Thursday, October 17, 2013

I WILL DANCE: The Documentary

I'm a sucker for dance.

Actually, to be honest, I suck at dancing myself, but I love to watch other people glide around the dance floor. I can not get enough of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and the other great dancing master, Gene Kelly. Watching them spin, glide, and soft shoe shuffle across film sets and dance floors always brings a smile to my face, and lightens my mood.


So when I saw the I Will Dance Kickstarter project today, I just had to back it. The project is a long way off reaching its final target, but I'm hopeful my modest contribution will help get the documentary across the line.

The company that features in the video is the Random Acts of Theater Co (or RATCo), based in Selma, Alabama. The non-profit organisation behind RATCo is the Freedom Foundation, also based in Selma. When I realised that backing the documentary is not the same as backing RATCo and the Freedom Foundation itself, I also donated directly to the foundation to help support their ongoing work. I tell you this, not because I want to boast, but because I firmly believe that every one of us has the power to make the world a better, more positive place.

Living as I do many thousands of miles away from Selma, Alabama, I may not be able to volunteer my time and expertise directly to the Freedom Foundation and RATCo, but I can make a modest financial contribution towards their ongoing work and projects, and that is what I have chosen to do.

Check out the video below, and if you agree that this project is worth supporting, head over to the project's page and add your donation. You can also donate to the Freedom Foundation via their website, to ensure their work continues to support some of Selma's most disadvantaged youth.

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Freedom Foundation...
I Will Dance on Kickstarter...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wednesday Web: Twisted Sifter

Image by ZeroOne on Flickr...

I recently discovered the eclectic Twisted Sifter website, and have spent some very pleasant minutes exploring the site's vast collection of blog posts.

Under the Architecture tab today, I looked through Twisted Sifter's Picture of The Day collection and thought it was worth passing on information about the site and this section in particular.

About this image, Twisted Sifter writes:
In this fantastic capture by ZeroOne, we see a pigeon atop the Empire State Building, overlooking New York City below. Perhaps the pigeon is on the lookout for its next meal, or simply contemplating who will feel his wrath as he relieves himself mid-flight. Most likely, he’s just enjoying the beautiful view of one of the world’s great cities.
I don't know from which building the picture was taken, but it was somewhere around Midtown judging by the glimpse of Roosevelt Island towards the top left of the image. Check out the Twisted Sifter site and the many great collections of images to discovered there.

Photograph by ZeroOne on Flickr...

Saturday, October 5, 2013

From Spendthrift to Penny-Pincher

It is interesting how travel―or the prospect of forthcoming travel―can focus the mind, and change long-held habits seemingly overnight. I write about this today, because just last week I bought an early bird return ticket from Adelaide, Australia to Athens, Greece. Although the trip won’t take place until late April, 2014, I am already thinking about the journey, and planning my extended itinerary.

I am also trying to work out where I can cutback and rein in my spending. Obviously, the less I spend over the next seven months, the more I will have to live on when I am travelling. On my iPad 2 I have a copy of Numbers, Apple’s excellent spreadsheet application. For the past year or so I have been maintaining a daily spreadsheet of my expenses under various categories, including groceries, transport, phone and Internet fees and other expenses.

The great thing about maintaining this daily record of expenses is that I can see at a glance where my money is going, and more importantly where I can make savings.

One of the line items in the spreadsheet documents spending which I, for better or worse, call ‘Eats’. This is where I add up expenses such as coffee, sandwiches, bagels, cakes and other light snacks. To my surprise, I recently noticed that for several months I have been spending an average of $250 each month on ‘Eats’. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, if I maintain that spending level, the figure adds up to $3000 a year. Three thousand dollars! I could buy an economy class return ticket to pretty much any city on the planet for that price.

Now you might argue that while that may be true, surely I am not advocating never again buying a cappuccino and cinnamon donut. You would of course, be right. But even if I can reduce that discretionary spending by half, to $1500, I could still purchase a ticket to most places across the world, and in deed, the early bird ticket I bought last week cost me $1620.

While I don’t want to turn into a modern day Scrooge, my goal over the next six to seven months is to focus on the journey ahead, and to reduce my discretionary spending to a level that allows me to enjoy life without feeling like I can’t leave the house for fear of spending a few dollars on myself before departing Australia’s shores.

