Friday, September 30, 2011

New York City Ghost Bike

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In Greece, roadside memorials to accident victims take the form of miniature churches, which tend to be adorned with candles, an image of the deceased, and other small mementos. In Australia, roadside memorials to accident victims have also been commonplace over the past 20 years or so, although these tend to be small and generally unobtrusive – often no more than bunches of flowers tied to a lamp post or left on the verge of a highway where an accident took place.
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I don’t know if ‘Ghost Bikes’, as they are called, are unique to New York City, but sadly more and more of these distinctive roadside memorials are being set up at the site of fatal collisions between bike riders and motor vehicles.

I discovered the ghost bike pictured here while walking through the Brooklyn suburb of Greenpoint during my 2008 visit to New York City. Unfortunately, I didn’t make a note of exactly where the bike was located, but I often wonder if it is still there.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Travelhoppers: Down Among The Dead Men

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Just a quick note to let you know that my first article for the Travelhoppers website has now gone ‘live’. The article looks at cemetery 'tourism', and visits three cemeteries: Woodlawn, in the Bronx, Pere-Lachaise in Paris, and Melbourne General cemetery in Melbourne, Australia.

I’m hoping this will be the first of many stories for Travelhoppers, and I will of course, let readers know via this blog about any new articles as a when they happen.

Feel free to Follow me via Twitter @compleattravel or look for me on Facebook. I’d love to have you as a Friend.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Nat Love: “See America”

Nat 'Deadwood Dick' Love
In my review of Nat Love’s autobiography, The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, I mention a section of the book in which Nat Love (a former slave, cowboy and Pullman porter) urges his fellow Americans to “see America”. It is such an exciting piece of inspired writing that I thought it worth quoting in full on this blog.

It has always seemed strange to me that so many Americans rush off to Europe and foreign countries every year in search of health and pleasure, or to climb the Alps in Switzerland, and to view the scenery of the old world, when our own North America, the new world, offers so many better opportunities to study Dame Nature in all her phases, and I always say to the traveling American, "See America." How many of you have done so? Only those who have seen this grand country of ours can justly appreciate the grandeur of our mountains and rivers, valley and plain, canyon and gorge, lakes and springs, cities and towns, the grand evidences of God's handiwork scattered all over this fair land over which waves the stars and stripes.

Go to New York and view the tall buildings, the Brooklyn bridge, the subway, study the works of art to be found there, both in statuary and painting, ponder on the vast volume of commerce carried on with the outside world. Note the many different styles of architecture displayed in the palace of the millionaire and the house of the humble tradesman, view the magnificent Hudson river and the country homes along its grassy, tree-lined shores, note the ships from every clime riding at anchor in the East river. Then speculate on the changes that have been wrought in the course of the short time since Manhattan Island was purchased from the Indians by Pete Minuts [sic] for a few blankets and beads amounting in value to $24.00. Then board the Pennsylvania Limited, whose trains are the acme of modern railroading and go to Washington, the nation's capital city. Walk along Pennsylvania avenue and note its beauty. Visit the capitol and let your chest swell out with pride that you are an American.

Visit the tomb of General Grant and the thousand and one magnificent statues scattered throughout the city. Visit Annapolis and West Point, where the leaders of the nation's navy and army are trained. Walk over the battlefields of Fredricksburg, Gettysburg and Lexington, and let your mind speculate on the events that made modern history.

Note the majestic Potomac and the Washington monument. Take a short trip north and see the great Niagara Falls, listen to what they tell you in their mighty roaring voice. Go to Pittsburgh where the great steel works are located, and see how the steel pen and the steel cannon are made. Go to Chicago, that western hive of commerce. See the Great Lakes, or better still take a cruise on them. Note the great lumber industry of Michigan, and the traffic of the lakes. Go to Kansas City and Omaha and see the transformation of the Texas steer into the corned beef you ate at your last picnic, or was it chipped beef? See the immense stock yards with their thousands of cattle, hogs and sheep, and think of the thousands of people that they feed.


The proud Pullman porter
Cross the Missouri river and enter on the plains of the great and recently unknown west. Think of the pioneer who in 1849 traversed these once barren stretches of prairie, walking beside his slow-moving ox team, seeking the promised land, breaking a trail for the generations that were to come after him as you are coming now in a Pullman car. Think of the dangers that beset him on every hand, then wonder at the nerve he had, then again let your chest swell with pride that you are an American, sprung from the same stock that men were composed of in those days.
Note the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains as they rise from the plains, their peaks snow-capped, glistening in clear blue sky, breathe the pure essence of life, drink of the crystal streams twinkling down their sides, then scorn the wine made by man. Listen to the salute of the bells and the whistles as the trains approach and pass that strange monument of nature's handiwork, the Mount of the Holy Cross.

