Fascist architecture, serene and supreme

fascist architecture

It is easy to dismiss Fascist architecture, as the name alone might leave a bitter taste in one’s mouth. Prejudices aside, this is style is the dark horse, an underrated player of architectural achievement. It is elegant, simple, symmetrical, refined. It is classical without being traditional.  What I once shrugged off as a brutish and heavy school of design, I now appreciate for the modernist mastery that it represents.

It is true that the style has an unfavorable historical rap: both Mussolini and Hitler used this architectural movement to recall imperial Rome, instill feelings of nationalism, and unify their countries around what proved to be an unsavory political movement. It is unfortunate, though, that the architectural style was relegated to its historical decade once the Axis powers lost the war. The design movement is unruffled but striking, and I’ve found more and more that my favorite sites are, indeed, of Fascist origin.

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Exercising in Europe: the Dolomites lifestyle


I grew up in a flat place, and thus, the mountains will always hold a particular appeal for me. Driving through the rolling Appalachians of Virginia and North Carolina was my earliest foray into topographical mystique. Eventually, the pointier peaks of the Western U.S. (and a view of Mount Rainier from afar) made a lasting impact. It was a trip to Glacier National Park that left me with that sense of wonder, of insignificance, that feeling that gets you hooked on the mountains for good. Waltzing around Colombia scratched the itch with its emerald green mountain chains, impossibly thick and jungle-covered. All of these trails have been worthy appetizers for my latest love affair with the Dolomites.

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how to pair gelato like a pro

Cynthia Taylor gelato

I like to think that I’m a fairy decisive person, so why am I always in crisis when I walk into a gelateria? I have narrowed it down to the following hitch.

A small cup or cone is always two flavors, and so you must weigh in the following factors: do you go for a classic combo, such as caffè/cioccolato, or pistacchio/nocciola? But what if you want something fruity? This presents a further issue – strawberry plus another fruit? Or perhaps strawberry plus something like yogurt or fior di latte (and inquiring minds might wonder, what is the difference between those two anyway)? Mind you, this is before taking into account any of the “fancy” flavors you find at some gelaterie (my favorite in Bologna has one with candied pecans, and my go-to spot in Treviso rotates in seasonal flavors like chestnut).

In fact, I don’t know that I could ever order a gelato bigger than a “piccolo,” because increased size means increase in potential flavor options — up the size, up the scoops. Tragic, indeed, because sometimes I do want more than two scoops, but the notion of bringing another flavor into play? I’d hold up the line for 15 minutes at least.

And so, with the help of my talented artist friend Cynthia (Cindy to me) Taylor, we have come up with a strategic and non-definitive flowchart for ordering gelato, which Italians may find offensive but which I happen to keep in mind at all times.

It’s non-definitive, of course, because only occasionally can you be so bold as to match a fruit flavor with a chocolate one. Plus, I’ve yet to master cream-based fruit flavors. One of my top-five favorite flavors is ricotta with caramelized fig preserves, a stunning “gusto” that you can only find around late August or September. But what to mix it with, and without overpowering it? Perhaps this is an instance to incite the rare “I’ll just take one flavor” card, but all suggestions welcome.

What’s your favorite flavor combo?

Bring this beautiful gelato print home!! Cindy is selling her work on her Etsy shop here, and be sure to follow her on Instagram (@cynthiataylorstudio) to keep up with her latest work!

art, language

“She has Free”: Confessions of a French TV Addict


Perhaps the main difference I’ve observed between my mid- and late twenties is in my response to my own unusual behavior. Where it was once guilt, a nagging checklist of judgments (wrong, wrong, wrong), it’s now more like curiosity. This summer, when during my six-week stay in Besançon, France, I developed a pretty strong affinity for French television, I noticed that guilty inner monologue revving up: something like, don’t be a couch potato, read a book, stop wasting your time, you hate everything TV represents, you’re not a “TV person”!  I mean, partly, inner-monologue-voice was right. I felt like it was problematic that by the end of my first week in town, I was already bringing up TV-related subjects in conversations with friends. “Oh yeah, I know about that carpooling app, ‘Bla bla car’; I saw a commercial for it,” I’d say, or “This morning, France 3 had a special on the bacteria that grows on your flip-flops!” Or the worst: when I’d start quoting slogans from ads. A lady whispers to us in an aside at the dentist’s office — “He won’t find anything today!” (“Il va rien trouver aujourd’hui!” ) — because she has brushed with such-and-such toothpaste. “I think I’m gonna cry!” (“Je pense que je vais pleurer!”) — says the young woman who now knows she’s pregnant five days sooner thanks to this new pregnancy test. Inane, right? And the kind of gendered stuff that would make me rip my hair out back in the US. Yet for some reason, they stick.