Feel free to use the Comments section below to share your successful strategies for saving money before long planned vacations. Any suggestions and advice would be greatly appreciated. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Losing My Religion?

Bethesda Fountain, Central Park, New York City
Losing my religion? Hardly. More like losing my mojo. After a brief burst of activity towards the middle of the year, it should be obvious that I have again become a lapsed blogger. It's not that I have run out of things to write about. God knows I have plenty of ideas to flesh out and expand upon, and hundreds of photographs filed away on my backup drives with which to illustrate those posts, but I just can't seem to motivate myself to do the work. 

However, lately my thoughts have again begun returning to this blog, and today might just be the start of another revival. We'll see. 

Last week, I grabbed an early bird ticket for Europe, flying with Emirates on a return flight from Adelaide, Australia to Athens, Greece. The ticket purchase got me thinking about travel in a concrete way, and this may be the motivating factor in getting me back to writing. After all, the thought of accumulating several thousand more photographs on my upcoming trip - photos I may never make use of - seems pointless if I don't at least use some of them on this site.

U.S. Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.
As sketchy as my travel plans are at this point - seven months out from my departure date - what I do plan is to spend a couple of months back on the Greek island my parents emigrated from in the 1930s. I have written about Ikaria extensively on this site, and will hopefully write more as time goes on. Two of my sisters have returned to live on the island with their children and grandchildren, and it always feels like 'coming home' when I return to the island.

Following my stay on the island, I hope to return to New York City in either July or August for another apartment sitting stint at a friends apartment in Washington Heights. I have watched over the apartment and the two house cats on two previous occasions (in 2010 and 2012), and if the opportunity allows I will be there again in 2014.

Village church, Kampos, Ikaria
From New York City, I hope to travel once more within the United States before again returning to Greece, although it would be good to include a visit to Canada if time and money permits. After that, who knows. Certainly not me. Not at this point anyway. But I'll keep you posted. 

No, really. I will. See you next time.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

TED on Tuesday: Camille Seaman: Storm Chaser

Image courtesy TED and Camille Seaman
As a keen traveller, I have taken more than my share of photographs at each stop on my extended journeys. As good as some of these photographs are, I still don’t consider myself a real photographer. I am more the happy amateur who occasionally gets lucky and is able to get the lighting and the angles right to come away with some half decent images.

Camille Seaman on the other hand, has been taking photographs all over the world, and since 2003, she has focussed her eyes (and cameras) on some of the worlds most fragile environments. Seaman's photographs have been published in Newsweek, Outside, Zeit Wissen, Men's Journal and more, and she has self-published many books on themes like “My China” and “Melting Away: Polar Images” through Fastback Creative Books, a company that she co-founded. In 2008, she was honored with a one-person exhibition, The Last Iceberg, at the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC.

In today’s TED on Tuesday, I am featuring two short presentations made by Camille (who was raised as a Shinnecock Indian), at TED conferences. The first, highlights her nascent career as a storm chaser hunting down and photographing supercell clouds―some of which can be 50 miles wide, reach sixty thousand feet in the atmosphere and release grapefruit-sized hail. The second short video features stunning images of those fascinating monoliths we know as icebergs.
“Storm-chasing is a very tactile experience … The colors in the clouds, of hail forming, the green and the turquoise blues. The movement, the way they swirl … As I stand under them, I understand what I have the privilege to witness is the same forces, the same process in a small version, that created our galaxy, solar system, our sun, this very planet.” ~ Camille Seaman
Camille Seaman: Photos from a storm chaser

 “It is not a death when [icebergs] melt; it is not an end, but a continuation of their path through the cycle of life. Each iceberg has its own individual personality. Some refuse to give up and hold on to the bitter end, while others can't take it anymore and crumble in a fit of dramatic passion.” ~ Camille Seaman
Camille Seaman: Haunting photos of polar ice

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Friday, July 5, 2013

Friday Photos: Monument Valley, Utah

Click images to view full sized
Friday 19, October, 2012 was the day I ‘died and went to heaven’, and here are the photos to prove it. Ok, so my idea of heaven may be different from yours, but I will take Monument Valley’s stunning landscape any day, over some mythical landscape in the hereafter.

