March 30, 2008

Art for Obama

Here's a great way to support Barack Obama if he is your candidate or if you like to purchase original artwork. The artist Shepard Fairey has created a limited edition silk screened poster of Obama and 100% of the purchase price is a contribution to his campaign.
Here's what it says on Fairey's wikipedia entry:
Frank Shepard Fairey (born February 15, 1970 in Charleston, South Carolina) is a contemporary artist, graphic designer and illustrator who emerged from the skateboarding scene and became known initially for his "André the Giant Has a Posse" sticker campaign. The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston calls him one of today's best known and most influential street artists.

March 28, 2008

Leatherheads Featuring Joel Kweskin

Well, maybe he's not featured but Joel Kweskin, a cousin I have never met but who is related, because All Kweskins Are Related, is an extra in the new film Leatherheads. Apparently he has about four seconds of screen time but how many of us can say we've been in a feature film? He plays the Assistant Coach. Move over George and Renee, pass the ball to the Kweskins.

March 25, 2008

Change of Plans - Stonehenge!

Pauline was sick and couldn't make our planned adventure so instead I took a London Walks tour of Stonehenge and Salisbury. I've taken these walks before - in fact when Marlene and I went to Bath, England it was with this company. Our guide today, Hillary, was particularly expert.

We started out by train from London and then transferred to coach bus when we arrived in Salisbury. The landscape had so much history, especially when we passed Old Sarum, the original town built around a cathedral on a hill top. The Cathedral was moved in the 13th century to Salisbury and Old Sarum is now just a hill with ancient landscaping.
From there we went through the villages of Upper, Lower and Middle Woodford. On our journey we passed many cottages with thatched roofs which are still in use today. But the highlight on our way to Stonehenge was passing the estate of Sting, the pop star. What an amazing house. I only got a photo of his property across the way because his house was on the other side of the bus - so, it will remain a secret unless you take the tour!
As we approached Stonehenge Hillary had us pay close attention to the landscape. It is dotted with over 600 Barrows which are Bronze Age burial grounds across several miles of fields. This set a context for Stonehenge which seemed more like a movie set having seen it in so many images. I couldn't get Spinal Tap out of my mind.

The real Stonehenge (or is it a fake?) was all I expected - mysterious. I was able to get a close up of The Kneeling Stone on the outer edge which our guide said historians thought was some kind of entrance to the area.

Our tour continued with a walk through Salisbury. The town has many medieval features still intact including a wall around the Salisbury Cathedral and its close. The gates are still locked every night at 11pm.
The Cathedral celebrates its 750th anniversary this year and was recently renovated in the 1990s. The outside is nice but the inside is really something special. It is bright and cheerful. Perhaps I was influenced by Hillary's enthusiasm or the organ that was playing lovely modern pieces throughout our tour. Hillary pointed out many wonderful details such as this clock which is supposed to be the oldest on the planet.

There are also remnants of British battalion flags that were carried into battle. These particularly tattered ones have a special significance for Americans. They were the flags
carried into war against the Americans in 1814-1815 as you can read in the details on this memorial.

This final image is of the High Altar at the East End of the Cathedral, with the Prisoner of Conscience Window by Gabriel Loire. It was installed in the1980s and is particularly pertinent considering what is happening to the people of Tibet today.

March 24, 2008

Next Stop Brighton

Thanks again to my fantastic holiday schedule I don't go back to work until Wednesday. Tomorrow my friend Pauline and I visit Brighton! More photos to come.

Milan and Lake Como - A Slice of Heaven

Just returned from Milan an hour ago. Would you believe it is only a 1 hour and 15 minute flight from London? Actually took longer to work our way through the airport than to get to Italy.

[I recommend clicking on the images in the blog to get the full details. They are super high resolution so you can see so much.]

This was my first trip to Italy and I didn't know what to expect. Milan isn't the traditional destination for first time visitors but I got a great deal on that included hotel and airfare. You never know what kind of hotel you're going to get but we certainly lucked it. It was located one block from the Duomo which is the ornate marble church seen in these images. The church is massive and breathtaking. We actually climbed the staircase to the top and looked out over the city. the good news is that I wasn't too scared - on a scale of 1 to 10 I was about a 3. From the top you can see the Alps off in the distance. Stephen went one level higher but I didn't want to chance my good luck.

