Saturday, January 31, 2015

back to school (catching up)

so I did get back to my classes at the beginning of the week and again learned quite a bit in my Florida Maritime History class- 3.5 full pages of notes worth! LOL

The first important thing to know is that the fall of Constantinople and the rise of the Ottoman Empire is what sparked the Age of Discovery - because the land route for the Spice Trade was cut off-

as wikipedia so ably explains:

A prelude to the Age of Discovery was a series of European expeditions crossing Eurasia by land in the late Middle Ages. Although the Mongols had threatened Europe with pillage and destruction, Mongol states also unified much of Eurasia and, from 1206 on, the Pax Mongolica allowed safe trade routes and communication lines stretching from the Middle East to China. A series of Europeans took advantage of these to explore eastwards. Most were Italians, as trade between Europe and the Middle East was controlled mainly by the Maritime republics (like Venice and Genoa.) The close Italian links to the Levant raised great curiosity and commercial interest in countries which lay further east.  In 1291, in a first Atlantic exploration attempt, merchant brothers Vivaldi sailed from Genoa with two galleys but disappeared off the Moroccan coast, feeding the fears of oceanic travel. 

From the 8th century until the 15th century, the Republic of Venice and neighboring maritime republics held the monopoly of European trade with the Middle East. The silk and spice trade, involving spices, incense, herbs, drugs and opium, made these Mediterranean city-states phenomenally rich. Spices were among the most expensive and demanded products of the Middle Ages, as they were used in medieval medicine, religious rituals, cosmetics, perfumery, as well as food additives and preservatives. They were all imported from Asia and Africa. Venetian merchants distributed the goods through Europe until the rise of the Ottoman Empire, that eventually led to the fall of Constantinople in 1453, barring Europeans from important combined-land-sea routes.

European sailing had been primarily close to land cabotage, guided by portolan charts. These charts specified proven ocean routes guided by coastal landmarks: sailors departed from a known point, followed a compass heading, and tried to identify their location by its landmarks. For the first oceanic exploration Western Europeans used the compass, progressive new advances in cartography and astronomy. Arab navigation tools like the astrolabe and quadrant were used for celestial navigation.

A major advancement was the introduction of the caravel in the mid-15th century, a small ship able to sail windward more than any other in Europe at the time. Evolved from fishing ships designs, they were the first that could leave the coastal cabotage navigation and sail safely on the open Atlantic. Using the caravel, systematic exploration continued ever more southerly, advancing on average one degree a year.  In 1453 the fall of Constantinople to the hands of the Ottomans was a blow to Christendom and the established business relations linking with the east.  King Afonso V of Portugal, who had been inquiring of Genoese experts about a seaway to India, commissioned the Fra Mauro world map, which arrived in Lisbon in 1459. 

In 1512, to reward Juan Ponce de León for exploring Puerto Rico in 1508, king Ferdinand urged him to seek these new lands. He would become governor of discovered lands, but was to finance himself all exploration.  With three ships and about 200 men, Léon set out from Puerto Rico on March 1513. In April they sighted land and named it La Florida—because it was Easter (Florida) season—believing it was an island, becoming credited as the first European to land in the continent. The arrival location has been disputed between St. Augustine, Ponce de León Inlet and Melbourne Beach. They headed south for further exploration and on April 8 encountered a current so strong that it pushed them backwards: this was the first encounter with the Gulf Stream that would soon become the primary route for eastbound ships leaving the Spanish Indies bound for Europe. They explored down the coast reaching Biscayne Bay, Dry Tortugas and then sailing southwest in an attempt to circle Cuba to return, reaching Grand Bahama in July. (source Wikipedia)

this is all background for the things we went on to in class- but the precipitating event for the exploration for a westward route to the Indies and Asia was the blocked Spice Route... during the period of early exploration the sailors were creating "roteiros" which roughly translates into itineraries with lots of information about what they encountered during their voyages- the translator on the Internet says this about roteiros-