The area is part of the Colorado Plateau. The elevation of the valley floor ranges from 5,000 to 6,000 feet (1,500 to 1,800 m) above sea level. The floor is largely siltstone or sand derived from it, most of which was left behind by the rivers that once carved out the valley. The vivid red colour comes from iron oxide exposed in the weathered siltstone, while the darker, blue-gray rocks in the valley get their colour from manganese oxide.

A very modest $5.00 will get you entry into the park, where the adventurous can embark on a 17-mile (27 km) dirt road route that passes some of the largest and most spectacular land formations.

The buttes are clearly stratified, and reveal three main layers. The lowest layer is known as the Organ Rock Shale, the middle is de Chelly Sandstone, and the top layer is the Moenkopi Formation.

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Monument Valley, AZ/UT

Words fail... Click to view full size
My travel journal entry for Friday 19, October, 2012 begins:

Today I died and went to heaven - and I have the photos to prove it.

Yes, that was the day I fulfilled a life-long ambition to visit Monument Valley. The valley spans the Arizona/Utah border, with the most iconic buttes and mesas on the Utah side. It was everything I expected it to be and more. Even in the middle of the day the setting was larger than life, with massive red monoliths dominating the landscape.

I had been driving my Dodge rental car up from Flagstaff, Arizona for several hours, watching as the landscape slowly changed from pine forested open country to vast expanses of dry desert covered in the valley's distinctive vivid red―a colour which is produced from iron oxide exposed in the siltstone covering the valley floor. In many respects the colour of the earth reminded me of the rich reds and ochres of the Australian outback, especially in an area often referred to as the ‘red centre’.

Welcoming billboard on the Arizona/Utah state line
Monument Valley (Navajo: Tsé Biiʼ Ndzisgaii, meaning valley of the rocks) is a region of the Colorado Plateau characterized by a cluster of vast sandstone buttes, the largest reaching 1,000 ft (300 m) above the valley floor. It is located on the Arizona-Utah state line near the Four Corners area. The valley lies within the range of the Navajo Nation Reservation, and is accessible from U.S. Highway 163. [Wikipedia…]
The American director, John Ford used the location for a number of his best known films, including his now classic 1939 movie, Stagecoach, and The Searchers, while the latest Hollywood film to feature scenes shot in the valley is The Lone Ranger, which coincidentally opens today in the cinema complex a few minutes walk from where I sit writing this.

One of the massive outcrops in Monument Valley

To my surprise, the cost to enter the park was a very modest $5.00. Once inside the park visitors can drive on a 17-mile (27 km) dirt road (a 2-3 hour trip) that passes some of the largest and most spectacular land formations. Guided tours are also available, as are horse rides and overnight camping trips. Apparently, hot air balloon flights are also available between May 1 through October 31, although I did not see any during my visit.

Sadly, my day trip to Monument Valley was over way too soon. The eleven hour round trip outing left me tired but exhilarated, and wanting much more. Far from removing the valley from my ‘bucket list’, the area remains among the top ten locations on the planet I want to visit or return to. When I do return to Monument Valley, I want to make the Navajo Tribal Park a major part of my experience, and I figure the only way to do that properly is find accommodations inside the Tribal Park.

Thankfully this is easily done following the construction of The View Hotel, located right inside Monument Valley.

The View Hotel [image courtesy The View Hotel website...]

The View Hotel is the only hotel located inside Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park adjacent to the Monument Valley Tribal Park Visitors Center. Each of the hotel’s 95 rooms features a private balcony with unobstructed views of the valley floor, and the massive sandstone monuments that tower out of the stunning landscape.

Just writing and thinking about my visit, makes me want to pack my bag and catch the next flight to Los Angeles! But patience is the order of the day, at least until next year. Then all being well, I will make my return to the valley of my dreams.

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Armchair Travel: Rewilding Europe

Rewilding Europe wants to make Europe a wilder place, with much more space for wildlife, wilderness and natural processes. The organization aims to rewild one million hectares of land by 2020, creating 10 magnificent wildlife and wilderness areas of international quality. To this end the organization has already begun focusing on Europe’s huge areas of abandoned land, and on providing a viable business case for the support and promotion of wild nature.

To date, Rewilding Europe has focussed on five regions: Western Iberia, the Eastern and  Southern Carpathians, the Danube Delta, and Velebit (Croatia).

Rewilding Europe is an initiative by WWF Netherlands, ARK Nature, Wild Wonders of Europe and Conservation Capital.

