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Friday, December 23, 2022



Magnificent painting by Montague Dawson.  Sold at Bonhams for 126,300 pounds sterling.

And here is an unusual sale.  Admiral Nelson's armchair on HMS Victory, whimsically nicknamed "Emma".  Sold for £ 106,250 (US$ 128,027) inc. premium.  I find the castors quite mysterious.  Did Nelson really skim from one side of the deck to the other when the ship was tacking?

No maritime collection is complete without something depicting the Battle of Trafalgar.

Artist was Charles Edward Dixon. And it is called "Oak, Hemp and Powder". 

Sold at Bonham's for £ 62,500 (US$ 75,310) inc. premium

I find the prisoner of war bone models creepy, as they evoke such endless hours of utter boredom that have to be filled with whatever at hand.  But the results have some popularity.

It's a model of the firstrate Caledonia, and French-made, of course. 
Sold for £ 69,600 (US$ 83,865) inc. premium

And here is what I consider the Queen of the Collection, also sold by Bonhams.  It's by the iconic 18th century artist John Clevely the Elder (1712-1777).  

The flotilla of ships is led by the Royal Charlotte in company with five other royal yachts, arriving off Harwich on 6 September 1761, after conveying Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz to England for her marriage to George III

Sold for £ 112,500 (US$ 135,558) inc. premium.

Thursday, December 22, 2022



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Exciting Updates from World Ocean Explorer


This month World Ocean Explorer won a Platinum MarCom Award. The MarCom Awards honor excellence in marketing and communication while recognizing the creativity, hard work, and generosity of industry professionals. W2O is proud to receive this honor and attributes this early success to the creative collaboration with Schmidt Ocean Institute and their belief in the potential of the Explorer virtual aquarium as an important educational resource for ocean literacy.

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In March of 2022, World Ocean Observatory (W2O) and Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI) launched DEEP SEA, the first virtual exhibit of World Ocean Explorer, an interactive three-dimensional aquarium and learning environment. In the past year we have done some amazing work in collaboration with SOI to improve the platform and make it more accessible to users worldwide.

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In 2022, with the support of Schmidt Ocean Institute, we focused resources and energies to enhance the World Ocean Explorer user experience. Explorer's first exhibit, DEEP SEA, now has an updated welcome screen with a new user-interface menu, two new videos are available for users: a tutorial for how to navigate through the exhibit, and the other to welcome users to Explorer with an overview of DEEP SEA, a preview of the Lobby, and an outline of the overall mission and concept.

Explore DEEP SEA updates here.

We strongly recommend using a Chrome web browser for best experience.

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Take a brief tour of the new Lobby space in World Ocean Explorer (officially launching in January 2023). The lobby will serve as the entrance to the aquarium, and will have its own displays to introduce visitors to the full catalog of exhibits and resources contained within. Our ambition is to make the ocean accessible through inclusive interaction as wide, deep, and dynamic as the ocean itself. DEEP SEA and all other exhibits will be accessible from a beautiful and interactive virtual lobby space--all at sea level!

Monday, December 19, 2022

Antoine Vanner talks about his latest maritime thriller


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I can't resist sharing a moment of what I hope is justifiable pride. My eleventh novel of the Dawlish Chronicles series, Britannia's Rule, was published last week. When I began writing seriously I never thought that so many novels would follow the first and that they should be so well received in the US, the UK, and Australasia. My main characters are almost as real to me as my own family!
I was not in the first flush of youth when I started, and am even less so now. I hope this will be an encouragement to anybody who believes that "they have a book in them" and who's prepared to put in the necessary time according to a disciplined schedule. In my case it's about 1000 - 1200hrs of researching, plotting, writing, agonising, rewriting, revising etc. that I find needed for a 120,000-word novel. Time marches on inexorably and it's never too soon, or too late, to start.
On now to my twelfth!

Friday, December 16, 2022

Venus Rising, from a dancer's perspective


 Three magical ballets, filmed from the wings.

