Thursday, May 25, 2023

Memorials worldwide honor victims, heroes, urging us to remember

A sculpture to world peace frames Cookie and Keller at the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Honolulu, home to the often photographed USS Arizona Memorial. The Tree of Life sculpture is a relief, a symbol of renewal created by Arizona Memorial architect Alfred Preis to inspire contemplation.



Photos of victims of the Holocaust leave the viewer 
numb at Yad Vashem in Israel. This is the ceiling memorial
to those who perished in Nazi concentration camps. 

Christene "Cookie" Meyers in the Bruce Meyers Poet's
Garden on the campus of MSU-Billings in Montana.
It honors her late writing teacher husband, Bruce Meyers.
WHEREVER IN the world we go, we never miss an opportunity to visit a memorial. War, loss, suffering, heroism and sacrifice are universal themes.
So is the need to honor the fallen, those we loved, those who have suffered loss.

Nearly every village in Europe has a memorial to the victims of World War I. War memorials are found on every continent, in metropolitan areas and remote villages alike.

These -- and other memorials --  illustrate the emotional power of architecture. From Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial to New York's 9-11 homage and the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Atlanta, these tributes stir strong reactions as iconic pieces of art and architecture. Often they are destinations for locals and travelers alike. The moving memorial to victims of the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, attracts thousands of visitors each year, as does the striking tribute to the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing.
Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan,
pays respect to those killed by the bomb
ending World War II but at a huge cost.

I HAVE personal experience with memorials, having designed one myself to honor my late husband, a poetry and creative writing professor for 25 years at a Montana university.
That memorial reminds me, and others, of his gifts to hundreds of students. It provides a quiet place on campus for students and professors to meditate, write, reflect.
Other memorials remind us of the cruelty of man, of senseless death, heroes and selfless deeds, the hope that peace will prevail in our muddled world. Especially now with the devastation in Ukraine, and in our country, the immigration controversy, it seems appropriate to study memorials and the hope they give us for a better life.

A young Japanese man studies the sad story of the
internment of thousands of innocent Japanese
Americans at the Pearl Harbor Memorial.
 Many soldiers of Japanese descent served
as translators, helping shorten the war.
THE MOOD around memorials is always quiet and respectful. Whether in New York at the site of the World Trade Center destruction of "9/11," Yad Vashem in Israel, or Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, memorials seem to calm people, to draw them inward to private thoughts. In Honolulu, at the Arizona Memorial, we joined an international queue with fellow tour members, including a Japanese couple our age from Tokyo.  It was interesting to travel with them, and glean their take on the memorial.  For while the U.S. suffered grievous losses, Japan suffered destruction of two cities. Americans of Japanese descent suffered loss and humiliation in the internment camps. One is in Wyoming, not far from where I grew up in south-central Montana.

 The striking White Monument at Tell Banat, Aleppo
 Governorate, Syria, dates from the third millennium BC,
and honors fighters from  state army.

World Trade Center in New York with its
 extraordinary museum remembers the
 terrorism attack of September 11,
2001 and honors its victims.

Yes, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor but 6,000 Japanese Americans served as translators and interpreters with the Military Intelligence Service in the Pacific, using the language of their parents and grandparents to shorten the war and save lives. So it's complicated. 

WE LEARN through memorials of the misguided effects of war and violence, hatred and prejudice. Ironies and sorrow go hand in hand with war and terrorism. Brothers wiped out, serving on the same ship. Husbands and wives perishing together in a jump from a burning tower. Entire families destroyed by an act of violence. 

Anne Frank's family lived in
an annex during the occupation
of Amsterdam. The pictures she
 clipped and saved are preserved.

Campus memorial honors beloved professor

Crete memorial honors fallen in crucial battle

What always strikes us about a memorial visit is the quiet.   People move silently about the exhibits, touched and often emotional about their experience and expressing their reverence as they pay their respects.

So let this week be one of remembrance, meditation, hope and thanks. 