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Video produced by Studio Kuskus Berlin…

Saturday, June 29, 2013

This Is The Bitter End

Sorry, but I could not resist the play on words. I have written about New York City’s famed music venue, The Bitter End on more than one occasion on The Compleat Traveller, and I am returning to the topic again today.

During my August 2012 visit to the venue I recorded the Israeli singer, Bat-Or Kalo kicking off the fortnightly Bitter End All Star Jam, along with drummer Mark Greenberg, and bassist, Tony Tino. I recorded most of the opening set, and now, almost a year later, I have finally gotten around to editing the footage and producing half a dozen clips of the performance.

I spoke to Bat-Or Kalo at the end of the evening to give voice to my appreciation for her musicianship and performance, and she immediately handed me a flyer promoting a crowd funding campaign for a new album she was hoping to record. She just happened to be using Kickstarter to raise money for the CD, and since I had supported other crowd funding campaigns via Kickstarter, I promised to make a donation. A promise I honoured the next day.

I'm delighted to say that Bat-Or Kalo's Kickstarter campaign was a great success, and that she continues to work on the album, while touring and performing across the United States.

I have not embedded all the videos here, but I have included two of my favourite performances from the night, Bat-Or Kalo singing Blue Chevy, and the eight minute rocker, Like It Or Not.

Blue Chevy

Recorded at The Bitter End on Sunday, August 12, 2012. Video features Bat-Or Kalo (guitar/vocals), Mark Greenberg (drums), and Tony Tino (bass),.

Like It Or Not

Recorded at The Bitter End on Sunday, August 12, 2012. Video features Bat-Or Kalo (guitar/vocals), Mark Greenberg (drums), and Tony Tino (bass),.

You can see more videos on my YouTube page.

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Friday, June 28, 2013

My Bucolic Rural Idyll

Early morning fog at Mt. Crawford
I have just completed a two week house sitting gig in the Adelaide Hills, near the delightful hills town of Gumeracha. To be more precise, the property was located at Mt. Crawford, and to be even more precise, I was pet sitting rather than house sitting. I suspect the area would have been isolated enough and safe enough for the owners of the property to simply lock the house up and leave it for two weeks, but having a very active and friendly house dog necessitated having someone live on site and care for the canine, and since it was there―the house.

Not that I’m complaining.

Actually, I will complain now that I think of it. I woke up most mornings bloody freezing (if I may be permitted to use the Great Australian Adjective). While it is not quite the middle of winter right now in the southern hemisphere, it has still been cold enough to freeze the you-know-whats off a brass monkey. Especially at Mt. Crawford.

Alert coney grazing close to house
Still, despite the cold nights and even colder mornings, I did enjoy my brief bucolic rural idyll. Every morning the day was sung in by a bevy of magpies and kookaburras which seemed to be competing with each other over which species could make the most noise at 5:30 in the morning!

By the way, as well as being referred to as a 'gulp' or 'murder' of magpies, the collective name for a group of magpies also includes 'A tiding' or 'charm' of magpies. Maybe this accounts for their early morning carousing and carolling. There doesn’t appear to be a collective name for kookaburras, so may I humbly submit ‘a comedy of kookaburras’ in honour of their distinctive ‘laugh’?

If I got up early enough―I never did, of course―I might have been lucky enough to see several rabbits gambolling about near the house. How do I know there were rabbits gambolling about near the house? Because they also liked to hop about just as dusk was approaching, as long as they couldn’t see or hear either myself or the very active and friendly house dog.

A trio of kangaroos working their way across the lower paddock
Along with the rabbits, the magpies, and the kookaburras, early morning and early evening was the perfect time to observe a mob of kangaroos as they slowly left the nearby forest and grazed in the property’s lower paddock. Actually, the kangaroos left the relative safety of the forest in the evening, and by mid morning they could be seen eating their way back towards the trees again. In between their evening exit from the forest, and their morning re-entry into it, they often spent the night working their way right up to house, grazing as they went. This I knew from the many droppings they left behind, just metres from the back patio.

I know there are deer roaming wild in the Mt. Crawford forest, but only once did I observe several of these beautiful creatures leave the forest one evening, and graze well away from the main house.

