Thursday, March 25, 2010

British Virgin Islands - Under the Sea

When sailing through the BVI, snorkeling or scuba diving is #1 on the itinerary (only after raising a glass at Willy-T and The Soggy Dollar) - And this visit was no exception.
The Caribbean’s turquoise blue temptress called, and at every natural harbor we took advantage of the opportunity to discover the life below her surface. With its peacefully quiet lull, the underworld seemingly impairs some senses, while elevating others - forcing absolute focus by the eyes to absorb the activities around.

Just as one’s sight adjusts to the darkness, the initial plunge below hits you with intense saturation and blindingly vibrant colors. Minutes later, the acute awareness of a multitude of living organisms is ever apparent. Experiencing the exclamation of new discoveries with each blink.

Sea Fans swaying in concert with the current’s rhythm and speckled turtles lazily swimming by were just a small nod to the talent of an Almighty Creator.

My love for coral was tickled by the surprise exposition of the Elkhorn Coral. This king of coral some how had the great fortune of not meeting head to head with a dinghy's rudder, growing close to the ocean’ lip with a length of nearly four feet and width equally impressive.

Click to see examples

The Elkhorn Coral reaches from as far north as Biscayne National Park, Florida to as far south as Venezuela with a great concentration in the Caribbean, Bahamas and Florida Keys.

Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) is considered to be one of the most important reef-building corals in the Caribbean. This species of coral is structurally complex with many large branches. The coral structure closely resembles that of moose antlers. These branches create habitats for many other reef species such as lobsters, parrot-fish, snappers, and other reef fish. Elkhorn coral colonies are incredibly fast growing with an average growth rate of 5 to 10 centimeters (2.0 to 3.9 in) per year and can eventually grow up to 3.7 meters (12 ft) in diameter. The color of this coral species ranges from brown to a yellowish-brown. This color is a result of the symbiotic zooxanthellae that live inside the tissue of this coral species. Zooxanthellae is a type of algae which photosynthesizes to provide the coral with nutrients.

The Painted Memory

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Roman Holiday

The healing power of water is no shortage in Rome. With a total of 280 fountains tucked into all corners of the city’s landscape, it’s not hard to stumble across one more beautiful than the next. That is until you turn onto a cobble stone street leading to the heart of Rome’s historic center. Three corridors meet at a well-known aqueduct, Via delle Muratte, Via del Lucchesi and Via in Arcione culminating at the Piazza di Trevi (meaning three).

The Trevi Fountain is a Baroque design and stands 85 feet high and 65 feet wide. The central figure in the fountain is Neptune, god of the sea. Neptune is riding a chariot in the shape of a shell that is pulled by two sea horses. Each sea horse is guided by a Triton. One horse is calm the other is enraged; each symbolizes the moods of the sea. To the left of Neptune is a statue representing Abundance, on the right a statue represents Health. The water at the bottom of the fountain represents the sea.

Its origins go back to Roman times and it was the terminal point of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct commissioned by Augustus, which was used to provide water for the thermal baths. The water that flows here has two names: Virgin Waters and Trevi. The first refers to an ancient legend about a young Roman girl who showed the source of the spring to some thirsty soldiers; whereas Trevi derives from the old name for the area, which was originally called Trebium.

Nearly a starlet itself having been the back drop of many a movie scene, including "Three Coins in a Fountain", “Roman Holiday” and "La Dolce Vita". Legend says that you must stand with your back to the fountain and throw a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder into the water to ensure that one day you will return to Rome.

An average of 3000 Euros are thrown in every day mostly in 5 cent pieces which gives you an idea of how many visitors come to see it. The money is donated to charity and it is always under the watchful eye of a policeman.

After throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain while studying abroad, my wish came true of returning to Rome. This time my girlfriends and I were not planning to toss two coins in the fountain as the song alludes to a brush with romance ;) Instead, we were more interested in a little wager. Knowing the Italian men spark to blonds, we kept a tally of cat-calls received by the blonds vs. brunettes! With an even playing field of 2-2, Cathie and I tried hard to stay in the running, but couldn’t compete!

The Painted Memory

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Become Stopped in Your Tracks!

Designers at Tiffany & Company have a magician-like talent for wondrously inventing window displays which hero their jewelry through a keyhole window to a make-believe terrene juxtaposed with the real and surreal. Each motif magically tips the scale of imagination to deliver the ultimate gold-standard of surprise & delight with hide-and-seek gems.

Although difficult to research the history of Tiffany & Co. display windows, I discovered many bloggers who were as star-struck as I with Tiffany’s incredibly expressive creativity. Snapshots of worlds in miniature, each window a unique scene combining the most stunning of jewelry pieces metaphorically positioned as props.

(Click on links below to enjoy scenes captured by others.)

Tiffany is credited with some of the most innovative merchandising ever seen by the retail industry. For example, the direction of visual merchandising was forever changed through the company’s artistic reinvention of the window display, initiated by Walter Hoving, controlling owner of the company from 1956 to 1980, and Gene Moore, window designer extraordinaire. Moore, known for witty displays combining magnificent jewels with unlikely props and paraphernalia, joined Tiffany in 1956 and remained with the company until 1995.

Best known for turning Tiffany's five little windows into head-turning attractions, the 5,000 or so windows Mr. Moore decorated for Tiffany & Company during his 39 years as the store's vice president for window display were testament enough to the scope of his imaginative powers, to fully appreciate the impact of his artistic genius you must take a stroll down memory lane, force yourself to stop in front of a typical Tiffany window of the 1940's and yawn as you regard a neat, linear arrangement of silver platters, bowls, candlesticks and the like.

Now fast forward a decade or so, retrace your steps and just try not to stop when, out of the corner of your eye you spot, say, a bird, its beak extended, pulling -- hey, that's not a worm, that's a diamond necklace! -- out of the earth.

Next time you’re in the vicinity of a Tiffany & Co., be sure to detour past its five signature windows to enjoy child-like wonder for a moment in time.

The Painted Memory