Reveling in applause after a fabulous dance
 number are 3 of the leads in a terrific cast: L-R:
 Xavier J. Bush, Emma Nossal, Anthony Michael
Vacio, gifted "triple threat" dancers-actors-
singers.  Dazzling dance in a fun, feel good show.

Sheer unadulterated joy awaits the audience in New Village Arts' smashing production of 
of "Singin' in the Rain"  The hit musical has more energy than a barrel of Red Bull as it plays to sell-out crowds in this perfect, intimate venue. The story of a silent movie star and his jealous, tone-deaf partner making the transition to the talkies is a perfect antidote to "May Gray" or "June Gloom." Revel in terrific tap dancing by dashing leading man Don Lockwood, his nimble sidekick Cosmo and a thoroughly adorable chorus girl Kathy (with a voice like a nightingale.) Audrey Ward plays a delightfully off-key Lina Lamont, the fading silent star, and the expert ensemble dances, sings and clowns its way through two-and-one-half hours of musical theater bliss. A.J. Knox directs the beloved classic with some of the sharpest choreography San Diego hoofers have ever delivered. An absolute delight to the clever curtain call. The run ends July 2 with a fun Italian dinner-or-lunch and show package option at Via Vai Cucina. 760) 284-4393

Gay Pride is celebrated all year in Sydney, Australia, with posters, 
banners, concerts and special events including the city's famed
Sydney Opera House. June has many special events.
UP NEXT: Gay Pride month is in June, a celebration of a tradition begun in 1970, a year after the Stonewall Inn Riots took place, as a peaceful march with no dress restrictions where people could express themselves and their sexuality freely. There have been peaceful marches, protests and celebrations every year since and Pride Month is joyously celebrated in Australia and worldwide. The month is dedicated to commemoration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender pride. Pride Month began after the Stonewall riots of New York. A series of gay liberation protests began in 1969, and the movement has since spread enthusiastically outside of the United States. We witnessed the enthusiasm on our recent trip to Australia and share insights and photos. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on nature, performance, travel, family and the arts.


Thursday, May 18, 2023

New Zealand's Te Papa is free and wondrous, a top world museum

The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is an architectural, cultural and artistic wonder.
Wellington's delightful complex entertains, educates and engages thousands each year.
We left our balcony room on Celebrity's Eclipse to enjoy a day in this marvelous free museum.


Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie"
Meyers explore Te Papa's treasures from
 Celebrity's lovely ship, Eclipse.
Wellington is an engaging stop on a
fine and varied Celebrity  itinerary. 


Great day tour 
for Celebrity cruisers


A WONDERFUL MUSEUM with myriad exhibits and inspiring insights into New Zealand's rich culture awaits visitors to this small, intriguing country. You'll find a stunning array of displays as varied as the country itself when you visit this six-story masterpiece on the waterfront.

We highly recommend this for cruisers. Wellington's Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongerewa is truly "a container of treasures." It's one of many exciting stops on Celebrity's New Zealand itinerary, a 12-day immersion in fjord country and the contrasting cities that make New Zealand appealing.

A Maori meeting house is kept watch over by a Maori
docent, who answers questions and keeps vigil as
Celebrity Cruises guests explored.
1998 after the merging of the National Museum of New Zealand and National 
Art Gallery, the Te Papa museum has an auspicious, older pedigree.
Its holdings go back more than a century, to a collection established in 1865. In those days, the museum was known as the Colonial Museum. It was renamed the Dominion Museum in 1907, and in 1936 it was relocated to a new building. More change, mergers and moves were to come before its present incarnation.
THE MUSEUM  building is itself an architectural wonder, 
Gallipoli's horrors are described in detail
in an emotionally charged exhibit.
befitting the marvels inside.
 We toured the museum with a family of fellow travelers we befriended on our Celebrity  cruise, which includes a stop in Wellington. It was fun watching their grade-school kids delight in the spirit of invention and innovation the exhibits offer. Scholarly research forms the basis for myriad exhibits, but a sense of fun and discovery prevails. A Maori meeting house, for instance, was built to specific detail. It is watched over by a proud Maori docent who stands sentinel and answers questions from curious kids and adults.
Our new friends also learned how to hold a ukulele and guitar. They practiced on a Maori drum, and wandered nearby to experience the sounds and vibrations of an earthquake.
Rugby, gay rights and rock 'n' roll all share the spotlight in this marvelous place, which also takes a look at the Commonwealth's influence through the years. Birds play a part in the museum's exhibitions, too, where the beloved kiwi's life and times are described and vividly displayed.
Celebrity's Eclipse provides a way to see New Zealand's 
varied cities in style, comfort and smooth sailing.

