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Tuscany Comes to Central Oregon 

No, What I said was I need some EXERCISE!Upfront likes to spend some of our idle hours browsing through the Central Oregon real estate offerings

click to enlarge No, What I said was I need some EXERCISE!
  • No, What I said was I need some EXERCISE!
No, What I said was I need some EXERCISE!Upfront likes to spend some of our idle hours browsing through the Central Oregon real estate offerings on craigslist, just to get a feel for what's currently on the market.

Most of the time what we come across is pretty routine - faux-Craftsman bungalows in Northwest Crossing, cookie-cutter McMansions on the Eastside, "quaint cottages" (read: falling-down former mill workers' shacks) on the Westside. So you can imagine our astonishment, and delight, when we discovered a "Beautiful Tuscan Home" for sale in ... MADRAS?!?

The house offers "2,226 square feet of luxury" on "five treed acres" within a mile of downtown (downtown Madras, that is - not downtown Florence). It wasn't quite clear to us what makes this home "Tuscan"; in the pictures it looks like a nice, but conventional, modern ranch house, not a Renaissance palazzo. However, the ad copy says there are "Mediterranian [sic] features throughout," including "travertine on the floors in the entry, halls, bathrooms and kitchen, travertine countertops in baths and kitchen, travertine in the showers," and a "custom-distressed kitchen."

Unfortunately, the ad didn't reveal the exact location of the home, so we couldn't tell if it's upwind or downwind of the cattle feedlot.

Still, at an asking price of only $399,000, the Tuscan home in Madras looked like a damn good deal compared with Tuscan homes in Tuscany. Out of curiosity we Googled "Tuscany real estate" and discovered an old stone farmhouse, condition described as "habitable," for 990,000 Euros - almost $1.5 million.

So if you've always dreamed of living in Tuscany but can't come up with the bucks and/or don't want to bother learning Italian, you might want to snap this Madras beauty up. It might bring out the Lorenzo de Medici in you.

The Web Made Me Do It

It's been almost 35 years since Linda Blair terrified movie audiences with demonstrations of projectile vomiting and 180-degree head rotation, but exorcism is still alive and well. In fact, it seems to be hotter than ever - or at least in the last 400 years or so.

The Washington Post reports that a Polish priest plans to create an exorcism center in his home country to serve as a "spiritual oasis" for the unfortunate victims of demonic possession. "This is my task, this is my purpose - I want to help these people," said the Rev. Andrzej Trojanowski. "There is a group of people who cannot get relief through any other practices and who need peace."

Exorcisms are on the rise throughout Europe, according to the Post, which said there are now about 70 priests serving as trained exorcists in Poland, twice as many as there were five years ago. In July, more than 300 convened in the Polish city of Czestochowa for the fourth International Congress of Exorcists. And an estimated 300 exorcists are operating in Italy.

Why the upsurge? One reason is that Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, have been quietly encouraging interest in the medieval practice. In 1999 the Vatican formally revised and recognized the ritual, and in 2005 a Catholic university in Rome began offering courses in exorcism.

And, of course, in these sinful times (when were times NOT sinful?) the devil finds plenty of prey.

"People don't pray anymore, they don't go to church, they don't go to confession," one Italian exorcist, 82-year-old Rev. Gabriele Amorth, told the Post. "The devil has an easy time of it."

A Polish exorcist, the Rev. Wieslaw Jankowski, said people who dabble in New Age therapies, alternative religions and the occult are especially at risk - not to mention those who spend a lot of time on the Internet. Better put down that mouse and grab those rosary beads.

The Dark Side of the Moon

click to enlarge There is no dark side of the moon: No, What I said was I need some EXERCISE!
  • There is no dark side of the moon: No, What I said was I need some EXERCISE!
No, What I said was I need some EXERCISE!According to Roger Waters there is no true dark side of the moon. "Matter of fact, it's all dark."

Upfront isn't sure if that's a profound philosophical statement about the duality of man or just a pseudo scientific observation. So on Wednesday night, we're putting Side One of Pink Floyd's 1973 classic on the Hi-Fi and kicking back with our eyes cast toward the heavens to see just how dark the moon gets. According to astronomer folks (What's up with Jack Horkheimer anyways?) the moon will slip into the earth's shadow around 7pm Pacific time, what star watching folks tell us earth ground denizens is known as a lunar eclipse. The entire event will last about 50 minutes, during which time the moon will take on an eerie reddish hue. It's a relatively common occurrence, at least in astrological terms. (The last lunar eclipse occurred in 2007 and the next will be in Dec. 2010.) But back in the olden timey days, lunar eclipses used to mess with people's minds. They were viewed as a harbinger of ill fortune, turning the tides battles and what not. Christopher Columbus reportedly used a lunar eclipse to cajole Jamaican natives into giving his crew critical supplies when his ship became stranded on the island. As the tale goes, the Jamaicans had decided to cut off aid to Columbus and his crew after growing weary of the uninvited guests. Columbus consulted an astronomical almanac and determined that a lunar eclipse would occur Feb. 29, 1504. Seeing an opportunity he threatened to make the moon disappear if the natives didn't restore aid. When the lunar eclipse happened on schedule, the Jamaicans capitulated and Columbus was rescued June 29.


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