Atlantis Alumni

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Polanski Media Circus

S.Maria della Vittoria, Rome

Considering the many crooks who continue to go unpunished (including Wall Street tycoons, prominent politicians, war profiteers, torturers of innocent people, and racist hatemongers) — most of whom continue to be rewarded and validated by the same press and the same self-righteous “moralists” who are now calling for Polanski’s head — it seems hypocritical to express so much outrage and bloodlust against Polanski at this point... This represents yet another way of evading the far more urgent issues that most of us are faced with on a daily basis.

Film critic and author Jonathan Rosenbaum gets it right in the New York Times.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Who cares?

Inside S.Maria della Vittoria, Rome

Who cares...

...if Bill Clinton now tepidly supports same sex marriage? He couldn't be faithful to his own wife, yet signed DOMA preventing loving gay couples from having their marriages recognized. He is a scoundrel.

...30 years later enough to arrest Roman Polanski? The girl, now woman in question doesn't. Let him go already. Go arrest George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. They are real criminals.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Orangutan and the Hound

Animals are complex, feeling creatures that deserve better than the treatment they receive at the hands (and in the stomachs) of many humans.

Friday, September 25, 2009

No We Can't

A great Baroque church in Rome...Bernini's
S.Maria della Vittoria.

Bill Maher continues to complain about Barry Obama's presidency so far:

I don't care about the president's birth certificate, I do want to know what happened to "Yes we can." Can we get out of Iraq? No. Afghanistan? No. Fix health care? No. Close Gitmo? No. Cap-and-trade carbon emissions? No. The Obamas have been in Washington for ten months and it seems like the only thing they've gotten is a dog.

Read more at on the title above.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Art Must Communicate

A late season sand castle in Cherry Grove

“We are against art which cannot and does not have any human content and desires to be merely a mechanical demonstration and a cerebral puzzle...A logical chain binds the past and the future – the romanticism of yesterday will again be the romanticism of tomorrow.”

- Part of a document issued by Ottorino Respighi and nine other Italian musicians in 1932

Is this too severe? Does abstract art or music communicate or is it no more than a mechanical demonstration or a cerebral puzzle?

I tend to come down on the side of romanticism.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Autumn Altar

Two of my favorite holidays are the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice. Today is the first day of fall, which arrived yesterday afternoon. I had my own little celebration. It's time to light the candles as the days grow shorter.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fires In The Grove

I heard one alarm at around 1:30 AM. Then I heard a second alarm a few minutes later, so I went to look and could see smoke and the glow of fire in the direction of the center of town. I walked down toward the Ice Palace. Guests were evacuated and standing outside on Ocean Walk. I walked around and stood by the Island Breeze and watched our fire department volunteers pour water on the fire at the Hotel. Later I learned from a fire fighter that there were two separate fires...the first in a trash can on Gerard Walk, and the second at the Hotel.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Last Day Of Summer

We hosted our good friends Richard and Tom this past weekend. On Sunday Tom took my kayak out on the Great South Bay. After some basic instruction Tom went off and looked like a real pro out there. We had a fun weekend especially since Dan and Nikko were here at the beach too.

Well, fall arrives early tomorrow morning and the seasons change once again. Fall is probably my most favorite season. I'm looking forward to all of the holiday festivities that occur during the next several months.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ten Years In Cherry Grove

This month marks our tenth anniversary in Cherry Grove. It was September of 1999 when we finally took possession of our cottage “Liberty Bell,” and took up part time residence on Fire Island. Looking back on these past ten years it has been, for the most part, truly enjoyable living here on Fire Island, living at the seashore. For me it has been a dream comes true.

I have always loved the ocean and seashore. The pure joys of walks along the beach and of swims and romps in the waves are one of the great pleasures of this place. The natural beauty of Fire Island cannot be over exaggerated. I enjoy the plants and animals here through the changes of seasons, from spring to fall. The sunrises and sunsets are spectacular. The sea is always beautiful in its many colors and appearances. It’s a beautiful place to live.

However, you can live at the seashore in a big place like Atlantic City or Rehoboth Beach, or in a remote desolate spot somewhere in coastal Maine, or you can live at the beach in a small town like Cherry Grove. Each of these types of living has advantages and disadvantages, depending on your own individual likes and dislikes. While I enjoy living on Fire Island, I have found that the small town environment is not to my liking. In a small town you are thrust in among a small group of people whose life styles and values you may not share. Yet, you are expected to go along if you want acceptance. Small towns are fine to live in as long as you fit in and as long as you subscribe to the accepted social program and conform to community norms of behavior. Small towns are not for independent thinkers, those that do not fit in easily, or those unwilling to conform. This I found out gradually of the course of the last ten years as I tried but failed to be accepted, and to be a part of various community organizations, groups, and cliques. This part of living here on Fire Island has not worked out as I had hoped.

