“It is not a coffee shop, it is not an office. But if you are a mobile worker, it is something much better than both things together.”
More people are working remotely than ever before, which is bad news for coffee shops. Once the province of college students and stoned poets, suddenly they’re teeming with everyone from copywriters to pushy corporate types willing to raise fisticuffs over a free electrical outlet. What’s a cafe owner to do?
You could ban laptops -- the favored route of New York coffee houses nowadays -- or you could make the cafe more conducive to work. That’s the approach at Urban Station in Buenos Aires's hipsterish Palermo Soho district. With copious desks, conference rooms, and electrical outlets in spades, the place feels like a trendy workplace that happens to serve coffee and croissants. From the company press release:
“It is not a coffee shop, it is not an office. But if you are a mobile worker, it is something much better than both things together.”
So how does Urban Station make money? It rents desks. We don’t know the exact pricetag but they tell us it’s “less than a promotional breakfast in any Palermo bar.” The conventional wisdom is that charging for anything in a cafe is a bad idea; that people won’t even pay for wireless, let alone a seat.Urban Station’s trick is to throw in a raft of perks: Wi-Fi channels; food and drink included in the cost of the hour; printers; fax machines; scanners; lockers; and even a couple of bikes you can bang around on when you need a break.
There’s a real and growing market for this sort of thing. Seventeen million to 26 million people work remotely at least some of the time depending on how you calculate it. And the figure will only swell as companies look to cut costs and workers increasingly eschew desktop computers for mobile technology. Freelancers and part-timers already spend hundreds of dollars a month -- or more -- on co-work spaces. Urban Station’s the same idea, but with free food.
One quibble: The design, while cheery, feels a tad unpolished. (A green futon with purple earplug tables? This is not a Deee-Lite music video, people.) Corporations are always prettying their offices, then holding them up as company billboards; if Urban Station is going to be the workplace of the future, it might wanna do the same.
COMMENTARY: I love the Urban Station office cafe concept very much. To my knowledge, I don't believe we have anything similar in the U.S.
I don't believe they are going to get a lot of college students, who spend very little at cafe's offering free WIFI, and very often bring their own food, and tend to hog the tables for hours on end. Many cafe's in the U.S. have gone the other way, and stopped offering WIFI in order to discourage these practices.
Urban Station's concept provides a lot of value-added features, offering an environment designed specifically for the mobile office worker. Instead of tables, they are more like workstations. Patrons pay for the food and beverage and for actual spent working at their "workstation".
This is a very cool idea, but Urban Station does did not divulge whether they are actually making any money with that concept. Just the same, I sent off for some information.
An expected shortage of accommodation has seen hotel prices already rocket to over 500 per cent.
World Cup fans heading for Brazil next year could find they are booking into sex motels as government tourism bosses look for ways to tackle the expected shortage in hotel accommodation.
The owners of “love” motels are being asked to convert their traditionally downmarket rooms into mid-market affordable lodgings in response as Ministry of Tourism research shows that hotel prices have already rocketed to over 500 per cent.
Motels rising to the challenge are undergoing fundamental changes including switching off 24-hour erotic channels and installing internet access. Some are even changing the M to the H.
The traditional short-stay accommodation, with drive-in bookings for a few hours at a time, is being standardised in-line with hotel reservations. The aphrodisiac finger-food menu, normally served through a hatch in the room to maintain privacy, is being phased out as the industry dispenses with rudimentary kitchen crew and hires chefs to provide a breakfast menu.
Antonio Morilha, director of the Brazilian Association of Motels (ABMotéis) told The Independent.
“We are trying to establish a new class of motel that provides a quality service and hospitality that rivals traditional hotels. We are also working on a classification system with stars, similar to what already exists for hotels and we’re waiting for government approval.”
The organisation is also drawing on the services of leading architects to help owners improve their interior look. Out is the typically seedy flock red wallpaper and old-fashioned furniture with round beds and in is a cleaner more sophisticated décor.
Some motels keen to hold on to the signature mirrors-on-the-ceiling look are being advised to think twice if they want to qualify for children on the premises. Brazilian law prohibits minors in these establishments.
According to ABMotéis, the daily charge for motels is half the price of hotels in a similar category. However, analysts predict prices may radically change with the upgrade.
COMMENTARY: The Shalimar love hotel located in Leblon, a very upscale and swanky neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, is going family-friendly. Workers strip mirrored paneling off the ceiling, as another pries up the fiberglass shell of a whirlpool bath. A third man takes a sledgehammer to a life-size statue of Venus de Milo posing topless with a swirl of plaster robes hanging from her waist.
The Shalimar Hotel 'Shalimar' suite (Click Image To Enlarge)
Like about a third of the city’s 180 hotels that rent rooms by the hour, mostly for amorous rendezvous, the Shalimar is trading its oversized round beds and bondage-ready chairs for proper couches, functional desks and other businesslike furnishings. The goal is reinvention as a standard pay-by-the-day tourist hotel.
With the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament in June 2014 and the 2016 Olympic Games arriving in this seaside city (and other cities), local officials are scrambling to solve a chronic hotel bed shortage so severe that during a UN conference here last year, the mayor had to appeal to residents to open their apartments to visitors.
The Shalimar Hotel 'Medieval' suite complete with chains (Click Image To Enlarge)
The plan? Slash property taxes for love hotels, known as “motels” in Portuguese, that agree to tone down the decor and free up 90 percent of their rooms for the tens of thousands of visitors expected to flood the city.
Antonio Cerqueira, a vice president of the Rio chapter of the ABIH hotel owners association, Brazil’s largest, said.
“Motels have all the know-how to be able to put people from around the world up in style. What throws people is really just the decoration.”
The Shalimar Hotel 'Ipanema' suite (Click Image To Enlarge)
With only 25,000 beds, or just half the estimated 50,000 needed for the Olympics, authorities here hope to add about another 6,000 beds through motel conversions, Cerqueira said. New hotels with another 14,500 beds are also in the works, he added.
By comparison, the last Olympic city, London, has some 110,000 hotel beds.
Brazil’s love hotels are virtual temples of kitsch and a longtime staple in the world’s largest Catholic country, where young people have tended to remain at home until marriage.
Giant, coin-operated vibrating beds compete for prominence with bubbling baths built for two; mirrors proliferate, covering nearly every surface, and condoms and other sex-related paraphernalia share space in minibars with cans of beer and chocolate bars. A maze of towering walls or dense shrubbery shrouds the motels from prying eyes, with individual, covered parking spots that lead directly into rooms. Many offer remote check-in that doesn’t require looking anyone in the eye. Theme rooms, sexed-up variations on medieval, swinging sixties, or tropical paradise motifs, abound.
Teacher Paula Moura said motels were an institution in Rio’s cultural landscape, and would be sorely missed if they disappeared. She said she used to go at least once a month with her boyfriend.
“We’d dress up, look for different ambiances. Plus you don’t have mirrors like that at home!”
Now that she’s unattached, she likes them because they’re a neutral space, she said.
“You don’t bring someone you don’t know well into your house, and you don’t expose yourself by going over to their house.”
Removing the sexy flair and giving the rooms a more neutral cast cost $15,000-$25,000 per unit, said Cerqueira, an investment that stands to be partially offset by a 40 percent reduction in city property taxes through 2019.
Motel operators are still in talks with city officials over the finer points, but Cerqueira said he expects the deal to be inked by the end of the month.
Love hotels in Brazil have been on the decline since the 1990s, with most struggling to reach 50 percent occupancy. Conventional Rio hotels regularly hit an 80 percent rate and completely sell out at peak times such as New Year’s and Carnival, said Cerqueira. Plus, because love hotel rooms must be cleaned and sterilized after each occupancy, which generally doesn’t last more than a handful of hours, they’re more expensive to operate than conventional hotels.
“Mores have been getting more liberal, and young couples who a generation ago would have had no choice but go to a motel are now welcome to stay at home.”
Most motel clients are married couples visiting on a lark, business travelers looking to save money by renting by the hour and the sector’s perennial staple: adulterers.
