Sunday, November 04, 2012

#536 Christmas at Sea

Season's Greetings!

Kelly and I have celebrated most of the significant holidays at sea - Super Bowl Sunday, Valentine's Day, Saint Patrick's Day, Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, my birthday month.  

But never have we celebrated a Christmas at sea - until now.  This December, we will be sailing on the MV Explorer with an enrichment voyage to Central and South America

Our itinerary includes the Bahamas, Jamaica, Colombia, Panama and its canal, Ecuador, Peru, Costa Rica,  Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Mexico.

We'll be in Costa Rica on December 25 where the high temperature for Christmas Day averages 87 degrees.  So that severely limits our chances of a 2012 white Christmas.  And although the cabins on the MV Explorer are quite nice, there's no chimney for Santa's big entrance.  Christmas 2012 will be different.

Want to find out whether Santa can find us in Costa Rica?  Want to experience a snow-free Christmas season at sea?  Then come join us!  Let me know by November 15 for the inside scoop!

Yours in Ho-Ho-Ho-ing at sea,

Sunday, September 16, 2012

#535 Silent film extravaganza

Inspired by our recent viewing of the Oscar-winning silent film The Artist, we have now traveled further down the silent film wormhole...

The Artist (2012) was set in 1927 at the time Paramount Pictures released Wings and The Wedding March.

Wings (1927) is a silent film about WWI fighter pilots with spectacular dogfights, the introduction of Gary Cooper, and an all-organ score. It was the only silent movie to win the Best Picture Oscar until 2012's The Artist.

The Wedding March (1928) is a silent film set in Vienna about a a roguish Viennese prince who agrees to marry for money and then falls in love with an inn-keeper's daughter (Fay Wray).

So, of course, when the Packard Campus for Audio-Video Conservation in Culpeper, Virginia (about an hour from Charlottesville), announced a showing of The Wedding March, we were there. The bucolic setting with panoramic Blue Ridge Mountain views, modern architecture, green roofs, and endless plantings make the place seem more like a botanic garden than the cold-war currency bunker from which it sprang.

Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio-Video Conservation
Just off the soaring lobby, the elegant theater seats over 200 people and screens films year round free of charge to the public.  In the same building with one of the world's largest film collections (over 80% of American movies made between 1893 and 1930 have been lost, according to the Library of Congress) this is a theater with extra special features like an organ rising from below the stage for silent film showings. In the silent film era, every showing included a live sound track. 
Packard Campus Theater
In this unique setting, we crossed paths with a premier silent film accompanist, Ben Model who turned his passion for film and music into a unique career that puts him in high demand.  He's already performed over 150 times in 2012 including a gig earlier this day at the National Gallery of Art in DC. 
Ben Model - silent film accompanist
The house lights dropped, the organmeister and instrument slowly descended from their pre-show perch to a performance position at stage height, and The Wedding March appeared before us.

Yours in enjoying some silent film history via the Library of Congress,

Saturday, July 21, 2012

#534 George Washington Defaced It, Thomas Jefferson Bought It, We Visited It

  • George Washington defaced it (some say) by carving "GW" into the rock during his 1750 surveying visit.  
  • Thomas Jefferson bought it from the King of England for a few dollars, built a private home there, and tagged it "the most sublime of nature's works".  
  • The National Register of Historic Places listed it as a National Historic Landmark.
  • Herman Melville used it to as a literary device to describe Moby Dick
It's Virginia's Natural Bridge.  So we stopped by to see what all this fuss is about.

Virginia's natural beauty, lush and green, engulfs the place.  But the incredible coming together of nature's forces to create this oddment is the real story.  Tectonic plates, continental collisions, limestone's incremental yielding to the unstoppable forces of water, and poof, a natural miracle happened before we were watching.

Seated on benches facing the bridge, we heard a well-delivered scholarly description of the natural and human history of this dramatic place.  Later we engaged costumed interpreters at the Monocan village in the bridge's shadow and got a sense of the depth of their knowledge of Native American life.  These educational interludes (our highlights) were pleasant surprises given the for-profit nature of this place.

Yes, there's a gift shop. Virginia's Natural bridge - "it's easy to get to and hard to forget".

