Friday, March 10, 2017


Image result for las fallas 2017

  In the middle of the Mediterranean coast, Valencia city, celebrates each year the final days of the winter and the arrival of spring with spectacular fires of  pyrotechnics.  From March 15th to the 19th (the feast of Saint Joseph, day of the father in the whole country), Valencia is given over to a carnival of bonfires, fiesta, fireworks and a healthy dose of satire known as Las Fallas, "the fires".


    Displayed on every corner all over the city are colorful ninots, giant paper-mache' figures often 20 feet tall or even more that have been paraded through the streets and then place in fantasy groups to tower over excited spectators.  Each one in some way satires a political figure, or a soap star, or more exotic creatures from the movies, TV, sports idols, or simply imagination.  Some of them are grotesque...others playful and charming...all are larger than life and up for public scrutiny.



    Every day at 2 p.m., firecrackers rip through the Plaza del Ayuntamiento in a noisy event called La Mascleta'.  This concert of gunpowder is very popular and involves different neighborhood groups competing for the most impressive volley, ending with the terremoto, (literally means "earthquake") as hundreds of masclets explode simultaneously.  While this may not be for the frail or faint hearted, you will understand how the Valencians got their valiant name.


    Another important event is the Ofrenda de Flores a la Virgen de los Desamparados, a beautiful ceremony every March 17th and 18th,  that honors Valencia's patron Virgin.  Thousands of Falleras and Falleros arrive to the city from every corner of the Comunitat (Valencia State) and take the streets wearing traditional costumes and dancing to their neighborhood or village bands as they wind their way to the Plaza de la Virgen to offer bouquets to the giant image of the Virgin.



   Historians say that the origins of the festival go back to the time when carpenters cleared out their workshops and talleres at the end of winter, throwing out odds and ends of wood and old candles and lighting them on the street the day of Saint Joseph.


  Nowadays, celebrations draw to an end with a fabulous firework displays in the Paseo de la Alameda, called the Nit del Foc (literally "The Night of Fire"), on March 18th.  All Fallas burn all over the city the following night (including the winner of the competition) in a tremendous spectacle of fire and joy.  Valencia is at that moment like Nero's Rome, a city in flames.  That's why Valencians call this the best firework fiesta in the world!



Fireworks in las Fallas

   Keep the fireworks in mind even if your are not a fan.  Here they are not just fireworks.  Over the centuries the Valencians developed them into a form of art.  Valencia is the unrivalled Mozart of fireworks.  Valencian pyrotechnic crews get regularly contracted for blowing up big world events, such as Olympics and New Years.  The fireworks of the Fallas must not be missed.
There are two types of fireworks during the Fallas Festival.
The Mascleta
   The firecrackers. The mascleta is not visual, it is just the explosions.  But remember: in Valencia it is not just noise.  It is an orchestra, there are all those various types of explosions and the Valencians attempt to create some kind of symphony out of them, much like playing a piano.  There are various professional pyrotechnic bands who compete to create the best "melody".
   The best mascleta is meant to be on the last day of the Fallas Festival, the 19th of March.  But get there early...most people will want to see it.


The Castillo
   The castillo is the visual fireworks, performed at night.  Even someone who is not a fan and always finds the fireworks boring must see what the Valencians can do.  It's not just a few green balls, few red balls and a bunch of white rays.  It will leave you in awe with an open mouth, the shear complexity, aesthetics and artistic harmony is incredible.  Words can't describe it.  You have never seen anything like it.

Nic De Foc

   "Night of Fire".  Usually the castillo lasts for 10-15 minutes.  The Nic de Foc is the highlight of the Fallas fireworks...it is extra special, extra visual, extra inventive and extra amazing.  It goes on for 25-30 minutes.  Don't miss it and do pick a good spot early...once it starts the whole city will move towards a good spot and huge avenues will become totally impassable.