1. A route or proposed route of a journey.
2. An account or record of a journey.
3. A guidebook for travellers.

By 1492 the Spanish have ousted the Moors from the Iberian peninsula and could now turn their attention to explorations (Portugal had completed their reconquest earlier and hence started earlier) - Columbus had tried to interest Portugal in his "go west to get east" theory but they had taken a pass - so he went on to Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain.  She was not interested but He was... so they funded half of the voyage and Genoa funded the other half and off Columbus went--- and of course we know he landed in what is now Cuba but this began an explosion of Spanish exploration of the new world.

in 1499 Vasco de Gama had gotten to India and reopened trade to the East by going around Africa and into the Indian Ocean... but by then there were other reasons to be coming to the Americas - and they included 1. mercantile 2. religious and 3. political (a new outlet for the armed royalty of Spain who were without the crusades to distract them from possibly overthrowing the king....LOL)

the men who followed Columbus into the new world believed that fame and riches were not only within their grasp but were theirs by right. AND- and here we come to the point of all this background- the only area of the new world to expose their weaknesses and to successfully resist them was Florida!

in 1513 Ponce de Leon was supposed to have discovered Florida - but oddly he found people here who spoke Spanish (LOL) and a 1505 map clearly shows the Florida peninsula. The reaction of the native population was immediately hostile- because the slavers had brought disease and enslaved those they could thereby "poisoning the well" long before the arrival of Ponce de Leon. His license to search for lands north of Cuba made him the "owner" of Florida. (we know about this due to vast amounts of paperwork filed in the courts over disputes that took place in that era and now held in the Archives of the Entrada) 

One of the men- Alaminos (a navigator) remained behind and mapped the voyage- as well as identifying the ability to use the Gulf Stream to push the return voyage to Europe like a catpult- (remember all that stuff about the Gulf Stream in the last Maritime Class post? LOL- it's all starting to come together...)

Ponce made a second voyage in 1521 where he is attacked at sea by the Calusa at Matanzas (now Sanibel Island area)- even though this time he  brought settlers with him he was forced to retreat to Cuba.   (so twice defeated by Florida and in retreat to the Spanish stronghold of Cuba) 

next up in terms of expeditions- Pánfilo de Narváez, who used maps showing such detail as the barrier islands, DeVaca wrote a journal with eyewitness descriptions of interactions with the natives- although the Temukan leader offered friendship - their guides led the Spaniards astray and they were lost for many months in the swamps of northern Florida- the survivors built rafts to return to sea and there were only 4 survivors of the expedition of more than 600.  A fifth survivor remained in Florida enslaved for 12 years. So another unmitigated disaster!

LOL- which brings us to Hernando De Soto- 

He was the epitome of the Spanish Conquistador- and rode with Pizarro in conquest of the Inca Empire.  He planned carefully and learned from the prior defeats at the hands of the Florida native populations.  His expedition brought all it would need to the new world to found a settlement. He sailed from Spain in 1537 and then spent more than a year in Havana planning more details- he planned to set up a colony and had even identified a full bureaucracy to run the colony before he left Cuba. He left Havan in 1539 and had nine ships - he landed off Long Boat Key near the mouth of the Manatee River - with 750 people and 220 horses, leaving 100 people in Tampa Bay and marching inland with 500. 

However during the inland march the careful planner underwent a personality change and became an opportunistic plunderer. He spends years wandering the inland as far as Tennessee and ends up dying in 1542 west of the Mississippi River with no colony founded and with the Europeans having devastated the local populations with the spread of diseases which began the collapse of the native population.  No European invaders successfully conquered Florida but that didn't stop them from trying.

Philip II wanted an overland route from the Gulf to the Carolinas to bring his plundered treasure back to Spain without threat of piracy which was rampant on the trade routes. So DeLuna was the fourth explorer to try it and lost nine ships in a tropical storm and eventually lost his mind when the two of the last three ships of the expedition were lost off Cape Hatteras and a single ship survived the ordeal. This led to Philip II banning exploration of Florida for more than a decade. Ultimately he had to return because he needed the wealth of the americas to support the "reformation".. and needed way-stations (safe harbors) for the ships between the old world and the new.  