My bucolic country getaway. Early morning fog greets early morning sun.
On a previous house sitting gig for the same owners, I was lucky enough to see an echidna while out walking the dog late in the afternoon. Australian echidnas (sometimes known as spiny anteaters), are small, solitary mammals covered with coarse hair and spines that resemble the anteaters of South America and other spiny mammals such as hedgehogs and porcupines. Unlike hedgehogs and porcupines though, which give birth to live young, the echidna (which is a mammal) lays an egg! According to Wikipedia:
Echidnas and the platypus are the only egg-laying mammals, known as monotremes. The female lays a single soft-shelled, leathery egg 22 days after mating, and deposits it directly into her pouch. Hatching takes place after 10 days; the young echidna then sucks milk from the pores of the two milk patches (monotremes have no nipples) and remains in the pouch for 45 to 55 days, at which time it starts to develop spines. The mother digs a nursery burrow and deposits the young, returning every five days to suckle it until it is weaned at seven months.
Here endeth the lesson.

Now I am back in the cosy confines of my suburban retreat, again close to shopping centres, cinema multiplexes, fast food franchises, and within easy walking distance of cafés, coffee shops, and freshly baked muffins. As good as it was to spend two weeks in a rural setting, I am happy to be back in the burbs writing this. Don’t get me wrong, I am also more than happy to return to Mt. Crawford to house sit again―but only when the weather is another twenty degrees warmer.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Apollo On Ice, Palace of Versailles, France

Apollo On Ice, Palace of Versailles

I must admit I was not prepared for the grandeur on display at the Palace of Versailles. The size, scale, and opulence of the place is quite overwhelming when seen for the first time.

Once the home to generations of Kings and Queens of France, the Palace of Versailles stands as a stark reminder of the many excesses of King Louis XIV (14th) in particular, and that of his heirs and successors. Excesses which became exposed for all to see with the onset of the French Revolution in 1789.

It’s not just the 700 rooms, the 6,000+ paintings, 1,500 drawings, and more than 15,000 engravings. Nor is it the sight of 2,100 sculptures and around 5,200 pieces of furniture and objets d’art, which overwhelms. No, it is all these and more. Including the 800 hectares of woodlands, landscaped gardens, fountains, Grand Canals, and many nooks and hidden corners, which surround the main Palace building. Then there are the Grand Trianon, Marie-Antoinette’s estate, numerous copses and groves, fountains and open-air salons, the King’s Garden, the Apollo Baths, the Ornamental Lake of The Dragon, and other locations large and small.

I walked around part of the massive Palace grounds on a freezing December day, with the snow crunching underfoot, a light mist clinging to the ground, and my warm breath hanging in the air.

I took many photographs that day under a dark, grey sky, and the image I’ve selected for this post captures that setting very well. In the image we see the Sun god Apollo, mounted on his chariot, emerging from the frozen waters of the Apollo Fountain (located in the Grand Canal). The horses themselves seem to be springing out of the icy water, following close on the heels of the bugler leading them.

The work of Tuby, after a drawing by the French artist, Le Brun, this monumental sculpture was designed and cast between 1668 and 1670, then transported to Versailles and installed and gilded the following year.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday Photos: Montezuma Castle National Monument, AZ

Montezuma Castle National Monument 
Montezuma Castle National Monument is located in Arizona, approximately 140 km (87 mi) north of Phoenix, and about 80 km (50 mi) south of Flagstaff. I wrote more about my visit to the monument here, so for my Friday Photos feature today I thought I would post some more images from that amazing site.

Click images to view full sized
The Native Community
Numerous information panels provide interesting historical and cultural facts about the cliff-dwellings, and the surrounding landscape.

Mysterious Departures
The five-story stone and mortar dwellings contained 20 rooms and once housed about 50 people.

View of brickwork and roof supports
Neither part of the monument's name is correct. More like a prehistoric high rise apartment complex than a castle, the site was abandoned by the Sinagua 100 years before Montezuma was born.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

No access to the ruins themselves has been allowed since 1950 due to extensive damage of the dwelling, and the unstable nature of the limestone cliff face.

Diorama of cliff dwellings
This architecturally correct diorama gives visitors an idea of the internal layout of cliff-dwellings.

Diorama of cliff dwellings
Montezuma Castle National Monument was one of four original sites designated National Monuments by President Theodore Roosevelt in December 1906. The Monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in October, 1966.

Spectacular Cliff Dwellings in the Southwest 

Click images to view full sized.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Apple’s for Adelaide. Better Late Than Never?