Go to the Yellowstone National Park and revel in the wonders thereof, walk in the garden of the Gods and listen to the voice of the Giant Geyser as it sends forth its torrents of boiling water. Bathe in the life-giving springs and mud baths. Note the fantastic forms of the rocks and trees, carved by the hand of nature, then go to Colorado Springs and climb Pikes Peak and behold the world stretch out before you in valley, mountain and plain. Visit the mines of Leadville and Cripple Creek, the store houses of a part of the nation's wealth.

Nat Love and family
Visit Denver and see the strides made in the improvement of the west in a short time. Board the Denver & Rio Grande train and note the magnificent scenery of mountain, canyons, gorges and the beautiful mountain lakes and streams, note the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, the royal gorge. Now note the great white expanse of the great Salt Lake, as it lies glistening in the rays of the setting sun, and think of the stories you have heard of it until the conductor brings you back to earth with the cry of "Ogden."

Note this bustling railroad center in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, and acknowledge our country's greatness. Visit Salt Lake City, the "City of Zion," the Canaan of the new world. See the beautiful city nestling within the protection of the Warsatch and Oquirrh range of mountains. Walk its wide tree-lined streets, visit the tabernacle and hear the sweet strains of the world's greatest organs. See the Mormon temple. Visit Saltair and sport in the waves of the briny sea. Board the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake westbound train and cross the end of this same lake, one of nature's wonders.


Cross the desert of Nevada, which was only a short time ago a desert waste, on and on until you smell the orange blossoms of sunny California, and the train emerges from the mountains and brings into view the grand Pacific Ocean. See the big trees of California, the seals and the scenery of the Yosemite Valley. Visit the orange groves and the vineyards, and partake of the orange and the grape.

Visit Catalina Island in the Pacific Ocean, and try a couple of hours fishing in its waters. Then take the Southern Pacific and return to New York by way of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, New Orleans, Florida and other southern states. Then again let your chest swell with pride that you are an American.

I think you will agree with me that this grand country of ours is the peer of any in the world, and that volumes cannot begin to tell of the wonders of it. Then after taking such a trip you will say with me, "See America." I have seen a large part of America, and am still seeing it, but the life of a hundred years would be all too short to see our country.

Quoted from: The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, better known in the cattle country as  "Deadwood Dick" — by himself. A true history of slavery days, life on the great cattle ranges and on the plains of the "wild and woolly" west, based on facts, and personal experiences of the author.

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Whew! Now there was a man who, despite being born into slavery, was able to carve out for himself and his family, a place in post-Civil War America, and who did so on his own terms – growing to love and embrace the United States.

If you are looking for something to download onto your computer, smart phone, Kindle, iPad or whatever your preferred electronic reading device may be, I highly recommend The Life and Adventures of Nat Love.

Visit the Gutenberg.Org download page for Nat Love’s book…


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Monday, September 26, 2011

In Review – The Life and Adventures of Nat Love

Over the past couple of years I have reviewed quite a number of books for this blog, but this is the first time I have reviewed a book acquired as a digital download.

The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, is a remarkable tale by any measure. The full title of the book – as can be seen in the illustration on the left – includes the additional words: better known in the cattle country as Dead Wood Dick.

Nat (pron: Nate) Love (1854–1921), was an African American cowboy following the American Civil War. In The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, his 1907 autobiography, Nat reveals that he was born into slavery during the month of June, 1854 (exact date unknown), on the Tennessee plantation of Robert Love, an “…owner of many slaves”.

Following the common practise at that time, Nat was given the surname of his owner, as were his two older siblings, sister Sally and brother Jordan. Nat Love’s father was a slave foreman in the fields, and his mother managed the kitchen.

Following the Civil War, Nat’s father, Sampson, rented 20 acres of land from Robert Love, and the family began to farm their own piece of ground cultivating corn, tobacco and vegetables. Nat learnt the basics of reading and writing from his father, whose untimely death a year or so after gaining his freedom, forced Nat to assume the role of head of the family, despite the fact that he was younger than his two siblings.

The family struggled on for several more years, until one day Nat’s luck finally changed for the better when – with a fifty-cent stake – he won a horse in a raffle. The former owner immediately bought the nag back from Nat for $50, and proceeded to raffle the horse for a second time. Incredibly, Nat, who had bought a ticket in this new raffle again won the horse. Once more the owner offered to buy the horse back for another $50, to which Nat agreed. Now armed with one hundred dollars in cash, Nat headed home and giving half to his mother, he used the other half to “…go out in the world and try and better my condition.”

Although he was only 15 or 16 years of age at this time, Nat went west to Dodge City, Kansas, and found work as a cowboy. Because of his excellent horse riding skills, he was soon given the nickname, "Red River Dick."