Only Florida defeated and expelled the Spanish invaders- the Inca, Aztec and Caribbean cultures all fell to the invaders in single expeditions.

and excellent article on this topic can be found here:

so lots of info in my Monday class- and I am sure there will be more next week- 

an OMG surprise!

so a couple of weeks back we decided to go out for a burger on a nice Monday and sit outside- we headed to the island to check out Skinny's Place in Holmes Beach and sadly found it closed- so we ended up at Lobstah's - which has an excellent blue cheese burger but not the same "ambiance" as Skinny's.  Back in the day, my Dad was a fan of the Skinny's burgers and beer- served his way - in a frosty mug...

but today being sunny and warm- 73* - we again decided to head over for an outdoor dining adventure at Skinny's Place-

I am going to show the burger first because that will end up being the delicious enticement to read a bit further - the interesting story of Skinny's - which coincides with my own AMI story...

you can taste it now - right??? LOL!!!

anyway- you can see this is a place for a real griddled greasy cheeseburger- the onion tings are crisp and not greasy and the lettuce and tomato and pickles are to give you a veggie course- LOL...

painted a nice island color - it once was painted brown and less island-y - you may not notice but there are no windows- LOL only sort of chicken wire screens... which are sort of patched in places- LOL

the menu gives you the feel of the place-

note the old fashioned bottles for the cokes-

and here is the story of Skinny and Janice and their "drive-in" which started about the time my parents came to AMI on their honeymoon in the winter of 1951/52...

a nice family story and super great burgers- so what could be more perfect on a sunny Saturday afternoon?

third- I don't know (LOL)

I wasn't sure which topic would show up next for posting- because I have at least two things to bring up- and hence the Abbot & Costello reference- but... the plays the thing... so here we go...

our plans for the theater were made late last summer and when our friends scheduled their visit we were thrilled to find a couple of additional seats so we could all go to see the Thornton Wilder play The Matchmaker.  Here is a short blurb from the Thornton Wilder Society website-

Wilder’s uproarious farce about love and money, stars the irrepressible busybody, Dolly Gallagher Levi. Through Dolly’s subtle machinations, several unlikely couples come together to find happiness in 19th-century New York. 

The plot summary from the same website-

The play, set in the 1880s, opens at the home of Horace Vandergelder, located above his successful hay, feed and provision store in Yonkers, New York. A widower, and immensely proud of being a half-millionaire, Horace is preparing for a trip to New York City. Having rejected the suit of an artist, Ambrose Kemper, who wants to marry his niece, Ermengarde, Horace has decided to send his niece away to frustrate any wedding plans. After Vandergelder leaves, Dolly Levi, a friend of his late wife, utilized by Horace as a marriage-broker, enters. Dolly is sympathetic to the niece’s romance, and agrees to help Ermengarde and Ambrose. When Vandergelder returns, he tells Mrs. Levi that he now plans to marry the New York milliner Irene Molloy. In a scene incorporated almost word-for-word from Molière’s The Miser (L’Avare), Dolly convinces him that she has found him a perfect wife, with the result that he agrees to delay his marriage proposal to Mrs. Molloy. Cornelius Hackl, the chief store clerk, and Barnaby Tucker, another clerk, decide to take advantage of Vandergelder’s absence by themselves going for an adventure in New York.

Act Two begins with Irene Molloy explaining to her assistant, Minnie Fay, that she will accept Horace’s proposal, although she does not love him, so that she can leave the hat business. Walking in the neighborhood, Cornelius and Barnaby suddenly see Horace and Dolly, and dash into the hat shop to hide. In a farcical scene, Horace discovers the presence of the hidden men, and, scandalized, tells Irene that he is ending their relationship. Cornelius falls in love with Irene. Since Dolly has said that the clerk is really a wealthy socialite, Irene insists that Cornelius and Barnaby take her and Minnie to dinner at the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant.