In the final analysis, from a social perspective I prefer to live here as though I were either in a big city or in a desolate spot, either lost in the crowds, or isolated from them. I focus my enjoyment of living here on nature and the environment, and share the beauty here with my life partner, animal companions, and a few select friends. There are others who live here this way, detached from the small town goings on. They are my role models. Life here is good as long as I keep my focus on the beauty of this special place.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

September Sunrise

For Dan...

Well, it's a long, long time
From May to December.
But the days grow short,
When you reach September.
And the autumn weather
Turns the leaves to gray
And I haven't got time
For the waiting game.

And the days dwindle down
To a precious few
September, November
And these few precious days
I spend with you.
These precious days
I spend with you.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bill Maher's Frustration With Obama Boils Over

Bill Maher over at Huffington writes:

Crazy evil morons make up things for Obama to do, and he does it...

The Democrats just never learn: Americans don't really care which side of an issue you're on as long as you don't act like pussies. When Van Jones called the Republicans assholes, he was paying them a compliment. He was talking about how they can get things done even when they're in the minority, as opposed to the Democrats, who can't seem to get anything done even when they control both houses of Congress, the presidency, and Bruce Springsteen.

I love Obama's civility in the face of such contumely, his desire to work with his enemies, it's positively Christ-like. In college, he was probably the guy at the dorm parties who made sure the stoners shared their pot with the jocks. But we don't need that guy now. We need an asshole.

Mr. President, there are some people who are never going to like you. That's why they voted for the old guy and Carrie's mom. You're not going to win them over. Stand up for the 70% of Americans who aren't crazy.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Same Old, Same Old

What did Obama's speech on health care really mean?

David Brooks in today's New York Times writes:

For whatever reason, President Obama ...has decided to expand the current system, not fix it. His speech on Wednesday, and the coming legislative changes, make it much more likely he will achieve his goal.

Marshall Auerback at New Deal 2.0 writes:

The paucity of imagination of the proposals themselves were completely at variance with the President's soaring rhetoric, something which is unfortunately becoming a recurrent theme of the entire Obama Presidency.

Real health care reform, which would include the public option, is dead.

"Change you can believe in" has become the same old, same old.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Obama's Flawed Presidential Character

That we won't get real health care reform, or much action on gay equality is squarely the result of Obama's flawed presidential character. He is what political scientist Dr. James Barber describes as a passive-positive type:

"Passive-positive is a receptive, complaint, other-directed character with a life searching for affection as a reward for being agreeable and cooperative rather than personally assertive."

Barber cites the example of James Madison:

"The fourth president was James Madison, “Little Jemmy,” the constitutional philosopher thrown into the White House at a time of great international turmoil. Madison comes closest to the passive-positive, or compliant type; he suffered from irresolution, tried to compromise his way out, and gave in too readily to the
“warhawks” urging combat with Britain. The nation drifted into war, and Madison wound up ineptly commanding his collection of amateur generals in the streets of Washington. General Jackson’s victory at New Orleans saved the Madison administration’s historical reputation; but he left the presidency with the
United States close to bankruptcy and secession."

Sound familiar?

Basically, progressives are screwed with Obama in the White House. The only real change we'll see is that we now have a liberal push over seeking "bi-partisanship" at the helm instead of an active positive ram-things-through ultra conservative. George W. Bush always played to his base: Obama ignores or offends his.

We elected the wrong candidate, I'm sorry to say. I was no fan of Hillary, but hindsight is 20/20 and she is looking mighty good right now.

Gay March On Washington In October

Me ca. 1977

There is a national march on Washington for gay equality planned for October 11.

I marched in 1979, I was arrested at the Supreme Court in 1987 protesting Bowers v Hardwick...but marches after that were little more than parties, an excuse to dance and feel good about ourselves. No hard political work was done at these marches since 1987. Is this going to be yet another fluff get together? Where is the plan to close down DC with mass non violent civil disobedience? Where is the anger...and the determination to shake things up? No more party marches for me.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Last Excursion

Patti LaPone entertains aboard the Celebrity Solstice

At the port in Naples

The spectacular Amalfi Coast

We came to Sorrento!

After a day at sea, the ‘Solstice’ arrived in Naples. We had not visited the third largest city in Italy for twenty-five years. At the harbor the ship was close to the Castello Nuovo (or New Castle,) an old Medieval fortress which is one of the landmarks of Napoli. But we did not re-visit any sights in Naples, instead having opted for a tour along the costiera Amalfitana or Amalfi Coast. On a long drive, our bus took us first to Positano, a jet-set town on the sea. It was crowded and full of shops, but set in a beautiful series of cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean. The bus then headed to Sorrento, in an equally beautiful natural setting, and even more crowded with tourists hunting the innumerable shops. Our tour guide Margot insisted that although the French had the Cote d’Azur, the Amalfi Coast is more spectacular. It is on higher cliffs, but both seem equally beautiful to me.

