Jul 23

And, now, it’s on to Mother Russia and let’s win there

This Sunday, Chris “Repman, Jr.”, Cody and I leave on a two-week trip to Russia. Our goal is to
Elbrus-map summit Mt. Elbrus in the Caucasus. If successful, it will enable us to lay claim to having bagged two of the world’s ‘Seven Summits.’ We celebrated New Year’s Eve 2007 on the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, East Africa, and hope to top out on Elbrus on August 3rd.

‘Kili’ was a beast, and Elbrus looks to be no easier. At 18,481 feet, it’s Europe’s highest point. It’s a double-coned volcano that is wrapped in ice and snow (which, if nothing else, will provide a welcomed break from this horrific hazy, hot and humid weather we’ve been experiencing for the last month or so).

In addition to the climb, we’ll be touring St. Petersburg and Moscow (and, possibly, ducking stray bullets and mortar shells from irate Chechnyan rebels).

As I’ve done on my previous trips abroad, I’ll be asking locals their views on the image and reputation of the U.S. (being careful not to offend any irate Chechnyan rebels in the process). This is my first big trip abroad since Obama assumed office, so it will be interesting to see if, as was the case with his predecessor, I hear the locals say something to the effect, “We love Americans. We just hate your President.” Most Tea Party members, Evangelicals and Glenn Beck fans would probably say the same thing.

I hope to file at least one blog from the former Soviet Union if the vagaries of wireless connection enable me to do so. If not, Repman readers will be blessed by content provided by a host of able and willing guest bloggers who have volunteered to fill the void (however miniscule said void may be).

And, so I end by paraphrasing the final, immortal words of Senator Robert F. Kennedy: “And, now, it’s on to Mother Russia and let’s win there.”

Feb 04

Hollywood’s new blood sport: dead pools

The freak show that is entertainment news seems dead set on debating who will die first: Britney orBritney2
Farah.

Feigning concern, reporters, commentators and talking heads (and it’s getting increasingly difficult to tell one from the other) vie with each other for the latest ‘unauthorized’ videos or inside peaks at the two tortured starlets.

‘Brit’s a threat to herself and those around,’ waxed one pundit. ‘Farah’s courage in the face of certain death from cancer is laudable,’ sighed another. Faux feelings, to be sure. And, yet we stare intently as the news media chop block one another to get the latest, greatest videos of each failing (and fallen) star. The ratings, one would assume, must soar in direct correlation to each celeb’s descent into hell.

Who’s to blame for this macabre dance? It certainly wasn’t always this way. The 24/7 news cycle is one obvious culprit since it needs constant news to feed hungry viewers and listeners. Then there’s the perpetual dumbing of America, with each new reality show slightly more idiotic than its predecessor. And, let’s not forget America’s increasingly manic obsession with Hollywood itself. It’s a toxic combination that seems to just spiral more and more out of control each day.

Once upon a time, I thought this to be a uniquely American phenomenon. But, now, when I travel overseas, I routinely see Hollywood gossip leading the local newscasts. In fact, the lead stories on Arusha, Tanzania, TV sets on January 1, 2008, were (in order):

– Britney’s latest breakdown
– Benazir Bhutto’s assassination
– Civil unrest in nearby Kenya

The dead pool descriptor seems to work equally well for the Hollywood circus and the slow, but steady, death of responsible journalism. And, it seems to me we’re all to blame.

Jan 07

Don’t fear the reaper

It’s amazing what a few close encounters with the grim reaper will do to a person’s perspective on life. Kilo_2

Having just returned from two amazing, life-changing weeks in Tanzania, Africa, I’m already seeing a few changes in my thinking. To wit:

– Who really cares about professional sports? I’d like to think I’ll always root for the Jets and Mets, but getting agitated about them (or caring about whether the Yankees or Giants do poorly) seems so trivial now.

– Politics is fascinating, but the world is out of control and I can’t believe any Republican or Democrat can make any difference. This country needs a third party in the worst way.

– Family trumps everything else. When you’re on the side of a raw and rugged 19,000 ft mountain and struggling to put one foot in front of another, a lot of life’s more superfluous issues simply fade away. And, one realizes that all that really matters is family. First, last and always. Great friends and a great job are important to be sure, but not fundamental. Family trumps all else.

And, life’s hassles, such as train, plane and traffic delays, disagreeable businesspeople and inane blog posters no longer seem like the big deal they once were.

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