In the Third Act, Horace arrives at the same restaurant, followed by Dolly with Horace’s niece, Ermengarde, and her boyfriend, Ambrose. Having noticed them, Horace arranges for a cab driver to intercept the young couple when they leave the restaurant and take them to the home of Flora, his relative. Irene, Minnie, Barnaby and Cornelius then enter, and are seated at a table next to Horace and Dolly, separated only by a screen. Irene orders expensive food and champagne, causing Cornelius to fret about paying the bill. Horace has accidentally dropped his wallet, which his servant finds and mistakenly gives to Cornelius. Although the clerk eventually tells Irene that he is not rich, Irene is supportive and tells him that they should just have a good time. Dolly tells Horace that his prospective bride has eloped with someone else. In a scene emphasizing eating and enjoyment, Dolly states that she herself would never marry Horace, thus planting the idea in his head. Cornelius and Barnaby, having discovered Horace’s presence, try to escape by disguising themselves with women’s coats and veils. Horace, however, recognizes and fires them. Ermengarde enters and faints, and is carried out by Ambrose. Dolly summarizes Horace’s losses, and broaches more directly the subject of marriage.

In the final act, all the characters arrive at the home of Flora van Huysen, Horace’s relative. Flora misidentifies the romantic couples, believing, for example, that Barnaby (dressed as a woman) is Horace’s niece, and that the real Ermengarde and Ambrose are somebody else, so that the farcical situation becomes even more chaotic. Eventually, true identities are revealed, and Flora persuades Horace to let his niece marry Ambrose. In a grand soliloquy, Dolly addresses her departed husband on her wish to rejoin the human race and to marry Horace in order spread his money around, creating happiness. Horace enters and proposes marriage to Dolly. Cornelius also decides to marry Irene. The play concludes with Barnaby speaking to the audience about the importance of having enough adventure in one’s life.

An excellent production with lavish costumes and sets and a multitude of actors only made the evening of farce more enjoyable.  Not only does the plot hearken to Moliere (a favorite since seeing The Doctor In Spite of Himself when I was in eighth grade (ahem- more than four decades ago- LOL) but also uses plot device all Shakespeare lovers will recognize.  A wonderful evening's entertainment. It was also reviewed by the Wall Street Journal... who knew they were tuned into the Sarasota arts scene?

Our own local paper noted the review-

Wall Street Journal offers loving review of Asolo Rep's "The Matchmaker"

Terry Teachout, theater critic for the Wall Street Journal, returned to Asolo Rep last week to review the company's production of Thornton Wilder's rarely seen play "The Matchmaker."

his actual review:

A Farce, Both Sweet and Smart

Thornton Wilder’s rarely seen ‘The Matchmaker’ gets a fun and serious staging in Florida.

The best American play, Thornton Wilder ’s “Our Town,” is also the most popular American play. While this is a nice coincidence—if you want to call it that—Wilder’s other full-length plays don’t get done much nowadays, in part because everybody does “Our Town” instead of “The Skin of Our Teeth” or “The Matchmaker,” which ran on Broadway for 486 performances but hasn't returned there since it closed in 1957. In both cases, scale is also part of the problem: It takes 16 actors to do “The Matchmaker” and more than two dozen for “The Skin of Our Teeth,” on top of which “The Matchmaker” requires four sets, thus putting it out of the reach of cash-conscious drama companies.

In addition, “The Matchmaker” has the further disadvantage of having been turned into a musical, Jerry Herman’s “Hello, Dolly!” The colossal success of Herman’s brassy simplification of Wilder’s play inevitably pushed “The Matchmaker” still further into the wings, where it seemed fated to remain until Sarasota’s Asolo Repertory Theatre came along. Asolo Rep is a professional theater company that is also a drama school, meaning that it can cast student actors in smaller parts. This allows it to produce rarely seen large-cast Broadway plays like “Once in a Lifetime,” which it mounted to splendid effect in 2012. “The Matchmaker” is another natural choice for the company, and Asolo has done right by one of the sweetest and smartest romantic farces ever written.