A wall of glass greets the faithful to the Adelaide Apple Store
How many years has it been since Apple Inc began setting up their Apple Stores around the world? According to Wikipedia: “On May 19, 2001, Apple opened the first official Apple Retail Stores in Virginia and California. As of November 2012, Apple maintains 394 retail stores in fourteen countries as well as the online Apple Store and iTunes Store.”

To answer my own question then, it has been 12 years since Apple opened their first store. And make that figure 395 retail stores and counting. I mention this because a few weeks ago (May 25, 2013) Apple Inc opened its first Adelaide store in the heart of the city in Rundle Mall. I wish the venture every success, but I can’t help wondering if it may be arriving a little too late. I mean, it is not as if Apple products are impossible to find here. Not when pretty much every telecoms shop, Harvey Norman, JB-HiFi, and Dick Smith store sell Apple products. And let’s not forget every major department store, and a host of other outlets. Oh, and of course, there are the stores that specialize exclusively in Apple products such as Next Byte and others.

And just to show how my timing is off―as usual―the Adelaide Apple store opened less than a month after I traded in my old iPhone 3GS for the latest Galaxy S4. Oh, well. Better late than never, I guess. Good luck Apple. It is good to see you here, at last.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

TED on Tuesday: Janine Shepherd: From Paraplegic to Pilot

Australian speakers seem to be few and far between on TED, so I was particularly pleased to watch this talk by the former cross-country skier, Janine Shepherd.

Janine was aiming for an Olympic medal―until she was hit by a truck during a training bike ride through the Blue Mountains (60-90 minutes from Sydney). Shephard’s doctors did not expect her to survive, and when she did, they warned her that she would never walk again. But she not only learned to walk again―she learned to fly.

Janine focused intently for years on healing both her broken body and crushed morale. A turning point came watching small planes flying overhead. She decided: “If I can’t walk, I’ll fly.” While still in a full body cast, Janine was lifted into an aircraft for her first flight. Within a year she had her private pilot’s license. Later, she earned her commercial pilots license and instructor’s rating. Janine recently served on the board of Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and became its youngest­―and only―female director.

Despite being a walking paraplegic, Janine Shepherd is also a pilot and aerobatics instructor, as well as a powerful motivational speaker and author. In this TED talk she shares her inspirational story about the human potential for recovery. Her message: you are not your body, and giving up old dreams can allow new ones to soar.

Today, Janine is the patron of the Australasian Spinal Research Trust and is committed to helping find a cure for spinal cord injury in the near future. In the meantime, she seeks to inspire those coping with physical disability. She is the author of five books, including Never Tell Me Never. And while doctors told her after her accident that she would never have children, she now is a mother of three.

This 19 minute TED talk was first posted in November 2012.

“It [doesn't matter] what you look like, where you come from, or what you do for a living. All that matters is that we continue to fan the flame of humanity by living our lives as the ultimate creative expression of who we really are.” ~ Janine Shepherd

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Armchair Travel: The Beat Of New York

Screenshot only

TIM HAHNE is not only the founder of StereoScreen, but also a multi-talented visual artist who loves to combine style and content with a very unique pictorial language. Tim started his professional career in 1994, and has mainly been working as a director, but also shoots, cuts, writes and composes music.

His film “24 HOURS in 19500 FRAMES” about the 24 Hour Nürburgring car race was an international success in 2010. Following that, the BBC Top Gear program gave him the nickname “Car Telly Guru.” However, today’s Armchair Travel video seems to be the short film that helped propel him into the limelight after it was first posted to Vimeo in January 2010. Since then, The Beat Of New York has become a benchmark for modern editing, mixed with contemporary sound design. Since its début Tim’s Vimeo site has attracted millions of visitors, with this video itself gathering more than 600,000 views.   

About The Beat of New York, Tim writes that Thomas Noesner, the Director of Photography for StereoScreen, was in New York for a Mercedes shoot. Right after the job, he took his camera and strolled through the bustling streets of New York City. Tim adds, “While screening the pictures of a drummer in the tube station, I had the idea of creating a remix of the recorded drum sequence to use it as a soundtrack for the film. That’s when our sound designer Toussaint came into play. We simply composed a track around the drum beat of this guy. Watch and listen to the beat of New York!”

