Saturday, June 14, 2014

Metropolitan Museum (NYC) Free Publications

Screen shot of MetPublications Portal
During my 2010 visit to New York City, I paid a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (colloquially called the ‘Met’), and made a point of visiting The Cloisters, that branch of the Met Museum devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. The Cloisters was a short 10-15 minute walk from where I was staying in Washington Heights. I wrote about that visit here, so I won’t cover old ground today. Instead I wanted to let you know about a treasure trove of online publications that all art lovers, visitors to New York, and New Yorkers themselves will surely want to explore further.

Like the online publications collection available at the Getty Museum website, the Metropolitan Museum has also made available hundreds of publications through their own online portal via the MetPublications section of the website.

MetPublications is a portal to the Met's comprehensive publishing program with 1,500 titles, including books, online publications, and Bulletins and Journals from the last five decades. Current book titles that are in-print may be previewed and fully searched online, with a link to purchase the book. The full contents of almost all other book titles may be read online, searched, or downloaded as a PDF. For the Met's Bulletin, all but the most recent issue can be downloaded as a PDF. For the Met's Journal, all individual articles and entire volumes can be downloaded as a PDF.

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but when 1,500 publications from one of the world’s leading art institutions are made freely available to anyone with an internet connection, that constitutes a real treasure trove. Back in 2010, I was completely unaware of this resource, and anyway I didn’t have an iPad which would help me make the most of that knowledge―even if I did know about MetPublications. However, now I do have an iPad, and I do know about the Getty Museum publications and those from the Met Museum, so lately I have been making up for lost time by downloading and reading some of the catalogues and bulletins from both organizations. By the way, you don't need an eReader to access these publications, they can be downloaded to your laptop or desktop computer as well.

The Unicorn Tapestries
Which brings me back to my visit to The Cloisters. There are some unique and priceless works of art on display in The Cloisters, and probably none more so than the seven Gothic Unicorn Tapestries the building is famous for. I was familiar with the tapestries (which depict the Hunt For The Unicorn) in a very general way, and as much as I enjoyed seeing them, my visit suffered from a lack of real knowledge about the background and history of these magnificent works. Even worse, I had absolutely no way of ‘reading’ or understanding the importance of the hundreds of individual images woven on to these treasures.

Thankfully, all that changed after I discovered MetPublications and the numerous catalogues and bulletins available there that examine the Unicorn Tapestries in great detail.

I know, I know, you could argue this information came four years too late, but when I return to New York City next year, and return again to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and to The Cloisters, I can assure you I will be much more knowledgeable and informed, not only about the tapestries, but about many other works of art, and the buildings that house them.

I will review some of the publications I have downloaded at a future date. In the meantime, why not check out both the Getty Museum and The Met Museum, and see what exciting treasures you can discover for yourself.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Photo: Aegean Moon

Click to view larger size
I almost missed this event last evening, but I just happened to be outside when I noticed the full moon rising over the Atheras Range on the Aegean Island of Ikaria. I immediately grabbed my camera and tripod and shot a series of images as the moon, bathed in the golden glow of a disappearing sun, slowly ascended into a cloud free night. My humble Canon PowerShot SX20 was barely up to the task, but I'm grateful for the shots I got. Tonight there will another full moon, and again I will be out trying to get better shots.

By the way, in case you hadn't noticed, today is Friday, 13th. Meetings between the full moon and Friday thirteenth happen very rarely. Apparently there will not be another rendezvous between the full moon and Friday 13th until 2049! I hope you paused to enjoy today's meeting.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

For Whom The Bell Tolls

The Byzantine church of Agia Sophia, at Kampos, Ikaria.
 “… never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
~ from Meditation XVII, by John Donne

The above words (part of John Donne’s, Meditation XVII, published in 1624), were the first thing that came to mind when I woke up early one recent morning to the tolling from the solitary bell attached to the belfry of the Byzantine church of Agia Sophia, in Kampos, Ikaria. The mournful toll of the bell, at intervals of 4-5 seconds each, announced the passing of a local islander. More to the point, because the Ag. Sophia church was being used to bring notice of the death to the surrounding community, it meant that someone in Kampos (or a relative of someone in the village), had died.