Yours in admiring Mr. Jefferson's real estate acumen,

Sunday, July 01, 2012

#533 Virginia is for Reading

Geography matters in my reading choices.   

Since moving to Charlottesville five years ago, books such as these written by or about Virginians often get to the top of my fun reading list.   

The Art of Fielding (2011) by Chad Harbach, a UVA graduate.    

Audrey (1902) by Mary Johnston, a women's rights activist from Buchanan, VA.

Big Stone Gap (2000), Big Cherry Holler (2001), Milk Glass Moon (2002), and Home to Big Stone Gap (2007) by Adriana Trigiani.
"We got a revival down in the Frog Level." 
"Don't lose it.  UVA'll have my hide."
"You make it sound like a mail-correspondence college.  It's the state university of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson.  It's not some dump."
Bossypants (2011) by Tina Fey, a UVA graduate.  
"Let me start off by saying that at the University of Virginia in 1990, I was Mexican."
"This worked out perfectly for me in college, because what nineteen-year-old Virginia boy doesn't want a wide-hipped, sarcastic Greek girl with short hair that's permed on top?"

Christmas at Monticello with Thomas Jefferson (1959) by Helen Topping Miller.   

The Disagreement (2008) by Nick Taylor, a UVA graduate.
Historical fiction set during the Civil War at the University of Virginia.  "My sense of the University's plan was not yet firm, but from my father's engraving, I knew that the buildings were arranged in two horseshoes, one inside the other.  Service buildings such as Hotel A sat on the outer row.  The grand Rotunda, which served as the library, fit like the keystone in the top of both rows."
Innocents Abroad Too: Journeys Around the World on Semester at Sea (2008) by Michael Pearson, a Fall 2006 SAS alum.   

"Moreover, folded into its pages were informational materials from institutions such as the University of Virginia's Alderman Library, a disturbing clue that other thefts may have already taken place." 
"Officials at the Alderman Library reported that at least seven rare maps were missing, including eighteenth-century works by the cartographers Herman Moll and Andrew Ellicott."

London is the Best City in America (2007) and The First Husband (2011) by Laura Dave, a UVA graduate. 

The Right Attitude to Rain (2006), The Careful Use of Compliments (2007), and The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday (2008) by Alexander McCall Smith.   
Though the Isabel Dalhousie series is set in Edinburgh, the author mentions Charlottesville in each of these books. In The Right Attitude to Rain, Isabel is asked if she enjoys living in Edinburgh and responds "I do like it.  But I'd be happy living in other places, I suspect.  New York.  Charlottesville, Virginia.  To name just two.  I'm sure I'd be happy there."

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: a novel in pictures (2011) by Caroline Preston, a Charlottesvillian.

Something Borrowed (2004) and Something Blue (2005) by Emily Giffin, a UVA law graduate.  

The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1908) by John Fox Jr, who lived in Big Stone Gap, VA.

When the Whistle Blows (2009) by Fran Cannon Slayton, a UVA graduate.

Next up: A Girl of Virginia (1902) by Lucy Meacham Thruston.

Yours in appreciating the long and growing literary tradition of Virginia,

Monday, June 04, 2012

#532 More Films at Sea

Wait!  There's more!

After listing my Top 20 Films at Sea, friends suggested I check out these films set on ocean liners: 

Reaching for the Moon (1930)
SS L'Amerique
Douglas Fairbanks (in one of his few talking roles) follows Bebe Daniels aboard the art deco ocean liner, the SS L'Amerique.  And the not-yet-discovered Bing Crosby makes an appearance to sing Irving Berlin's "When The Folks High Up Do the Mean Low Down."

Libeled Lady (1936)
SS Queen Anne
William Powell crosses the Atlantic twice in order to trap Myrna Loy into falling for him.  But first he is able to impress her father with his extensive knowledge of angling - thanks to the ship's vast library!  