Saturday, December 10, 2022



I almost missed this wonderful film, because of the title.  Ever since I was forced to watch "Chariots of Fire" with a school party, I have been allergic to sports movies.  But then I saw that it told a story of the Middle East, and I was hooked.

It starts in Damascus -- and it must be a rich area of the major Syrian city, because it is so nice.  Such fun.  The young people, as young people in Arabic countries do, dance wildly instead of getting stupid drunk. Two beautiful young girls, from a loving family.

Dad was a champion swimmer, but his ambitions were foiled when he was forced to do national service, and carry a gun for two years.  Those were the days when many young men were stalled in their goals, and certainly not just in Syria.  It happened in New Zealand, too. Boys who longed to be chefs were taught how to drive a tank.  But enough of that.

To get back to the story, Papa Mardini has focused instead on his two daughters, Yusra and Sara, who are definitely talented.  Especially the younger one, 17-year-old Yusra.  They were also beautiful.  Such wonderful futures lay ahead -- but then Assad staged his civil war, funded by Russia.  While the rebels are funded by Western countries, the USA in particular.  Such tragedy, for such a mean reason.

But enough of that, too.  Yusra and Sara decide to flee to Germany, where they could settle with a friend, and apply to bring over their family.  When the swimming pool where Yusra is training is bombed the parents agree that it is the only, though very dangerous, way out.  So they gather as much spare cash as they can find, and give it to the two girls.

So this is the story of their journey -- through Turkey to Greece, and then on foot to Germany.  Against their father's farewell advice, they accept the offer of a smuggler to get them from a Turkish beach to Lesbos, by boat.  And they pay him.  Along with more than a dozen other refugees -- from many countries, and with many stories -- they are trucked to the beach, and told to wait.  When the boat arrives, it is merely a rubber one with a rickety outboard motor, designed for eight, at the most.  They are hassled into getting in -- and then the smuggler drives away, taking their money and leaving them to it.

The motor dies in the middle of the Aegean Sea, and the boat takes on water.  There are too many people, the load is too heavy.  So the girls, with two others, slip overboard, and tow the boat through the night to Lesbos.  The camera work here is amazing.  The reaction of the locals when they finally land on the beach is less so.  Doors are slammed, windows shut, and there is hostile graffiti on the walls.  But they came across an aid camp, and are given clothes, food, water.

And their journey to Germany begins.  On foot.  Not easy. Another smuggler only half-fufils the bargain.  But they get there -- and there is a system in place for registering refugees, and housing them until they are accepted somewhere. The refugee camp was a revelation to me: I had no idea that aircraft hangers were used, or that the system was so clean and efficient.  But, of course, life there is boring. Nothing to do but fill in forms and wait, wait, wait.  But a miracle happens.  Yusra finds an angel named Sven, who is a swimming coach, and is impressed enough to accept her for his team.  And so she ends up in the Olympics.

I expected to get bored at this stage, but I must admit that the butterfly race is exciting in the extreme.  Kudos to the camera folks and the director.  It was hard not to cry with delight.

This is a true story.  It really happened.  They really did tow the overloaded rubber boat through the Greek Sea.  Watch this film, if only for that section.  But I guarantee you will love it all.


Monday, December 5, 2022

Grim, grim, grim, and very disturbing TV series


Have I never been to New Jersey?  Surely I have.  I lived three years in New York, and visited on book business many times.  But nothing about this depiction of Jersey City rang a bell.  And I certainly don't remember the F-bomb being used as idly and frequently as the word "and" and losing all impact and meaning in the process.  At first faintly offensive, the dialogue became tedious.

And what a scene the series depicts. Black kids selling drugs in the gutters.  White kids selling their bodies for drugs. Crooked cops. Violence in the police station, violence in the streets. Darkness in the extreme, lightened only by occasional glimpses of the Statue of Liberty.

This series is not a mystery.  Right at the start, you learn exactly what happened.  A white cop driving through a rundown park gets a phone call to say his wife is in hospital. While he is panicking and distracted he slams into something, and skids in the snow.  He gets out of the car, to see that he hit a bike.  There is also a lot of blood. Because of the force of the impact the rider of the bike was thrown into the air, and slammed into a deep ditch.