WE DIDN'T HAVE time to browse all 800,000 artworks, photographs, collection objects, and botanical and zoological specimens -- that would demand several more visits. But did take an hour to see one of several changing exhibits, an intense study of World War I's Gallipoli campaign, which brought the horrors of war home in huge sculptures, recordings and artfully curated displays of soldiers' personal effects. 
The rich history of New Zealand as a point
in the Pacific Island "triangle" involves many
religions which are artfully explored at Te Papa.

New Zealand's kiwi is the focal
point of an intriguing exhibit.

Emphasis on indigenous and contemporary art honors the heritage of the complex. For many years, the museum shared space with the National Art Gallery, which had incorporated into the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts.
Bruce Keller hams it up inside
one of many exhibits which
encourages visitor participation.

DURING  ITS name changes, quality has reigned -- from its 1972 morph as the Dominion Museum to the National Museum, then years later when a parliamentary act in 1992 merged  two institutions -- museum and art gallery -- and the present name emerged. 
Besides a history, art and culture lesson -- from refugees to dinosaurs -- the museum expertly combines learning with fascination and fun. You can step inside various masks and armor, pretending to be a knight or an extra in a science fiction film. Witness a giant squid in an enormous display.
We enjoyed the museum with families, school groups and couples from all over the world.
Don't miss it if you're anywhere near "Kiwi Country." It's awe inspiring. And Wellington has other treasures, including the home and garden of groundbreaking modernist writer Katherine Mansfield.

The "Lost in Yonkers" cast is tremendous, a gifted ensemble
directed with empathy and tenderness by Jacquelyn Ritz.
This top-notch production is a must-see for theater lovers
for its terrific timing, and artful blend of humor and pathos. 
What a pleasure to recommend Scripps Ranch Theatre's flawless production of Neil Simon's Pulitzer Prize winning "Lost in Yonkers," a highlight of San Diego's spring theater bounty. A brilliant cast, beautifully directed by Jacquelyn Ritz, delivers a first-rate interpretation of Simon's masterpiece. The story, set in 1940s Yonkers, centers around the struggles of a complex family: two motherless teen-age boys, their earnest and grieving father, a hardened immigrant grandmother, wisecracking mobster uncle, intellectually stunted but charming auntie and another auntie with a comical speech disorder. The engaging production unfolds on an eye-catching set which gives the perfect spin to Simon's moving yet funny storyline. It's a rollercoaster of loss, courage, independence, loyalty and yearning, with winning period costumes.  Don't miss it for the hopes and dreams we all have, and characters we've known and loved. The run is through June 11. Consider tickets for yourself and favorite theater loving friends. 

UP NEXT:   Memorial Day approaches and with it, an opportunity to remember and pay homage to those lost in war, tragedy or terrorism. We share our visits to memorials around the world that have touched us -- from Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, to Yad Vashem in Israel and the memorial to "9-11" in New York City. We explore the meaning of the word "memorial," whether honoring a person, tragedy or historical event. The influence of memorials exists in all of us. Then we're on to a month-long celebration of equality in PRIDE, with some of our favorite photos and commentary on a celebration that began at Stonewall years ago. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on nature, performance, history, nature, family and more.
The memorial to the tragedy of "9-11" at the new World Trade Center
building is a striking architectural accomplishment:

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Bishop Museum is Honolulu's treasure trove of Pacific Island wonders


The Bishop Museum's several buildings range from historic to contemporary and house millions of
priceless items. It represents the world's largest collection of Hawaiian and Pacific cultural artifacts and natural history specimens. Its many collections contribute to global research.