Mister Roberts (1955)
USS Reluctant played by the USS Hewell
Mister Roberts is stuck on a cargo ship instead of seeing battle at the end of WWII, but his contributions are many on the USS Reluctant.  Even though the USS Reluctant is a navy cargo ship rather than a passenger ship, I've included it on this list for 2 important reasons.  1) I love William Powell and Henry Fonda.  2) There's a library on board!   
Murder Ahoy! (1964)
HMS Battledore
Miss Marple boards the HMS Battledore, a merchant marine training vessel, to investigate a poisoning death and figures it all out before the chief inspector.  (Thanks Barbara!)  I like Miss Marple's home library and here is Miss Marple solving the mystery using the ship's library!

Voyager (1991)
Pegasus (filmed aboard the RMS Queen Mary)
An unsettling movie to be sure, Voyager is worth watching for the shipboard scenes alone.  Sailing from New York City to France in 1957, Julie Delpy and Sam Shepard meet on board Pegasus and explore the bridge, the engine room, some trap shooting, some ping pong, some shuffle board.  (I don't know how I missed this one.  Thanks, Laura!)  Of the sailing experience, Delpy said, "I love it!  I could sail around the world!

Love Affair (1994)
The third time is not the charm for this remake with Warren Beatty and Annette Bening. But the good news is that we get to see Katharine Hepburn in one last film.

Mann (1999)
Sun Vista
What began as Love Affair in 1939 evolved into Mann, sixty years on.   Though an over-the-top Bollywood, song-and-dance spectacle, it remains the same Love Affair story when Dev and Priya meet on board the Sun Vista en route from Singapore to Mumbai and fall in love.  Instead of the Empire State Building, the lovers plan to meet at the Gateway of India.  Instead of the grandmother's shawl, Priya receives her ankle bracelets.  Other than that, it's the same.  But different.
I'm sure there are many other films set on ships.  For example, I specifically avoided disaster films so I would be brave enough to step back on the MV Explorer.  But if you think of other non-disaster ship movies, be sure to let me know! 

Yours in completing the trip through nautical cinema,

Saturday, May 19, 2012

#531 Top 20 Films at Sea

After seeing Boat Trip last year, I wondered how many other films have been set on ocean liners.  So I've been doing some serious cinematic research in my TV room.  As you can tell from the results of my in-depth investigation, the heyday for shipboard films was the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.  Chronologically, here are my top 20.

One Way Passage (1932)
SS Maloa
There's much to like in this 24-day voyage across the Pacific from Hong Kong to Honolulu to San Francisco with William Powell and Kay Francis.   Powell, aka the Thin Man, is perfect as the debonair murderer headed for San Quentin.  And Francis plays the terminally ill socialite.  They fall in love, of course, and choose not to tell their secret.  Made in 1932, this is the oldest of all the films listed here and it is my favorite.  I'd love to see the remake: Till We Meet Again (1940).  Nautical highlights: trip through the engine room, map of route with breadcrumb trail (to use a GIS term I've picked up.)

Dodsworth (1936)
RMS Queen Mary
There are three Atlantic crossings in Dodsworth, on the RMS Queen Mary, on the RMS Aquitania, and on the SS Rex.  But most of the story of Walter Huston and Ruth Chatterton's failing marriage happens on land.  Nautical highlight:  The RMS Queen Mary is used as a filming location.

Shall We Dance (1937)
SS Queen Anne
With music provided by George and Ira Gershwin, Fred Astaire follows Ginger Rogers across the Atlantic on the SS Queen Anne in this their 7th of 10 films together.  My favorite scene: Let's Call the Whole Thing Off (on roller skates!).  Nautical highlight: Slap That Bass in the ship's art deco boiler room. 

Love Affair (1939)
SS Napoli
Irene Dunne's favorite film spurred pink champagne sales and a host of remakes: An Affair to Remember (1957), Love Affair (1994), and Mann (the 1999 Bollywood film).

The Lady Eve (1941)
SS Southern Queen
After spending a year on the Amazon River, the ophiologist Henry Fonda sails home on the SS Southern Queen where he meets and falls in love with the scam artist Barbara Stanwyck.  Nautical highlight: the outside dining area reminds me of deck 6 dining on the MV Explorer.