Decorator Fabiola Brandao has been working her way through the Shalimar renovations room by room over the past four years, revamping 25 of the hotel’s 61 rooms to date.
“We usually do two or three rooms at a time, and kind of try to block off the area where the work is being done.”
Still, no matter how discreetly workers attempt to work, the banging of jackhammers and pop of nail guns often prove impossible to muffle.
“In those circumstances, we say to the client, ‘Can we upgrade you to a better room, with a better view?' And then we send up a complementary bottle of champagne. It usually does the trick.”
"The new roomsare the kind of place where you can stay for more than an hour without running away screaming.”
Toth the renovated and old-style rooms range in price from $34-$190 for a 12-hour rental, the preferred length of stay for business travelers.
The Shalimar’s management is planning to overhaul nearly all the units ahead of the Olympics, leaving but a few theme rooms, like the iron chain-strewn medieval suite.
Motel operators hope the tourist gold rush brought by the World Cup and Olympics will last far after sports fans have left. Despite its world-famous Carnival, the city attracts around 3 million foreign visitors per year, only twice the number of tourists London typically receives in the month of August alone.
Cerqueira said, citing the examples of 1992 host city Barcelona and Sydney, where the 2000 games were held.
“We’ve seen it happen before that hosting the Olympics really puts a city on the map. Rio de Janeiro has so much to offer, the beach, the spectacular cityscape, and with everything that’s happening we can only expect for interest to grow. We’ll be ready for it.”
Wow. LOL. The fact that Brazil's government is converting love hotels into tasteful accommodations for tourists staying in Brazil during the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics says they have a crisis on their hands. Anyone contemplating attending the World Cup or Olympics is faced with a serious dilemna. Never mind that prices for practically everything will easily double or even triple during these events, but not knowing where you might have to stay, or having no choice in the matter, and having to pay sky high prices, is a nightmare situation.
The Mini Cowley Caravan whether parked on the beach or a campsite is ready for anything. Photo by BMW Group (Click Image To Enlarge)
The idea of a motor home from the makers of the diminutive Mini Cooper sounds like a joke—and it actually started out that way. Last April Fools’ Day, the Mini team decided to have fun at the internet’s expense by proposing a caravan camper featuring the brand’s trademark style. But it turned out that many enthusiasts didn’t get the joke and wanted to place orders immediately. “We prepared the MINI Cowley caravan as an April Fools’ Day prank, had the vehicle built as a one-off, and took it camping,” writes Mini spokesperson Nathalie Bauters. “We received terrific feedback from our owners and enthusiasts. The rest is history.”
Just over a year later, the Mini design team has proposed three new conceptsequally suited for a quiet camping trip in Big Sky Country or making the pilgrimage to Burning Man.
The Mini Clubvan Camper
Billed as “the world’s smallest luxury camper van,” this kit of parts transforms an ordinary Mini Clubman into a mobile apartment that could be used for a weekend off the grid, or in a pinch, bootstrapping a startup. A sleeping berth for one, clever hand-powered shower, and storage rack take the place of bedroom, bathroom, and closet. Padded window covers help keep the temperature regulated, peering eyes out, and ambient noise to a minimum. A pullout kitchenette with a two burner stove, sink, and fridge means foodies won’t be forced to resort to roadside diners.
The Mini Club Van Camper has roof racks that store the gear, a built in fridge cools the beer. Photo by BMW Group (Click Image To Enlarge)
The Mini Clubman Camper fits snuggly inside your Mini Cooper so it is always ready to go anywhere. Photo by BMW Group (Click Image To Enlarge)
The Mini Clubman Camper turns your Mini Cooper into a more than adequate place to sleep when you are on the road. Photo by BMW Group (Click Image To Enlarge)
The Mini Clubman Camper fits snuggly inside your Mini Cooper providing a safe place to sleep when you are on the go. Photo by BMW Group (Click Image To Enlarge)
It may not seem like much, but compared to the 130-square-footmicroapartments that are becoming popular in global centers, it’s not too shabby.
The Cowley Caravan
The Cowley Caravan has all of the benefits of the camper, but with room for two and space enough to enough to include a bevy of homey touches. Wood paneling creates a rustic feel well suited to the open road. The rear of the caravan opens revealing a kitchen larger and better appointed than those in many food trucks. Built in speakers and an iPad dock means that travelers won’t have to leave their creature comforts at home.
The Cowley Camper has a lot of square footage, but even more style. Photo by BMW Group (Click Image To Enlarge)
The Mini Cowley Caravan looks very slick and snazzy on the road. Photo by BMW Group (Click Image To Enlarge)
The Mini Cowley Caravan whether parked on the beach or a campsite is ready for anything. Photo by BMW Group (Click Image To Enlarge)
The Mini Cowley Caravan interior has adequate room to house two people comfortably. Photo by BMW Group (Click Image To Enlarge)
The Cowley Caravan is named for the factory in Oxford, England where the original Mini line was built. The workers there have been producing cars for the past 100 years, including some of the new Minis, and their institutional knowledge worked its way into these new concepts. “The sliding windows on the Mini Cowley caravan resemble the sliding windows that came standard on Mini’s built before 1969,” writes Bauters.
The Mini Countryman ALL4 Camp
Inspired by African safaris, but intended for the festival touring crowd, the ALL4 Camp allows the adventurous to explore without much planning. Concert goer’s can pack a bag and follow their favorite band knowing that the next hotel room is just above their head. The concept was originally intended to put a few vertical feet between outback explorers and carnivorous creatures, but the principle will also help keep altered concert attendees from mistakenly walking into the tent.
This roof top camper of the Mini Countryman All4Camp will keep wild animals, and confused concert goers from ruining a good night’s sleep. Photo by BMW Group (Click Image To Enlarge)
The roof top camper of the Mini Countryman All4Camp looks very small when stored away, but provides more than enough room for two people Photo by BMW Group (Click Image To Enlarge)
The roof top camper of the Mini Countryman All4Camp in the open position waiting for the sun to set. Photo by BMW Group (Click Image To Enlarge)
The Mini Countryman All4Camp looks right at home whether on the beach or campsite. Photo by BMW Group (Click Image To Enlarge)
While the campers still have the feel of parody, the concepts reflect the inventive and thrifty mindset that has marked the Mini brand since its creation in 1959. With enough success, maybe we’ll even see a return of the Mini pickup truck and Mini van?
COMMENTARY: Finally campers that are specifically designed for Mini Cooper car owners, or sub-compact car owners, that provide comfortable room for one or two occupants whether on the beach or campsite. The Mini Clubvan Camper, Mini Cowley Caravan and Mini Countryman All4Camp provide alternatives regardless of the size of your wallet or car for that matter. Unfortunately, Mini says these campers are strictly prototypes, and says there are no plans to offer any of them for sale. And no, this doesn't seem to be a recycled April fools joke, in which Mini touted the Swindon Roof Top Tent and Cowley.
Courtesy of an article dated August 5, 2013 appearing in Wired
Rio de Janeiro Carnaval 2013 (Click Image To Enlarge)
Inside Rio de Janeiro's Famous Sambodromo
If you have ever wondered what it would look like from ground-level inside Rio de Janeiro's Sambrodomo, the place where the samba schools parade in annual competitions during Carnaval, then let the below Google Map image load, then left click on your mouse pointer to move down the parade promenade of Sambodromo. Use the right click button of your mouse to move around to look at the grandstands and to reverse course. That's what it looks like during Carnaval.
The Samba School of Vila Isabel Wins Carnaval 2013 Competition
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Late on the afternoon of Wednesday, February 13th, G.R.E.S. Unidos de Vila Isabel was declared the Champion of the 2013 Rio de Janeiro Carnival competition, marking the third championship victory for the samba school and the close of this year’s Carnival.
Vila Isabel amazed the crowds and judges alike with their presentation of the Endredo (Theme), “A Vila canta o Brasil, celeiro do mundo – Água no feijão que chegou mais um” (The Vila sings Brazil, world’s breadbasket – Add more water to the beans, one more has arrived) when they paraded last during the final night of competition on Monday, February 11th.