Street Petards

   This is one of the more unfortunate side of the Fallas Festival.  Witch such Valencian devotion to explosions, the mascleta and castillo are simply not enough.  On March 1st, the first petard is thrown on the streets.  Over the next two weeks it gets progressively more until, finally, on the 15th, the city is entirely in a war zone.  For the next four days, you simply won't walk 3 seconds without hearing an explosion to the left and to the right.
   It is fun to walk in such mayhem and it adds to the festivals atmosphere.  Unfortunately, its goes way beyond fun.  Many of the petard throwers are benign family people entertaining their kids, or the kids themselves are doing the entertaining.  This is hard enough in itself...it's not that much fun to jump of fright every ten minutes.  But there is also that very malicious breed of adolescent youth who will try to catch you off guard and throw it under your feet when you are not watching.  Those petards can be very strong.
   You will also come across something called borrachos.  These are tubes which, once ignited, move around in frantic thrusts, with a long tail of sparks coming out of them.  They can look very scary, thrown into the middle of the crowd (and this does happen often...otherwise it wouldn't be funny for those who throw them) but they don't appear to be very harmful in reality.


   Try to keep your hands free and look around.  If you see a petard landing next to you...it is like something from a war movie with grenades.  You have a second to close your ears or your ears with start ringing.  Take care of your ears, those petards are no Christmas cracker.  They are the reason so many locals don't stay in Valencia for the Fallas and so many others are hearing impaired.
   It goes without saying that if you have a serious problem with sudden explosions, such as risk of heart attack, you should not come to the Fallas.
   On the other hand, if you like this kind of thing, come to Paseo Alameda on Nic de Foc.  On completion of the official fireworks, the biggest battle of Las Fallas will break out.  The locals call it La Guerra de Los Petardos.  Thousands of them will be thrown into the Turia river garden, but the battle will definitely spill out onto the Paseo Alameda itself and the crowds on it.  Be advised that Las Fallas in general, are not too worried about being "safe", and in  this fireworks  battle...even less so.


   The Institute of Holiday Studies has released the top ten fears that people face during the Holidays.
  1. Parkaphobia- The fear that you will circle and circle the parking lot for ever, never actually making it into the mall.  You will run out of gas on the 100th time you circle and you will slowly starve to death in your car.
  2. Planeaphobia- The fear that someone in your family will actually expect you to pick them up at the airport, when you even offer to pay for their taxi, no matter know much it costs.  Similar to parkaphobia, you will be doomed to circling the airport for ever, while their plane is an hour late, they stop for a Latte' on the way to the baggage counter, then spend two hours looking for their lost bag, which will come in tomorrow, meaning you get to make another trip to the airport.
  3. Giftaphobia-You and your new boyfriend are exchanging gifts for the first time on Christmas.  You both promised to keep it simple.  But what does "simple" mean to your boyfriend.  Will he give you a diamond and all you give him is a CD of his favorite band.  Or will he give you a blender, severing the relationship for ever and forcing you to find a new date for New Years.
  4. Treeaphobia- You constantly check the needles on the tree hoping they're not too dry, knowing that your family is doomed and will die in a blazing inferno when the tree catches on fire.  A characteristic of Treeaphobics is they buy the tree the day before Christmas and dispose of it on Christmas afternoon.
  5. Turkeyaphobia- Every year you have to check the Internet to see how many minutes per pound you need to cook the turkey.  Lurking in the back of your mind is that the turkey will be undercooked and that you and your guests will all be writhing on the floor dying of salmonella poisoning.  You always make the dog taste the turkey first.
  6. Bargainaphobia- You search the ads, circle the best buys, show up at the store five hours before it opens, but in the back of your mind, is the fear that your sister-in-law has out bargained you again and when you proudly show the computer you got for $400 dollars, she will announce that she got the same computer off the Internet for $250.  A common characteristic of bargainophobia is resisting the urge to strangle you sister-in-law.
  7. Elfaphobia- The fear that your fiance' will turn into an elf after you marry him and you will be forced to live with him forever because of that darn "till death do us part" bit that the minister snuck into your wedding vows.
  8. Cancel phobia- The fear that all the football players catch the swine flu at the same time and all the Holiday Bowl games are cancelled forcing you to actually sit down and TALK to your relatives, including Uncle Joe who lives in a shack in Montana and has pictures of the Uni-bomber all over his walls!
  9. Roofaphobia- The fear that Santa Claus will actually land his sleigh on your house.  All twelve reindeer weight at least one ton and scientists have estimated that Santa's sleigh and payload weights over 300,000 pounds.  Not to mention Santa himself, who is no lightweight himself.  This weight will not only ruin your roof, but totally crush your whole house.
  10. Fruitcakeaphobia- You dream that you made a bet with your brother-in-law on who would win the football game and you lose, thus being forced to eat an entire fruitcake in 10 minutes, washed down with some moldy eggnog.