Now, Voyager (1942)
Walt Whitman said, "The untold want, by life and land ne'er granted / Now, Voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find."  Whitman's poem inspires Bette Davis to sail on a South American cruise to seek and to find.  She sails to Rio and finds love.  Bette likes this film because it became the biggest box office hit of her career.  I like it because it's the one film on this list that mentions a shipboard library.

Song of the Thin Man (1947)
SS Fortune
Have you seen the Thin Man series with William Powell and Myrna Loy?  They're delightful, especially the first one.  They were running out of steam by the time they reached the sixth and last one in the series, but setting it on the S.S. Fortune was the perfect ending.

Romance on the High Seas (1948)
SS Southern Queen
In Doris Day's very first film, she travels to Havana and Rio, two cities that are still on my bucket list.  Before docking at the first port of her months-long voyage around South America, she falls in love with the detective who has been hired to follow her.  Romance, the high seas, some high jinks, and Doris Day - what more could you want?      

Royal Wedding (1951)
Fred Astaire and Jane Powell travel by ship to London at the time of Princess Elizabeth's wedding.   The Atlantic crossing isn't nearly long enough (less than a half hour screen time), but Astaire makes up for it by dancing on the walls and ceiling of his London hotel room.

A Blueprint for Murder (1953)
Four films made in 1953 (A Blueprint for Murder, Dangerous Crossing, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Titanic) were all filmed on the same sets. Sets?!  How disappointing to discover the films were not made on a ship!   In this film, Joseph Cotten follows the suspected murderess Jean Peters onto a ship bound for England.

Dangerous Crossing (1953)
In this film noir classic, newlyweds board a trans-Atlantic ocean liner in New York City, but the husband goes missing and the crew doesn't believe there ever was a husband.  Nautical highlight: a trip through the engine room.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes  (1953)
SS Ile de France
The SS Ile de France is famous for carrying passengers from the SS Andrea Dorea in 1956 after it collided with the MS Stockholm.  In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell sing their way across the Atlantic, fall in love, wear dazzling fashions, and in this scene - point out the round windows.

Titanic (1953)
RMS Titanic
The only music heard during the film is played by the musicians aboard the ship. No background music is played.  The drama on board includes Barbara Stanwyck leaving her husband and a 23-year-old Robert Wagner (a Purdue tennis player) falling in love with Stanwyck's daughter.

The Birds and the Bees (1956)
SS Southern Queen
A remake of The Lady Eve (1941), this film stars George Gobel as the ophiologist and Mitzi Gaynor as the scam artist.  In this version, Gobel returns from the Congo River instead of the Amazon River, but everything else is the same - just not as good.  

An Affair to Remember (1957)
SS Constitution
Of course, this film with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr is the shipboard film everyone talks about and rightly so.  It's the first remake of Love Affair (1939) and the best of all versions.

Carry on Cruising (1962)
SS Happy Wanderer
According to IMDB, the SS Happy Wanderer was a life-size mock-up, complete with all the features of a real cruise ship.  IMDB also reports that even though the cruise ship docks at several ports (Spain, Italy, North Africa), it always moors against the same quayside with the same tree standing on it.  I didn't  notice.  

Ship of Fools (1965)
In Vivien Leigh's last film, the German ocean liner Vera sails from Veracruz, Mexico to Cuba to Spain to  Bremerhaven, Germany in 1933.  Like the Porter novel, this is a sad story of the passengers - some oblivious, some happy - to be headed toward a Nazi-rising Germany. 

Out to Sea (1997)
MS Westerdam
Out to Sea is one of ten movies made by good friends Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon.  So many of the earlier shipboard films were made in a sound studio rather than on location on a ship.  But it looks like the MS Westerdam was actually used for filming Out to Sea.  Or it's movie magic. 

The Impostors (1998)
SS Intercontinental
Stanley Tucci and Oliver Platt are just two of the impostors in this Laurel-and-Hardy kind of comedy set on an ocean liner sailing from New York to Paris in the 1930s.  The opening silent sequence is my favorite part.  My least favorite part is the line dance during the closing credits, starting on the ship and dancing through the soundstage.  I didn't need/want to have the ship illusion destroyed.

