Saturday, February 24, 2018
The 90th Annual Academy Awards Ceremonies falls on Sunday, March 4th, this year. Who will win that coveted statuette? Who will be taking home an Oscar®?
There are many people in the movie industry who are considered legends, those who received multiple nominations over the years and deserved the Academy Award but never received that elusive prize. Some of the names will even strike you as What? That can't be true. He/She must have won at least once.
So, in no particular order, here is a cross-section of very deserving movie legends who were often nominated but missed out on the grand prize of the movie industry's top award.
1) Alfred Hitchcock
With a string of directorial masterpieces to his credit, he never won one of the prized statuettes for directing. However, in 1968 he was presented an honorary Oscar® for his lifetime body of work.
2) Cary Grant
He made it look easy which sometimes prevented people from realizing just how good he was—adept at drama and light comedy (and even slapstick, after all he started his career as a vaudeville acrobat in England which certainly equipped him with the dexterity and coordination to do physical comedy). Considered by many to be the epitome of the romantic leading man. However, in 1970 he was presented an honorary Oscar® for his lifetime body of work.
3) Peter O'Toole
He holds the record for the most Best Actor nominations (8) without a win with his most famous role probably Lawrence of Arabia. My personal favorite of Peter O'Toole's films is My Favorite Year, one of his few comedy films. However, in 2003 he was presented an honorary Oscar® for his lifetime body of work.
4) Deborah Kerr
With many outstanding roles, certainly From Here To Eternity and also The King And I, she was nominated six times but no wins. However, in 1994 she was presented an honorary Oscar® for her lifetime body of work.
5) Richard Burton
Many outstanding performances including an exceptional one in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Wolfe. Six nominations, five of them for Best Actor, but no wins.
6) Albert Finney
The British actor is probably best known for Tom Jones, one of his earlier films. He's garnered five nominations but no wins. My favorite Albert Finney film is Murder On The Orient Express with his marvelous portrayal of Hercule Poirot (supported by an incredible cast including several Oscar® winners and nominees, among them multiple Oscar® winner Ingrid Bergman who won an Oscar® for Best Supporting Actress in Murder On The Orient Express).
7) Angela Lansbury
Today she's best known for her award winning role of Jessica Fletcher, the retired school teacher turned mystery novelist and amateur sleuth in the long running television series Murder, She Wrote. In addition to television, she has an impressive string of Tony award winning Broadway performances. But oddly enough, even though she started her career in films and received three Oscar® nominations, it's the acting award that has remained elusive. My favorite of her Oscar® nominations was for a riveting performance in the original film version of The Manchurian Candidate with Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey (she played Laurence Harvey's mother even though they were only a few months apart in age).
8) Fred Astaire
Although best known for a stellar career in a long string of very successful musicals (many with his long time partner, Ginger Rogers), his one and only nomination came for a dramatic role in Towering Inferno. I remember being pleasantly surprised when I saw his excellent performance in his first dramatic role, 1959's On The Beach—a story of nuclear war aftermath starring Gregory Peck.
9) Charlie Chaplin
He is one of the most pivotal stars of the early days of Hollywood. Even though he never won for either acting or directing, I wasn't sure whether to add him to this list of never won an Oscar® because he did win one for Best Original Musical Score in 1952 for Limelight. However, in 1972 he was presented with an honorary Oscar® for his lifetime body of work and received the longest standing ovation in Academy Awards history (over twelve minutes).
There are, of course, many more nominated actors/actresses/directors who deserve but haven't yet had their name engraved on an Oscar®.
Saturday, February 17, 2018
Taking a tour of a salt mine? On the surface, it seems like a strange way to spend a day. What could be so interesting about seeing miners dig salt out of the ground? After all, it's not like taking a tour of a location steeped in history such as the Alamo or the Tower of London. Or a famous government building such as the White House. Or a tour of an interesting city such as San Francisco.
But a salt mine? You'll be surprised…
WIELICZKA SALT MINE IN KRAKOW, POLAND. I saw a segment on the Travel Channel about this unusual tourist attraction. The mine consists of a lot more than just the tunnels and pits where they have been extracting salt for approximately 700 years (one of Europe's oldest salt mines). It was opened in the 13th century with commercial mining discontinued in 1996 but it continued to produce table salt until 2007. This is a unique tourist attraction and is listed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list.
