. Plus if you look at the above pic, you can see the high tension power lines running up from the reservoir past the town. How peaceful.
Someone will do it though. There are all kinds of idiots with big money out there who are looking to blow it on crazy projects or vanity ideas. And Salto de Castro won’t be the last. In 2075 due to crippling rural depopulation you’ll likely be able to buy an entire Korean or Japanese province for a pack of salted shrimp snacks. After all, it’s good to be the king.
1) I’m on extended travel, and for the first time in my life (I’ve stayed in hundreds of hotels) I bailed. I didn’t expect five star anything, the price was the point. But when the room is clearly not cleaned and bugs greet you at the room door, it’s time to bail. The poor clerk up front totally understood, I guess this happens a lot. She did everything right, and then told me to complain to the company. As in, not her boss, who it’s quite clear doesn’t care. She probably hates going to work. I can sympathize. The problem is I’m well compensated for my day job misery, whereas she is not. Be kind to service workers, in 98% of the case they make less than you and suffer for the privilege.
2) Muhammad bin Salman is proving to the planet that money matters. And he has a lot of it. So he can buy out crass golfers, get Biden to grovel, and now is doing the same to a recently legislatively impotent Macron. This guy didn’t just murder a man, he had him dismembered and melted in acid. He’s a monster. Yet he knows the same thing that Putin knows, that Xi knows, which is that significant portions of the West are for sale. You just have to pay the right price. I was in Boston yesterday and they had a Miller Lite ad at street level with one of the LIV sell outs. A person had scrawled in sharpie next to his face “Saudi Blood Money”. Yep.
3) Speaking of selling out, Brittney Griner will eventually get home, because the Biden administration did what the West does. They caved to most of Russia’s demands. Only on Ukraine does the West show strength against a country that has a GDP close to Spain’s (one of 27 EU nations). And Vlad is just buying time until he hopes the alliance cracks (see Italy’s upcoming election). But to me the question becomes, why was Griner in Russia anyways? Easy: $. It’s why golfers play for LIV. I’m just gonna go ahead and say this, if you’re an athlete or business person, or even just a tourist: If you go to Russia, or China, or about a half dozen other places on the planet and they put you in jail as a political playing card? You deserve it. You asked for it. Don’t go to these places and then be shocked that you have no rights, your own government has very little power to help you, and the leaders of these nations spend human lives like currency. Just don’t go to them, it’s rather simple.
4) I’m traveling for the first time in years and it’s been great. I’m seeing so many sights, driving around, sometimes planned, other times random. It feels great. I missed it, more than I remembered. Get out there and make it happen. Explore, see neat things, talk to interesting people, live life.
As a draw on my old photos sometimes I’ll hit upon a trip and I distinctly remember being there when my Parents visited me. These are good memories, and not to be taken for granted. Daibutsuden is the Great Buddha Hall in Nara. The overall complex is Todai-ji or Todaiji. Daibutsu is the largest copper Buddha in the world. As with all major Japanese temples, this one has a tale.
Originally the site was a 8th Century temple built by Emperor Shomu to honor his infant son’s death. This is when Nara was Japan’s capital, though the country was not totally united during this era. The larger temple, and chiefly the Daibutsu came later, between 738-752. It seems (by legend) that in order to finance such a grand undertaking Shomu had to cut a deal. The Buddhist monk Gyoki would help, but only if he was allowed to teach Buddhism to the people. This was part of a very complicated transition in Japanese religion where traditional Shinto beliefs began to evolve alongside Buddhism and they merged into a very unique Japanese version of both religions.
But as with all things religion, this transition had its opponents. But money talks, and Shomu wanted what Shomu wanted, so he cut a deal with Gyoki who got what he wanted. Here’s a relatively rare (my opinion) in history where an absolute sovereign and an important religious figure resolved their differences with compromise instead of bloodshed. Contrast this with Henry II and the splattering of some random guy’s brains inside a random cathedral.
It didn’t come cheap. Gyoki and his followers scoured the country for money and materials. The statue itself brought financial difficulties to the entire country and gobbled up much of the country’s entire copper supply. Weight: 500 tons, or the size of a decent sized ship by today’s standards. Back then, it’d have been the largest ship in the world if it could have floated.
the man himself
Like many temples in Japan, the original Hall burned down many times. The current hall was finished In 1709, Great Buddha Hall, Daibutsuden, which houses the Daibutsu. Bizarrely, it’s actually 1/3 smaller than the wooden building it replaced. Even so, until the turn of the 20th Century it was still the world’s largest wooden building. And like the temple, the statue itself has been repaired and redone many times over the years due to fire and earthquake damage, plus wars.
Plus it’s 1,270 years old and is thus beyond comprehension. I’m a big believer that the human brain has limits and the idea that any one of us can properly conceive of 1,270 years inside our brains is asking too much. It’s a long, long time, with countless lives and dreams riding along the waves of time all while Daibutsu hangs out and watches. Bronze statues can’t talk. But maybe if you listen, even if your brain can’t comprehend it, you can still learn from it.