The Legend of 1900 (1998)
1900 is the name given to an infant born in that year and abandoned by his immigrant parents on a cruise ship.  (Exterior shots are the inspired blueprints of the SS Lusitania, according to IMDB.)  Adopted by a stoker, 1900 grows up on the ship.  Tim Roth plays the adult 1900, a gifted pianist and composer of music inspired by his fellow passengers.  The piano duel between 1900 and Jelly Roll Morton is the highlight for me, but this is the ship movie that made me cry.

Yours in traveling through nautical cinema,

Monday, April 02, 2012

#530 Ghanaian librarians visit UVA

When we were so warmly welcomed by Ghanaians last February, Kelly and I had no idea that soon we would have the opportunity to welcome Ghanaian librarians to UVA.

UVA librarians were thrilled to receive some funding from the Center for International Studies that would allow us to implement an international library exchange to complement our increasing international focus and our amazing international collections and services.    

For our initial exchange, we drew on our Ghana connections and invited two academic librarians:
  • Cynthia Kumah, Head of Reader Services, University of Education, Winneba  (left in photo)
  • Gifty Boakye, Deputy University Librarian, University of Ghana, Accra (right in photo)

You wouldn't believe me if I told you everything that we did last week, so I'll let these pictures of our first international library exchange tell the story!

Yours in appreciating the distance traveled, effort made, enthusiasm shown, and graciousness demonstrated by our Ghanaian colleagues,

Saturday, March 03, 2012

#529 Bring on the madness!

In preparation for this exciting month of March, I asked Kelly to name the favorite basketball game that he's EVER attended in his whole life.  After little deliberation, he narrowed the list to his very own Final Four (TM):

#4: Butler vs Wake Forest, round 1, 2001, Kansas City (Butler was up 43-10 at halftime and went on to win their first tournament game in 40 years against the higher seed.)

#3: Butler vs Duke, national championship game, 2010, Indianapolis (minus one final basket by the Bulldogs)

#2: Kansas vs Oregon, regional championship game, 2002, Madison

#1: Kansas vs Memphis, national championship game, 2008, San Antonio (with our Texas family!)

Yours in anticipation of the 2012 Madness,

Sunday, February 05, 2012

#528 Indy, the Super City

We L-O-V-E-D living and working in downtown Indianapolis.  

When we moved to Indy in 1999, we didn't know how much we would love it - just like today's out-of-town Super Bowl fans had no idea how much they'd love it!  It's tough winning the opportunity to host the Super Bowl when you're a northern city.  And it's so fun to read the national media saying things like 'best Super Bowl site ever'.

If I were in Indy today, I may not have zip lined across the crowds, but I would have loved everything else.  Here are our favorite articles, blogs, tweets, and videos:

Super Dashers flash mob at Indy airport

Jimmy Fallon opening in Hilbert Circle Theater

Jimmy Fallon closing night at Hilbert Circle Theater:

And the full-page thank you in the Indy Star:

I love you, Indy.  That's why I'm skipping tonight's Downton Abbey to see more of you!

Yours in congratulating Indy on a super job,

Saturday, January 07, 2012

#527 Polyface Farm revisited

In the two years since I first visited Polyface Farm, owner Joel Salatin's message in support of local food has gone mainstream.
Time Magazine
 In 2011, The Atlantic magazine touted Polyface Farm as a "Mecca of Sustainable Agriculture".  A subsequent Time magazine article on Salatin hangs framed on the wall of the farm's newly expanded sales center.  Author Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma, Food Rules) cites Salatan's sustainable farming techniques in contrast to the "industrial organic" approach. 

USA Today visited the farm and over 100,000 people watched.

So when University of Virginia Professor Rachel Most kindly invited me to return to Polyface Farm today along with her students, I was eager to see how things have changed in two years.

Joel Salatan has not changed.

He explained his farming philosophy and answered our questions in his unique hay bale amphitheater.
He demonstrated the first installation of his newest idea, sidewalk gardening, still under construction in the growing hoop house.
He quoted historic accounts of grasses taller than horses covering his Shenandoah Valley soil.
Clearly his crowd is growing.  He made a few more believers today.

Yours in going to the polls three times a day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner,