One Of My Favorite Things and it is 49, Going On 50…

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Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, photographed in New York City.
Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music, which first captivated audiences in 1965. Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer reflect on the making of the classic, their decades-long friendship, as well as the mountains they’ve climbed since then.

On a late afternoon last winter she and Christopher Plummer met me at the Loews Regency Hotel, in Manhattan, to talk about the 50th anniversary of the movie version of The Sound of Music, which is being re-released in theaters in April. For anyone who saw it originally, in 1965, it hardly seems possible that so much time has passed. Now that Plummer is 85 and Andrews is 79, you can imagine how they feel.

It was during the filming of The Sound of Music that Andrews and Plummer began a friendship, which, half a century later, is still going strong. Andrews’s husband, Blake Edwards, directed Plummer in The Return of the Pink Pantherin 1975, and they remained friendly until the director’s death, in 2010. (Edwards and Andrews had been married for 41 years; Plummer has been married to his wife, Elaine, since 1970.) In 2001, Andrews and Plummer co-starred in a live television production of On Golden Pond, and in 2002 they toured the U.S. and Canada together in a stage extravaganza called A Royal Christmas. By now, they have perfected the well-worn patter of an old married couple themselves.

Once Andrews’s kettle was pressed into service and the tea was brewed and poured, the two of them settled onto the couch in a suite to talk. They had just returned from a photo shoot. I asked how it went, and Andrews leapt in: “Well, I was dressed in black. He was dressed in black. We were against some white, I think. I had a great pair of earrings, and my hair was really exciting. It was done up rather wildly.”

“You didn’t notice me at all, did you?” Plummer asked wanly.

“No, I didn’t,” she answered vigorously.

He pouted. “I haven’t eaten anything for days,” he announced.

She responded on cue. “Oh, honeybun, that’s terrible!”

Heartened, he continued, “There was a charity dinner last night, and the food was so awful nobody ate anything.” She fumbled through her bags. He looked on hopefully, but she landed on a bottle of Advil. “I have to have these—I’m sorry,” she said, shaking out a few pills, which dropped onto the carpet. She picked them up and swallowed them anyway. “There were just so many stairs today,” she said, continuing to dig until she unearthed a Kashi peanut-butter granola bar. “I brought half a peanut-butter cookie with me,” she told him cajolingly.

He eyed it shrewdly. “Not half,” he said. “A quarter.”

O.K., guys. Part of the reason we’re here today is to talk about your 50-year friendship.

“What do you mean, friendship?” Andrews asked.

“Exactly,” Plummer said.

Through the decades, Plummer has remained unabashedly ornery about playing Captain von Trapp. He was, even in the early 1960s, a celebrated stage actor and chose to do the film primarily as training for playing Cyrano de Bergerac in a Broadway musical (a role that would not materialize until 1973). Instead, at 34, with gray highlights in his hair, he found himself shipwrecked aboard what he considered the Good Ship Lollipop as an unwitting party to seven chipper children, a warbling nun, and a bosun’s whistle. Indeed, whenThe Sound of Music was released, the reviews were awful. Pauline Kael trounced it as “mechanically engineered” to transform the audience into “emotional and aesthetic imbeciles when we hear ourselves humming the sickly, goody-goody songs.” In The New York Times, Bosley Crowther allowed that Andrews “goes at it happily and bravely” while noting that the other adult actors “are fairly horrendous, especially Christopher Plummer as Captain von Trapp.”

Whether Plummer likes it or not, the legacy of The Sound of Music feeds his currency. The incurably handsome, subtly grieving, widowered Captain von Trapp was always the heartthrob in the movie, never Rolf, the twerpy teenage messenger boy. The fact that it took a guitar-playing nun with bad clothes and good values to trump the elegant yet shallow Baroness is pure Hollywood justice. Off-screen, the well-born Plummer (his great-grandfather Sir John Abbott was prime minister of Canada) spent his life compensating as a notorious bad boy—drinking and carousing, skewering himself with self-deprecating humor as he happily trashed the conceited or self-important along the way. His 2008 memoir, In Spite of Myself, is a show-business tour de force.

Andrews is a different animal altogether. The Sound of Music followed Mary Poppins by six months; they were preceded by her Broadway triumph as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. Jack Warner famously rejected her for the movie version of My Fair Lady, hiring Audrey Hepburn instead (and dubbing her singing voice). During the 1965 Golden Globe awards, when Andrews won best actress in a musical or comedy for Mary Poppins, she made it a point to thank Warner in her acceptance speech.

She has been a movie star ever since. Although frozen in the minds of millions as an improbable hybrid of nanny and nun, Andrews is much more, obviously; her triumph both on-screen and onstage in her husband’s Victor/Victoria is an example of her range, along with her critically acclaimed dramatic turn in the film version of Duet for One. Besides her preternatural singing voice, what has always defined her is plain hard work. During rehearsals for My Fair Lady, her co-star, Rex Harrison, was disdainful of her dramatic abilities and wanted her replaced. The director, Moss Hart, dismissed the cast to spend 48 hours working solely with Andrews to improve her performance. As she tells it in her memoir, Home, when Hart finished, his wife, Kitty Carlisle Hart, asked how it went. “Oh, she’ll be fine,” Moss replied wearily. “She has that terrible British strength that makes you wonder how they ever lost India.”

 

-excerpts from Vanity Fair Hollywood

 

The Favelas in Rio

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We visited a favela one day while in Rio-pictured above is the one where Michael Jackson filmed his video described.

A favela is the term for slum in Brazil, most often within urban areas. The first favelas appeared in the late 19th century and were built by soldiers who had nowhere to live. Some of the first settlements were called bairros africanos (African neighbourhoods). This was the place where former slaves with no land ownership and no options for work lived. Over the years, many former black slaves moved in.

Even before the first favela came into being, poor citizens were pushed away from the city and forced to live in the far suburbs. However, most modern favelas appeared in the 1970s due to rural exodus, when many people left rural areas of Brazil and moved to cities. Unable to find a place to live, many people ended up in a favela. Census data released in December 2011 by the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) shows that in 2010, about 6 percent of the population lived in slums in Brazil.This means that 11.4 million of the 190 million people that lived in the country resided in areas of irregular occupation definable by lack of public services or urbanization, referred to by the IBGE as “subnormal agglomerations”.

Michael Jackson connected with Rio in 1996 when he shot part of the “They Don’t Care About Us” video in the Santa Marta favela in Botafogo. The event assumed huge significance for the community, as José Mario Hilario dos Santos, president of the Santa Marta residents association, explained; “There are a lot of fans in the community. Everyone loves Michael Jackson and you could always hear his music here. He could have chosen any of the communities and it means a lot that he came here.”

You can see the video:

Michael Jackson – They Don’t Care About Us – YouTube

excerpts from Wikepedia, article about Michael Jackson, YouTube

Rio de Janeiro

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Standing atop the Corcovado Mountain with his arms spread out, this enormous statue of Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) has been embracing the people of Rio since its inauguration in 1931. One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the imposing structure of soapstone and cement provides panoramic views of Rio beyond compare.

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Named after the traditional sugarloaves used long ago, the Sugarloaf Mountain is a tall peak rising at the Guanabar Bay in the Atlantic Ocean. At the top you have magnificent views of the sparkling Rio beaches, statue of Christ the Redeemer and the green forests. Although most visitors arrive by a cable car ( which takes 2-3 minutes) others can test their enthusiasm and energy by climbing the mountain.

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I found out where Copacabana and Ipanema are!

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Although Carnival (Carnaval in Portuguese) is celebrated in towns and villages throughout Brazil and other Catholic countries, Rio de Janeiro has long been regarded as the Carnival capital of the world. The Rio Carnaval is not only the biggest Carnival, it is also a benchmark against which every other carnival is compared and one of the most interesting artistic events on the globe.  Foreign visitors to it alone number around 500,000 every year.

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This colorful tiled stairway is the work of Chilean artist Jorge Selaron, self-taught. Having traveled the world, Selarón moved to Rio in 1983.There are 215 steps that he entirely covered with majolica collected in urban areas of Rio or donated by visitors from all around the world. Since 1990, Selarón  laid over 2000 tiles, mainly red-colored: unique pieces representing a “tribute to the Brazilian people”.

 

Abu Dhabi

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Home to the Grand Mosque,many beaches and amazing water parks,race tracks,beautiful hotels…Abu Dhabi is in the process of change and significant development. 60 years ago, it was mostly desert. We were in a helicopter so were able to see it all from the air.

Abu Dhabi  is the capital and the second largest city of the United Arab Emirates in terms of population and the largest of the seven member emirates of the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi lies on a T-shaped island jutting into the Persian Gulf from the central western coast. The city proper had a population of 921,000 in 2013.

In the early 1960s, oil was discovered in Abu Dhabi, an event that led to quick unification calls made by UAE sheikdoms. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan became ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1966 and the British started losing their oil investments and contracts to U.S. oil companies.

By 1966 it became clear the British government could no longer afford to govern what is now the United Arab Emirates.

The rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai decided to form a union between their two emirates independently, prepare a constitution, then call the rulers of the other five emirates to a meeting and offer them the opportunity to join. It was also agreed between the two that the constitution be written by December 2, 1971. On that date, at the Dubai Guesthouse Palace, four other emirates agreed to enter into a union called the United Arab Emirates. Ras al -Khaimah joined later, in early 1972.

In the beginning of the 1960s, the first oil company teams carried out preliminary surveys and the first cargo of crude was exported from Abu Dhabi in 1962. As oil revenues increased, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, undertook a massive construction program, building schools, housing, hospitals and roads. When Dubai”s oil exports commenced in 1969, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum the ruler of Dubai, was also able to use oil revenues to improve the quality of life of his people.

 

excerpts: Wikepedia

 

Baby Showers!

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We had a shower last weekend for a dear friend’s daughter-she is due in one month. I was interested to see that Burt’s Bees is now doing baby stuff-clothing and products that were very cute and clever! I started wondering about all the different traditions around the world for baby showers and this is what I found on Wikepedia:

Baby showers and other social events to celebrate the impending or recent birth are popular around the world. They are commonly “women-only” social gatherings.

  • In Canada, it’s traditionally known that only women may attend this event.
  • In Brazil, a party called “chá de bebê” (baby tea) is offered before birth and is often a “women-only” event.
  • In Chinese tradition, a baby shower, called manyue (满月) is held one month after the baby is born. Due to the lack of advanced medical technology in ancient times, the high infant mortality rate prompted families and friends to celebrate if a baby survived more than one month after birth.
  • In Armenia, a baby shower is called “qarasunq” (քառասունք) and is celebrated 40 days after baby’s birth. It is a mixed party for all relatives and friends. Guests usually bring gifts for the baby or parents.
  • In Iran, a baby shower is called sismoony party which in the family of pregnant woman 1-3 months before delivery will provide her virtually all accommodation and accessories her first baby needed. This includes but not limited to bed, toys, clothes, dishes and almost every things related to the baby. All family and close friends would be invited to see the gifted items and also themselves will bring a gift.
  • In Costa Rica, a baby shower party is called té de canastilla (“basket tea”).
  • In Hindu tradition, they are called by different names depending on the community the family belongs to.
  • In northern India it is known as godbharaai, in western India, especially Maharasta, this celebration is known as dohaaljewan, and in West Bengal and Odisha it is called saadh.
  • In Southern India, in Tamil Nadu/Andhra Pradesh it is called Seemantham or Valaikaapu (The expecting mother wears bangles) and in Karnataka it is calledshreemanta and is held when the woman is in her 5th or 7th or 9th months of pregnancy. Although Seemantham and Valaikappu might be celebrated together, they are very different. Seemantham is a religious ceremony while Valaikappu is a purely social event much like Western baby showers. In a Valaikappu, there is music played, and the expecting mother is decked in traditional attire with lots of flowers and garlands made of jasmine or mogra. A swing is decorated with flowers of her choice, which she uses to sit and swing. At times there are symbolic cut-outs of Moons and Stars that are put up. There are blessings showered on her by the elderly ladies from the household and community. There are gifts given to the expecting mother. It is a very affectionate and fun-filled event for most of the expecting mothers since they are on the threshold of motherhood and entering a new life.
  • In Kerala, it is known as ‘Pulakuli’, and is practiced predominantly in the Nair community, though it’s popularity has spread to other Hindu sects as well over the years. On an auspicious day, after being massaged with homemade ayurvedic oil, the woman has a customary bath with the help of the elderly women in the family. After this, the family deity is worshipped, invoking all the paradevatas (family deities) and a concoction of herbal medicines prepared in the traditional way, is given to the woman. The woman is dressed in new clothes and jewellery used for such occasions. A big difference in the western concept of baby shower and Hindu tradition is that the Hindu ceremony is a religious ceremony to pray for the well-being of the baby. In most conservative families gifts are bought for the mother-to-be but not the baby. The baby is showered with gifts only after birth.
  • In Islam adherents are required to perform aqiqah of newly born child. This involves the sacrifice of animals. The meat is then divided in three equal parts; one for the poor and needy, one for relatives and friends which can involve inviting them at home for a feast, and finally the last part is utilized by the household itself.
  • In South Africa, a baby shower is called a stork party, and takes place typically when the mother is about 6 months pregnant. Stork parties are usually not attended by men, and South African men do not have an equivalent party of their own. The stork party is accompanied by silliness such as dressing up, and babycare related gifts are given to the mother. A stork party is often organised as a surprise without the mother’s knowledge.
  • In the United Kingdom, this is called wetting the baby’s head, and is a more common substitute to a baby shower, which is seen as a materialistic American custom.Wetting the baby’s head is traditionally when the father celebrates the birth by having a few drinks with a group of friends.
  • In Nepal baby shower is called Pasni, It is often done to the boys in 6 month of their birth and it is done to the girls in 5 months of their birth. People give money and other gifts during the baby shower.

Oak Bluffs on the Vineyard

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A really fun day trip is to take the Island Queen ferry from Falmouth MA to Martha’s Vineyard-this particular ferry drops you in Oak Bluffs. Here is some history of the town:

Oak Bluffs was first settled by Europeans in 1642 and was part of Edgartown until 1880, when it was officially incorporated as Cottage City. Oak Bluffs was the only one of the six towns on the island to be consciously planned, and the only one developed specifically with tourism in mind.
In 1866 Robert Morris Copeland was hired by a group of New England developers to design a planned residential community in Martha’s Vineyard. The site, a large, rolling, treeless pasture overlooking Vineyard Sound, was adjacent to the immensely popular Methodist camp meeting, Wesleyan Grove, a curving network of narrow streets lined with quaint “Carpenter’s Gothic” cottages, picket fences, and pocket parks. Seeking to take advantage of the camp’s seasonal popularity (and overflowing population), the developers established Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Company, gaining immediate success: Five hundred lots were sold between 1868 and 1871. Copeland would end up creating three plans for the community to accommodate its constant expansion. Oak Bluffs is the one of the earliest planned residential communities and largely informed later suburban development in the United States.
Some of the earliest visitors to the area that became Cottage City and later Oak Bluffs were Methodists, who gathered in the oak grove each summer for multi-day religious “camp meetings” held under large tents and in the open air. As families returned to the grove year after year, tents pitched on the ground gave way to tents pitched on wooden platforms and eventually to small wooden cottages. Small in scale and closely packed, the cottages grew more elaborate over time. Porches, balconies, elaborate door and window frames became common, as did complex wooden scrollwork affixed to the roof edges as decorative trim. The unique “Carpenter’s Gothic” architectural style of the cottages was often accented by the owner’s use of bright, multi-hue paint schemes, and gave the summer cottages a quaint, almost storybook look. Dubbed “gingerbread cottages,” they became a tourist attraction in their own right in the late nineteenth century. So, too, did the Tabernacle: a circular, open-sided pavilion covered by a metal roof supported by tall wrought iron columns, erected in the late 1880s, which became a venue for services and community events. The campground’s gingerbread cottages are cherished historic landmarks as well as very expensive real estate. Many are still family owned and passed on generation to generation. On April 5, 2005, the grounds and buildings in the Campground were designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior.
Nineteenth-century tourists, arriving by steamer from the mainland, could also choose from a wide range of secular attractions: shops, restaurants, ice cream parlors, dance halls, band concerts, walks along seaside promenades, or swims in the waters of Nantucket Sound. In 1884, the Flying Horses Carousel was brought to Oak Bluffs from Coney Island and installed a few blocks inland from the ocean, where it remains in operation today. Built in 1876, it is the oldest platform carousel still in operation. Like the grounds and buildings of the Campground (so designated in April 2005), the Flying Horses were designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior.

Historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

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This year makes a special occasion for Gettysburg College, the town and the nation. They are in the midst of the Sesquicentennial Commemoration of the American Civil War(2011-2015) and 2013 marks the 150th anniversaries of the Battle of Gettysburg and President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.Gettysburg College has a rich history that started almost three decades before our nation’s greatest conflict.

Gettysburg College was founded on April 7,1832 by theologian Samuel Simon Schmucker. When the battle of Gettysburg began,the College stood in it’s midst. Elements of the two great armies swept through campus on July 1,1863,the first day of the decisive battle of Gettysburg. Pennsylvania Hall(pictured) became a hospital for hundreds of soldiers from both North and South.

On November 19,1863 townspeople,students, and faculty marched to hear President Lincoln hallow the National Cemetery with his Gettysburg Address.David Wills,an 1851 graduate,invited Lincoln to deliver “a few appropriate remarks”.You can visit the Wills house and view the bed that Lincoln spent the night in on that historic visit.

Last November,2012 Steven Spielberg who directed the movie “Lincoln” and Doris Kearns Goodwin who wrote the book “Team of Rivals” were in Gettysburg together and spoke to a crowd of over 9,000 people.