Friday Links: Dolly Parton, Sloths, and Love Edition

23 Jan

dolly-parton-quotes-7

Dolly Parton is my spiritual guru. I love her. In difficult situations here at Poe Communications and Industrial Services (for all your writing/editing/industrial needs, just Gmail me at thepoelog), I often ask myself: “What would Dolly do?”

Then I give myself a little Dolly pep talk along the lines of pulling myself up by my bootstraps and going harder, and/or putting on some lipstick and rhinestones to make myself feel better. Those are the two WWDD answers I usually come up with.

So, of course, I’m digging this Mentalfloss list of 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Dolly Parton. My favorite? She entered a Dolly Parton Look-a-Like Contest. And lost. You can’t make that stuff up. Priceless.

Here’s some other stuff I’m digging this week:

Stalking Stateliness: A Visit to The Royal Palace in Naples

21 Jan

Hey, you know what I love? I mother f*#$k-ing stately home.

I cannot get enough of some grandiose living spaces, y’all. Something with tons of tapestries and baroque stone carved curlicues and some of those stucco putti kids and anterooms to rooms that serve no discernible purpose.

Show me a medal room. Show me a salon. Show me a hall of mirrors. Show me anything that screams over-the-top “Renaissance-in-the-style-of-Kim-and-Kanye.”

Ceiling at the Royal Palace, Naples

Subtle, yes?

I will gladly plunk down 7 euros (around $10) to breathe in your musty antiquities.

The Royal Palace of Naples did not disappoint in any of the categories in my mental “Stuff That A Mother F*#$k-ing Stately Home Should Have” list.

IMG_2268

Just to get some history and context out of the way, according to Wikipedia, the Royal Palace of Naples:

was one of the four residences near Naples used by the Bourbon Kings during their rule of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies(1730-1860). Construction on the present building was begun in the 17th century by the architect Domenico Fontana. Intended to house the King Philip III of Spain on a visit never fulfilled to this part of his kingdom, instead it initially housed the Viceroy Fernando Ruiz de Castro, earl of Lemos…In 1734, with the arrival of Charles III of Spain to Naples, the palace became the royal residence of the Bourbons.

And man, did those Bourbons know how to live it up. They started renovating the hell out of the place, adding the theater, rebuilding the great hall, and adding a new wing. Also, this cool escape tunnel from the palace to the coast to help the monarchy escape the often-rebellious people of Naples. Apparently, the French Bourbons weren’t the only ones who had problems with the populace. (I visited the tunnel too, but we’ll talk about that in another post.)

Things at the Palace got even fancier during the Napoleonic occupation, when Napoleon’s dandy of a brother-in-law Joachim Murat took over the palace. Check. Out. That. Hair. He’s like Prince or something. Loving it.

Joachim Murat

By the way, Murat’s last words while facing a firing squad after the whole Napoleon-getting-overthrown business, were: “Soldiers! Do your duty! Straight to the heart but spare the face.” Holy vanity, that is amazing. This dude? Baller.

Today, the Palace and the adjacent grounds are open to the public. There are all kinds of pseudo-government offices in there, including the Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III. That, coupled with the fact that there’s a ton of construction and restoration work being done on both the inside and the outside of the Palace makes the whole visitor experience a little confusing.

Front of the Royal Palace, Naples

This is what the front currently looks like. Not cute.

But I’ve never been one to let a little hammering and scaffolding get in the way of looking at ridiculously ornate tabletop time pieces and portraits of dead fancy people.

side view of the Royal Palace, Naples

This is what the side of the Palace currently looks like. No scaffolding. Much cuter.

I wandered around a bit confused and overwhelmed on a chilly Tuesday morning, the weak December light making everything a bit more cold and austere and milky white.

Entry hall at the Royal Palace, Naples

I had an English audio guide lodged firmly to my ear, which made me unself-conscious enough to gawk freely at the restorers delicately dremeling the pale marble decorations along the entry staircase. I could always just point to the thing at my ear, and shrug if anyone stopped to stare back at me.

Entry hall at the Royal Palace, Naples

I walked past sleeping docents guarding empty theater rooms, their eyelids drooping like the old velvet curtains framing the stage.

Theater at the Royal Palace, Naples

I leaned in close to ornately inlaid wooden tables/bird cages/topiary holders staged in the middle of an otherwise-sparsely furnished room next to a single, stiff chair.