Nat Love goes on to recount his many adventures involving cattle rustlers, wild storms, marauding Indians, buffalo and cattle stampedes, gun fights, and long months on the trail, and life in general as a cowboy. His many years of experience made him an expert marksman and horse rider, and when, at the age of 22, he entered a rodeo in Deadwood, South Dakota on the 4th of July in 1876 – winning the rope, throw, tie, bridle, saddle and bronco riding contests – he was given the nickname "Deadwood Dick."

In 1890, Nat Love – who had recently married – gave up the life of the cowboy to begin his second career as a Pullman porter on the vast new rail networks that were then criss-crossing their way over the old cattle trails. For 15 years he rode the ‘iron horse’ the length and breadth of the continental United States, and his book contains a paeon to America that is so beautifully written that I will quote it in full in a forthcoming entry.

I was particularly taken with this passage too: “At the present time there are in the United States upwards of two hundred and sixty thousand miles of railroad open and in operation, not to mention several thousand miles now building and projected … while in 1851 there were only…9000 miles.” Later, he adds, “They carry somewhat more than 800,000,000 passengers every twelve months.”

The heyday of rail travel in the United States has of course, long since come and gone. The Wikipedia entry for Amtrak (the National Railroad Passenger Corporation), states that today Amtrak “…operates passenger service on 21,000 miles of track,” compared to the 260,000+ miles and growing in Nat Love’s day. Further, Wikipedia states, “In fiscal year 2008, Amtrak served 28.7 million passengers,” as compared with the 800 million annual passengers when Nat Love worked across the rail network.

Nat Love died in Los Angeles at age 67 in 1921. He lived an extraordinary life that took him from slavery, to the heyday of the American West, to the rise of the railways, and many places in between. He personally knew William ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody, Frank and Jesse James, Kit Carson as well as Billie The Kid – all of whom he writes about in his book. If ever there was a story crying out to be turned into a great Hollywood movie, the story of Nat Love is it, and why it has yet to be done is beyond me.

Maybe it is because truth really is stranger than fiction.

I only have one major reservation about the autobiography: Nat Love refers to Native Americans and Mexican nationals in quite derogatory terms in his book, where he refers to Mexicans as ‘greasers,’ and when he repeats the widespread cry of the day that ‘the only good Indian is a dead one,’ etc. In his defence, one could argue that he was simply reflecting commonly held sentiments of his era, but to my mind it does detract from the full esteem he surely deserves.

Also, one obvious omission came to mind as I finished this remarkable story: once Nat gives his mother half his winnings from the horse raffles, and heads off to better his “condition,” he never mentions his mother or two siblings again, and I was left wondering if he ever saw them or kept in contact with them over the remainder of his life.

The Life and Adventures of Nat Love is available as a free digital download from that amazing repository of free public domain books, Gutenberg.Org, where along with Nat Love’s autobiography you will find more than thirty thousand other titles that can be downloaded gratis to your iPhone, iPad, Kindle, PC, Mac or any number of other electronic devices.

Highly recommended.

More information

Gutenberg.Org...
EBook: The Life and Adventures of Nat Love

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Viewing List 4

So much to see – so little time. Thankfully we can at least get a glimpse of the world’s amazing wonders through this incredible window called the Internet.

Wesley Townsend Kitten, the principle behind WTK Photography has created a series of great videos, many of which showcase his hometown – the city of San Francisco.

The following video, The City, produced by Wesley, is a time lapse composition that was a year in the making. Begun in June, 2010 and finished in August, 2011, it uses (according to Wesley), about 28,000 frames and 85 different shots – although all the frames weren't used in the final video. It’s a remarkable look at a remarkable city.

More info
WTK Photography… http://wtkphotography.com/
WTK Photography Blog… http://wtkphotography.com/blog/
WTK Photography on Vimeo… http://vimeo.com/24178338

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Bonnie and Clyde – The Hollywood Myth
Bonnie Elizabeth Parker (October 1, 1910 – May 23, 1934) and Clyde Chestnut Barrow (March 24, 1909 – May 23, 1934) were well-known outlaws, robbers, and criminals who traveled the Central United States with their gang during the Great Depression. Their exploits captured the attention of the American public during the "public enemy era" between 1931 and 1934.

Though known today for his dozen-or-so bank robberies, Barrow in fact preferred to rob small stores or rural gas stations. The gang is believed to have killed at least nine police officers and committed several civilian murders. The couple themselves were eventually ambushed and killed in Louisiana by law officers. Their reputation was cemented in American pop folklore by Arthur Penn's 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde. ~ Source: Wikipedia...
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Bonnie and Clyde – The Brutal Reality
Who knows where these clips are sourced from, or how people get hold of them, but here is a two minute film shot soon after the final ambush and shootout that finally killed Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker.

