Atlantis Alumni

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Boathouse Row Holiday Lighting

Utah and Marriage Equality

The state of Utah will appeal to the Supreme Court for an emergency stay on the lower court decision overturning the ban on same sex marriage in Utah. Some observers think that the Justice Sonia Sotomayer, who will receive the appeal, will punt it to the full supreme court for consideration. If there are not five votes to grant the stay, and observers think there are not, then it's game, set, and match for marriage equality nationwide. This is because a "no stay" ruling will be an acknowledgement that the constitution protects the rights of same sex couples to marry in Utah and, by extension, everywhere else. Yes, the battle will continue to be fought on a state by state basis, but the cause will be lost for those who oppose marriage equality.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Hotel Russell Lobby, London

We've stayed at the Hotel Russell before when in London. The lobby and grand staircase was nicely decorated for the holidays.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Another Pretty Holiday Display

This one is in the lobby of the Wanamaker Building downtown.

Big Band Music On Board the QM2

One of the most enjoyable performances during our recent transatlantic QM2 crossing was the big band concert, with all of the on board musicians combined to present Benny Goodman favorites. The trumpet player is not only handsome, but could play very, very well!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Traditional Colonial Christmas Eve

Our friend Paul, who is a Fire Island homeowner and neighbor during te summer months, invited us to his annual Christmas Eve get-together last night. Paul lives in a house that was built in the late 18th century in Germantown, an historic section of Philadelphia. Paul has a collection of antique Christmas tree ornaments and he enjoys lighting his Christmas tree with real candles.

Don, Mel and Dan


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wanamaker's Christmas Light Show, archival recording, 1983

Same-Sex Marriage Comes to Utah (Gay Marriage, Marriage Equality)

More On The Duck Dynasty Jerk

No one is taking the this bigot's free speech rights away. No one disputes that he is free to spout his bigotry. However, he is under contract with A & E, his employer, and like all of us who work for a company, we have to adhere to our employment contract, which means not hurting the company brand by spewing your hate. Furthermore, when you use your position as a "star" to promote your personal religious-based bigotry, you are then open to criticism, rightly so, from the people who you are denigrating. We have free speech rights too, and the right to call out disgusting individuals like this creep, and demand that they be fired. That is the American way...he gets no pass on his publicly stated hatred.

Monday, December 23, 2013

First Same-sex Couple Legally Married In Utah

To Hell With Duck Dynasty's Resident Bigot

Some people believe that the Duck Dynasty asshat's comments are not something we ought to be all that upset or "PC" about. However, many, many of us are concerned, in large part because we realize that these sentiments are damaging and hurtful and can and do continue to lend legitimacy to all sorts of anti-gay behavior from bullying to gay bashing to the killing of innocent GLBTQ people. Personally, I have a zero tolerance policy for this creep's views.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Our Last Few Hours On The Queen Mary 2

We dock in the morning after a fabulous week on board the Qm2...lots of memories! Photo: singing carols mid ships.

A Fun Group!

This is our dining group on board the QM2...left to right: Nick and Eric (married,) Johnny, Franklin and Chad, Jim and Dan.

I Needed A Dawg Fix!

Missing Bradley and Loki yesterday I decided to visit the kennel on board the QM2. I arrived on deck 12 aft just as all of the owners and their companions were posing for the voyage group photo! I was able to pet many of the wonderful dogs, which will hold me until we get home Sunday and I can give Bradley a hug!

Life onboard the QE2: Lobster Night In The Britannia Dining Room

The "Parade of Chefs," and the head Chef in the Britannia dinig room on board the Queen Mary 2 Friday evening.

The ocean calmed down, finally, Friday morning and the swells of the waves no longer reached 18 to 27 feet high. We were able to walk the outside deck for a short jaunt, after breakfast. One must say that traversing the Atlantic Ocean from Southampton, England to New York one gains new respect for the mariners of yesteryear and earlier centuries. After our walks, we started on some of the day’s many activities. There was a lecture on Brooklyn, called “New York’s Fast Rising Star.” The lecturer noted that anyone who lives in NYC pays from 30-40% of their salary on their dwelling. Dan left the Brooklyn lecture early to join those who wanted to tour the Galley. There, I found out that there are 160 chefs on board, under the Executive Chef, and that each Transatlantic Crossing requires 50 tons of fruits and vegis, 13 tons of fish & seafood, and 32,400 eggs, among many other requirements. Imagine how busy those hens are laying all those eggs! Friday afternoon’s attractions included a classical music concert and a lecture called “What we can learn from Near Death Experiences.” Then later in the afternoon we attended a cocktail party in the luxury bi-level private suite of Derek, the owner of the Pied Piper Company, who arranged this crossing. Friday evening was our final formal wear night of the cruise, so it was back into our tuxedos for lobster night in the main Britannia restaurant. While we have a full slate of activities planned for today, the trip is winding down and we look forward to the train ride home from Manhattan to Philadelphia on Sunday so we can again see Brad and Loki. --Dan .