Image result for frozen dead guy days 2017

    Frozen Dead Guy Days is an annual celebration held in the town of Nederland, Colorado.
   In 1989, a Norwegian citizen named Trygve Bauge brought the corpse of his recently deceased grandfather, Bredo Morstol, to the United States.  The body was preserved on dry ice for the trip, and stored in liquid nitrogen at the Trans Time Cryonics facility from 1990 to 1993.
   In 1993, Bredo was returned to dry ice and transported to the town of Nederland, where Trygve and his mother Aud planned to create a cryonics facility of their own.  When Trygve was deported from the United States for overstaying his visa, his mother, Aud, continued keeping her father's body cryogenically forzen in a shack behind her unfinished house.


   Aud was eventually evicted from her home for living in a house with no electricity or plumbing, in violation of local ordinances.  At that time, she told a local reporter about her father's body, and the reporter went to the local city hall in order to let them know about Aud's fears that her eviction would cause her father's body to thaw out.
   The story caused a sensation.  In response, the city added a broad new provision to Section 7-34 of its Municipal Code, "Keeping of bodies", outlawing the keeping of "the whole or any part of the person, body or carcass of a human being or animal or other biological species which is not alive upon any property".  However, because of the publicity that had arisen, they made an exception for Bredo, a grandfather clause.  Trygve secured the services of Delta Tech, a local Environmental company, to keep the cryonic facility running.  Bo Shaffer, CEO of Delta Tech, is known as "The Iceman" for transporting the dry ice necessary for cryopreservation to the IC Institute from 1995.


   That year, the local Tuff Shed supplier and a Denver radio station built a new shed to keep him in.  In honor of the town's unique resident, Nederland holds an annual celebration, first started in 2002.
   Frozen Dead Guy Days is celebrated from Friday through Sunday on the first full weekend of March.  Coffin races, a slow motion parade, and "Frozen Dead Guy" look-a-like contests are held.  A documentary on "Grandpa Bredo", call Grandpa's in the Tuff Shed, is shown.  A newer version of the film, "Grandpa's Still in the Tuff Shed", was premiered in Nederland on March 7th, 2003.


   Other events include a tour of the Tuff Shed where Grandpa is still forzen; a "polar plunge", for those brave enought to go swimming in Colorado  in early March (which generally requires breaking through the ice); a dance called "Grandpa's Blue Ball"; pancake breakfasts; a market showcasing local artists; snowshoe races, and snow sculpture contests.  Glacier Ice Cream, headquartered in the nearby city of Boulder, makes a flavor specifically for the festival (named, appropriately enough, Frozen Dead Guy), consisting of fruit flovored blue ice cream mixed with crushed Oreo cookies and sour gummy worms.  Tours of the Tuff Shed where Grandpa is still frozen were suspended after 2005, after Grandpa's family "became frustrated with Frozen Dead Guy Days", but were expected to resume with the 2010 celebration.


    Although Trygve and Aud filed a complaint against Nederland involving money and naming rights in 2005, Frozen Dead Guy Days is still alive, and according to the official website, the most recent celebration was held March 5th-7th, 2010.