The remarkable thing about the footage is that Bonnie Parker’s body can been seen, still slumped against the body of Clyde Barrow as police go about their work of securing the scene, documenting the shootout, and emptying the car of weapons (two sawed-off shotguns, two “machine rifles”, ten automatic pistols and fifteen-hundred rounds of ammunition!

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

NYC Hidden Harbor Tour, September 2011

I’ve written before about my voyage on the wonderful Hidden Harbor Tours that operate on the New York harbor, so I won’t repeat myself here.

I just want to let you know that the last sunset Hidden Harbor tour is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, September 27, and if you are looking for one of those unique experiences that most visitors to New York City miss out on, then you should seriously consider joining this tour. Here are the details:

Sunset Hidden Harbor Brooklyn Waterfront Tour

Tuesday, 27 September
Departs from Pier 16 at 5:30 pm

Image: Brooklyn Bridge with work boat © Bernie Ente | Inset: Dan Wiley

Special Guest Speaker: Dan Wiley
Dan Wiley is a Community Coordinator for Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez in southwest Brooklyn, NY, and is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University in the urban design studio.

Working in the Congressional office since 2000, he has coordinated planning projects and initiatives spanning waterfront communities from the Brooklyn Navy Yard and downtown Brooklyn southwest to Red Hook, Gowanus and Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

He also served (1993-1999) as an Education Coordinator at Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment. He holds an MA degree in Urban Geography from Hunter College, CUNY (2007), a BFA degree from Cooper Union (1987) and was a fellow at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program (1988). He serves on the board of Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP). His work can be found in If You Lived Here: The City in Art, Theory, and Social Activism, Seattle: Bay Press, 1991.

For Information on all Hidden Harbor Tours, and to purchase tickets, Click Here...

Hidden Harbor Tours are organised and run by the Working Harbor Committee… 

The Reading List 4

Welcome to another roundup of the some of the more interesting discoveries I’ve made as I wander the digital highways and byways of the Internet. This week I am focussing (non pun intended) on photography.

The first two items are two of the most useful eBooks that have come to my attention in a long time. What is more, both eBooks are available as free downloads.

Going Candid

A book about street photography in the digital age. Forget what you know about street photography and read how Thomas Leuthard (85mm) explores the street with his camera. You will find a wealth of useful tips and tricks on how to approach people, getting closer to them and get the best out of you street experience.

As Thomas himself writes: [his] "...workflow starts without a camera and ends in the galleries of this World. It's not about the Decisive Moment or how you set up your camera. It's more about the approach of getting a successful street photographer who will build a successful community around the World.

It's all about sharing and socializing. You will be taken to a journey through the big cities of this World looking into the eyes of strangers. Candid is the key word and you will not be disappointed. Stay tuned for an exclusive book which will change your life as a street photographer."

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As if giving away one eBook is not enough, Thomas Leuthard has topped this with a second eBook that at 99 pages is even bigger than Going Candid, and filled with just as much interesting and useful information.

Collecting Souls

Thomas writes: "While the first book was about the basics, this book is more advanced and contains a lot of personal thoughts and ideas.

I tried to explain what Street Photography means to me and how I see it. It contains more than 30 short chapters about the different areas and topics of street photography. It should help beginners to understand the process of making story telling photos and to improve your personal style as a street photographer.

Together with the first book it will be a good reference for anyone who wants to become a street photographer."

Now there's an understatement if ever I saw one! 

Thomas Leuthard online
85mm.ch website…
Twitter: @85mm_ch

Thanks to the Seven by Five website for bringing these books to my attention. Seven by Five have provided a list of great photography eBooks (including the two above) that are well worth checking out. Some are free, and others can be bought for a small fee.

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10 Things Henri Cartier-Bresson Can Teach You About Street Photography
Eric Kim has put together a great photo essay outlining titled: 10 Things Henri Cartier-Bresson Can Teach You About Street Photography. You will find it online here...

Among Eric's suggestions: Focus on geometry, Be patient, Travel, Stick to one lens, Take photos of children (see image), Be unobtrusive, See the world like a painter, Don’t crop,  Don’t worry about processing, and Always strive for more.

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There is much to discover in the downloads available here and on the websites, so if you are interested at all in improving your photographic skill, I highly recommend all three sites.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Fotos – Beng Mealea, Cambodia

A pair of Naga protecting the entrance to Beng Mealea
I spent almost the full month of February (2011) travelling around Cambodia, and it was one of the highlights of my extended eight month round the world trip. I had plenty of time to check out all the major temples and sites, including Beng Mealea, the subject of this post.

Beng Mealea (meaning "lotus pond" in Khmer), is a temple in the Angkor Wat style located 40 km east of the main group of temples at Angkor, Cambodia. Although the temple was built as a Hinduist temple to honour Vishnu, the supreme god in Hindu belief, there are also carvings depicting Buddhist motifs.