Friday, December 20, 2013

Hooray! The Weather Has Improved!

Finally, the weather has improved and the outdoor decks on board the QM2 hae been re-opened. Dan and I were able to take our walks in around deck 7. It's nice to get some fresh air and sunshine once again!

Dancing, Dancing!

Ballroom dancing is popular in one of the beautiful venues on board the Queen Mary 2.

A Sample Of Excellent QM2 Cuisene

This is called a "Black Bottom Tart" with Nutella Mousse over dark chocolate with vanilla ice cream on the side. I will have some dieting to do when we get back home!

Looking Our Best

This is probably our best formal attire photo taken so far on our QM2 transatlantic crossing.

Another Busy Day At Sea Aboard The Queen Mary 2

Photo: Jazz and Dixieland in the QM2 Royal Court Theater

High gale force winds, rough seas and closed outside decks prevailed on Thursday aboard the QM2. All the pools and hot tubs are drained and covered including even the indoor pool in the fancy on board spa, which is an extra charge of $40 per day to use. Nevertheless, there are lots of things to do to pass away the hours. I attended three different lectures. The first was given by a U.S. astronaut who was a member of the team that repaired the Hubble space telescope in orbit. He explained the problems with the telescope, which was out of focus when they tried using it once in orbit. A team of four astronauts successfully installed replacement components which enabled the telescope to provide the fantastic images that we have seen over the years. The second lecture that both Dan and I enjoyed was given by the author of a biography of Dame Julie Andrews. He had lots of interesting things to say about her long career. One of the most interesting film clips that he showed was from a TV special that Andrews did with Carol Burnett in the early 1960s, This clip showed a comic skit that was a spoof of the musical The Sound of Music. This was before Andrews reluctantly agreed to take the starring role in the film. Composer Richard Rogers was not amused by the skit and he did not want Andrews for the role as a result. The director Robert Wise prevailed upon Andrews to take the role, and the rest is history, of course. It was one of her great career triumphs. The final lecture that we attended focused on sea turtles, which are endangered due to various environmental and other causes. In between lectured Dan did some reading and I put some time in on the treadmill at the gym. We met with our Pied Piper travel mates for lunch at a special venue, the Todd English restaurant. Todd English is a renowned chef and the restaurant features dishes that are not available elsewhere on the ship. For dinner we went with our group to yet another specialty restaurant, Lotus, for Asian fusion food. Unfortunately for me, the emphasis at Lotus was on beef and chicken, so I had only light fare and left early so that I could enjoy the after dinner show in the Royal Court Theater, the large showplace on board. The show featured a clarinetist accompanied by a jazz and Dixieland ensemble. They were really very good and I enjoyed the show very much. After this rather full day of activities, it was off to bed and I was able to get a pretty solid few hours of sleep in spite of the extreme motion of the ship, which continues into today, Friday. One wonders how in the world people in small ships crossed this wild ocean centuries ago? - Jim

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Party Time On Board The QM2

Dan joins other members of our Pied Piper GLBT group in a suprise birthday party greeting for Derek, our host.

North Atlantic Double Rainbow

We enjoyed this beautiful rainbow around noon on Wednesday on board the Queen Mary 2. The view is from the open deck 11 at the stern of the ship.

Cruising The North Atlantic In Winter

On Wednesday the master of the Queen Mary 2, Commodore Christopher Ryan, announced that he had taken the ship some 300 miles south of it’s regular great circle route across the Atlantic Ocean so as to avoid even more severe high winds and rough seas than we were already experiencing. At the time of his announcement midday Wednesday we had winds of gale force 8 (30-40 MPH) and seas from 18 – 27 feet. All outside deck areas except for two areas on the stern of the ship are closed. Unfortunately, this means that Dan and I cannot take our daily walks outside. Dan walks around the interior of the ship and I walked two miles on a treadmill machine in the well-appointed gymnasium on board. I get the impression from talking to other passengers who have made wintertime crossings on other occasions that these conditions are not unusual for the North Atlantic at this time of the year. The QM2 speeds along in spite of it all, making 18 knots, slicing through the swells. As the Commodore put it: “remarkable given these weather conditions.” Everyone seems used to the pounding of the bow and the quite noticeable up and down motion of this entire massive vessel! - Jim

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Classic Queen Mary 2 Decor

This is the entrance to the main "Britannia" dining room on board the Queen Mary 2.