THE BISHOP Museum in Honolulu is a true treasure trove.

You'll go down the rabbit hole of Pacific Island discovery when you visit. Plan to spend a day to truly savor and appreciate its marvelous, eye-popping contents.

SHOWCASING AN extensive collection of Hawaiian objects and royal family heirlooms owned by a princess, the museum includes millions of objects, documents and photographs about Hawai'i and other Pacific island cultures.

Above right, Tapestries, feathers and
 elaborate wall hangings are displayed
artfully throughout the museum. Above,
one of many intriguing sculptures.

The Bishop Museum's extensive nature
related exhibits include these striking
mobiles of a whales, sharks and more.
"The Bishop," as it is known worldwide, was founded in 1889 by Charles R. Bishop, the American husband of Hawaiian Princess Bernice Pauahi, who died in 1884.
Imagine 25 million items -- it's mind boggling.
Each piece tells a story of the Pacific Islands
rich and diverse history and culture.

Because she was the last direct descendant of King Kamehameha, Bishop wanted to honor her legacy as well as celebrating Hawaii's cultural richness.
THE MUSEUM has gained an international reputation for its breadth and excellence. As the state's largest museum, it is the Pacific region's premier natural and cultural history institution. It is recognized worldwide for its cultural collections, research projects, consulting services and public educational programs.
Feathers are part of the culture. Here, Keller
admires a creation made of thousands of
them, carefully plucked so the birds were
not injured, but released to grow more.

Bishop and his wife, Pauahi.
The museum showcases
her extensive collection
acquired in her royal life.

WE SPENT an enlightening afternoon enjoying the exhibits -- from photographs of famous surfers to hands-on drums, to weavings, tapestries, pottery, mobiles, sculpture, murals, and intriguing diagrams.
 In 1961 a planetarium and an observatory were added to emphasize the role of astronomy in the cultural history of Pacific Island peoples.

The Hawaiian Hall at the Bishop Museum contains the
world's largest collection of Polynesian artifacts.
Millions of pieces of historic art and memorabilia are
housed within the museum complex, a world class operation. 

museum as an enduring memorial to his beloved wife. Pauahi was a well known philanthropist and member of Hawaii's ali'i, or royalty.  She inherited many irreplaceable heirlooms from her royal family including her prestigious parents and her cousin Ruth Keʻelikōlani. She died at age 52, living only from 1831to 1884. But she was a shrewd businesswoman. At her death, her estate was the largest private landownership in the Hawaiian Islands, comprising an astonishing nine per cent of Hawaii's total area. The revenues from these lands are used to operate the Kamehameha Schools, established in 1887 according to Pauahi's will. Her marriage to Bishop was one of like minded philanthropists who appreciated and shared their wealth.
WE ADMIRED many of their treasures, including stone and bone implements and containers, gorgeous feather lei and capes and stunning kihili, those distinctive long poles decorated on one end with a cluster of thousands of feather plumes.  These, and many of the other museum items, were used as ceremonial emblems by the native Hawaiian people.
Bishop's mission was to honor both his wife's legacy and celebrate the rich culture of South Pacific. Well done.
As our Hawaiian friends say: hele mai e ao, or "come in and learn."


A spirited cast gives energy and pizzazz to "Xanadu" underway
at San Diego Musical Theatre. Another successful run begins!