Primary built of sandstone, Beng Mealea is largely unrestored. Massive trees and thick brush thriving amidst its towers and courtyards and many of its stones lay in great heaps. For years it was difficult to reach, but a road recently built to the temple complex of Koh Ker passes Beng Mealea and more visitors are coming to the site, which is 77 km from Siem Reap.

An elaborately carved lintel from one of the collapsed buildings
While the history of the temple is pretty much unknown, it has been dated by its architectural style to the reign of king Suryavarman II who ruled during the early 12th century. Smaller in size than the king's main monument, Angkor Wat, Beng Mealea nonetheless ranks among the Khmer empire's larger temples.

Beng Mealea is oriented toward the east, but has entranceways from the other three cardinal directions. The basic layout is three enclosing galleries around a central sanctuary, which has long been collapsed. Structures known as libraries lie to the right and left of the avenue that leads in from the east.
There is extensive carving of scenes from Hindu mythology, including the Churning of the Sea of Milk and Vishnu being borne by the bird god Garuda. Causeways have long balustrades formed by bodies of the seven-headed Naga serpent.


Danger – Mines!
 Recognise the warning signs. Your life depends on it.
Tens of thousands of tons of unexploded bombs of all sizes, and an unknown number of mines (many thousands more), lie buried or scattered over the Cambodian countryside. During my stay in Cambodia I read several reports about villagers – children as well as adults – who had been injured or killed as a result of inadvertently stepping on or ploughing over mines lying in their fields.

Even in the vicinity of the major temples, mines lay buried just below the surface waiting to complete their deadly missions. The above sign at Beng Mealea has been placed there by the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC), and serves as a warning that mines still exist near the temple. While the immediate area around Beng Mealea and other temples has been cleared of mines, visitors should resist the temptation to head off into the surrounding country to explore on their own.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Viewing List 3

Another in our weekly selection of slide shows and video’s that have caught our attention and interest while trawling across the far reaches of the Internet. Enjoy…

The 20 best NYC movies of all time
Starting with Spike Lee's 1989 offering, Do The Right Thing, and ending with Super Fly (1972), Melissa Anderson, David Fear and Joshua Rothkopf of Time Out online take on the all but impossible task of selecting the 20 Best NYC Movies of All Time.

Of course you will find Martin Scorsese's searing Taxi Driver, and Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon here, as well as the original Taking of Pelham 123 and Woody Allen's Manhattan. Both Scorsese and Woody Allen score two films in Time Out's top 20 with the inclusion of Scorsese's 1985 flick, After Hours, and Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters (1986).

You will also find some less known films on the list, including the 1953 film Little Fugitive (see image above), John Cassavetes’s debut 1959 film, Shadows (1959), and 1957s Sweet Smell Of Success. See the full slide show here…
Unfortunately, my favourite New York film, Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America is not listed among the top 20, which only goes to show that even Time Out can’t always get it right ;- ).

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Dennis Hopper Reads Rudyard Kipling on Johnny Cash Show
The poem is “If” by Rudyard Kipling (1899). The scene is The Johnny Cash Show, 1970. The reader is the great Dennis Hopper. Hard to beat this…


Thanks to Open Culture for the heads up on this. Follow them on Twitter at @openculture

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Reading List 3

Welcome to my weekly roundup of the some of the more interesting discoveries I’ve made as I wander the digital highways and byways of the Internet. This week we’re examining great train journeys.

The longest rail journey I’ve ever made took place back in the early 1970s when I travelled from Greece to London. To be quite honest, I don’t remember much of the journey now, but when I read Top 10 European Train Trips by Randall H. Duckett on the National Geographic Traveler website, it did trigger some long lost memories of that ride

National Geographic don’t mention rail travel from Athens to London in this feature (I don’t know if it is even possible to take a train from Athens to London anymore), but among their ten suggestions they list Switzerland’s Chocolate Train, the Trans-Siberian Railway (Moscow to Vladivostok), the Orient Express (London to Venice), and the Danube Express (London to Istanbul).

Much of European train travel is about efficiency and comfort—punctually leaving and arriving and having a cozy seat or sleeper compartment in which to devour the latest issue of the Economist. But rail travel in the United Kingdom and on the Continent is also about experience: gaping out the window at Alpine glaciers, savoring gourmet cuisine in a restored last-century dining car. Accordingly, our ten favorite European trains don’t necessarily offer the fastest journeys—just the most memorable. All aboard!

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12 of the Most Scenic Train Rides in the World
Not to be out done by National Geographic Traveler, the Boots n All website have coincidentally compiled their own list of the 12 of the Most Scenic Train Rides in the World.

In her article, Zoë Smith mentions Norway’s Flåm Railway, whose “…20km descent is amongst the steepest in the world, twisting through yawning ravines, cascading waterfalls, remote Nordic farmhouses and snow-dusted mountain peaks.”