Five years ago, when I was a teacher in Besançon, I went through hell to get an internet connection in my apartment. At the time, the telephone provider I chose, called “Free” (deceptive name for an Anglophone), used the rhyming catchphase, “Il a Free, il a tout compris”, which is catchy not only for its “ee”-sound rhyme, but also for its pun on the phrase “tout compris”: the expression means both “He has Free, he gets it” and “He has Free, he has everything included”. As a French language learner (they called them ‘emergent bilinguals’ in edu-jargon these days, which makes me feel like a butterfly bursting from my cocoon), I was totally tickled by this wordplay — and good thing, because I was less tickled by the three months it took them to install my internet.

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“Sicilia bedda” by Carlo Marsilli, Journalist

I met my friend Carlo Marsilli in a rather fateful political science class during my year of study abroad in Bologna. Little could I predict the gifts that class would give me far past the final exams, but I did immediately realize that the group was a special one. One of the warmest, most open, and inquisitive people I know, I am not surprised that Carlo has found himself a career as a burgeoning journalist.

He posted this series of photos on Facebook and I immediately chased him down to ask if I could host his work on the blog. One of the joys, after all, in having an international crew of friends is being able to translate (literally and figuratively) those experiences to family and friends back home. Carlo is a seeker of unique perspectives and clearly has an ability to capture those vulnerable moments that photographers and journalists seek in the habitats they explore.

Thus, enjoy this compelling, raw photo essay about “Sicilia bedda” — beautiful Sicily — and a brief interview with the talented author himself.

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art, beauty, travel

Rediscovering Italian beauty


After a difficult summer — misadventures and all — life is finally, and supremely, normal. Back to work, back to the routine, and I really couldn’t be happier about it. The above shot may be a stellar weekend view, but quite honestly, I mostly just do laundry, and clean the house, and cook dinner, and watch Curb Your Enthusiasm, like any other shmo in the western hemisphere. In essence, despite the uptick in wine and pasta consumption, I am living an average and mundane sort of life (blissfully, of course).

On occasion, it takes an outsider to remind one of the “why”. I was fortunate to have that moment when my aunt and uncle passed through Veneto and shared a few dinners with us. In an instant, everything seemed fresh. I realized that my relatives — who were experiencing Italy for the first time, I might add — were living out the magical experience of Christmas-like wonder that I had ten years ago, the experience that made me fall in love with this country, this culture, and these people in the first place.

It can be easy to sink into a rhythm of taking these things for granted, and I want to stop myself from doing so, if just for a moment. When my aunt and uncle were walking the Treviso streets with me, I heard myself downplaying my life here, and the quotidian grind of it. Wasn’t I forgetting the simple joy of walking along cobbled brick streets older than my home country? The ability to pop into any of the numerous mom-and-pop bakeries and get a slice of focaccia anytime I want? That wine is cheaper than water? That people look you in the eye and say hello, and don’t treat you with immediate suspicion?

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guides, travel

A non-partying guide to Rimini

rimini Rimini gets a bad rap. In the 90’s, it was the Euro party scene, the discoteca and club music vanguard. Now, some of that Ibiza-like sheen has washed away. The local population laments that it is solely a summer tourist playground (once for Germans, now mostly for Russians) and that the mega-clubs seem to be trending in the wrong direction of “too many adolescent deaths” (the largest and most famous, Cocoricò, was recently shut down by authorities for trending in this dangerous direction).

And yet, Rimini has captured my heart, for amidst its shmaltzy boardwalk and party-hardy veneer, Rimini is an elegant and refined city with a wealth of historical treasures to be explored. Proudly exalted as the birthplace of Federico Fellini, the site of many a frontline showdown in numerous wars, home to the famous Malatesta family, Rimini maintains a depth and cultural richness that offers something for everyone — including the non-clubbing set.

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On Skillet, and potatoes


Years ago, had you handed me a slab of beef tenderloin, I would have looked at you with square eyes and ordered takeout. Now, thanks to a couple summer jobs’ worth of working in a kitchen, learning along the years from my parents, and hacking away on my own with a Mark Bittman tome at my side, I am no longer afraid of cooking a juicy cut of meat.