A Throne Room at the Royal Palace, Naples

I listened to two docents chattering away in Italian, pointing at their newspapers and waving their hands while keeping their elbows by their waists and glancing around to see if anyone else was around. When they glanced at me, I quickly became engrossed in a Sevres vase.

A Throne Room at the Royal Palace, Naples

I stood in awe in front of the ridiculously complex precipe (or nativity scene) housed in a chapel and sponsored by a bank. The true meeting of capitalism and religion.

Precipe at the Royal Palace, Naples

I wandered on, through a throne room or two (one for the king, one for the queen), the king’s study, the private apartments, the Hall of Hercules (a ballroom), a music room, a tiny little prayer closet for the queen.

Chapel at the Royal Palace, Naples

All in all, I probably spent about two hours engrossed in bygone splendor, only interrupted by my inability to figure out the sequential order on my audio guide (the rooms were supposedly numbered to correspond, but I could hardly find the numbers and just started guessing.)

That was fine by me. One should stroll through a mother f*#$k-ing stately home, not rush.

Friday Links: Sea Turtles and Legos Edition

16 Jan
Keep your head above water, little dude.

Keep your head above water, little dude.

I did not include enough turtle pictures in my post the other day. Here’s some additional ones, supplied by the ever patient XFE:

Turtle release in Bali

You can just see two little dark spots in this photo. Those are our boys.

Turtles at the St. Regis BaliTurtle release in BaliTurtle release in BaliTurtle release in BaliTurtle release Bali

Unflattering photo aside, I am essentially a giver of freedom, basically. A hero of nature, some might even say.

Unflattering photo aside, I am essentially a giver of freedom, basically. A hero of nature, some might even say.

Hotel Crashing: The St. Regis in Nusa Dua, Bali

14 Jan St. Regis beach

When I was a young, sprightly Poe running wild and breaking hearts (ie: dating), I went out for a bit with a bartender/soccer player named Ian. He was pretty hot with dark curly hair and piercing blue eyes. And very fit, obviously. Ian was sleek, sexy, laid back, and a ton of fun. He was also far too cool for my nerdy self. We dated for a summer and that was it.

A little while later, I dated Alistair (yep, I was in the throws of my British dating phase). Alistair was also gorgeous, but in a far more patrician way. He was calmer, more established and successful, very classy act. Well, classy except for the fact that I found out soon after we started dating that he had a live-in girlfriend. That was the end of that.

What I’m getting at is this: If the slick and cool W Hotel in Seminyak, Bali was Ian, then the St. Regis in Nusa Dua was all Alistair. Minus the live-in girlfriend.

Fire dancers

The view from the lobby down through the length of the property. Yep, those are fire dancers.

Continue reading

Friday Links: Anti-Climatic News Edition

9 Jan

It’s been a busy week here at Poe Communications and Heavy Manufacturing, Inc. Getting back in the freelance grind after the extended holiday, meeting with clients on the coldest day of the year, and assembling a cat scratch post can really take a lot out of a girl. Heck, I even hurt myself at the gym yesterday. Not by over-extending myself or anything, but by just working out at all. It had been a while.

It’s supposed to still be freezing this weekend, so I predict lots of pasta eating, wine drinking and Pinteresting, although I’m sure my head el jefe, XFE is going to try to make me do the gym thing again at least once. Brrr.

Here’s a little Friday reading:

  • Discovery and a whole bunch of other news outlets covered what is probably the most anti-climatic time capsule opening ever. Honestly, why did they feel the need to open it again if they already knew what was in it from the last time they opened it? Were they expecting new items?
  • Disco clams are a thing and they lure their prey with a fantastic light show before killing them. Or, maybe, they warn their predators away with their light show. It’s still not clear. Thanks, science, for not clearing that up at all. Scientists did, however, rule out lighting-show-as-conducive-to-mating-ritual, which goes against everything I learned back in my clubbing days.
  • Pandas were at least enjoying the DC snow this week. Pile on the cuteness indeed.
  • Speaking of snow, this MentalFloss list of obscure regional terms to describe snow will come in handy. The “hinges of hell” one threw me, since I’d always thought that was describing heat. My personal favorite: “Colder than a witches’ teat,” doesn’t seem to have made the cut.
  • Poe Industries HR President Milady Petunia Potpie is worth approximately -$29.99. Yes, that would be a negative sign. Still, I don’t think I would trade her for the unimaginatively named “Blackie,” a cat worth $25 million, according to this list of the world’s six richest pets. That rooster seems nice, though.