While this 20km trip last barely an hour, Russia’s Trans-Siberian, journey takes a good week to traverse the 9,000km (6,000 miles) of track that snakes its way from Moscow to Vladivostok. And that’s without getting out along the route to explore some of the cities the Trans-Siberian passes through.

Like the Trans-Siberian, Norway’s Flåm Railway also gets a gong in the National Geographic roundup of great journeys.

Other rail journeys that rate a mention in Zoë Smith’s piece include the Canadian Rockies Railway, the Cusco to Machu Picchu (Peru), The Palace on Wheels (India), and The Ghan (Australia), which departs from my home town, Adelaide. If you are considering a train journey, both these articles are a great place to begin your researches.

More Information
National Geographic Traveler: Top 10 European Train Trips…

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Maeklong Market, Bangkok
Here’s one train journey that has to be seen to be believed, as a train passes through Bangkok’s Maeklong Market. On the surface this seems like a rather unremarkable event until you actually see how the stall holders and the train have found a way to coexist together.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Fotos – Moon Lantern Festival

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The Moon Lantern Festival is held as part of the annual OzAsia Festival which takes place every spring in Adelaide, Australia under the direction of the Adelaide Festival Centre. The OzAsia Festival celebrates the diversity of Asian life – from the Indian subcontinent, to Japan, China and Korea, and South-East Asia and Indonesia (and a multitude of places in between).

The OzAsia Festival and the Moon Lantern Festival are great examples of how our communities are exploring the links between Australia and our neighbours in the Asian region.
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The Moon Lantern Festival takes place each year when the moon shines brightest – at the time of the full moon on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. This festival celebrates the South-East Asian belief that the moon provides positive influences over the earth during this time of the year.

The Festival brings together families to enjoy the beauty of the moon, eat moon cakes, sing songs about the moon and take pleasure in each other’s company to celebrate this special event.
For Australia, the countries of the Asian region are of critical importance. They are our closest neighbours and major trading partners. Their rich traditional and contemporary cultures provide opportunities for our social, creative and intellectual development.
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The Moon Lantern Festival is celebrated by many Asian cultures including Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Laotians, Cambodians, Koreans, Japanese, Indonesians, Malaysians and Singaporeans. For many Asian cultures, the Moon Lantern Festival is the most important date in the second half of the lunar calendar and has been celebrated for thousands of years.

In Australia ‘mid autumn’ is early spring, so the first full moon of the new season is a important time, when winter is behind us and the energy of summer is on the horizon. People celebrate the beauty of the moon at public celebrations across Australia, as well as in backyards, with lanterns and moon cakes.
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In Vietnam the Moon Lantern Festival is one of the most popular family holidays, while in Korea the festival occurs during the harvest season when Korean families thank their ancestors for providing them with rice and fruits. The Japanese too celebrate the full moon in September, admiring the moons beauty and praying for a good rice harvest.
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And yes, despite a day of clouds and overcast skies, the full moon did make an appearance right on queue, soon after the sun set in the west and the Moon Lantern Festival got underway.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Things You Discover Walking - Vertical Carpet

Vertical Carpet, Stephen Killick, 1990
Stephen Killick's 1990 work, Vertical Carpet (hardwood, industrial resin, 230 x 440 x 20 cm), graces the exterior wall of the Adelaide Festival Centre close to the main entrance.

Close up of Vertical Carpet, Stephen Killick, 1990
A plaque attached to the wall close to the work states: The three central figures in this allegorical relief sculpture are intended to symbolise technology, money and innocence, which the artist regards as the controlling influences in contemporary society. Killick stated that the wider meaning of the tableau is deliberately enigmatic and open to individual interpretation, intended to have infinite readings. The figures assume attitudes that are readily identifiable, but their relationship to each other and the scene as a whole is affected and determined by the course of history.

The work was commissioned by the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust in 1990. Assisted by the Art for Public Places Program of the South Australian Government.

Close up of Vertical Carpet, Stephen Killick, 1990
Stephen Killick was born in London in 1947, and came to Australia in 1952.

This post is another in an occasional series of entries under the general theme: Things You Discover Walking. The premise behind the series is that you never know what might be just around the corner from your home, place of work, or favourite attraction, and the only way you might discover them is if you get out of your car and start walking.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rabindranath Tagore Exhibition, NYC


The Asia Society Museum in New York City is presenting an exhibition of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s paintings and drawings.

Titled, Rabindranath Tagore: The Last Harvest, the exhibition marks the 150th anniversary of Tagore’s birth, and is the first U.S. museum exhibition devoted to his artistic legacy. The exhibition comprises more than 60 works on paper, drawn from three collections in India.

The exhibition runs September 9 through December 31, 2011.

While I have a large volume of the collected works of Tagore’s poetry, which includes many illustrations, I must admit to being pretty much in the dark about his career as an artist. In deed, Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941) is lauded around the world as a poet and writer, yet few outside India (including myself) know that he was also a highly regarded visual artist.