Travelling on Easter weekend in a Catholic country I had no idea what to expect. Would everything be closed except for the churches? Would we be able to find the legendary giant chocolate Easter eggs? Well, we found the amazing eggs. I bought a medium sized one for Stephen (although we did consider the three foot egg). It was wrapped in fine paper with a ribbon. All the milk chocolate eggs were sold out but he seemed very happy with his dark chocolate egg. The fun was watching Stephen try to crack the egg, he finally resorted to taking a big chunk out of the top with his teeth.

Easter Saturday the city was hopping with tourists. Everything was open and we had a fantastic wander. Stephen read on the internet that it was going to be cold but it was so sunny that we only felt cool in the shade. We visited the Duomo and then made our way to the Museum of Science and Industry which is housed in an old convent (photo of Stephen in the courtyard). From there we meandered to the Castello - The Castle. Our guidebook said how ugly Milan was but believe me it wasn't. We kept finding surprises around every turn.

Easter Sunday we took the train out to Lake Como which is about an hour's ride from Milan. Again, we had no idea what to expect. The train service was running on a regular schedule and when we arrived in Como the cafes were just opening after the morning Easter services. We walked past a church and could hear a congregation singing inside its stone walls. The grandest church in the small town was just starting a service when we wandered in. Here you can see the light breaking through the incense-filled air in the church.

The lake views were mind-blowingly beautiful. I felt like we were in a picture postcard. The alps surrounding the lake were covered with snow, the sky was blue and the water crystal clear. We took a ferry to Bellagio which was at the center of this Y-shaped lake. The rocking of the boat, clean air and beautiful views were so relaxing that I fell asleep and opened my eyes when we arrived in Bellagio - it was like waking up in a dream. We had a fantastic lunch (every meal in Italy was fantastic including our last meal which was giant gelato sundaes at a sidewalk cafe). Then we we wandered the small town, bought some glass jewelry, visited a church from the 1500s, and watched the waves as we waited for the return ferry.

Our last day, today, was rather quiet. We visited the canals because our tour book said they were good - however they were not. Leave that to Venice. Flying home we went over the snow covered Alps and Stephen pointed out Lake Como and Bellagio from the air. On the way to Milan we flew directly over the Eiffel Tower at night and Stephen, with his eagle eyes, pointed that out to me too.

This was an amazing trip. I would recommend visiting Milan for a day and then immediately heading north to tour the Lakes. The hotel and airfare weren't too expensive but we did empty our packets when it came to food. I think we could have eaten cheaper but Stephen loves Italian cuisine and didn't hold back. That's okay because I also satisfied my new craving of sparkling wines.

I'm trying to see Europe during my last month here since I spent the first 20+ months only exploring London. I think the final excursion will be Brussels by Eurostar.

March 21, 2008

Milan Holiday

Heading out to Milan, Italy for four days. Photos and posts soon.

March 19, 2008

Counterfeit Peeps

As fellow Peeps lovers know this is the time when these yummy treats are ripe for picking and popping. I was trying to explain the joy of peeps to my UK work associates and I could tell they just weren't feeling the love. Unfortunately I ate the box my sister sent over for my birthday so I can't show them a sample.

People either love or hate peeps. There's nothing in between. To prove my theory I asked our current American intern if she likes Peeps - her immediate reaction was to scrunch up her nose and say yuck. I don't begrudge her since I know they are gross. That doesn't mean I can stop eating them.

Searching online for Peeps info I found this fantastic product: Marshmallow Peeps Maker. Unfortunately it seems to be discontinued as this WalMart site says not available online and not available in stores. Maybe peeps year-round would over-saturate the market. Is there a black market for peeps? Counterfeit peeps? Whamo!

March 15, 2008

Leadership in the arts - Lessons from America: Generation Next?

I've written an article for Arts Professional Magazine UK, March 2008 edition, on the topic of Lessons from America: Generation Next? It can be found on this link, scroll to page 9. It takes a few moments to load.

Posting comments to the blog

Dear Readers,

I've created a set of instructions on how to post comments on a blog. Hopefully this simplifies the process. It was confusing for me at first so I imagine it could be for you too.

Instructions are found here as well as in the new "helpful documents" list now posted on this blog.


March 13, 2008

Vienna - Holiday Part III

This is the holiday that just wouldn't end. I love vacations like this - when you think back on the early days and it feels like months ago. Visiting three national capitals added even more variety and excitement to the vacation.

Each capital was completely different from the other. Budapest still felt Soviet. Bratislava combined past and future while Vienna was a world onto itself. In a Vienna tour book I read a quote by Bill Bryson that said, "If aliens landed on the planet and found their way to Vienna they would certainly think it is the capital of the world." (not an exact quote.)