Lead by famous Carnavalesca (Carnival Designer) Rosa Magalhães, the parade was filled with brightly colored costumes and elaborate floats.
The school also featured a Samba-Enredo (Theme Song) that was praised for being catchy and sung well throughout the parade. Known for its famous composers in the past, the school won for best samba-enredo this year with the aid of famous contemporary Brazilian composer Arlindo Cruz.
Popular favorite Mangueira had been penalized due to failing to finish their parade on time and São Clementewas criticized for using station logos during their tribute to the Prime Time block of programming but did not ultimately receive point deductions by LIESA.
Vila Isabel fans in attendance at the Sambódromo during tallying of the votes – and those gathered in the samba school’s Quardra (rehearsal hall) in the neighborhood of Vila Isabel in the city’s Zona Norte (North Zone) – began chanting “a campeã voltou” (the champion returns) during the announcements of the samba-enredo scores. Shortly thereafter, it was officially announced that Vila Isabel had won the 2013 competition.
Vila Isabel will be parade once again along other five top schools (Beija-Flor, Unidos da Tijuca, Imperatriz, Salgueiro and Grande Rio) during the Champions Parade on Saturday, February 16th at the Sambódromo.
Here's the list of the winners of Rio de Janeiro's Carnaval for 2012 and 2013:
List of Winners - Rio de Janeiro Carnaval for 2012 and 2013 (Click Image To Enlarge)
COMMENTARY: If you are considering making a trip to Rio de Janeiro to experience Carnaval first hand, I recommend that you start making your reservations now. Ticket reservations for the samba school competitions held in the Sambodromo for the 2014 Rio de Janeiro Carnaval are now on sale. You can find out more by clicking HERE. The site also provides information about the history of Carnaval, Carnaval Packages (hotel accommodations, tours, Carnaval balls and Carnaval parade tickets at the Sambodromo), the names of the samba schools competing in the 2014 Rio de Janeiro Carnaval, information about the Sambodromo, Carnaval costumes, and many other valuable information.
Pictures of the 2013 Rio de Janeiro Carnival can be viewed HERE.
Courtesy of an article dated February 14, 2013 appearing in Rio Times
But the new Wanderlust Hotel in Singapore -- which advertises its “concept” on its Web site -- isn't quite so self-serious. And it proves just how far the entire boutique hotel phenomenon has spread, while adapting to local tastes and whims.
Designed “to draw madcap voyagers and curious travelers,” it’s set up as a showcase for local designers. Each gets a floor and free agency to dress it any which way, whether in trompe l’oeil modern furniture (up top), glammy salon chairs or a wacked-out typewriter that would look right at home in Gulliver’s Travels (below). The whole thing’s so quirky and clashy and tacky, it seems like an anti-concept of sorts.
Which is a clever business tactic unto itself. Wanderlust Hotel is a property of the marketing company-turned-hotel group Design Hotels, which has turned the idea of boutique properties into a global enterprise. The company has more than 190 hotels around the world, each meticulously designed and entirely sui generis. Clearly, it recognizes that people like staying in playful theme hotels that aren’t mannered. More on Wanderlust below:
The lobby is fitted out like an industrial-chic barbershop. ByAsylum]:
Here, the art and design collective :phunk studio used an acid Pantone palette to paint rooms the color of famous songs.
COMMENTARY: All I can say is WOW!!. The Wanderlust Hotel is one crazy-ass hotel, nothing like I have ever seen before. The fact that it is located in Singapore is even more surprising. This hotel comes right out of a scene in the film "Beetlejuice". I can visualize that crazy character running the reservation desk. It's an expression of art, part Andy Warhol pop art and Salvadore Dali surrealism. The hotel's design concept is completely unconventional, what I call hotel designer on an LSD trip, a mix of anything and everything, but surprisingly the design concept works. Kids would go crazy in a hotel like this. It's more of a playhouse than a hotel.
Steve Michaels, proprietor of the Hobbit House, asks a reporter when he calls about his pet project.
“DO you have hairy feet? Bilbo Baggins gets off on hairy feet. Hobbits have hairy feet. They also have hairy bellies. They eat about six times a day.”
If you are a J. R. R. Tolkien fan, this information is old news. But if its a new world your reaction is closer to,
“Hobbit? Short, some kind of elf, annoying. Bilbo? Bilious? Rocky Balboa?”
And thanks to Mr. Michaels, you can spend the night in it. No need to bring slippers: a big hairy pair await you. Also a wizard’s hat, belonging to someone named Gandalf. How to get there? It’s a long, long journey, because wherever you live, it is not close.
Glorious August, the time for road trips. While it may seem that roadside America has been taken over by motel chains, one as sterile and uninspired as the next, this is not true: there are lots of rich and varied places to stay out there.
The Hobbit House, in northwest Montana, about a three-hour drive from Spokane, Wash., is a guesthouse. Number of units: one. But it is a large unit. The Web site, which the reporter studies before arriving, shows a 1,000-square-foot structure built into a hill, on a 20-acre site dotted with structures that range from small to perfect for squashing with your foot: a four-foot stump-shaped troll house, a few round-door hobbit houses with chimney pipes and several shoe-box-size fairy houses.
Studying the pictures, the reporter has the sinking feeling that she will be spending the night at a miniature golf course. After arriving at the Hobbit House, this fear is quickly put to rest: there are no putting greens.
Mr. Michaels, who turns 63 this month and can be found at his own house across the road, is white-haired and as jolly as Santa, but with a much darker back story and some ambivalence about children. He makes his living as a broker of telephone answering businesses, running a company called TAS Marketing with his 59-year-old wife, Christine, who tends to practical matters like contracts.
But Mr. Michaels has also been many other things: a hypnotist; the author of a self-published self-help book called “How to Die With a Smile on Your Face”; something called a futurist, which seems to involve getting out of the city and arming yourself; and a llama rancher. He keeps four alpacas as pets; pilots what he calls his flying machine, a Buckeye Dream Machine-powered parachute; and gets about his 100-acre property in a Kubota RTV that resembles a hybrid golf cart and dump truck.
A HOBBIT, according to the literature, likes to be comfortable at home, and the guesthouse, shaped on the inside like an inverted bowl, is first class. Mr. Michaels charges $245 a night, and paid about $410,000 to build and furnish it.
There are granite counters in the kitchen, elaborate lighting and a Harmony audiovisual system. A gold ring, which figures prominently in hobbit lore, hangs from a rafter. The rustic wooden furniture is custom-made, and the headboards are embedded with the Hobbit House logo, a hobbit door with a red light — and on the headboards, it’s a real red light.
But what is a visit to the Hobbit House without a tour of the shire? Into the RTV we go, accompanied by Mr. Michaels’s dog, Libby, a collie-shepherd mix. Here is a tiny sod-roof house belonging to Frodo, a Baggins relation; there, in the trunk of a tree, is a mother-son fairy abode (complete with two doors). Not everything is hobbitically accurate: there is a two-foot-tall hairy-back frog, because Mr. Michaels figured that if hobbits were hairy, their frogs should be, too.
Mr. Michaels says, steering the cart toward the sod-covered roof of the life-size guesthouse.
“And look. You can drive over the house, because it’s built into the ground. Right now, we’re 30 feet over your bedroom.”
Wahoo! Try that at the Best Western. The view of Mr. Michaels’s house across the road, beside the pond, is lovely, and there is an abundance of wildlife here, he says: they have seen coyote, elk, mountain lions, even a grizzly.
Does the wildlife ever damage those little structures?
Mr. Michaels says.
“This spring we hauled almost a truckload of elk turd from the top of the Hobbit House. On top of the house it’s nice and warm, and the grass comes in early, and they like to hang out there.”
Back at the guesthouse, we talk about the financial side of things. The Hobbit House was completed last fall, but the guest book shows only about 14 entries. How are they making a go of it?
Mr. Michaels says.
“We’re not. TAS Marketing is the way I make my money. This started out as a simple guesthouse, then my contractor’s son said, ‘Oh, it looks like a hobbit house.’ Then my imagination went wild. We read the book and watched the movies, and then we had to have a hobbit house, we had to have a troll house, we had to have the mushrooms. It’s all custom. I’ve got real rich taste.”