Want to see more? Last year, Tim co-directed the most watched commercial in U.S. television history―the 2012 Superbowl ad for Cadillac, which you can see here on YouTube. And make sure you visit Tim’s Vimeo page to see more of his excellent work.

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Hotel Brunswick, Lancaster, PA

Updated April 2016. Please note, this review refers to the former Hotel Brunswick in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and in no way reflects or refers to the new Hotel Lancaster which today occupies the same building. At the end of this review I wrote, "... the current owners/managers must pay more attention to details, and push staff to provide a better, friendlier service - and they need to do it soon, or the hotel may continue its decline beyond the point of no return."

That 'point of no return' occurred in late 2013, when the hotel was closed down and taken over by new owners who have refurbished the building and rebadged it as the Hotel LancasterThe transformation from the old rundown hotel into an updated and renamed hotel seems to have given the building a completely new 'lease of life', so much so that the reviews on TripAdvisor and other sites are today overwhelmingly positive, whereas once they were almost all negative. I was tempted to delete this post, but have decided to keep it for historical purposes.
- o0o -

The Hotel Brunswick in Lancaster, Pennsylvania promotes itself as “A full service hotel with a three-star rating to accommodate all your needs while travelling. We boast 221 spacious rooms and over 12,000 sq. feet of meeting and banquet space for conventions and family gatherings.”

I like to make a point of being as honest and as positive as possible with my reviews, but quite frankly I had to work hard to be positive reviewing the Brunswick. The hotel website is full of beautifully presented images that do not always reflect what I saw during my five night stay during August 2012. In fact, on initially viewing the website I thought I was looking at a completely different hotel.

An image on the hotel website shows a group of uniformed, smiling staff who look like they are bursting with energy and enthusiasm, and who want nothing more than to please hotel guests. I suspect this is a stock photo image, or at best reflects much better days for the hotel. I saw no uniformed staff during my stay, and while the few staff I did see carried out their duties well enough, reception staff came across as mostly bored and indifferent. However, my stay was not a disaster by any means, and I even extended my initial three night stay by an extra two nights.

Room 912 bathroom had plenty of towels, mini shampoo, and hair dryer, etc
LOCATION: The Hotel Brunswick is located in the heart of historic downtown Lancaster. Within walking distance of the hotel are many restaurants, the city’s famous Central Market, Fulton Opera House and numerous shops and art galleries. The hotel is also directly opposite the local bus station which is perfect for travellers (like myself) who don't have their own transport. Note: the Greyhound/Amtrak terminal is about 3/4 of a mile away at the end of North Queen Street. For those visitors with their own vehicles, a privately run parking garage is located right next to the Hotel Brunswick. Separate fees apply when using this facility.

Room 912 general view
FACILITIES: Room 912 had everything most travellers would expect to find in a typical hotel room and while I have no complaints about the size of the room or its amenities, it was immediately obvious on entering (judging by the bits of paper and other detritus on the floor), that the carpet had not been vacuumed for what seemed like several days.

Other facilities listed on the hotel website include:
Free Wireless Internet service [which worked fine for my purposes]
Cable TV and Showtime Channels [umm, can’t remember much about these]
Voice Mail [if it was available, I never used it]
Coffee Maker, Ironing Board/Iron, and Hair Dryer [yes]
Individual Climate Control [yes, if they mean the ability to adjust the air-con yourself. In fact, the air-con unit in my room was so efficient that I had to turn the temperature up to warm the room. And this was during August.]

BREAKFAST: Breakfast was passable (two cereals, bread for toast, frozen waffles, mini-muffins, coffee, apple and orange juice, etc.), but the service was very poor. Sometimes there were not enough plates, and at other times, no napkins, or the coffee had run out. To cap it all off, no one appeared responsible for cleaning tables after they had been vacated, which often meant tables were smeared with jelly and butter, or covered with food crumbs of one type or other.

Large comfortable queen size beds
GENERAL IMPRESSIONS: According to the ‘History’ section of the hotel’s website, “The property operated under the “Hotel Brunswick” name until June of 2001 when it acquired the “Ramada” flag and was named the “Ramada Inn Brunswick Conference Center.” In February of 2005 the hotel was purchased out of bankruptcy [my emphasis] by a California based company and the “Ramada Flag” was removed. The hotel owners decided to keep the historic name of “HOTEL BRUNSWICK.”