Nyoirin-kannonis next to daibutsu
a pyre outside the main Hall, all these years later I still can’t shake the idea that I botched the angle of this shot
just one man, praying alone, riding the waves of time
El Paso is one of those few but not insignificant number of American cities that I’ve been to so much I feel like I’ve lived there when I actually haven’t. Work and fun travel will do that progressively over time. More than anything what drew me to El Paso was the people. I really miss working with those folks and their families a lot. I’ll probably never go there for work again, but whenever I find my way back to El Paso the people are always there.
Still, that doesn’t mean El Paso lacks for things to do on your own. In Franklin Mountain, El Paso has a hill that literally bisects the city, and gives it its name. It’s a good hike, and one that if done on a weekday has the always enjoyable trait of being one you can accomplish without seeing a single other human being, which always adds a nice poetic touch to the hike.
the always typical and delightful: I want to climb that.
I can’t remember what this small structure was, but I think it was a power company site back when such things were needed
east El Paso, it’s hard to tell in this shot, but this portion of the mountain has three or four feet of hiking room, with a very clear one way trip doom fall on either side of you, it was fun
On March 10th, 1945, 279 B-29 Superfortress heavy bombers conducted the most devastating conventional bombing raid in human history. Their target was Tokyo. The new tactics they employed had been tested but never implemented on such a large scale.
High altitude precision bombing over Japan had proved difficult compared to Europe due to high altitude winds over Japan. The US Army Air Forces decided to switch tactics, primarily at the behest of Curtis LeMay, although the ideas were not entirely his own.
The tactic of large formations of B-29s conducting high altitude precision bombing using high explosive bombs was completely altered. The attacks would happen at night. The B-29s would attack as a swarm, with each bomber flying individually without formation. The attacks would be conducted from very low altitudes to ensure accuracy and to confound Japanese anti-aircraft defense. Finally, the B-29s would use incendiary bombs instead of high explosive bombs.
The target was Tokyo itself, its people, and the largely wooden based construction of Japanese homes and small businesses. Some bombers carried a small number of high explosive bombs which were the first out of the bay. The idea being to crack open the roofs of structures using high explosives so the follow on incendiary bombs would fall within.
LeMay took extreme risks in the plan. To increase bomb load, all defensive guns on the B-29s were removed except for the tail gun. A lack of defensive formation meant each B-29 would be highly vulnerable to Japanese night fighters without mutual defensive support from other B-29s. Nevertheless, LeMay decided to proceed with the new tactics.
The raid succeeded on a scale few could have imagined. The Japanese were completely taken off guard by the new tactics. No Japanese night fighters were able to engage a single B-29. Japanese anti-aircraft guns did manage to down 14 B-29s with the loss of 96 Americans. But generally, Japanese anti-aircraft fire was ineffective as the gunners were not prepared for a low altitude attack and the low altitude run of the B-29s rendered Japanese radar mostly blind.
The attack started a firestorm throughout Tokyo with a ferocity previously seen in places like Hamburg. However, the wooden base of Japanese construction made the consequences even stronger. An estimated 100,000 Japanese died in one night, almost all of them civilians.
Until the end of the war, the USAAF would continue to employ the nighttime, low altitude, incendiary attacks across all of Japan. And yet, by August 1945 even after five months of firestorm bombing Japan was no closer to surrender. As World War II would demonstrate, no amount of conventional strategic bombing would ever bring an Axis country to surrender.
In Germany, it had taken a complete conquest via ground forces. American plans were in place for a ground invasion of Japan to start on Kyushu which estimates claimed would cost millions of lives. And so the decision was made to try and short circuit such a scenario. The Soviet Union would enter the war, and America would employ atomic weapons in a last attempt to force Japan’s surrender without a ground invasion.
On August 6th, 1945 the first atomic weapon was dropped on Hiroshima with perhaps over 100,000 Japanese killed. And yet, Japan still did not surrender. President Truman did announce to the public and to Japan what had been done. A single plane, with a single bomb, had done what had previously taken hundreds of bombers.
Japan’s leadership was well aware of what had happened, but refused to surrender anyways. The same concept, that the Japanese people could endure anything, and Japan could fight on remained inside their minds. It must be acknowledged that by this point most of the Japanese senior leadership were certifiably insane. It is akin to Hitler’s last moments, where he ordered divisions to attack, that no longer existed.
And so the decision was made to use a second atomic weapon, this time on Nagasaki. For the most part, Nagasaki had avoided conventional bombing throughout the war due to its difficulty as a target. But with an atomic weapon accuracy and raid tactics were essentially irrelevant.