John Donne
Like most people familiar with the above quote, I had never given much thought to those lines from John Donne. I was knew them to the extent that I knew the writer Ernest Hemingway had quoted Donne for the title of his 1940 book, For Whom The Bell Tolls. I also understood that the phrase, and the larger passage it comes from, is one of the most quoted of John Donne’s writings, and that it refers to death and loss, and the interconnections between the living and the dead. Here is the full paragraph:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Until I woke to the sound of the tolling bell, I had assumed the custom had long since slipped out of usage, and that other more modern means of informing people of someone’s passing must surely now be in use. But of course, I was wrong.

I must admit that I was not prepared for the emotional impact the tolling bell had on me. The older I get, and the closer I get to my own demise, the more I am conscious that the clock is ticking, and that time is slowly running out. Not just for me, but for all of us. While no one wants to be reminded of this obvious fact, and while most of us are happy to ignore the obvious as much as possible, the solitary tolling of the church bell, was a stark reminder that life is short. So, don't ask "...for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee."

More Information
Gutenberg: John Donne’s Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions…

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

This Island Life: Briam

Traditional Greek dish called Briam
Another recipe prepared by my sister, Irene Gevezes, who lives on Ikaria, an island in the Aegean Sea. This simple, easy to prepare dish using zucchini, potato, and tomato is called Briam. Preparation time should be no more than ten minutes, while baking will add another hour or so. Eaten with a traditional Greek salad, Briam makes a perfect summer meal. Enjoy.

Ingredients Used in This Dish:
2 Zucchini
8 Potatoes
3 Cloves Garlic
1 Tomato
Salt and Pepper
1 Cup Olive Oil
1 Cup Water

Large baking dish
Preheat oven to 200°C
Bake for approx one hour or until potatoes are cooked.
Feeds 4-6.
Note: Irene uses and electric cooker.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Website of The Week: Coursehorse

Composite image of Coursehorse home page
I recently discovered the wonderful Coursehorse website, which acts as a clearing house for dozens-if not hundreds―of organizations offering lectures, classes, walking tours and courses* in three major American cities: New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago (a recent addition).

Coursehorse boasts that more than 40,000 courses are accessible via the site, and I am not about to argue with that claim by trying to count their current offerings.

Some courses are for one-off talks, while others are scheduled across several weeks. Some of the courses are free, but the vast majority have a fee attached which may be as little as $10, while many others run to several hundred dollars. The most expensive course I saw during my trawl through the website was for the iPhone/iPad Programming with Objective C Basics course which cost $3,419. Mind you, this intensive seven day, Monday to Sunday course runs from 9:00am to 6:00pm each day, so some might consider this a pretty good investment of their time and money. For all I know there are even more expensive courses available through the site.

Something For Everyone
There are eleven major categories of courses on offer through Coursehorse: Art, Acting, Cooking, Dance, Fitness, Life Skills, Language, Music, Professional, Tech, and Kids. However, within these main categories there are hundreds of sub-categories that must surely offer something for everyone. Make sure you check out the Deals section for courses that are offering discounts to course participants. These can result in substantial savings if you find exactly what you are looking for.

Coursehorse Vs. Coursera
I should point out here that Coursehorse is not to be confused with Coursera, a site that acts as a clearing house for more than 600 MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). Everything offered through Coursera is accessed and studied online, while all the courses available through Coursehorse require participants to attend a lecture hall, college, museum or gallery in person.

If you live in New York City, Los Angeles or Chicago, why not check out Coursehorse and sign up for one of the many courses on offer? If you are visiting one of these cities, taking a class or short course is a great way to experience a different side of life in one of America’s major cities.

*Note: While a range of one-off lectures, classes, walking tours and courses are offered through Coursehorse, I have elected to use the word courses throughout this post for the sake of clarity.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Hotel Delfini, Piraeus, Greece

After my fourth or fifth stay at the Hotel Delfini, at Piraeus, I decided it was high time I wrote a review of the establishment. Since I have stayed at the hotel on each of my three visits to Athens, you might assume it is a great hotel to spend a night or three at. While I won't say it isn't a nice hotel, it is far from the best hotel in Piraeus. I'm not even sure if it is the best of the bad hotels in Piraeus. Still, for €35.00/night there are surely worse places to stay while waiting for your ship to come in―which is exactly what I was doing, waiting for a ferry to take me to the island of Ikaria.

