Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Sunday night I saw a program on the Travel Channel about New Zealand and it is truly as beautiful as my father-in-law always said it was. He spent some time there during WWII and has always said it was the most beautiful country he has ever seen. Although it is popular among extreme sports enthusiasts, even I would be willing to tackle most of the activities depicted in the program - hiking, whitewater boating, kayaking, etc. I do think I would pass on the 250-ft bungee jumping though. Even the 350 ft repelling didn't turn me off because it is done with such modern equipment - a harness and what looks like a small come-a-long to regulate your descent. I tried the real thing with only a rope at a special college program when I was young and I found the whole experience absolutely terrifying and not at all something I would want to repeat. I envied the Prime Minister's ability to play with seals on the kayaking excursion. Here, sea lions grow much larger and can be quite dangerous, especially the bulls.

The program highlighting all the beauty of New Zealand was followed by a program detailing all the disasters that have occurred on New Zealand because of its volcanic structure. I don't know why the Travel Channel aired it because it was done like a "reality" show with all the somber overtones and warnings. I doubt if the New Zealand travel industry would have been pleased about it.

I finally finished reading "The Etruscan" by Mika Waltari. Unfortunately, it had just too much mysticism in it for my taste. I also didn't like the bible quotes used as dialogue between characters either. Waltari was at one time a theology major and I guess he just never did get it out of his system. I prefer historical novels that either contain real historical personalities or persons that exhibit the traits of real historical people in the culture of the region. I learned very little about the Etruscans from Waltari's novel. He also seems to have a problem with women. The primary female protagonist was beautiful but a lying, conceited, self-serving harlot, very similar to the main female character of one of his other novels "The Egyptian". I found the main male character difficult to appreciate because he seemed rather spineless and always willing to overlook the female's flagrant transgressions simply because of her physical attractiveness. How shallow!

I received a 19th century two-volume set of "Plutarch's Lives" and its in wonderful condition. I'll have to read it very carefully though since it is a bit fragile after over 100 years.