Actually, there is a mystery here -- why didn't the cop do what most of us would do, and simply call for an ambulance?  That is never explained.  You just have to take it on board. Because instead of calling for an ambulance he phones the other cops in his team.  These are effective (if foul-mouthed) drug-busters, partly because the sergeant -- who is very much in charge -- has an agreement with the crippled Black guy who runs the drug trade in his precinct.  As I said, he is a control freak, and as crooked as my elbow, but doing a reasonable job of keeping the drug trade within limits.

This sergeant sums up the scene, says the kid is dead, and because that kid is Black, it is not a good idea to call it in.  So they all drive away.

But the kid is not dead.  Instead, he lies there for 12 hours before a couple of dog-walkers find him.  He is rushed to hospital, and his parents notified.  And at this stage the parents' characters are strongly drawn, but never evolve from then on.  Cardboard characters, but starkly painted.  Both belong to a Gospel church that is fundamental in philosophy.  (Note I do not say "Christian." More about that later.)  Dad is incredibly hardworking, doing double shifts in a slaughterhouse so he can keep up the mortgage payments on his house. Having a house (which we are told his hugely unusual for a Black man) is his great pride, though his long hours did mean that Mom, who doted on their son, was in charge of just about the total upbringing of the boy.

Doting Mom agitates over the hospital bed, and collapses into emotional bits when the boy dies.  And she wants REVENGE.  The vindictiveness is truly awful.  Believe me, it is cringe-making.

However, a young Black lawyer with a grubby past feels exactly the same. In her eyes, as in Mom's, this accident is a HATE CRIME that must be avenged in full.  A hit-and-run that deserves the ultimate punishment.  Mom even procures a gun to carry out the execution herself.  And this is where the series becomes repetitive and boring, because their vengeful, vindictive attitude never wavers. 

When the church backs Mom up, the series becomes truly disturbing.  This is the creed of retaliation found in parts of the Old Testament -- "The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked." (Psalms 58:10).  It is NOT the creed of forgiveness that men like Christ preached. "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.' " (Matthew 18: 21-22.)

Has America forgotten how to forgive?  If so -- and this series certainly indicates that this is so -- the future looks grim indeed.

The dead kid's uncle, Biblically named Seth, is an airforce man who had served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. At one stage he says, "This is not my country."  

And that, indeed, sums up the message of this very one-sided story.

Saturday, December 3, 2022


 From the Authors Guild

Nonfiction Contests

J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award
Eligibility: Writers with a contract with a U.S.-based publisher to write a nonfiction book
Prize: $25,000
Deadline: December 8, 2022

J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize
Eligibility: Writers with a nonfiction book published in 2022 on a topic of American political or social concern
Prize: $10,000
Entry fee: $75
Deadline: December 8, 2022

Mark Lynton History Prize
Eligibility: Writers with a book-length work of history published in 2022
Prize: $10,000
Entry fee: $75
Deadline: December 8, 2022

Poetry Contests

Alice Fay Di Castagnola
Eligibility: All poets
Prize: $1,000
Entry fee: free for Poetry Society members; $15 for non-members
Deadline: December 31, 2022

Robert H. Winner Memorial Award
Eligibility: Poets 40+ years old who have published no more than one full-length collection of poetry.
Prize: $2,500
Entry fee: free for Poetry Society members; $15 for non-members
Deadline: December 31, 2022

Dorset Prize
Eligibility: All poets
Prize: $8,500 + week-long residency
Entry fee: $30
Deadline: December 31, 2022

Multi-Genre Contests

Chautauqua Prize
Eligibility: Writers (fiction & some nonfiction) with a book first published in the U.S., in English, in 2022
Prize: $7,500
Entry fee: $75
Deadline: December 15, 2022

Writing Fellowships & Residencies

Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown Writing Fellowship
Eligibility: Writers and poets who have not published a full-length book of creative work
Prize: 7-month residency + monthly stipend of $1,250 + $1,000 exit stipend
Entry fee: $40–65
Deadline: December 15, 2022