He later says.
“I have an addictive personality.”
What is the saga of this hobbit fan with the healing pyramid hanging from his neck, and from what exotic land did he emerge? Burlington, Vt., it turns out.
Mr. Michaels was the middle child of seven children, and his parents were strict and demanding. Also, they were poor. He got his brother’s hand-me-down socks, and in school, when the children took off their shoes to play a marching game, his too-long socks preceded him, flop, flop, flop.
At the urging of his father, a tool and die maker at General Electric, he attended Vermont Technical College after graduating from high school.
An instructor said one day.
“When you finish this, you will be able to fix a radio.”
Mr. Michaels thought.
“I don’t want to fix the radio. I want to be on the radio.”
So he went out to Eugene, Ore., and worked as a radio disc jockey while going to Lane Community College, living, he says, like a maniac: crashing cars, stealing food from grocery stores, racking up so many D.U.I.’s that a judge finally gave him the choice of going to jail or leaving the state. (He left the state.)
Eventually he went into sales, married and spent much time in metaphysical searching, exploring reincarnation and the power of the mind to heal physical ailments like cancer. (After the reporter tells him what she thinks of this — picture everyone in the Bronx doing the cheer that bears the borough’s name and you get the idea — he becomes guarded, but he does say that as a hypnotist, he regressed people to past lives.)
The Michaelses moved around, running a bed-and-breakfast in California, a llama ranch in Colorado. One day when they took a few of their llamas for a walk, a neighbor complained because they had walked across his property, and they knew it was time to move along.
They moved to Montana. Mr. Michaels’s communications business was thriving, but he had started drinking at night and smoking marijuana. Then, in the summer of 2004, some neighbors told him about a spiritual healer in Brazil named John of God, who could tell the state of your soul by looking at a photo.
Mr. Michaels sent the healer a picture, and it came back with a red X through it. His heart started pounding. He flushed all the pot he had just bought down the toilet, left his beer in front of a neighbor’s door, went up on the hill behind his house, where his first dog, One Eye, was buried, and wept. He reflected on his life, thought of all the hurtful things he had done as a young man and resolved to do better.
That was when he wrote his book about how to live a richer life and began giving “life assessment” workshops and playing Santa Claus in Trout Creek, intercepting the letters children sent to Santa at the post office and buying them gifts himself. He left waitresses $100 tips. He considered building a three-story lodge for his workshops, but the bank wanted to be too involved.
So the next thing you know, here comes the Hobbit project. Children were not admitted at first (Mr. Michaels did not want their sticky fingers on his expensive furnishings), but so many people wanted to bring them that they are now welcome if they are well behaved.
Mr. Michaels takes the reporter on a tour of the rest of his property: his three-bedroom home; the alpacas; the flying machine, which he has flown up to Cougar Peak (once a bald eagle with a fish in its talons flew alongside him). He seems to have bought all the toys he couldn’t afford as a boy, he is told.
Mr. Michaels agrees.
“There was a time my father wanted a pond on his property, and my brother and I spent two summers and a winter cutting down trees,”
“My brother and I worked for two summers, my father never even said ‘thank you.’ I decided to build my own pond, and I have a nice island out there and electricity on mine and a lighthouse where the lights go on.”
At the reporter’s request, they go up the hill where Mr. Michael did his vision quest, sitting beside the dog’s grave and thinking about what would become of his own spirit when he died. Four pets are now buried there, and when Mr. Michaels and his wife die, they will be buried there, too.
That evening, he and his wife invite the reporter to a supper any fat-bellied hobbit would appreciate: ribs made according to Mr. Michaels’s secret recipe, potato salad, huckleberry pie. Then it’s to bed.
The reporter tries on Gandalf’s felt wizard hat (too pointy) and the fuzzy deer-hide slippers (too clammy) and, unable to figure out how to turn off the red light on the headboard, throws a blanket over her head and tries to sleep. It occurs to her that she is 30 feet under a hill and the deceased pets are across the road under another hill. It seems as if there should be something profound in this, but the reporter cannot figure out what it is.
The next morning, when she goes to her car, she sees muddy paw prints on the door near the handle, about the height of a hobbit, a bear cub or a dog — a mystery that will remain unsolved. Then it’s back on the August road.
COMMENTARY: That's what I call vacation house that is quite literally out-of-this-world. Located in a remote section of Montana. Where the sky is blue and clear during the day. And you can really see the stars at night. Located where there are wild animals roaming closeby. Where the air is clean, and you can read and just kick back and release. If you like solitude of living out in the wild, away from humanity, and tourist crowds, then The Hobbit House is for you. At $245.00 per night, that's a real bargain compared to some of the high-priced hotels and resorts.
The Hobbit House lies in the colorful forested foothills of the Cabinet Mountains up in the Shire of Whitepine Valley approximately 8 Miles S.E. of Trout Creek, the huckleberry capital of Montana and 16 miles N.W. of Thompson Falls. This lushly appointed Tourist Home is tastefully furnished with a crafted King Size Bedroom, HD-Blu-Ray Color TV, 3 Phones and Wi-Fi, XM Radio and a designer’s kitchen furnished with customized granite counters, and all the appliances and tools a chef needs for gourmet creations, including a deck with gas barbeque. This “Hobbit Experience” is a must see if you are into the imaginative and mystical. Another reason to visit Montana!
call us at (406) 827-7200 fax: (406) 827-4554 Hobbit House of Montana 9 Hobbit Lane, Trout Creek, Montana 59874
Here's directions to get to the Hobbit House. Notice ~ Your GPS will not work in getting you to the Shire
9 Hobbit Lane, Trout Creek, Montana 59874 (406) 827-7200
From Spokane, WA via Sandpoint, ID on Highway 200: * From Spokane / Coeur d' Alene * Go EAST on I-90 to Highway 95 North (Coeur d’Alene). LEFT at exit * North on Hwy 95 to Sandpoint, ID * Go through Sandpoint following 95 through a traffic light that states Hwy 200 straight ahead (heading East) * East on Hwy 200 toward Montana. * Stay on Highway 200 thru Clark Fork, Idaho; Heron, and Noxon to Trout Creek. * Go past Trout Creek about 8 miles and turn right just past mile market 37 on Whitepine Creek Road. Look for our Hobbit House Door Logo in Blue on the right. * Go approximately 2 ½ miles to Hobbit Lane on right * Park under trees in front of our Hobbit House sign * Check-in at the house across the road
** Remember there is a time change from Pacific to Mountain Time if you’re coming from Idaho **
From Spokane, WA over Thompson Pass Road: NOTE: This way of travel is closed in the winter months.
• From Spokane / Coeur d' Alene • Go EAST on I-90 to Exit 43 (Kingston). Turn Left * Continue over free way and along the river to Prichard, ID (approx. 20 miles) * Cross Prichard Creek * Turn Right * Go past Murray, ID * You'll drive over Thompson Pass to Highway 200 (approx. 40 miles from Prichard) * Turn LEFT at Highway 200 * Travel approximately 12 miles almost to mile marker 37 * Just before mile marker 37 - Turn LEFT on Whitepine Creek Road. Look for our Hobbit House Door Logo in Blue on the right. * Go approximately 2 ½ miles to Hobbit Lane on right * Park under trees in front of our Hobbit House sign * Check-in at the house across the road
From Missoula, MT: (This route is 20 miles shorter) * From Missoula * Go WEST on I-90 to Exit 96 heading toward Kalispell (Highway 93) * Stay on Highway 93/200 until you get to Ravalli * Turn left on Highway 200 heading to Thompson Falls. See directions from Thompson Falls.
From Missoula, MT via I-90: * From Missoula * Go WEST on I-90 until you reach St. Regis, MT. * Take Exit 33 (turn Right) on Hwy 135 heading toward Paradise, MT. * Go approximately 35 miles to Hwy 200 * Go left on Hwy 200 to Thompson Falls, MT. See directions from Thompson Falls.