And yet, I remain forever a student of cuisine. Just the other day at the seaside, we saw a family who caught two small manta rays and set about gutting and cleaning them in front of a curious crowd. Somehow, they knew exactly what to do with this animal, from how to skin it down to how to remove the eyes (and did you know the tail is especially delicious?). I, however, sat there with a dumb look on my face.

When it comes to cooking, there is always something more to learn. Even one who feels comfortable in the kitchen will come across the occasional challenge, manta rays included. For this reason, I am both proud and excited to be a small part of my dear friend (and shiny new CEO/founder) Victoria O’Shee’s newest venture, Skillet.

Skillet is app made with the real home cook in mind. Victoria breaks down her recipes into bite-size (ha ha) videos so you that you can pause at any moment in the cooking process, if you find a step difficult or in need of repeating. It’s the perfect tool for both the kitchen rookie and the seasoned chef, and Skillet clearly aims to prime you with an arsenal of easy, versatile, and delicious recipes. This is not Food Network, where dishes come together magically and you hardly see any chopping in the process. Skillet doesn’t gloss over any steps in the cooking process, nor does it presume that you know how to perfectly dice an onion, and that’s why I’m a fan.

I’ll be occasionally adding to the Skillet blog, starting with this little story about the first time I made my mom’s latkes by myself. In the meantime, check it out — it’s worth the download!

art, interviews, music

mighty FlipSide Esq., MC

mighty flipside esq

mighty FlipSide Esq. is a Philadelphia-based hip-hop artist and videographer who, according to the Philadelphia Metro, is truly a “Philly Underground Legend”. He has been involved with the art of MCing since he was 8 years old and was one of the original artists working with the legendary Ruffhouse Records. He developed a style so diverse that he shared stages with Xzibit, Nelly, Jedi Mind Tricks, Kool Keith, Del the Funkee Homosapien, P-Funk All Stars and members of the Grateful Dead, as well as landing a spot as a finalist in a national beatbox competition alongside Scratch from The Roots.

His diverse style stems from growing up in the “Golden Era” of Hip Hop with artists ranging from De La Soul to N.W.A, from Public Enemy to Kid N Play. The artists and sound of that era had a huge influence on his lyrical style and his global point of view. That view is; “Know what you mean, mean what you say, don’t be afraid to say it, but say it in your own voice.” As a teacher he uses his point of view to encourage his students, and as one half of the group Electric City (along with DJ Skipmode) he shares his view through lyrics to showgoers.  Electric City’s 1st release “Everything, Everywhere, All the Time” (2007) on Rope A Dope/Bro Kin Records received accolades for mighty FlipSide’s  “energetic lyricism.” The latest independent release “King Friday” (2010) had underground heads buzzin’ for his “intense style and delivery.” Along with MCing, mighty FlipSide has received awards for his Freestyling and Beatboxing talents.  He is also the founder of “Hip Hop Lives,” Philadelphia’s longest running Hip Hop live music monthly showcase, and the co-founder of the “Beats and Rhymes” producer showcase in Philadelphia.  mighty FlipSide Esq. stays busy creating music and now music videos, promoting and hosting shows, and educating the youth.

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guides, travel

How to handle an emergency health situation abroad

emergency kit 101

I promise, this post is not about being a hypochondriac. Rather, off the coattails of a few trying experiences, I have been forced to come to the honest conclusion that I am not always prepared for an emergency health situation abroad. I have always been cavalier in my travels, fortified with a sense of youthful invincibility — what 20-something isn’t? — but have since been given a rude awakening in both the potential dangers one might face while traveling, and also how to deal with them.

Let me assure you, the unexpected does happen. In my relatively limited travels, I have experienced everything from sand fleas to stomach flu, toe surgery to poisonous insects, and while the stories may be funny in retrospect, I can confidently not recommend these things happening to you. In the developed world, we often take premium healthcare for granted, and while you may be planning your backpacking trip to South America with threatening animal life and indigestion in mind, you might not be thinking about the concentration and location of good hospitals, the availability of certain medicines, and other less adventurous and glamorous sounding facts.

Inspired by both my own misadventures and this interesting NPR article regarding the availability and quality of healthcare worldwide, here are some basic nuggets of advice on dealing with an emergency health situation abroad.

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