The highlight of Sorrento was a leisurely lunch in the most famed hotel in the town, the Hotel Grand Excelsior Vittoria. In 1921 Enrico Caruso died in this hotel, and it was fascinating to see its Victorian grandeur. We dined in a separate dining room with amazing views of the Bay of Naples. First we ate a salad with fresh shaved Parmesan cheese, then pasta with zucchini and white sauce, followed by a sea bream in a light tomato sauce, accompanied with roasted potato nuggets, all washed down with Prosecco, white and red local wines from Campagna, and mineral water. These courses were followed by a plate of fresh fruit alongside a slice of mocha cake drenched in amaretto. As one might imagine, many fell asleep on the bus after such a repast. But I struggled to keep my eyes open; after all, how many times will I visit that gorgeous coast?

By mid-afternoon the bus reached Pompeii. Jim and I had visited the ancient city 25 years ago. But it seemed larger than ever, and there are reports that excavations continue. Though unable to visit some of the finest villas, due to time constraints, we did see the training ground of the gladiators, the forum, the brothel, and a market place surrounded by paintings. It was amazing to see the remains of such a vibrant civilization that existed and thrived over two thousand years ago. Dust swirled up from the ground, but the wind made the ruins seem less hot than some spots we had visited when in Rome. Saddest of all were the plaster casts of those who perished in the explosion of Vesuvius all those centuries ago. They included a slave with a belt bearing his owner’s name still around his waist, and a contorted dog: these were vestiges of ancient Roman life. Those who did not escape Pompeii in time were suffocated by the poisonous fumes from the volcano.

Currently Vesuvius is considered to be one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, and the geologists expect it to explode again. Yet many farmers living nearby will not move, despite offers of cash from the government. Our guide told us they consider Vesuvius to be their ‘big brother.’ Some brother!

After a last dinner on board the ship, we rose extremely early the next morning and took our bus transfer from Civitavecchia to Rome’s Fiumicino Leonardo da Vinci Airport. Soon we will fly back to Philadelphia and resume our normal lives. But we will remember our Mediterranean trip and the new friends we met aboard the ship. Thanks to Jim’s photos we’ll also have fond memories of this extraordinary trip.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Of Donkeys, Cable Cars, and a Volcano

For our last day in Greece, we arrived in the morning at Santorini. This is the island built on the rim of a volcano. The white houses and colorful churches extend for many kilometers and look down on the sea and a dormant volcano. There are three ways to get from a small landing area to the town of Fira—by donkey, foot or a cable car. Some of our fellow passengers took the donkey, which sped to the top. If you walk, you have to avoid the donkey dung, but no one can avoid the smell of the hoofed beasts. We chose the cable car, and then meandered through the narrow, cobblestone streets of Fira. The shops featured everything you can imagine, including stuffed, plush donkey marionettes who dance when their strings are pulled!

The last time we were in Santorini, we visited the archaeological dig at Akrotiri, but it is currently closed to tourists, because a wooden roof covering the excavation collapsed.
I’m not sure how many people live in the town, but suspect there are more than at Chora on Mykonos. Though Mykonos has around 5,000 year round residents, the island greets 900,000 guests every year. One suspects the figures are similar for Santorini. The view of the ship from the top of the island was incredible. Though Santorini’s setting is spectacular, I still find Mykonos more beautiful. Santorini was our last stop in wonderful Greece, and today we are the way back to Italy.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Return To Mykonos

The beautiful Elia beach

Paraportianis church

Though we’d been there together a couple of times previously, it was a delight to return to Mykonos. The island is one of the most beautiful anywhere, with its white houses perched on low and sere mountains that jut right out into the sea.

We had signed up for a transfer from the ship to the beach at Elia. On the way, we passed through the picturesque town of Ano Mera, said to be largely unspoiled by tourism. Yet despite the fact that there are more shops in Chora, the capitol of Mykonos, we still found the town a delight.

The beach at Elia boasted, like the other beaches on Mykonos we’ve been to, a setting of rocks and sand right on the edge of the incredibly blue sea. We were early enough to find chairs and a thatched umbrella, to project me from the intense sun. I heard German, British English, French and most of all, Italian, all spoken by the bathers on the Elia Beach. We spoke to fellows who lived in Hoboken, NJ, and also a man who lived near London, but who was not on the Solstice. After an hour or so, we headed to a smart restaurant right on the beach. We toasted each other with Retsina, and enjoyed typical Greek food: an onion pie, spanakopita (if not as crispy as our friend Carole’s), a moussaka, and a grilled seafood platter. Both of us swam in the sea, and Jim spent more time in the water than on the land. But, I’ve always known he is half sea creature.