From Thompson Falls, MT: * Travel approximately 16 miles almost to mile marker 37 * Just before mile marker 37 - Turn LEFT on Whitepine Creek Road. Look for our Hobbit House Door Logo in Blue on the right. * Go approximately 2 ½ miles to Hobbit Lane on right * Park under trees in front of our Hobbit House sign * Check-in at the house across the road
From Canada: * Go SOUTH till you hear the laughter of Hobbits...
Click Image to view the first-ever views of the complete remains of the ship in full profile appearing in the April 2012 edition of National Geographic Magazine
At 2:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912, the “unsinkable” RMS Titanic disappeared beneath the waves, taking with her 1,500 souls. One hundred years later, new technologies have revealed the most complete—and most intimate—images of the famous wreck.
The wreck sleeps in darkness, a puzzlement of corroded steel strewn across a thousand acres of the North Atlantic seabed. Fungi feed on it. Weird colorless life-forms, unfazed by the crushing pressure, prowl its jagged ramparts. From time to time, beginning with the discovery of the wreck in 1985 by Explorer-in-Residence Robert Ballard and Jean-Louis Michel, a robot or a manned submersible has swept over Titanic’s gloomy facets, pinged a sonar beam in its direction, taken some images—and left.
In recent years explorers like James Cameron and Paul-Henry Nargeolet have brought back increasingly vivid pictures of the wreck. Yet we’ve mainly glimpsed the site as though through a keyhole, our view limited by the dreck suspended in the water and the ambit of a submersible’s lights. Never have we been able to grasp the relationships between all the disparate pieces of wreckage. Never have we taken the full measure of what’s down there.
Until now. In a tricked-out trailer on a back lot of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), William Lange stands over a blown-up sonar survey map of theTitanic site—a meticulously stitched-together mosaic that has taken months to construct. At first look the ghostly image resembles the surface of the moon, with innumerable striations in the seabed, as well as craters caused by boulders dropped over millennia from melting icebergs.
Sonar images of the forward (bow) and rear sections (stern) of the RMS Titanic and the entire debris field of the Titanic lying at the bottom of the Northern Atlantic Ocean (Click Images To Enlarge)
On closer inspection, though, the site appears to be littered with man-made detritus—a Jackson Pollock-like scattering of lines and spheres, scraps and shards. Lange turns to his computer and points to a portion of the map that has been brought to life by layering optical data onto the sonar image. He zooms in, and in, and in again. Now we can see the Titanic’s bow in gritty clarity, a gaping black hole where its forward funnel once sprouted, an ejected hatch cover resting in the mud a few hundred feet to the north. The image is rich in detail: In one frame we can even make out a white crab clawing at a railing.
Here, in the sweep of a computer mouse, is the entire wreck of the Titanic—every bollard, every davit, every boiler. What was once a largely indecipherable mess has become a high-resolution crash scene photograph, with clear patterns emerging from the murk. Lange says.
“Now we know where everything is. After a hundred years, the lights are finally on.”
Bill Lange is the head of WHOI’s Advanced Imaging and Visualization Laboratory, a kind of high-tech photographic studio of the deep. A few blocks from Woods Hole’s picturesque harbor, on the southwestern elbow of Cape Cod, the laboratory is an acoustic-tiled cave crammed with high-definition television monitors and banks of humming computers. Lange was part of the original Ballard expedition that found the wreck, and he’s been training ever more sophisticated cameras on the site ever since.
Sonar images of the forward half of the RMS Titanic at the bottom of the Northern Atlantic Ocean and image of the ship showing the application forward section (Click Image To Enlarge)
This imagery, the result of an ambitious multi-million-dollar expedition undertaken in August-September 2010, was captured by three state-of-the-art robotic vehicles that flew at various altitudes above the abyssal plain in long, preprogrammed swaths. Bristling with side-scan and multibeam sonar as well as high-definition optical cameras snapping hundreds of images a second, the robots systematically “mowed the lawn,” as the technique is called, working back and forth across a three-by-five-mile target area of the ocean floor. These ribbons of data have now been digitally stitched together to assemble a massive high-definition picture in which everything has been precisely gridded and geo-referenced.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) archaeologist James Delgado, the expedition’s chief scientist said.
“This is a game-changer. In the past, trying to understand Titanic was like trying to understand Manhattan at midnight in a rainstorm—with a flashlight. Now we have a site that can be understood and measured, with definite things to tell us. In years to come this historic map may give voice to those people who were silenced, seemingly forever, when the cold water closed over them.”
What is it about the wreck of the R.M.S. Titanic? Why, a century later, do people still lavish so much brainpower and technological ingenuity upon this graveyard of metal more than two miles beneath the ocean surface? Why, like Pearl Harbor, ground zero, and only a few other hallowed disaster zones, does it exert such a magnetic pull on our imagination?
These new photos, shot using state-of-the-are technology by independent research group Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, provide viewers with a greater understanding of what happened on that fateful April 15, 1912.
RMS Titanic bucked as it blowed nose-first into the seabed, leaving the forward hull buried deep in mud--obscuring, possibly forever, the damage inflicted by the iceberg (Click Image To Enlarge)
RMS Titanic's battered stern is captured overhead here. Making sense of this tangle of metal presents endless challenges to experts. (Click Image To Enlarge)
RMS Titanic's battered stern, captured here in profile, bears witness to the extreme trauma inflicted upon it as it corkscrewed to the bottom (Click Image To Enlarge)
Ethereal views of Titanic's bow (modeled) offer a comprehensiveness of detail never seen before (Click Image To Enlarge)
Researchers Kirk Wolfinger, top left, Rushmore DeNooyer, and Tony Bacon put together the 100,000 sonar images of the RMS Titanic for a History Channel documentary (Click Image To Enlarge)
For some the sheer extravagance of Titanic’s demise lies at the heart of its attraction. This has always been a story of superlatives: A ship so strong and so grand, sinking in water so cold and so deep. For others the Titanic’s fascination begins and ends with the people on board. It took two hours and 40 minutes for the Titanic to sink, just long enough for 2,208 tragic-epic performances to unfold, with the ship’s lights blazing. One coward is said to have made for the lifeboats dressed in women’s clothing, but most people were honorable, many heroic. The captain stayed at the bridge, the band played on, the Marconi wireless radio operators continued sending their distress signals until the very end. The passengers, for the most part, kept to their Edwardian stations. How they lived their final moments is the stuff of universal interest, a danse macabre that never ends.
But something else, beyond human lives, went down with the Titanic: An illusion of orderliness, a faith in technological progress, a yearning for the future that, as Europe drifted toward full-scale war, was soon replaced by fears and dreads all too familiar to our modern world. James Cameron told me.
“The Titanic disaster was the bursting of a bubble. There was such a sense of bounty in the first decade of the 20th century. Elevators! Automobiles! Airplanes! Wireless radio! Everything seemed so wondrous, on an endless upward spiral. Then it all came crashing down.”
A portion of RMS Titanic's steel hull that broke off when she sunk. Shows several portals and hundreds of rivets (Click Image To Enlarge)
The mother of all shipwrecks has many homes—literal, legal, and metaphorical—but none more surreal than the Las Vegas Strip. At the Luxor Hotel, in an upstairs entertainment court situated next to a striptease show and a production of Menopause the Musical, is a semipermanent exhibition of Titanic artifacts brought up from the ocean depths by RMS Titanic, Inc., the wreck’s legal salvager since 1994. More than 25 million people have seen this exhibit and similar RMST shows that have been staged in 20 countries around the world.
I spent a day at the Luxor in mid-October, wandering among the Titanic relics: A chef’s toque, a razor, lumps of coal, a set of perfectly preserved serving dishes, innumerable pairs of shoes, bottles of perfume, a leather gladstone bag, a champagne bottle with the cork still in it. They are mostly ordinary objects made extraordinary for the long, terrible journey that brought them to these clean Plexiglas cases.