A transformative figure in the modern cultural history of India, Tagore began painting in 1924 at the age of 63 (there’s hope for me yet!). He had no formal training, but his artistic practice grew from his habits as a writer and poet, with revision marks and scratched out words on his manuscripts becoming free-form doodles.

He was encouraged to pursue art by his friend Victoria Ocampo, an Argentinian socialite and poet. With Ocampo’s help, Tagore mounted the first exhibition of his artwork in Paris in May 1930. The show then travelled to Europe, Russia and the United States, earning him much critical acclaim. He continued to paint until his death at the age of 80 in 1941.

Exhibition organization
The exhibition is divided into four thematic sections. A section titled The Beginning looks at the origins and development of his drawing and painting. Beyond the Pages explores Tagore’s landscape paintings. Discovery of Rhythm considers how his creative work in other fields, particularly music and dance, enabled Tagore to project movement and gestures into pattern, forms and fields of color in his drawings and paintings. The Faces of the World section explores Tagore’s representation of the human face, the most frequently recurring form in his painting.

About Tagore’s lifeBorn in 1861 to a wealthy and prominent Bengali family, Rabindranath Tagore published his first poetry collection at the age of 17. He attended school at the University College of London in 1878, but soon returned to India to manage his father’s agricultural estates. As Tagore’s fame grew in the West, he remained devoted to political and social progress in his home state of Bengal.

Tagore received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913—the first non-European to win the prize—for the English translation of his work Gitanjali. In 1915 he was knighted by the British government, but later renounced this title in protest of British involvement in the massacre of civilians in Punjab.

Rabindranath Tagore was a passionate advocate for the abolition of the caste system and for Indian independence, and he became good friends with Mohandas Gandhi, whom he was first to dub Mahatma (“great soul”). He wrote the national anthems of both India and Bangladesh. He died in 1941 without seeing an independent India.

Unfortunately, I won’t be anywhere near New York for the remainder of 2011, so I won’t be able to visit this exhibition, or take part in other events planned around the exhibition. However, if you are lucky enough to live in New York City, or are planning a visit between now and the end of the year, why not take the time to check out this exhibition during its four month run.

For more information about programs visit Asia Society…

About Asia Society Museum
Asia Society Museum is located at 725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street), New York City. The Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. and Friday from 11:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m. Closed on Mondays and major holidays. General admission is $10, seniors $7, students $5 and free for members and persons under 16. Free admission Friday evenings, 6:00 p.m.–9:00 p.m. The Museum is closed Fridays after 6:00 p.m. from July 1 through September 15.

More Information
Rabindranath Tagore Exhibition…
Asia Society website…
Wikipedia…
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Below you will find a selection of the many books by and about Tagore on Amazon.Com. Click on the images to go directly to the Amazon page to explore further.
The Essential Tagore Selected Short Stories (Penguin Classics)The hungry stones, and other stories
The Gardener Stray Birds Gitanjali

Monday, September 12, 2011

Project Gutenberg


Michael S. Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg
I don’t remember exactly when I first discovered the wonderful Project Gutenberg website, but it must have been several years ago, now. However, I do remember the sense of wonder and excitement a had exploring this treasure trove of public domain books. This online repository of eBooks, now consists of tens of thousands of titles, all of which are available for free.

I write about this today, because I have recently learned of the death of Michael Stern Hart, the founder and driving force behind Project Gutenberg. In memory of his passing, below I am reproducing in full an obituary written by Dr. Gregory B. Newby. 

Michael Stern Hart was born in Tacoma, Washington on March 8, 1947. He died on September 6, 2011 in his home in Urbana, Illinois, at the age of 64. His is survived by his mother, Alice, and brother, Bennett. Michael was an Eagle Scout (Urbana Troop 6 and Explorer Post 12), and served in the Army in Korea during the Vietnam era.

Hart was best known for his 1971 invention of electronic books, or eBooks. He founded Project Gutenberg, which is recognized as one of the earliest and longest-lasting online literary projects. He often told this story of how he had the idea for eBooks. He had been granted access to significant computing power at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. On July 4 1971, after being inspired by a free printed copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, he decided to type the text into a computer, and to transmit it to other users on the computer network. From this beginning, the digitization and distribution of literature was to be Hart's life's work, spanning over 40 years.

Hart was an ardent technologist and futurist. A lifetime tinkerer, he acquired hands-on expertise with the technologies of the day: radio, hi-fi stereo, video equipment, and of course computers. He constantly looked into the future, to anticipate technological advances. One of his favorite speculations was that someday, everyone would be able to have their own copy of the Project Gutenberg collection or whatever subset desired. This vision came true, thanks to the advent of large inexpensive computer disk drives, and to the ubiquity of portable mobile devices, such as cell phones.