Hotel Crashing: W Hotel in Seminyak, Bali

8 Jan

It’s cold here in D.C., y’all. Like, eye-tearing, nose-running, teeth-achingly cold. Yes, the cold makes even your teeth hurt. It’s crazy.

And I won’t even get into my whole frozen fingers and toes situation.

So, with that in mind. I thought we might go back in time (to around August or so). Time to revisit someplace more forgiving and less frigid. Someplace where the gentle breezes warmly caressed our pale, pale, Northeastern skin. Ah, Bali.

Bali sunset

Bali sunset.

Our first couple of nights in Bali were spent at the W Hotel in Seminyak, a very fun and touristy little town down on the coast. Think lots of hotels, restaurants, bars, boutique stores.

We love W Hotels and have stayed in lots of them (including the one in Istanbul right after it opened. Oh, and the one in the French Quarter where I split my head open.), so we knew a bit what we were in for. And the W Hotel in Bali definitely lived up to the brand.

bag of beach goodies

Bag of beach goodies

Check in was smooth and easy. We cooled off with a cucumber/minty/lemony type drink and a wet cloth while they processed our upgrade to a private villa.

Reception at the W Hotel Bali

Reception at the W Hotel Bali

Then we went to our villa, opened the gate and saw all this.

private pool

private pool again

Private pool again again

Then we basically disappeared and barely emerged from our villa. And lived happily ever after.

The Villa at Bali W

I’m just kidding. Sort of. We did spend a lot of time in our room.

Room view at the W Hotel Bali

Bathroom at the W Hotel Bali

Oh, actually, our villa had two rooms to choose from. A master and then another, slightly less opulent room with two beds.

Second room at our villa

For just the two of us. Crazy.

Bar area between the rooms

Outdoor living area between the rooms

But when we did leave our little bit of paradise, we found the W Hotel to be just gorgeous. And the staff were amazing. So friendly and helpful. We even had the GM come out and say goodbye to us as we were sadly leaving.

W Hotel Bali

W Hotel outdoor bar

W Hotel Bali deck bar

The perfect oasis. I would probably chop off one of my frostbitten ears to be in one of those loungers right now.

W Hotel Bali Private Villa loungers

It Wouldn’t Be Christmas Without Vegas and Sharks

6 Jan

Well, hello there, good lookin’.

I’m back from the non-stop holidaying extravaganza! As, I suppose, we all are, regrettably. Oh well. #TheStruggleIsReal

My main man-panion XFE took some time off during the holidays so we ate many, many great, decadent, meaty things, and drank many a delicious wine and cocktail (mostly made with gins-of-the-world, a current XFE obsession), and just generally loafed around competing with the cat on who could be more sloth-like.

You know who else loafs (loaves?) around? Sharks! Those guys are totally lazy.

Employee of the month.

Sharks may be lazy, but starfish are apparently hard workers.

You see, I spent an inordinate amount of 2012 deathly afraid of sharks. I thought they were these ferocious, teeth-grinding, people-killing machines. But through scuba diving the last couple of years, I’ve actually discovered that they’re kinda wimpy, and not really all that scary. (Ssshhh. Don’t tell them I said that?)

Just to confirm this suspicion, we went diving in the shark tank at Mandalay Bay over Christmas.

shark marketing

Because….Christmas, y’all. In Vegas. So….of course.

We had been on an aquarium dive before. In October, we went up to the National Aquarium in Baltimore and did the Atlantic Coral Reef tank dive there. It was….meh. We had to arrange and pick up our own gear (wetsuits, masks, booties, flippers), we did not actually get to see any of the aquarium (entry tickets had to be purchased separately for around $35 per adult), and the tank, while certainly nice, was a bit small. Plus, there was only one or two flesh-tearing aquatic creatures about, so it lacked a bit of pizzazz. (Actually, I don’t remember seeing any sharks, but the National Aquarium website says there are some, so I guess there were.)

But Mandalay Bay, my sweeties, is in Las Vegas and they bring a whole showmanship to their tank dives.

First, they take you and up to four guests on a tour of the Shark Reef Aquarium, which features over 2,000 animals. Our guide, Janna, showed us around the 14 exhibits, including jelly fish, piranhas, and a Komodo dragon. And of course, the shark tank, formally known as the Shipwreck Exhibit. The 1.3 million gallon tank has around 30 sharks, including sandtiger sharks, a couple of types of reef sharks, zebra sharks, and a Galapagos shark. The tank also has stingrays, sea turtles, a moray eel, and some crazy-looking sawfish.