I passed through a darkened chamber kept as cold as a meat locker, with a Freon-fed “iceberg” that visitors can go up to and touch. Piped-in sighs and groans of rending metal contributed to the sensation of being trapped in the belly of a fatally wounded beast. The exhibit’s centerpiece, however, was a gargantuan slab of Titanic’s hull, known as the “big piece,” that weighs 15 tons and was, after several mishaps, hoisted by crane from the seabed in 1998. Studded with rivets, ribbed with steel, this monstrosity of black metal reminded me of a T. rex at a natural history museum: impossibly huge, pinned and braced at great expense—an extinct species hauled back from a lost world.
The RMST exhibit is well-done, but over the years many marine archaeologists have had harsh words for the company and its executives, calling them grave robbers, treasure hunters, carnival barkers—and worse. Robert Ballard, who has long argued that the wreck and all its contents should be preserved in situ, has been particularly caustic in his criticism of RMST’s methodologies. Ballard told me.
“You don’t go to the Louvre and stick your finger on the Mona Lisa. You don’t visit Gettysburg with a shovel. These guys are driven by greed—just look at their sordid history.”
In recent years, however, RMST has come under new management and has taken a different course, shifting its focus away from pure salvage toward a long-term plan for approaching the wreck as an archaeological site—while working in concert with scientific and governmental organizations most concerned with the Titanic. In fact, the 2010 expedition that captured the first view of the entire wreck site was organized, led, and paid for by RMST. In a reversal from years past, the company now supports calls for legislation creating a protected Titanic maritime memorial. Late in 2011 RMST announced plans to auction off its entire $189 million collection of artifacts and related intellectual property in time for the disaster’s hundredth anniversary—but only if it can find a bidder willing to abide by the stringent conditions imposed by a federal court, including that the collection be kept intact.
I met RMST’s president, Chris Davino, at the company’s artifacts warehouse, tucked next to a dog grooming parlor in a nondescript block on the edge of Atlanta’s Buckhead district. Deep inside the climate-controlled brick building, a forklift trundled down the long aisles of industrial shelving stacked with meticulously labeled crates containing relics—dishes, clothing, letters, bottles, plumbing pieces, portholes—that were retrieved from the site over the past three decades. Here Davino, a dapper, Jersey shore-raised “turnaround professional” who has led RMST since 2009, explained the company’s new tack. Davino said.
“For years, the only thing that all the voices in the Titanic community could agree on was their disdain of us. So it was time to reassess everything. We had to do something beyond artifact recovery. We had to stop fighting with the experts and start collaborating with them.”
Which is exactly what’s happened. Government agencies such as NOAA that were formerly embroiled in lawsuits against RMST and its parent company, Premier Exhibitions, Inc., are now working directly with RMST on various long-range scientific projects as part of a new consortium dedicated to protecting the wreck site. Dave Conlin, chief marine archaeologist at the National Park Service, another agency that had been vehemently critical of the company says.
“It’s not easy to thread the needle between preservation and profit. RMST deserved the flak they got in years past, but they also deserve credit for taking this new leap of faith.”
Scholars praise RMST for recently hiring one of the world’s preeminent Titanic experts to analyze the 2010 images and begin to identify the many unsorted puzzle pieces on the ocean floor. Bill Sauder is a gnome-like man with thick glasses and a great shaggy beard that flexes and snags on itself when he laughs. His business card identifies him as a “director of Titanic research,” but that doesn’t begin to hint at his encyclopedic mastery of the Titanic’s class of ocean liners. (Sauder himself prefers to say that he is RMST’s “keeper of odd knowledge.”)
When I met him in Atlanta, he was parked at his computer, attempting to make head or tail of a heap of rubbish photographed in 2010 near the Titanic’s stern. Most Titanic expeditions have focused on the more photogenic bow section, which lies over a third of a mile to the north of most of the wreckage, but Sauder thinks that the area in the vicinity of the stern is where the real action will likely be concentrated in years to come—especially with the new RMST images providing a clearer guide. Sauder said.
“The bow’s very sexy, but we’ve been to it hundreds of times. All this wreckage here to the south is what I’m interested in.”
In essence Sauder was hunting for anything recognizable, any pattern amid the chaos around the stern. He told me.
“We like to picture shipwrecks as Greek temples on a hill—you know, very picturesque. But they’re not. They’re ruined industrial sites: piles of plates and rivets and stiffeners. If you’re going to interpret this stuff, you gotta love Picasso.”
Sauder zoomed in on the image at hand, and within a few minutes had solved at least a small part of the mystery near the stern: Lying atop the wreckage was the crumpled brass frame of a revolving door, probably from a first-class lounge. It is the kind of painstaking work that only someone who knows every inch of the ship could perform—a tiny part of an enormous Where’s Waldo? sleuthing project that could keep Bill Sauder busy for years.
In late October I found myself in Manhattan Beach, California, inside a hangar-size film studio where James Cameron, surrounded by dazzling props and models from his 1997 movie, Titanic, had assembled a roundtable of some of the world’s foremost nautical authorities—quite possibly the most illustrious conclave of Titanic experts ever gathered. Along with Cameron, Bill Sauder, and RMST explorer Paul-Henry Nargeolet, the roundtable boasted Titanic historian Don Lynch and famed Titanic artist Ken Marschall, along with a naval engineer, a Woods Hole oceanographer, and two U.S. Navy architects.
Cameron could more than hold his own in this select company. A self-described “rivet-counting Titanic geek,” the filmmaker has led three expeditions to the site. He developed and piloted a new class of nimble, fiber-spooling robots that brought back never before seen images of the ship’s interior, including tantalizing glimpses of the Turkish bath and some of the opulent staterooms.
Cameron has white hair and a close-clipped white goatee, and when he’s wound up on Titanic matters, a certain Melvillean intensity weighs on his brow. Cameron has also filmed the wreck of the Bismarck and is now building a submarine to take him and his cameras to the Mariana Trench. But the Titanic still holds him; he keeps swearing off the subject, only to return. He told me at his Malibu compound.
“There’s this very strange mixture of biology and architecture down there—this sort of biomechanoid quality. I think it’s gorgeous and otherworldly. You really feel like this is something that’s gone to Tartarus—to the underworld.”
At Cameron’s request, the two-day roundtable would concentrate entirely on forensics: Why did the Titanic break up the way she did? Precisely where did the hull fail? At what angle did the myriad components smash into the seabed? It was to be a kind of inquest, in other words, nearly a hundred years after the fact.
“What you’re looking at is a crime scene. Once you understand that, you really get sucked into the minutiae. You want to know: How’d it get like that? How’d the knife wind up over here and the gun over there?”
Perhaps inevitably, the roundtable took off in esoteric directions—with discussion of glide ratios, shearing forces, turbidity studies. Listeners lacking an engineering sensibility would have extracted one indelible impression from the seminar: Titanic’s final moments were hideously, horrifically violent. Many accounts depict the ship as “slipping beneath the ocean waves,” as though she drifted tranquilly off to sleep, but nothing could be further from the truth. Building on many years of close analysis of the wreck, and employing state-of-the-art flooding models and “finite element” simulations used in the modern shipping industry, the experts painted a gruesome portrait of Titanic’s death throes.
The ship sideswiped the iceberg at 11:40 p.m., buckling portions of the starboard hull along a 300-foot span and exposing the six forward watertight compartments to the sea. From this moment onward, sinking was a certainty. The demise may have been hastened, however, when crewmen pushed open a gangway door on the port side in an aborted attempt to load lifeboats from a lower level. Since the ship had begun listing to port, they could not reclose the massive door against gravity, and by 1:50 a.m., the bow had settled enough to allow seawater to rush in through the gangway.
By 2:18, with the last lifeboat having departed 13 minutes earlier, the bow had filled with water and the stern had risen high enough into the air to expose the propellers and create catastrophic stresses on the middle of the ship. Then the Titanic cracked in half.
Cameron stood up and demonstrated how it happened. He grabbed a banana and began to wrench it in his hands:
“Watch how it flexes and pooches in the middle before it breaks—see that?”
The banana skin at the bottom, which was supposed to represent the doubly reinforced bottom of the hull, was the last part to snap.