BEST ON THE BOARDS:   underway at San Diego Musical Theatre, is a rousing new musical, "Xanadu," based on the 1980s film but much more fun. The theater, at 4650 Mercury St., San Diego, is a dream came true for Erin and Gary Lewis who launched it and so far have produced 350 productions. Xanadu runs through June 4, followed by Tony winning "Urinetown" in late July, "The Addams Family" opening Sept. 29 and "Forever Plaid" for the holidays. "Xanadu" is getting raves for its feel good energy, its energetic roller skate numbers, fabulous singing, snappy choreography and endearing characters with good times guaranteed. Check out upcoming musical theater treats, package deals, group discounts and more at
858 560-5740.

The Museum of Neew Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa offers a visual feast of
 treasures, including art, beautiful user-friendly exhibits and animal studies

UP NEXT: While we're in a museum mood, we visit one of the world's finest. The centerpiece of Wellington is the remarkable Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa which offers a cultural feast and is the focal complex in the city's unusual and popular "free museum" system. Te Papa Museum is one of many no-admission museums in Wellington, and is a much loved, user friendly place often visited by locals, school groups and by thousands of grateful visitors from all over the world. Te Papa means "container of treasures" and the museum lives up to its name. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, the arts, family, nature and more:

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Honolulu's Spam Jam fest celebrates canned treat beloved in Hawaii

Four happy Spam Jam patrons head for a picnic table after choosing their dining fare.



Even Honolulu's doggies get in the "Spam Spirit." 


SAY WHAT you will about Spam, that pink, salty staple of soldiers in World War II, and a favorite part of every Hawaiian's diet.

Spam has longevity, large appeal and love behind it. Nowhere is that affection more apparent than in Honolulu during the annual Spam Jam which we attended.

 Acclaimed Honolulu chef Christopher George of Shorefyre, a popular eatery, is among those whose creativity originated the festival. He manned one of the most popular food booths, specializing in poke and gourmet pizza.   Lines snaked down Kalakaua Avenue as throngs lined up for his succulent poke bowls and Spam pizza, a delicious, spicy nod to the Naples invention with pineapple, Spam and red pepper.

Don't mess with this Spam lover!
PEOPLE LINED up for not just the Spam treats -- from tacos to wraps, skewers, pizza and more -- to Spam t-shirts and other memorabilia.
Mostly, folks were there to have fun, enjoying Hawaiian singing, storytelling and the chance to revive a festival that was on hiatus during COVID. Part of the proceeds go to various non-profit causes, so that's a pleasant incentive.
"It's the perfect way to celebrate Hawaii's love for Spam and help others," Barbara Campbell, co-founder of Waikiki Spam Jam Festival, told Pacific Business News.
After being shut down for three years, folks are in a "Spam Fest" mood. Bartender James at our  lovely Hokulani Hotel said, "It's great fun to have the Spam fest back in business."
"We all love Spam," he said, pouring a customer's festive drink at the hotel's rooftop bar overlooking the festival. Children grow up on Spam, he noted, developing a love for it as infants.
Despite all the jokes we've heard about Spam, the product does serious business. 
Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers join the
throngs at Honolulu's merry "Spam Jam." Below left,
nori or seaweed, with rice and Spam, a favorite snack.
Hormel produces it in Austin, Minnesota, known as "Spam Town USA." There are 15 kinds, from pepper to chorizo to turkey, hickory smoke, garlic, bacon and more.
Everywhere we went, we saw Spam offerings.
That's because by the end of WWII, Spam had been adopted into local Hawaiian culture.
FRIED SPAM with rice is a classic dish, with scrambled eggs or a fried egg on top of the rice.
Cookie opens a Spam musubi. 
Our Japanese bartender called it "Portagee Steak" which is what many Hawaiians call Spam. It's often listed as such on menus, a nod to the long Portuguese heritage on the islands.  A favorite local dish here is Spam musubi, which we tried -- where cooked Spam is placed atop rice and wrapped in a band of nori, a form of nigiri sushi.
Hawaiians consume seven million cans of Spam a year serving it in Spam eggrolls, Spam fried rice, Spam tacos, Spam burritos with beans, Spam kebobs, Spam wonton, Spam sushi, Spam with Korean barbecue sauce and Spam mac and cheese.  Just about anything you'd do with chicken, pork or beef you can do with Spam.  And Hawaiians do.
Why not try creating a Spam specialty yourself" Here's a recipe for "Spam Loco Moco": 

Executive Chef Christopher George
of Shorefyre is well known for his
 inventive dishes and philanthropy.