Then they give you all the backstage tour, including and explanation of the filtration system and a stroll along the feeding platform that runs all above the shark tank. It’s very James Bond-ish.

That's Janna, our handler on the left. That's a bored shark on the lower right. You can almost see him yawning.

That’s Janna, our handler on the left. That’s a bored shark on the lower right. You can almost see him yawning.

Then Janna whisked away our loved ones (in our case, XFE’s parents) to go back inside the main shark exhibit while you (the divers) get geared up in the locker rooms. And by geared up, I mean, wedge into the wetsuit and booties they provided and then shimmy into a 14-pound suit of chain mail. Yes. Chain mail. Because they want you to think there’s an element of danger here. Pretty crafty.

Once we were suitable geared up, the incredibly patient and kind team helped us wade into the small holding pool near the exhibit and we did a buoyancy check to make sure everything was working. We also had these ear pieces that were supposed to help us hear our diving guide but really just sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher. They did help grab our attention when she (I think her name was April?) was trying to point out something to us.

Meanwhile, they have a videographer recording the whole thing: the divers gearing up (luckily, they don’t include audio so you don’t hear our grunts and cussing), getting in the water, and the view of us from inside the exhibit. In addition, the dive guide had a Go-Pro which she used to record us in the water.

(And I WOULD have posted clips from the final video except WordPress wants me to upgrade my blog plan to $100 a year in order to do that, to which I must say, “hellz no.” Sorry, kids. No MP4 videos on the scrub version of WordPress.)

And, as you can see by the bits of video I’ve posted, the sharks do not give a shit. They couldn’t have been less interested in us. I feel fairly certain there was a greater chance of one of us divers getting some sort of uncontrollable sushi craving all of a sudden and biting one of them than any of us even getting a tiny head nudge from any of the 30 sharks in that tank.

Here’s how the imaginary shark discussion goes in my mind:

Zebra Shark: “Ugh, these guys again.”

Sandtiger Shark: “I know, right?”

Zebra Shark: “I don’t know why they come down here and bother us if they’re not going to even bring us some tasty chum, like a fisherman’s hand or a small child or something. They’re really just wasting our time.”

Galapagos Shark: “And did you see that chick with the googly eyes? What’s her problem? Did you see how she was looking at me, all terrified and whatnot? As if. I can totally tell by that wetsuit that that girl has been eating way to much cheese and everybody knows I’m lactose intolerant.”

White-Tip Reef Shark: “Yeah, and did you see that one dude go right up to Larry’s face when he was trying to sleep? All he wants to do is take a little nap after swimming around in endless circles and what does that moron do? Swim right up and insist on getting his picture taken with him. Geeze.”

Sandtiger Shark: “Alright, I’m out of here. I’m going to go hide out at the top of this ship bow thing until they’re gone. By my limited edition shark Swatch watch, they’ll probably be in here about another 40 minutes, which gives me just enough time to watch an episode of Shark Tank OnDemand. Get it? See what I did there? Shark Tank? That’s comedy gold.”

End scene. 

Cheesepuff in a wetsuit

Cheesepuff in a wetsuit

All told, we were in the shark exhibit for around 45 minutes. It was pretty great. Unlike the National Aquarium where we were allowed to swim around on our own in pairs, we had to stick with our dive guide, but that was no big deal. We got to hunt in the sand for sharks’ teeth, get up close to a sleeping (resting?) reef shark, dodge sea turtles, and wave to the kids inside the exhibit.

When we got out, we unloaded our gear, hit the showers, and met our guests out by the aquarium store.

shark chompers

Even though I didn’t exactly test my mettle or stare down danger, I can’t say enough great things about the fine folks at Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay. It was first-class attentiveness from start to finish. The very thoughtful aquarium staff even had snacks and water set out for you in the locker rooms, which was a nice touch. They also gave us little glass vials of the shark teeth we’d collected (or, in my case, coral because I apparently cannot tell the difference underwater), and certificates to commemorate the day. And, about a week later, an awesome 15 minute video, which includes a very soothing-spa-music-soundtrack.

Maybe that’s why the sharks are so docile. Nonstop soothing spa music.

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