After much more about the play and the actors and scenery and costumes- his final comment-

“The Matchmaker” is being performed in Asolo’s Mertz Theatre, an uncommonly well-proportioned 500-seat house whose elegant interior was transplanted to Sarasota in 1990 from Scotland, where it was originally built in 1903. I can’t imagine a more appropriate venue for so winsome a play.

You can read the whole review here:

so yes- we loved it, not sure about our friends- I know they go to a lot of concerts but not sure how much theater is incorporated into their very busy schedules....

we are so happy to have the Asolo just 20 minutes from our home - and here is a bit about the theater-

this is playing through April 11 (in rotation with several other plays) and I highly recommend it if you are coming to this area of Florida-

Friday, January 30, 2015

what's (on) second?

So my second class of the week is my "arts" class and we met up at Holley Hall for a visit to the Sarasota Orchestra-

A very interesting presentation by the admin folks at the Orchestra was accompanied in the background by a rehearsal of the Orchestra in the Holley Hall- while we were across the way in a "class room" style room...

a statue near the entrance to the box office- but the current conductor is from Estonia and her name is Anu Tali- and she is not your stereotyped conductor-

the facility has a gallery hall where they exhibit rotating art- today it is very colorful and just by chance we meet the artist -

a permanent piece located just outside the room where the Orchestra is rehearsing-

a practice hall- recently renovated- had wonderful acoustics-

we got to peek into the Library where all the scores are done for each musician - what an amazing amount of work that is!

here are some facts about the Sarasota Orchestra-

  • They have about 80 full time musicians, who audition for positions with the Orchestra behind a screen so the decision is based upon merit/ability.  This system was originally used to ensure that women were not excluded from the important positions and has been the standard for quite some time - not just at this orchestra.
  • The orchestra is unionized so it is subject to a lot of regulation and also has tenured positions for those who maintain a level of excellence.
  • The orchestra performs (in various iterations and various venues) 125 concerts a year.   
  • They have four series each year and many other special concerts- including a concert called "thrill of a lifetime" where young performers who have won a competition get to perform with the Sarasota Orchestra.
  • The Orchestra plays at Holley Hall, Neel Auditorium and Van Wezel and even sometimes at the Opera House in Sarasota.
  • They have an outreach program which sponsors every 4th and 5th grader in Sarasota and Manatee counties to a classical concert (more than 10,000 students) 
  • They have a summer music camp for more than 300 students and a youth orchestra of over 300 students (up to and including a philharmonic- students are placed based on ability)
  • The Orchestra used to be the Florida West Coast Orchestra and was re-branded in 2008 as the Sarasota Orchestra - they chose Orchestra over Symphony because it tested better (and likely gave them an opportunity to avoid the initials SS in a heavily Jewish community) the Orchestra 
  • Hall is actually the Friedman Symphony Center which contains the Holley Hall performance venue and the David Kahn performance venue
A photo of the Thrill concert-

Then we were on to the Sarasota Art Center- just across the street-

  • The Sarasota Art Association was established in 1926 as the first arts organization in Sarasota. 
  • In 1941, the Association incorporated as a not-for-profit organization. 
  • The City of Sarasota provided the Art Association, with a lease of land near the downtown area and in 1948, after the war, the association broke ground for its present building which was designed in the then-popular style of the Sarasota School of Architecture. The building opened in 1949 with only one gallery which is now known as Gallery 3. 
  • The Atrium or “Patio Gallery” as it was called was later erected with donations from members and was enclosed in 1961. 
  • In 1996, the Sam and Sally Shapiro Sculpture Garden was created 

some of the students at work during a class-

many classes to choose from-

one of the exhibits in the gallery space-

an outside piece-

a flyer for an upcoming sale and show- our teacher will be exhibiting there-

next up- my newest information from the Florida Maritime History Class or the Asolo play we saw this week with our friends- not sure which one will be done first (LOL- actually - third- I Don't Know)