The Delfini has 51 rooms, two elevators, and a large guest lounge which doubles as a breakfast room, and internet café. A menu in each room offers a number of snack items that are apparently available for purchase, although I never ordered anything from the menu, so I can’t say how good any of these snacks might be. Also, I don’t know if menu items are made fresh on the premises, or if they are made to order and delivered via one of the numerous cafés close to the hotel.

Here’s what the hotel itself has to say about its facilities:

Hotel DELFINI and its staff promise a pleasant and enjoyable stay. Its comfortable rooms, which are furnished with great taste, and decorated with simplicity and worm [sic] colourings, guarantee absolute relaxation and peace. No matter how tired you might be, in our hotel you will find the calmness and the quietness you need. Our rooms are equipped with all modern amenities (Satellite TV, direct external telephone line etc).

I’m not too sure about the “worm” colourings, and since the “etc” at the end of that quote leaves a lot unsaid, let me elaborate further.

FACILITIES: The rooms at the Delfini tend to be small and cramped, and they all seem to have an overpowering smell of stale cigarette smoke clinging to the walls and furnishings. From my experience, asking for a non-smoking room makes no difference. All the rooms I have had cause to stay in reek heavily of smoke, and all are supplied with ashtrays.

Room 44 beds
Looking towards balcony
Furnishings are plain and functional. A couple of low single beds with cheap springy mattresses, a bar fridge and small analogue television, a plain wooden wardrobe, a couple of small bedside cabinets, and an even smaller table and that's about it.

Analog television
Bedside cabinet and bar fridge
Oh, my room had a phone as well, but inexplicably this was located high on a wall in the bathroom. It sat fixed precariously above the toilet bowl, and to this day I don't know if it worked or not. The shower alcove in room 44 was tiny, and I had to squeeze by the washbasin to reach it.

Phone high above toilet bowl and tiny shower alcove
Happily, room 44 was air conditioned which must be very handy during the height of summer. I did turn the unit in my room on, and it seemed to be working as designed.

At least the air-con unit is new and works
As previously noted, there are two small elevators to lift guests and their luggage to the higher floors, while the Internet cafe does double duty as the breakfast room.

WIFI: The hotel offers free WiFi although the higher your room, the poorer the WiFi reception. During this stay I was in room 44, which was on the sixth floor, and while I could log into the WiFi connection the strength of the signal was very low. Actually, to be honest I should have written "when I could log into the WiFi...," because I soon realized that WiFi at the Delfini was so slow and the connection so intermittent that it was all but useless and more than enough to try the patience of Job all over again. Even moving down to the lounge/breakfast room didn't make any real difference to the strength or quality of the WiFi connection.

Entrance and free-standing wardrobe.
BREAKFAST: For five euros (approx AUD$7.50), you can help yourself to a smorgasbord Continental Breakfast that may include eggs (hard-boiled or fried but not necessarily both); bread, sliced ham, cheese, tomato and cucumber; cereal including muesli and corn flakes; jelly/jams, yoghurt, fruit (canned), and tea and coffee. And help myself I did. I figured a hearty breakfast could get me through most of the day, thereby saving me the extra expense of a midday meal.

A room with a view of the harbor
LOCATION: The one thing that keeps me coming back to the Delfini is the proximity of the hotel to the harbor, which is literally about a hundred yards away across the busy Akti Posidonos road. Also just down the road is the terminal for the main rail line that leads directly to the heart of Athens. Oh, and if you are flying in to Eleftherios Venizelou Airport, you can jump on the X96 bus, and for five euros that will bring you right in to the heart of Piraeus.

My Rating
Facilities: C+ (low pass)
WiFi: D (for Dismal)
Breakfast: A (Pass)

7, Leocharous Street
Piraeus 185 31

Phone: +30 21 0417 3110
Fax: +30 210 4173510
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