The Shuttle Challenger Tragedy: Reagan as Mourner in Chief

My latest on Time.com. Where were you when the Challenger exploded? And do you remember Ronald Reagan’s speech from the oval office or his eulogy at Cape Canaveral?

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Here is the original sonnet from whence the “surly bonds of earth” came:
High Flight

by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds…and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of…wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up, the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor even eagle flew.
And while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space…
…put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

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What a Place is Angkor Wat

The iconic view of Angkor Wat with the reflecting pool near the western entrance

January 5, 2011 — Siem Reap, CAMBODIA

It was after only a few minutes walking in the forest that we encountered the owl.

We had just passed the causeway on the path toward the stunning ruins of Angkor Wat when Ley stopped and pointed.

There it was. Brown as they are. About 7 inches tall, standing on a leafless tree branch, still as a Buddha statue.

I squinted at it, wished I had binoculars.

“Rare to see in the morning,” Ley said. “They are a creature of the night.”

“I’ve met a few of those,” I said.

“O-W-L” Ley spelled it out, making sure I knew what I was looking at. I knew all right. And as I blinked and focused to try to make out details of this wise old bird, I took its presence as a good sign: an auspicious beginning for my latest adventure.

Today is my first day at the impressive and expansive ruins of Angkor, where Khmer kings erected massive structures to Hindu deities or Buddhist figures, whichever religion they favored during their reign.

After a couple of days in busy, noisy Bangkok, it is a relief to be in this place, where I had long wanted to come. And it completely shattered my preconceptions: Angkor is more amazing than I had imagined.

With dozens of sites – erected by different kings over a span of some 600 years and employing varied architectural styles and artwork – there are several ways to approach a trip to Angkor.  Some go by era, beginning with the oldest temples, working their way up through a history of Khmer architecture. Others start small, at the lesser ruins, and work their way up to the grander temples of Angkor Thom and (the grandest) Angkor Wat.

I chose to start big and work my way down. This was mostly a strategy to be at places where the crowds would be smallest – contra-flow. There are always crowds at Angkor Wat, but a larger crowd forms in the afternoon, when the sunlight is thought to be better. So we came here first thing in the morning, with a trickle of other tourists.

And we are the only ones to see the owl.

Continue reading “What a Place is Angkor Wat”

Thailand

I’m in Bangkok, en route to Cambodia for a couple of weeks. Here is a quick look. Will write more later.

Waiting in line to enter Wat Phra Kaew -- the temple of the Emerald Buddha.
Coins stuffed in the mouth of Garuda, one of the statues of the temple guardians at Wat Phra Kaew