8 slices of Spam (one can) 
2 tablespoons butter; 1 cup chopped mushrooms; 1 cup chopped onion; 2 cups beef broth; 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce; 2 tblsp cornstarch; 3 tblsp water; 4 cups cooked rice; 4 eggs cooked how you like; 3 tablespoons each chopped Italian parsley and green onion, tomatoes if desired.
Directions: In large skillet over medium heat, cook Spam 3 to 5 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from skillet.
In same skillet, melt butter. Add mushrooms and onions and cook over medium-high heat 6 to 8 minutes or until golden brown and tender.
Add beef broth and Worcestershire sauce to mushroom mixture; bring to boil.
In small bowl, mix cornstarch with water to make a smooth paste. Add to broth mix in pan, whisking until combined and thickened.
Spam loco moco is served in
many Hawaiian homes & cafes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide rice among 4 plates. Place 2 slices of Spam on top of
rice. Serve gravy sauce on the side or top with gravy before serving. Either way, add 1 egg, scrambled, poached or over easy. (Most people prefer over easy.)
Garnish with chosen sprinkles -- parsley, green onion and tomato.
View from Hotel
FOR PROXIMITY to Kalakaua Avenue, a major lifeline and Honolulu's main street, we recommend Hokulani Hotel.  When the street was blocked off for the festival, it was possible to move down the sidewalk easily to the welcoming Hokulani.  The hotel is popular with both American and Japanese tourists for its city views, friendly staff, fun Italian restaurant and rooftop pool and bar.  One can enter from street level or up an escalator to the second floor lobby, which features fresh orchids and a staff that understands the Hawaiian spirit of family or ohana:

From left, Dylan Woodford, Leonardo Cecchi, Max Oliver and
Hannah Battersby dance and delight. Photograph by Richard Andert
BEST ON THE BOARDS: "Footloose" at Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center is reaping raves for its dancing, energy and touching story. Themes abound in the saga of a talented young man who challenges a "no dancing" edict in a small rural town. It's a metaphor for the need for freedom, healing, forgiveness, change and personal growth. Songwriter turned screenwriter Dean Pitchford took a 1980 news story about high school students challenging an 80-year-old ban on dancing in their small Oklahoma town and scripted the hit 1980s film. This lauded production is adapted from the later Tony nominated Broadway musical, featuring music by Kenny Loggins. The energetic cast touches the heart and the dancing delights all ages.

One of dozens of exhibits at the Bishop Museum.
The extraordinary complex celebrates the cultures of the
South Pacific and the wife of founder Charles Reed Bishop.
UP NEXT: While we're enjoying Hawaii, don't miss a visit to the world renowned Bishop Museum.  Come with us to an extraordinary space, where we'll explore the culture of the  vast South Pacific and its colorful islands. The museum's carefully curated exhibits feature the cultures of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, the Hawaiian Islands and more. The Honolulu museum is famous for its focus on the native peoples of Hawaii. It goes beyond to explore the history of other fascinating islands -- from French Polynesia to the Cook Islands.  You'll see artfully designed exhibits, beautiful tapestries and feather work, wildlife exhibits, musical instruments, hands-on displays to encourage learning, and a fascinating study of the early sailors who transited the Pacific. Then we explore another spectacular museum in Wellington.  The extraordinary Te Papa Museum is among free attractions in this lively New Zealand city. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on the arts, travel, nature and more at