Once released from the stern section, the bow shot for the bottom at a fairly steep angle. Gaining velocity as it dropped, parts began to shear away: Funnels snapped. The wheelhouse crumbled. Finally, after five minutes of relentless descent, the bow nosed into the mud with such massive force that its ejecta patterns are still visible on the seafloor today.
The stern, lacking a hydrodynamic leading edge like the bow, descended even more traumatically, tumbling and corkscrewing as it fell. A large forward section, already weakened by the fracture at the surface, completely disintegrated, spitting its contents into the abyss. Compartments exploded. Decks pancaked. Hull plates ripped out. The poop deck twisted back over itself. Heavier pieces such as the boilers dropped straight down, while other pieces were flung off “like Frisbees.” For more than two miles, the stern made its tortured descent—rupturing, buckling, warping, compressing, and gradually disintegrating. By the time it hit the ocean floor, it was unrecognizable.
Sitting back down, Cameron popped a pinched piece of banana in his mouth and ate it. He said.
“We didn’t want the Titanic to have broken up like this. We wanted her to have gone down in some kind of ghostly perfection.”
Listening to this learned disquisition on the Titanic’s death, I kept wondering: What happened to the people still on board as she sank? Most of the 1,496 victims died of hypothermia at the surface, bobbing in a patch of cork life preservers. But hundreds of people may still have been alive inside, most of them immigrant families in steerage class, looking forward to a new life in America. How did they, during their last moments, experience these colossal wrenchings and shudderings of metal? What would they have heard and felt? It was, even a hundred years later, too awful to contemplate.
St. John’s, Newfoundland, is another of Titanic’s homes. On June 8, 1912, a rescue ship returned to St. John’s bearing the last recovered Titanic corpse. For months, deck chairs, pieces of wood paneling, and other relics were reported to have washed up on the Newfoundland coast.
I had hoped to pay my respects to the people who literally went down with the ship by flying to the wreck site from St. John’s with the International Ice Patrol, the agency created in the disaster’s aftermath to keep watch for icebergs in the North Atlantic sea lanes. When a nor’easter canceled all flights, I found my way instead to a tavern in the George Street district, where I was treated to a locally made vodka distilled with iceberg water. To complete the effect, the bartender plopped into my glass an angular nub of ice chipped from an iceberg, supposedly calved from the same Greenlandic glacier that birthed the berg that sank Titanic. The ice ticked and fizzed in my glass—the exhalations, I was told, of ancient atmospheres trapped inside.
I could still get a little closer, physically and figuratively, to those who rest forever with the ship. A few years before the disaster, Guglielmo Marconi built a permanent wireless station on a desolate, wind-battered spit south of St. John’s, called Cape Race. Locals claim that the first person to receive the distress signal from the sinking ship was Jim Myrick, a 14-year-old wireless apprentice at the station who went on to a career with the Marconi Company. Initially, the transmission came in as a standard emergency code, CQD. But then Cape Race received a new signal, seldom used before: SOS.
One morning at Cape Race, amid the carcasses of old Marconi machines and crystal receivers, I met David Myrick, Jim’s great-nephew, a marine radio operator and the last of a proud line of antique communicators. David said his uncle never spoke about the night the Titanic sank until he was a frail old man. By that point, Jim had lost his hearing so completely that the only way the family could converse with him was through Morse code—manipulating a smoke detector to produce high-pitched dots and dashes. David said.
“A Marconi man to the end. He thought in Morse code—hell, he dreamed in it.”
We went out by the lighthouse and looked over the cold sea, which crashed into the cliffs below. An oil tanker cruised in the distance. Farther out, on the Grand Banks, new icebergs had been reported. Farther out still, somewhere beyond the bulge of the horizon, lay the most famous shipwreck in the world. My mind raced with thoughts of signals bouncing in the ionosphere—the propagation of radio waves, the cry of ages submerged in time. And I imagined I could hear the voice of the Titanic herself: A vessel with too much pride in her name, sprinting smartly toward a new world, only to be mortally nicked by something as old and slow as ice.
COMMENTARY: Everytime I watch the movie "Titanic," I get goosebumps. It's such an incredible love story emersed with the grandeur of the RMS Titanic on her maiden voyage that would end so tragically. Let's hope we never have to experience another tragedy like the Titanic.
Director/Producer John Cameron did an incredible job filming the events of that terrible night in the original film "Titanic." Cameron is bringing back "Titanic" in all her glory in 3D this time, and the film will be shown for a limited engagement beginning in April 2012. Hope to see you there. Now the Titanic 3D Official Trailer.
For an authentic history of the RMS Titanic, check out the Titanic Stories , RMS Titanic, Inc and Titanic Historical Society websites. These sites are the best of several and include some incredible content including images and videos of the ship, her passengers, the survivors and many other interesting facts about Titanic.
AIRBNB HAS EXPERIENCED METEORIC GROWTH OVER THE LAST YEAR, FUELED BY GLOBAL EXPANSION. AND THEY'RE GOOD AT TELLING THE STORY.
A company’s annual report is a go-to reference when sizing up a company’s health and prospects. All those facts and figures arranged in black-and-white tables also make up the perfect cure for insomnia. Why do corporate documents have to be so boring? They don’t, as the info-data genius Nick Felton revealed in 2005, when he began issuing his own highly personalized form of annual reports chock full of biographical details presented with design gusto. (You may recall that Felton is also responsible for inspiring Facebook’s new Timeline format.) It took a few years, but companies are finally catching on to the idea of leavening snooze-inducing data with exciting colorful graphics and easy-to-read figures.
The latest to jump on the Felton bandwagon: Airbnb, which comprises a global network of local renters providing alternates to pricey hotel rooms. The big news here--rendered in eye-catching red--is that the three-year-old company is celebrating its 5 millionth nightly booking (4 million of which were made in the last year alone). That meteoric growth has a lot to do with its global expansion: 75% of its business now involves an international guest, host, or both--a fine argument for opening six new offices in major international cities by March 2012.
Click Image To Enlarge
COMMENTARY: I must admit that I have not covered Airbnb in my blog, although it has been hailed as a huge financial success. I just looked at the Airbnb website, and did a search for apartments and studios in the Cidade Maravilhosa a.k.a. Rio de Janeiro, and there are some nice pads in there. Check out the Very new and beautiful 2Br Leblon and the Photographer's Loft at the beach in Leblon, the best neighborhood in RJ. I enjoy cooking and being close to the Rio nightlife and excitement. The apartments and studios listed in Airbnb are definitely head and shoulders above the accommodations at a top RJ hotel. Now is a great time to visit, but keep in mind it is the high season so prices are much higher. If you haven't made your reservations for Rio's Carnaval, it's probably already too late, in which case I would highly recommend Buzios, R.J. It's a wonderful Brazilian resort about 115 miles south of Rio, and they have some great BnB's or Posada's there. Check it out. If you've been to Rio, let us know what you thought.
Check this neat How To Airbnb video on YouTube:
Courtesy of an article dated January 27, 2012 appearing in Fast Company
Catch some sleep between flights -- without drooling on the guy next to you.
The legions of airline passengers stranded around the world several months back, victims of Volcanogate 2010, shone the floodlights on one seemingly inevitable fact of airports: They make for terrible hotels.
That’s about to change, if Dream and Fly has its way. The Barcelona-based design group has an idea to fit-out airports everywhere in small, designy “luxury rooms” -- think the Standard hard by Connections Bar & Grill.
Called “Bubbles,” they're fully equipped with beds, bathrooms, and tons of places to plug in laptops and the like (another seemingly inevitable fact of airports: they never have enough outlets). They come in three sizes; the largest, at 108 square feet, has a bed, a baby cot, and a bathroom. You rent them at a kiosk or online, and the rate is hourly. “Each Bubble has an astonishingly practical configuration, [and is] individually designed and built with attractive materials, offering great sleeping comfort and a unique experience,” Dream and Fly’s Cédric Michiels Chalamont tells us in an email.