Lectures On Board The Queen Mary 2

A lecturer talks about the actress Vivien Leigh in the main theater on board the QM2.

Activity-packed Days At Sea

The gingerbread house holiday display at midship aboard the Queen Mary 2

Tuesday was a busy day for us on board the QM2. Rough seas are somethinng that most passengers seems used to by now, and conditions yesterday were challenging. Nevertheless, activities on board continue unabated. Dan and I had a full slate of things to do including spending time in the gym, attending two interesting lectures, seeing a show in the ship's unique planaterium, attending a private cocktail party in a shipmate's cabin, and attending two different LGBTQ group get-togethers. After dinner Jim attended a show in the Royal Court theater featuring a British comedian. Tuesday evening the dress code was once again formal, so we wore our tuxedos with variations, vests and red bow ties, to make our appearance festive for the holidays. Wednesday morning conditions remained about the same with rough seas but no rain. Perhaps a walk around the deck 7 outdoor promenade will be possible. - Jim

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dan In Our Cabin On Board the QM2

A Look At The Wintertime North Atlantic

This photo was taken from our QM2 cabin balcony:

Life At Sea

First, a short disclaimer: I did not write the past few, unsigned entries. Jim wrote these under very difficult conditions. Also, he wrote the entry complaining about the tube in London. I write more graphic descriptions of travel and events. As for the life on the Atlantic Ocean, we are having mostly winter weather and only one day were we able to walk around the deck. That was a wonderful treat, since this is the only large ship that has a continuous track around the perimeter. Otherwise, days onboard are full of lectures, dinners, cocktail parties and quiet moments of either reading or computer use. --Dan

From Jim...yes, Dan and I are having a lot of fun. By now we are used to the rocking and rolling of the ship. We have gale force winds and 20 to 30 ft swells. Some shows have been cancelled on board due to safety concerns for the performers. Other than that, on board life goes on with lots of activities...lectures, films, fine dining and of course, cocktail parties!

Here we are last night (Monday) all decked out in our Tuxedos:

Formal Attire And New Friends

At dinner Monday evening in the Britainia restaurant on board the QM2: Jim and fellow Pied Piper travellers Johnny and Chad. Monday was the fitst of three formal nights on board the QM2.

Life On Board The QM2

We've been at sea for a couple of days now. Conditions are very rough with high winds and 20 foot swells. JIm got up at 4 AM Monday morning to request motion sickness pills from the ship as a caution to prevent getting motion sickness. The captain advised us that these coditions would be with us for several days, but that the ship is built to allow for comfortable cruising even with the noticeable rocking and rolling. We've been enjoying meeting new friends who are travelling with us as members of our Pied Piper contingent. The food on board is very good if not spectacular. There are constantly things going on to do, from lectures to films and other activities. Monday afternoon we attended a lecture by a man who wrote a book about the actress Vivien Leigh. Today we will attend a show in the ship's planaterium, a unique feature on this ship. The aship itself is quite beautiful and reminds onbe of the classic ocean liners you see in films. Dress code in the evening is semi-formal or formal with jackets required for men every night for those wishing to dine on the main dining room. Sunday night was semi-formal when this photo was taken. Monday night was the first of three formal evenings.

The Holidays Aboad The QM2

The grand staircase area is nicely decorated for the holidays.

On Board The Queen Mary 2

This is a photo of the QM2 taken in Southanmpton on Sunday, the day we boarded her. It was raining heavily then.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Aboard The Queen Mary 2

On sunday we travelled from London to Southampton by bus and boarded the Queen Mary 2 for the start of our week long North Atlantic crossing back home to America. Our first impressions of the ship are very favorable. Our buffet lunch was delicious and the appearance of this now 10 year old vessel is excellent. The carpeting throughout, in particular, looks new and fresh and it is quite pretty. We left London just as heavier rains arrived. In Southampton is was raining quite heavy when the ship left. High seas are prdicted until mid day Monday, but we were assured that this is a large, stable vessel and we will only feel slight movement. It's time to dress for our first coctail hour with our travel companions from Pied Piper, the GLBTQ private group that we are with. Unfortunatley, internet connectivity does not allow photos at this time. - Jim