Hart also predicted the enhancement of automatic translation, which would provide all of the world's literature in over a hundred languages. While this goal has not yet been reached, by the time of his death Project Gutenberg hosted eBooks in 60 different languages, and was frequently highlighted as one of the best Internet-based resources.

A lifetime intellectual, Hart was inspired by his parents, both professors at the University of Illinois, to seek truth and to question authority. One of his favorite recent quotes, credited to George Bernard Shaw, is characteristic of his approach to life:

"Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable
people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress,
therefore, depends on unreasonable people." 

Michael prided himself on being unreasonable, and only in the later years of life did he mellow sufficiently to occasionally refrain from debate. Yet, his passion for life, and all the things in it, never abated. 

Frugal to a fault, Michael glided through life with many possessions and friends, but very few expenses. He used home remedies rather than seeing doctors. He fixed his own house and car. He built many computers, stereos, and other gear, often from discarded components. 

Michael S. Hart left a major mark on the world. The invention of eBooks was not simply a technological innovation or precursor to the modern information environment. A more correct understanding is that eBooks are an efficient and effective way of unlimited free distribution of literature. Access to eBooks can thus provide opportunity for increased literacy. Literacy, and the ideas contained in literature, creates opportunity. 

In July 2011, Michael wrote these words, which summarize his goals and his lasting legacy: “One thing about eBooks that most people haven't thought much is that eBooks are the very first thing that we're all able to have as much as we want other than air. Think about that for a moment and you realize we are in the right job." He had this advice for those seeking to make literature available to all people, especially children: 

"Learning is its own reward. Nothing I can say is better than that." 

Michael is remembered as a dear friend, who sacrificed personal luxury to fight for literacy, and for preservation of public domain rights and resources, towards the greater good. 

This obituary is granted to the public domain by its author, Dr. Gregory B. Newby. 

Sitting on my iPhone as I write this are over 50 books, all of which have been downloaded via Project Gutenberg. Many other eBooks have been deleted from this device once read, and many more wait to be downloaded and added to my growing reading list. 

The book titles are as diverse as my interests are. The five ‘Deerslayer ‘novels of James Fenimore Cooper; seven books written by Willa Cather; another seven books written by the great naturalist and environmentalist, John Muir; Henry David Thoreau’s Walden; and Life on The Mississippi and Roughing It by Mark Twain. 

Maybe if Michael S. Hart had not created the first eBook and Project Gutenberg, someone else would have. Then again, rather than provide these books for free – someone else may have decided to profit by the idea, and found a way to monetize the concept (as others are trying to do now). 

It is a credit to Michael S. Hart that he did not choose this path, and because of this, he leaves a monumental legacy behind him. A legacy, I for one, am forever grateful for.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Viewing List 2

Another selection of slide shows and video’s that have caught our attention and interest while trawling across the far reaches of the Internet over the past week. Enjoy…

George Harrison Documentary Premieres at Telluride
Charley Rogulewski, writing for Rolling Stone magazine reports on the new Martin Scorsese documentary on George Harrison called George Harrison: Living In a Material World.

If it is anything like Scorsese’s brilliant 2005 doco, Bob Dylan: No Direction Home, the 210 minute (3 1/2 hour) two-part documentary will be pretty much everything a George Harrison fan could wish for.

The film, which was five-years-in-the-making, premiered over American Labor Day weekend at the Telluride Film Festival, and coincides with the 10-year anniversary of Harrison's death in 2001 from lung cancer. The documentary, which will begin airing on HBO starting October 5th, was made with the full support and cooperation of Harrison’s widow, Olivia, and son Dhani, and includes interviews with her, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Klaus Voormann, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle and Eric Clapton, among others.

Below you can see the official trailer for George Harrison: Living in the Material World.
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Read the full Rolling Stone article here…

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Highlights of Harlem (slide show)
Starting with the City College of New York, and ending with the Harlem Market, the Travel Channel has put together a 17 stop slide show of the some of the best landmarks that Harlem has to offer. In between you get the iconic Apollo Theater, the Hue-Man Bookstore (said to be the largest African-American bookstore in the country), a selection of restaurants and eating establishments (Make My Cake, Chill Berry, and Food for Life Supreme), and arts and cultural institutions (the Studio Museum in Harlem, Lenox Lounge, and the Maysles Cinema).

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The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
Recently I wrote about the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art on Staten Island, New York. Although the video below was broadcast on the Time Warner Cable program On The Beat, and talks in part about a now concluded 60th anniversary exhibition, it provides a great introduction to the museum.

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Concert for George Concert for Bangladesh George Harrison - Dark Horse Years 1976-1992
Bob Dylan - No Direction Home Chronicles: Volume One Bob Dylan - Don't Look Back (1965 Tour Deluxe Edition)

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