The tour is spread out over the three upper levels of the mine complex, ranging from 64 to 135 meters (208 to 439 feet) below ground. You'll need to take nearly 400 steps down to the mine but there is an elevator that returns visitors to the surface. Tourists can walk the 3 kilometers (1.8 mile) trail through a collection of objects related to the mine and mining industry over the centuries. You'll see underground lakes. But perhaps the most surprising and fascinating feature of this salt mine is all the works of art made by the miners themselves over the centuries, hand hewn entirely of solid salt—statues, frescos, beautifully adorned chapels including one very large chapel (pictured below) with chandeliers and staircases made entirely of salt along with other hidden treasures. In addition to the spectacular works of art, the complex has a reception room used for private functions including weddings.
Everything in this picture (except the real live humans) is carved from salt including the crystal chandeliers, the statues and works of art, and the staircase.
The salt mine reaches a depth of 327 meters (1065 feet) and is over 287 kilometers long (172 miles) with the tour covering only a small portion of this total area.
STRATACA IN HUTCHINSON, KANSAS, USA. Interactive dinner theater below ground in a salt mine? Scout campouts below ground in a salt mine? A large Hollywood film storage/vault facility underground in a salt mine? An event center underground in a salt mine? Yes to all of these…and more.
This salt deposit was formed approximately 275 million years ago when the Permian Sea dried up. This is one of the largest salt deposits in the world covering 27,000 square miles in central and south central Kansas. Adjacent salt deposits extend the entire area to include parts of Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle and south eastern New Mexico for a total overall of 100,000 square miles. The purest portion of the main salt vein is 650 feet underground and is still being mined. Strataca (when first opened for tours was called the Kansas Underground Salt Museum) has access to about 300,000 square feet of the mined out area.
Salt was discovered southwest of Hutchinson in 1887 by a land developer who was drilling for oil as a means of increasing land sales. Instead of oil, he struck salt. Strataca is located in the original Carey rock salt mine.
Even though the mine tour existed earlier and a large storage facility had been there since the 1940s, in 1999 the Reno County Historical Society recognized the importance of preserving and presenting to the public the Hutchinson salt story. Today's museum is the result of a collaboration of the Historical Society and two businesses that already existed in the mine—the Hutchinson Salt Company and the Underground Vaults and Storage. In addition to storing a vast number of original Hollywood movies (such as the master prints of Gone With The Wind and The Wizard Of Oz), it also stores millions of documents and items from around the world in a secure and environmentally conducive atmosphere.
The newly revamped and renamed Strataca was opened to the general public May 1, 2007. Their first Murder In The Mine interactive dinner theater was held in 2007 as was their first underground scout campout. The Visitor Center opened in July 2008. And in 2013, they launched The Salt Safari Adventure Hike.
Saturday, February 10, 2018
Valentine's Day is when the chocolate industry happily counts its profits. Certainly other items also come to mind such as flowers, cards, and jewelry. But chocolate reigns supreme for the holiday.
The history of chocolate goes back more than two thousand years. Cocoa has long been associated with passion, romance, and love. It's a concept that traces to the ancient Aztecs. Archaeological records indicate that before the Aztecs the Mayans were consuming cocoa as long ago as 600 B.C. and possibly even earlier than that.
The Aztecs believed it was a source of spiritual wisdom, energy, and sexual power. It was widely served at wedding ceremonies. The ancient civilizations of Central and South America did not know chocolate as we do today. They consumed cocoa as a drink, its naturally bitter taste possibly altered by adding chili peppers to the water and cocoa.
When the Spanish explorers first brought cocoa home with them in 1585, they experimented by mixing it with sugar and vanilla to make a sweeter tasting drink. The result was a type of hot chocolate popular among the upper classes who were the only ones who could afford it. Cocoa was also added to baked goods to give them added flavor. By the first half of the eighteenth century cocoa production had increased and the price had fallen so that it became affordable to the general population of Europe and also the European colonies in the New World.
By the nineteenth century things were moving along nicely for those involved in the manufacture of chocolate. In 1828, Conrad van Houton of Holland invented a process to make a refined cocoa powder which increased the output of the usable powder from a given crop of cocoa beans which further lowered the price.
The first chocolate candies as we know them today were invented in the 1860s by Cadbury, a British candy maker, who was also the first to sell them in a heart-shaped box for Valentine's Day.