After spending so much time with my mom and dad it was interesting to be on my own and to see how I prefer to negotiate a city. I went pretty much map-less at first. The public transit system is so good that I was able to get from my hotel to the city center in about 10 minutes. I figured I would start in the center and work my way around. One note of difference between the three capitals was the size and proximity of the landmarks. Budapest was surprisingly small. Bratislava even smaller. Vienna, however, was ginormous. Wandering in circles for hours I finally pulled out my map and took aim at some destinations.
Image 1: Stadtpark
Image 2: Stephansplatz church
Image 3: the ultimate Chai tea presentation
Image 4: Parlament

Image 5: Self portrait - me standing in front of a film installation at the Secession gallery

Image 6: Amazing art nouveau buildings with a sculpture looking down at me from the top. Is he takinig a photo?

Image 7: a palace at night

Image 8: Upper Belvedere palace

Image 9: Looking out at Lower Belvedere palace and Vienna from Upper Belvedere palace
As you can see from these photos Vienna is amazing!

Bratislava's Underground Cemetery

On our final half day in Bratislava we were able to get in contact with the man who oversees the underground Jewish cemetery. He met us at the above ground opening and then took us down into what remains of this amazing place. When this It was truly remarkable to see the effort that has gone into keeping this sacred cemetery accessible. Rabbi Chatem Sofer's grave is here - he was an important Rabbi to the Jews of Bratislava in the 1800 and 1900s.
I found this place beautiful because of its mystery, setting, care and perseverance. The architect is Martin Kvasnica. Notice the glass pieces coming down from the ceiling. They are symbolic graves that also stick up above ground. A few were smashed but it actually added to their beauty. My folks wondered who would take care of this place for future generations? While we were there a young rabbi arrived as well as some other visitors so although it is a bit of a mystery word gets around.

This final image is a view from the exit. In the distance you can see the new housing and corporate developments that will be taking over Bratislava's Danube views. This holiday was so cool because Bratislava has not yet exploded as a tourist destination and is just developing as a strong and viable economy.

March 11, 2008

Bratislava and Vienna Images

My final images of Bratislava and new shots of Vienna will have to wait until I get home because the hotel computer won´t let me upload photos. Stay tuned...

March 9, 2008


We didn't know what to expect of Bratislava. You can only tell so much from a map. Arriving at the train station I had a few minutes of panic that maybe this was a bad choice. Unlike the architectural gems in Budapest the Bratislava train station is more like a down-market greyhound station if you catch my drift. But by the time we arrived at our accommodations our opinions had changed.
I found an awesome apartment/hotel called Ma Maison, on and it lives up to the description. Totally modern, beautiful, clean and in a fantastic residential neighborhood. Plus, we're just a few minutes from the old town and castle.

The contrast between Budapest and Bratislava is dramatic. I've been trying to articulate what makes the difference and it seems to be many features. Bratislava has a fantastic vibe, it is ancient and modern, at times you feel that you are in an American city but then you are next to Roman ruins. Because it is built on a hill it feels more dynamic. Plus, the sky is so blue and air clean.

Another cool feature is that this city has not yet been hit by high tourist trade. This is sure to change in the next few years. The old town is just that, very old. The Bratislava Castle was rebuilt by the Soviets in the mid-1900s after being hit by bombs in WWII. It will be undergoing renovation over the next few years.

Continuing our Jewish theme we visited the Museum of Jewish Culture and found an orthodox synagogue. We tried to get into the old Jewish cemetery which was barried under rubble during WWII and was dug out in recent years. Unfortunately it is only open by appointment, but it may be possible for us to visit tomorrow. There is a haunting holocaust memorial on the edge of old town which is a ghost image of a destroyed synagogue. The Jewish area of the city was further demolished when a bridge was built across the Danube in the 1970s.

For my birthday dinner we went to Ches David which is a Jewish-themed restaurant. Old world cooking which was interesting although I'm not into chicken livers. However dessert rocked which made my birthday feel like a birthday.

Other good news is that almost everyone speaks some English.
This final image is the highway which runs through the old town and over the Danube. You can see the old Roman wall on the left, St. Martin's Church in the middle distance, a modern office building across the river and the top of the bridge (observation town in the space ship portion) that crosses the Danube.

March 8, 2008

Birthday in Bratislava

The adventure continues today as we celebrate my birthday in Bratislava. We hope they speak some English!

More Budapest

Images that I was unable to upload earlier.

Mom as professional photographer at the Fisherman's Bastion which is next to Buda Castle.

Parliament from the Fisherman's Bastion