London Tube Congestion

Yesterday we encountered severe overcrowding and service interruptions twice on the London underground system. It seems as though they do not run enough trains on the weekend to handle the huge crowds of people. During the week during rush hour as soon as one train leaves the station the next train pulls in. But on Saturday there were so many people on the platform that authorities had to prevent additional people from even entering the lifts or escalators to take them to the lower train platforms. In one case we were forced to take different train lines and walk for 20 minutes to get back to our hotel. The second time we had to hire a bicycle powered 2 person cabbie to take us three subway stops back to our hotel. What has happened to the London underground? It used to be so reliable, but no longer! London is really full of people!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Hidden Victorian Treasures in West London

Thanks to Jim’s enterprising on-line discoveries, today we enjoyed seeing one of the most beautiful Victorian era houses in Kensington. The Sambourne house survived practically unchanged from when its residents lived there from 1867 through the 1890s. Edward Linley Sambourne was a cartoonist for the famed magazine Punch. His son lived in the house until the 1940s and eventually it passed through descendents, including his great-grandson Lord Snowdon, to the Victorian Society and then the borough. Imagine original Morris Arts and Craft movement wallpaper as a background for French furniture, Asian ceramics and much, much more. Our tour, booked by Jim in the USA, had only six guests and the tour guide, since walk-ins are not allowed. The Sambournes knew all the famous artists and writers of their day, and mementoes are strewn all over the house. After a pleasant Italian lunch with some delicious pumpkin raviolis at a restaurant called Sopranos we toured the nearby house and studio of Lord Leighton, a Victorian artist who was knighted and ennobled by Queen Victoria. He was president of the Royal Academy and his house is totally different from the Victorian middle-class home of the Sambournes. At Leighton House the walls are covered with Syrian tiles and latticework Egyptian woodwork. There are also many paintings by Leighton and his contemporaries in the house. Though taking photographs is not allowed in either house, Jim has posted some pics of brochure photography on this blog, as well as images he took of the high Victorian era exteriors. Tonight we are off to a performance of Tchaikovsky’s ballet “The Nutcracker” by the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden. –Dan

London: The National Gallery

The main entrance facing Trafalgar Square.

More Great Adventures in London

Since we wanted to balance our current sight-seeing in London between holiday decorations (Jim’s goal) and visiting some great art museums (the intention of yours truly) we first took the tube yesterday to Trafalgar Square. The night before we’d seen the enormous tree next to Lord Nelson’s monument, and Jim photographed that as well as the exterior of St. Martin’s in the Fields. Then we spent a couple of hours inside the National Gallery, a treasure trove of some of the greatest art in the world, from the Renaissance through the Post-Impressionists. Dan revisited some of the works he’s taught his students for over 40 years, and Jim particularly loved paintings by Van Eyck, Seurat, Monet and Van Gogh. We ate lunch at a restaurant in the museum, enjoying a delicious shiraz-based red wine, a pumpkin and corn chowder served with brown bread holding a mélange of melted cheese and onions, followed by large salads. Jim’s salad consisted of winter root vegetables and Dan had a melt-in-the-mouth duck salad with French green beans. Then we made our way to the Tate Britain, to see more paintings by Turner, England’s greatest artist, as well as very important pieces by Bacon and Hockney. Hockney’s painting “Mr & Mrs Clark and Percy” includes a very subtle rendition of a white cat (Percy.) We both thought that the Turner works like “Rain, Steam and Speed” at the National Gallery were stronger than what is currently on display at the Tate Britain. The Tate has the largest collection of Turner paintings in the world, but they change what is shown on a regular basis. Then we took a break from the museums and decided to shop on Bond Street, which is crowded with shoppers from around the world. Jim thought there were even larger mobs in London than what he’d recently seen on Fifth Avenue in New York. Jim photographed some of the great windows at famed stores such as Selfridges and Fornum and Mason’s. All around Piccadilly Circus, there are arcades with bright Christmas decorations. We encountered the first rain of the trip while resting back at the Russell Hotel, so took our umbrellas with us to the National Theater where we saw a lively production of a German Expressionist play from 1912, Georg Kaiser’s “From Morning till Midnight.” The acting by the Royal Theater Company is on an extremely high level and the production often surprises the viewer. Then we returned to Fitzrovia for another dinner on Jim’s list of the best Japanese restaurants in London. Tsunami restaurant is another upscale place that was packed with patrons from around the world, and we had some delicious treats, including an eggplant and peanut flavored roll, all dreamed up by a brilliant chef. We look forward to Saturday’s adventures, which will include some new attractions which we’ve never seen before on previous trips to this fabulous city.-Dan