Another big advance came in 1878 when a Swiss chocolate seller, Daniel Peter, invented a process for making candy out of milk chocolate—a process picked up by Nestle. In 1913 Jules Sechaud, a Swiss chocolate maker, created the first chocolate candy with cream and other fillings and the modern soft centered chocolate candies were born.
And thus chocolate candies joined the ranks of flowers and jewelry in the courtship ritual.
Chocolate, including chocolate candy, is liked by most people, but women tend to have a somewhat greater affinity for it than men. Chocolate is more than food. It not only fills your stomach, it also makes you feel good. Many people believe that chocolate is an aphrodisiac. While it is true that chocolate does contain organic substances which have a physical feel good affect on the body, the amounts are not that great.
Critics claim the benefits of eating chocolate are small compared to the sugar and fat contained in a chocolate bar. However, the best chocolate—dark chocolate with high cocoa butter content rather than milk chocolate—has no added fat with a high percentage of cocoa solids and correspondingly less sugar. Dark chocolate will never be considered a health food based on its nutritional value, but it is still good for you. It's good for your heart, relieves stress, and makes you feel good. What more could you want? But, like everything, in moderation.
Chocolate has long been associated with passion, romance, and love. This association goes all the way back to the Aztecs. Valentine's Day is a celebration of romance. Chocolate is both an everyday pleasure and a token of love. Valentine's Day and chocolate make a perfect match. Men have long known in dealing with women that chocolate is almost always a safe gift. Chocolate is given as a token of love and is equally viable as a peace offering when he has done something to anger his love.
Chocolate—the all purpose taste treat that's good any time of the year.
Saturday, February 3, 2018
In honor of the upcoming Valentine's Day holiday, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at a list I saw of the world's seven most romantic islands—travel destinations that offer more than just beautiful beaches. Travel destinations that offer the perfect romantic getaway for the holiday that celebrates love.
7) MAUI, HAWAII
Behind the outer wrapping of a tropical paradise with beautiful beaches you will find an interesting and varied landscape. On the way to the summit of the Haleakala volcano crater you pass through vegetation that includes cactus, something not usually associated with tropical islands. There are vast stretches of sugar cane fields, a 1900s cowboy town, and a rain forest with an almost primeval feel to it.
An archipelago in the Indian Ocean with white sand beaches, atolls, and secluded resorts. This is the world's lowest elevation nation (overall elevation of high and low averaged). You will find a hotel with a coral nursery and an underwater nightclub. And how about a restaurant reachable only by boat?
5) BORACAY, PHILIPPINES
This five mile long island was once a haven for backpackers with only the most basic accommodations. Today it rivals many of the well-known Asian destinations. Boracay starts with a forty-five minute flight from Manila followed by a boat connection to the final destination of White Beach with powdery sand that just might be the softest in the world.
4) KAUAI, HAWAII
This is the oldest of Hawaii's eight main islands and has the most dramatic scenery from wind sculpted mountains, red-walled canyons (Waimea Canyon is referred to as Hawaii's Grand Canyon), primeval rain forest, and a wide range of waterfalls. Kauai has also been the location for several movies including The Descendants, Avatar, Body Heat, and South Pacific.
3) SANTORINI, GREECE
Every place you look gives you a postcard perfect view. White washed buildings, colorful flowers, blue-domed churches all clinging to the hillsides of an ancient volcanic crater. In addition to the spectacular scenery, Santorini offers a wide variety of diversions—fine wines, black and red and white sand beaches, archaeological sites including one referred to as the Minoan Pompeii.
2) CAPRI, ITALY
This four-square mile dot in the Tyrrhenian Sea embodies la dolce vita. There is a funicular railway to take visitors from the main port to the street of Capri town with its boutiques, restaurants, and romantic getaways.
1) BORA-BORA, FRENCH POLYNESIA
What could be more romantic than staying in a bungalow above the waters of a turquoise lagoon? At the heart of Bora-Bora is the jagged peak of Mount Otemanu and on its fringes are islets and a coral reef perfect for snorkeling to observe the varied and colorful marine life.
So, if a romantic getaway to one of these islands isn't in the cards for Valentine's Day this year, it would be a good time to start planning for Valentine's Day 2019. One caveat—with the constantly changing international situation regarding terrorism, be sure to check out travel warnings that may apply.