Clearly, the hotel has seen better times, and even though it apparently underwent some renovations a couple of years ago, it looks like it has never quite recovered from the financial crisis that hit in 2010. It is possible that renovations are still taking place at the hotel, albeit very slowly, which might account for the very divergent reviews for the Brunswick that can be found on TripAdvisor and other websites. The website advertises an on-site restaurant but it was not operating during my stay, and I would venture to say that the restaurant has not operated there for quite some time, although the dining area was being used as the breakfast space.

Room 912, general view
I checked the hotel website while writing this entry. Under the ‘Dining’ tab, the site states clearly that, "Our restaurant & lounge are temporarily closed.” However, under the ‘Guest Rooms’ section of the website, I found this: “The Hotel Brunswick offers an on-site restaurant and versatile meeting rooms.” I can’t vouch for the meeting rooms, but I am prepared to guess that the restaurant and lounge are still closed. It seems little has changed in that respect in the ten months since my stay.

Despite everything I have written, the Brunswick was not the dump some reviewers seem to think it is. Yes, the escalators leading to the reception area were not working while I was there (and still appear to be out of order), however the lifts were and still are operational.

The view from room 912 overlooking Lancaster Square
The excellent location and the great price make the Brunswick a perfect place from which to explore the city of Lancaster and the surrounding Amish country. However, the current owners/managers must pay more attention to details, and push staff to provide a better, friendlier service - and they need to do it soon, or the hotel may continue its decline beyond the point of no return.

Here is a short video I put together from footage recorded just after my arrival in room 912:

151, North Queen Street, Lancaster, PA. Ph: (717) 397-4801
Stay: Five nights (August 24-August 28, 2012).
Rate: $52.75 (average/night incl. tax). Room: 912.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Friday Photos: Morning Glory

The Morning Star, Venus, hovers above a rising sun
My photographs today, feature a selection of images taken during the early morning hours, either before the sun had risen above the horizon, or soon after. In the image above, you can see what is popularly known as the ‘morning star’, although the planet’s official name is of course, Venus (also known as the ‘evening star’).

Early morning countryside. Mr Fox is out there somewhere.

Early morning country field somewhere along Australia’s Mallee Highway (Route B12), not far from the Victoria country town, Ouyen. I remember watching as a fox slowly loped across this open field, while presumably on its way back to its den after a night out foraging for food. I had pulled into a parking bay along the highway the night before where I slept in the back of my station wagon.

The Mulwala Bridge linking Victoria and New South Wales

Early morning at Lake Mulwala, where the twin towns of Yarrawonga (in Victoria), and Mulwala (in New South Wales) are joined together by the Mulwala Bridge, seen here soon after dawn. The name, Yarrawonga, is thought to be derived from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘place where the wonga pigeon rested’. Mulwala derives its name from an aboriginal word for 'rain'.

Early morning fog haze over Sydney

The early morning sun is rising through a haze of fog in the image seen above. This, and the photo below was taken during a visit to Sydney in 2009. In the image below, the sun has risen higher and is burning away the morning mist to promise a beautiful day out and about on Sydney Harbor.

Early morning Sydney skyline

Someone to watch over me. My early morning 'angel'.

And finally, the early morning sun throws my shadow 50 feet just before continuing my 2009 road trip from Adelaide to Sydney.

Click images to view larger sizes.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Boy Who Cried, Wolf!

“Look at the dog chasing the man,” said the boy, who seemed to be around seven or eight years of age.

“What are you talking about?” asked his mother in obvious confusion.

“There,” said the boy, “see, there’s a dog chasing a man?”

It was late on a Friday evening in mid-September, when I, and a group of 20-30 international and American visitors, gathered close to the edge of Grand Canyon’s south rim to watch as a perfect autumn day drew to a close, and long shadows began to rise and stretch across canyon walls away to the north.

The young boy pointed off into the evening haze, and dozens of curious visitors followed the direction of his outstretched hand to look for the ‘dog chasing the man’.

Eventually, even the oldest pair of eyes watched in wonder as the two shadows seen in the image above slowly grew, stretched and changed shape as the sun settled lower in the west.

I don’t know if the child’s parents had ever told the lad the story of The Boy Who Cried, Wolf, but memories of that old folk tale come to mind each time I look at this image, and I remember the boy who taught me once again, the simple pleasures of looking at the world through the eyes of a child.
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