It might sound weird at first -- only a crazy person would want to sleep at an airport. But because of strict security regulations, people are spending more time than ever at airports, and airports have adapted by turning themselves into little cities, with decent restaurants, bars, and way too many stores. Why not add sleeping accommodations to the mix? It’d be perfect for passengers with long layovers who want to catch some shuteye but don’t want to pass out on a chair. It’d also be great for people with canceled flights. Instead of wasting money on a cab to some crappy airport hotel, they could fetch up in a pod. Imagine how many people these things could have helped last April.
And it's not just a pipe dream. Chalamont says Dream and Fly has plans to implement Bubbles in two international airports. (Because of NDA contracts, he declined to specify which ones.)
Obviously, there are details to hammer out. How do you keep them clean? How do you make sure they don't turn into vessels for hot, airport hanky panky? And even if they are practical, will people actually use them? Or will they become like airport luggage carts, the exclusive realm of old people and families with too many children? Maybe we’re just not used to anything good coming out of places you rent by the hour.
COMMENTARY: Mobile sleeping hotels and sleeping pods are the latest trend. Japan has a hotel chain that offers sleeping pods similar to Dream and Fly's Bubbles. Not good if you are claustrophobic. They are about $60 a night, which compared to traditional hotels are considered a real bargain.
The following Bubbles are currently being promoted and offered:
Simple Bubble - The Simple Bubble of 5 m² size is destined for individual occupancy and perfect for powernaps and a rest while waiting for the flight. It is not equiped with a bathroom and shower. The Simple bubble is aimed at young budget travelers looking for a fancy room with basic technology and a bed to rest. The plug and use solution ensures that the Simple Bubble can be installed both inside of existing building or in private areas in the exterior.
Simple Bubble - Click Images To Enlarge
Features of a fully equiped Simple Bubble:
Single bed occupancy
Light mood control
Flat screen television
Pod docking station
PC work table
High speed internet
Luggage storage space
Online flight information
Single Bubble - The Single Bubble of 7 m² size is equipped with a bathroom and rain shower. It is destined for an individual occupancy with full privacy, entertainment, comfort and connectivity. The Single Bubble is aimed at wide range of transiting travellers in aiport terminals heading for early flights, transfer flights or with cancelled flights. The plug and use solution of the Single Bubble can be installed both inside of the existing building or in the private area in the exterior.
Single Bubble - Click Images To Enlarge
Features of a fully equipped Single Bubble:
Single bed occupancy
Light mood control
Pod docking station
PC work table
High speed internet
Luggage storage space
Pnline flight information
Double Family Bubble - The Double Bubble of 10 m² size is equipped with fully functional bathroom and shower. It is destined for tripple family occupancy (parents and one babby) and is perfect for comfortable private space for the family to rest and freshen up while waiting for their flight.
Double Family Bubble - Click Images To Enlarge
Features of a fully equiped Family Bubble:
Light mood control
Flat screen television
Pod docking station
PC work table
High speed internet
Luggage storage space
Online flight information
A series of different Bubbles can be combined to form a "micro-hotel" or may function independently. Booking of each Bubble is done online and onsite or through vouchers. A micro-kiosk is installed outside the entrance of every Bubble in order to make bookings and access the Bubble easily and safely by clients.
In addition to the Bubble pods, D&F's offers the following products and services:
Architectural, technological and management feasibility studies:
Pre-implementation advisory services - Feasibility study for a potential hotel investor/operator.
Implementation advisory services - Setup turnkey micro hotel system according to D&F business model. Assembly and installation of Bubble pods, reservation kiosk and PMS software.
Post-implementation brand management - Dream & Fly branding, distribution channel management and online marketing.
PMS software for managing reservations of Bubble pods.
Distribution and sales channel.
D&F does not take part in the operational management of the concept that they supply. They promote the concept and its brand on a marketing level which is reflected in a commission derived from unit sales and monthly licensing fee for our software.
D&F currently working on ongoing international projects and are particularly interested in expanding its options always depending on the following factors:
Services and business model is compatible with our client needs.
The quantity demanded.
Time of delivery.
It is important to take into account that the prices will depend on which type of Bubbles you require and its quantity + complementary options.
D&F will quote prices in EUROS. Unit prices for Bubble pods depend on the quantity and type of Bubble pod ordered. Unit prices are quoted for less than 50 units, and for 50 units and up depending on the type of Bubble pod.
Unit prices EXCLUDE the following:
Assembly costs per Bubble pod are extra and range between 2,000 and 3,100 EUROS per pod depending on the type of Bubble pod ordered.
Shipping, customs duty and fees.
Sanitary, fixtures, fittings, check-in kiosk, D&F dynamic PMS software, security access code system and domotic system.
Micro-hotel architectural, building costs, facilities management, facility operations, legal, other consulting, and local licenses and permits.
The cult darling of Belgian fashion brings weirdo decadence to Paris, a city overrun by precious traditionalism.
Avant-garde Belgian fashion house Maison Martin Margiela has given a très-cool makeover to a fussy, luxury hotel in Paris, the high Holy Land of fussy, luxury hotels. Maison des Centraliens reopened to the public in May with a slick interior that turns this ornate, Second Empire townhouse (and former home of a Viennese princess) into a monument to the headscrewy Belgian surrealism for which Maison Martin Margiela earned its fashion-world star.
The place is a study in optical illusion. It’s got chairs and tables that appear to suspend in mid-air and trompe l’oeil wall coverings done up in the Hausmannian style that make closed doors seem like they're open. Laser in on the photos, and you’ll be hard-pressed to figure out whether you’re looking at new wallpaper or molding that the architect, Jules Pellechet, dreamed up some 150 years ago. There's a corridor covered floor to ceiling in what looks like tin foil and a mirrored, diamond-shaped parallelepiped said to reference 2001: A Space Odyssey. The dominant color scheme: clinical white.
This sort of high-minded impishness is weird stuff in a city that decorates its top hotels with canopy beds and Louis Quatorze tapestries. But there’s a business reason for it. Maison Martin Margiela -- which no longer operates under the aegis of its fearless, but elusive, leader, Martin Margiela -- rumbled to the fore of the fashion scene more than two decades ago with brainy, deconstructivist design often billed as a rebuke to the era’s penchant for opulent clothing. It has since become a cult darling of the taste-making elite, counting, among its loyal fans, everyone from Jay-Z to Thom Yorke.
Which means that in the rarefied world of fancy hotels, where exclusivity is everything, Maison des Centraliens has one thing the Ritzes and Le Meurices don't have: It’s cool. Says Bernadette Chevallier, who helped oversee the rebranding:
The hotels whose openings have lately been in the news, or soon will be, are all top grade luxury hotels embodying quite a traditional idea of luxury, even conventional in some cases. It’s a choice that has its merits but the Maison des Centraliens, by contrast, puts the focus on discretion and an offbeat take on luxury hotel standards. …[I]ts values revolve around light-heartedness, humour and a laid-back attitude. … Rather than a traditional luxury hotel, we are positioned as a prestigious boutique hotel that combines five-star amenities and services with an unconventional vision of the upmarket hotel business.
Even rarer: It’s relatively affordable. Rooms start at 203 Euros. A comparably sized room in a four-star hotel in Paris can cost twice that.
COMMENTARY: The Maison des Centraliens (La Maison Champs Elysees) hotel is so typical of old style classic French hotels. I love what Maison Martin Margieladid in redesigning the interior of the hotel. The white is a bit too much for my eyes, but I could definitely enjoy a stay there.
The Maison des Centraliens is a 5-star hotel and has 57 rooms and suites, offering the ultimate in comfort, exemplary service and attention to detail. The hotel is ideally located off of the Champs Elysee. It has a garden view on the quiet rue Jean Goujon, in the heart of Paris. Amenities include Free Mini bar, Free WiFi, Free video films, and Apple Mac mini in all rooms. Rates start at 500 Euros per night. Check out the video:
I love that gold leaf being applied to the walls. Below is a video of the grand opening of the hotel.
It's definitely a must see if I am ever in Paris and have the spare cash to afford such luxury. It takes $1.41 Euros to the U.S. dollar, so that is going to be an expensive hotel bill, not including food, wine and tips. I love wine, so I could definitely go crazy there.