On August 9th, 1945, once again, a single B-29, with a single bomb. At 11:01 in the morning a plutonium core weapon detonated about 2,000 feet above Nagasaki (the airburst setting allowing for the blast wave to not be absorbed by the ground). Approximately 80,000 people died.
The devastation is clear to see, before and after:
Hirohito, finally, seeing the inevitable, and perhaps making one of the braver decisions of his life (there was no guarantee that the militarists would not simply assassinate him and fight on) decided to surrender. When he spoke via radio to the Japanese people it was the first time they’d ever heard his voice.
Nagasaki Peace Park began in 1955 and has a museum and hall adjoining it. It’s hard to explain what it was like to visit the place as an American man in my early twenties. Nuclear war on such scale, such horror, is difficult to comprehend when you haven’t seen it or know personally anybody who did.
I don’t really have any conclusions to draw here. I could probably write a super long post on the morals of strategic bombing done by both sides during the war. Or the ethical decision to use atomic weapons to avoid a horrific ground invasion. But others far wiser than I have written legions of books on these topics.
As to the rest of this post, it’s just about the photos I took while there, and a few words from the Japanese themselves.
ground zero or otherwise known as the hypocenter
some of the ruins were left on purpose inside the park
In going through the few photos I have of Nagasaki, the other major bunch are of the hypocenter or peace park. That post will be a long one on history, with a lot of the photos from the park and my thoughts on the museum. However, today is just one shot. I came across this photo and I was shocked I had it. This is at the hypocenter. I had to go back and look it up, I was in Nagasaki in April of 2004. So this is Nagasaki in the Spring, 59 years after a nuclear weapon exploded right above this location. I’ll leave any conclusions and thoughts to you.
I just didn’t take as many photos back then, I guess. Go to a temple, take only two shots? I’ve talked about how this can be a good thing. But when I don’t remember all that much about the visit, I guess it can also be a bad thing.
If you’re in Osaka, you kind of just have to. Osaka’s most famous shrine, seat of all Japan’s Sumiyoshi shrines, and the subject of many legends, Sumiyoshi Taisha is said to have been originally built in 211. Founded by Empress Jingu it’s a shrine to the sea, dedicated to the Sumiyoshi Sanjin or the sea’s three gods. Back then, the shrine was right against the sea itself whereas today it’s somewhat inland.
The appropriately, galactically famous Sorihashi Bridge, one of the most beautiful and quintessential of Japan’s taiko bashi or drum bridges. This is one of my most favorite shots of all time, it was done with my old bad camera, and has its flaws but I still dig it.
The shrine’s west entrance, looking from west to east, with the gate up front, and the bridge in the background.
One of the rarest things I ever saw in Japan, a legit memorial for World War II. The shrine being dedicated to the sea, this of course makes sense. This was tucked away in a corner area and I kind of stumbled into it. I sadly don’t read Japanese in any form anymore, but this is a heavy cruiser. I don’t know the ship name or class, but the painting is an older version of the ship, I think, since the heavy cruiser has only two forward turrets instead of the later installed three.
The secondary temple.
If I’ve got my bearings right, this is the north side of the trio of the three main sanctuary structures. I always love the candid shots I get of just ordinary people happening along their daily lives, unaware or uncaring that this weird dude is taking very serious (bad amateur) photography.
I’m often so grateful that when I first began my travel adventures the smartphone didn’t exist. I had an old school flip phone where texting was a downright marvel. Social media was a term that didn’t exist. I had my own camera (originally a very crappy one) that I used to take my shots. Essentially most, but not every travel post I’ve ever done on this blog was travel I did without a flat screen smartphone.
I wonder what beginning your travel adventures nowadays does to a young man or woman who starts out their journey, probably has a smartphone, has various social media accounts, and doesn’t carry a separate camera. I shudder to think about it. But I think the answer is this, this is from a Twitter user named Lukas Stefanko in 2018, with the caption, “The social media queue”
This is in New Zealand, and this photo makes me want to burn every smartphone and social media account on the planet. [unintelligible snickering] Yes, yes, my Guests would like me to remind you that I am in fact a degenerate, crazy, loser, blog author.
Well, New Zealand is sick of it. New Zealand has a long history of being a tourist favorite, or over favorite. There have been talks in New Zealand for years to impose some kind of tourist fee, or restrictions on visitors in certain areas because they feel so buried by the mass of humanity. But this will never happen because so much of New Zealand’s economy is tied to tourism.
But they put out this video, from the top rope, and it’s professionally shot, funny, and has a super cool message:
I like how @0:50 he gets grabby with these two actors (who are portraying total losers). But it’d be great with me if he went further, and was whacking them with a truncheon like some 1880’s drunken bobby.
Messages like this delivered with humor are awesome, @1:28 where he takes a tumble I was totally cracking up.
Anyways, have a look at the video, heed its message. Indeed, some of the best travel experiences I ever had were where I deliberately made myself never take one photo, either with my good camera, or my smartphone if I had one.