In the afternoon our transfer bus picked up the group from the ship, and we took a tender from Chora –or Mykonos Town—back to the ship to shower, rest and dress. We returned to Mykonos for drinks at the Kastro Bar, which is in ‘Little Venice,’ right on the water. During drinks there, we talked to a group of seven fellows who travel together, and were also on the Atlantis cruise. Then we walked out, past the marvelous Paraportiani church, to our favorite restaurant, Niko’s. We devoured more treasures from the sea, including lobster, crayfish and –unique for us—spiny sea urchins. After wandering around the harbor shops, we returned to the ship. Today we continue to sail through the sea to our next Greek island.


A Visit To Rhodos

The Walled City Of Rhodes

Street Of The Knights

Palace Of The Grand Master

Kali Mera from Greece! Yesterday we returned to Rhodes. Though we had been to the big island in the Dodecanese before, it was always on cruise ships that docked there at night. So this time we had signed up for a walking tour, to see some of the historic buildings. Yes, they are there if you search beyond all the souvenir shops. Our tour guide Irenie showed us the Archaeology Museum, which was formerly the hospital of the Knights of St. John who controlled Rhodes for a few centuries. The Knights were not a good thing for the island, but like many others who came to power—the Romans, Byzantine Empire and Ottoman Turks—realized the economic potential.

Walking up the street of the Knights we reached the Palace of the Grand Master, which also features some ancient treasures (such as Roman mosaics) and is a huge fortress that dominates the town.

This morning we are sailing to our next island, and the seas are clear here, so we can see many islands in the chain known as the Cyclades. The beauty of Greece, with its crystalline sky, always amazes one, and we are very happy to return.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Day In Egypt

The Sphinx

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo

10:03 AM Athens Time August 2, 2009
Celebrity Solstice En Route To Rhodes Somewhere in the Mediterranean

Yesterday the ship “Solstice” arrived very early in Egypt. By 7:35 different groups of passengers were disembarking and going through customs in Alexandria. Our tour bus left around 8:00 AM and wound through the city on its way to the major highways. This was our first visit back to Africa since an extensive bus tour of Morocco many years earlier. It was interesting to see the huge numbers of dusty buildings in the cities, and the throngs of people walking the streets, even though it was Ramadan. Numerous mosques were decorated with strings of bright colored lights, like Christmas trees. Everyone fasts from sun up until sun down, and then the citizens both pray and eat and party until fasting starts all over again at 4 AM the next day. Or so we were told by our guide Reem, a woman who filled us in on ancient and modern Egypt.

After two and one half hours we reached Giza, on the edge of Cairo. We were there to see the great pyramids, including the largest of all, that of Chefren. Jim said that he thought the pyramids were larger than he expected, and they seemed larger to me than what my memory recalled from my last visit to them 30 years ago. With our San Francisco buddies Bill and Wes we walked around the pyramid of Cheops, all the while being urged to ride one of ‘ships of the desert,’ the weird-looking and strange-sounding camels. Jim took innumerable photos before our tour bus drove to the nearby Sphinx. Though carved from a single block of now-damaged stone, the Sphinx still watches all and has the inscrutable features of the Pharoah Cheops, who built it.

For lunch we dined at the elegant Mena House Oberoi, a huge hotel/conference center which is located near the pyramids. Its carved wooden interiors are still beautiful and the tour groups enjoyed the buffet repast.

Then our bus driver had the difficult task of driving into downtown-Cairo to reach the large Egyptian Museum. Though still dusty and with poorly labeled display cases, the museum contains certain unique treasures, such as the golden ones from the tomb of the famed King Tut-ank-amun-ra. Our guide explained several major works. Then for a few shipmates I gave a brief explanation of the ‘Palette of Narmer’ the oldest major relief, which established the style. Probably because the statue is so small is the reason why it’s never dwelled on by guides. The Narmer stele is a document too, as it recounts pictorially the unification of upper and Lower Egypt in the first dynasty.

After the Museum, there was a long drive back to Giza to persuade the tourists to buy souvenirs at a Papyrus shop. We had ordered t-shirts and Jim also bought a silver chain with a ‘cartouche,’ or his name in hieroglyphics. Then we took the long drive back to Alexandria and the port, which lasted for almost three hours. Though a long excursion, this was ‘bottled Egypt’ in a brief tour, and all our fellow shipmates agreed that the trips were well worthwhile.

After dinner and the Bruce Villanch comedy show, we crashed around 12:30, which is extremely late for us, as our friends know(!) Today the Solstice will dock at Rhodes, our first Greek island.