Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year!

Judging by the many needles a certain North Carolinian pine tree is currently shedding in my living room I'd say Christmas is officially over. But that doesn't mean we have to stop partying. Have no fear, New Year's Eve is here! So what do folks in Bermuda do to celebrate the champagne-soaked night? Many of us head to the City of Hamilton where we watch a giant illuminated onion plunge to the ground at the stroke of midnight. Yes, you've read correctly. This is no Waterford crystal ball, ala New York's Times Square. It's an onion. More specifically, a Bermuda onion, which if you're wondering is sweeter than most and in fact, makes an excellent bowl of onion soup. The Bermudian tradition began in the east end town of St. George's 13 years ago but dwindling budgets moved it to the island's capital in Hamilton, where apparently, it's inspired other towns to do the same. Case in point: Easton, Maryland, where the blue crab-crazy population now drops a giant illuminated crab, a ceremony invented after two of its residents saw the onion drop to the ground while vacationing in Bermuda. That's it above, and I've gotta say, it's an inspiring sight. Go Easton! And to everyone else out there, Happy New Year! Here's to great things in 2011.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas From Bermuda

From my fireplace to yours—Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Bob Hope in Bermuda

It's Christmas Eve, so I'm reaching into the way-back machine and grabbing a Bermuda Shorts classic. Remember this one? Bob Hope and Dixie Carter singing Silver Bells on Front Street? If you haven't seen it yet then get ready for a Bermudaful holiday treat. The legendary actor, comedian and vaudevillian came to Bermuda in 1990 with friends Dixie Carter, Loni Anderson and Joan Van Ark to shoot a one-hour Christmas special. What resulted was an entertaining and somewhat comical program with Bermuda very much in the holiday spotlight. Go ahead, click the video—just make sure to stay tuned until the 44 second and 1:47 mark when "it's Christmastime in the city," magically becomes "it's Christmastime in Bermuda." And for those of you who want more, don't miss this video where Bob and friends reenact the fateful arrival of Sir George Somers to Bermuda's shores in 1609. It's classic Hope, filled with one-liners, double entendre and clever word play, Like this:

Sir George Somers (Bob Hope): Is there anyone around here besides you?

Princess Lydia (Loni Anderson): Well, just an Indian Tribe. They're called the Hellawi Tribe.

Stranded Settler (Joan Van Ark): How do they know where we are?

Princess Lydia (Loni Anderson): They don't even know where they are. They just run around and say, 'Where the Hellawi?'

You can thank me later.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Now Playing: Tree Frogs!

As if you didn’t have enough reasons to love Bermuda at Christmas—Dunkley’s Dairy eggnog, scooter-driving Santas, a two-story Michael Jackson in colorful lights—suddenly another one bubbles to the top. But of course, I can’t take all the credit for my latest discovery. I found today’s gem on a website called Topless Robot, and no, it’s not what you think it is (although it's worth noting that the site is devoted to "nerd news, humor and self-loathing." Go figure). That said, check out yesterday’s post by blogger Ethan Kaye who lists 10 Totally WTF Christmas Albums. It’s really quite humorous, especially when you get to number seven: Jingle Bermuda Tree Frogs (yes, that’s the actual album cover above). Writes Kaye, “See, Bermuda tree frogs in nature are loud, chirping things that are like crickets mixed with cicadas, but beach-style. Every track has a nice carpet of Bermuda tree frogs chirping tunelessly while musician ‘Duane D’ plays some weak standard on his keyboard over top of them. If Hell exists, and they have taste, there's a special room for ‘Duane D’ and his goddamn tree frogs.” Ouch. But he does have a valid point, especially after giving Deck the Halls a quick listen on iTunes. I’m not sure where Duane D is these days—and I have no clue who John, George, Paul and Eddy are; frogs with names? real people?—but let just hope they've all moved onto bigger and better things.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas?

This will be my second Christmas in Bermuda and the one thing I’ve noticed is the decidedly un-PC holiday greetings flying around the island. This, I should point out, is a good thing. Go shopping in Hamilton, heck, go shopping anywhere in Bermuda and test it out for yourself. Nine times out of ten you’ll be met with a festive “Merry Christmas” rather than the oh-so-politically-correct “Happy Holidays” now so prevalent throughout corporate and commercial culture in the United States. Which begs the question: Why do Americans deprive themselves of the Christmas spirit? The easy answer is the foundation on which the country was built—that it’s not a Christian nation, but a nation made up of many religions. This, I should point out, is also a good thing. But if my Jewish friends said “Happy Hanukkah” to me in early December, I’d reply with a polite “shalom” and be on my merry way. I wouldn’t be offended. Point is, I actually like people sharing their respective beliefs with me, even if they’re in casual conversation. Here in Bermuda churches of all faiths cover the landscape—Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, Seventh Day Adventist, you name it. There’s an often-repeated (but not quite confirmed) fact that Bermuda has more churches per square mile than anywhere else in the world. The island is very much a Christian nation, so why not say Merry Christmas when shopping in town? For someone who enjoys the holiday season as much as I do, it’s actually refreshing that December not be veiled in PC rhetoric. So to all of you reading out there, wherever you are and whatever you may be celebrating the season, a hearty Merry Christmas to you. And yes, that indeed is me and Santa clutching our scooter helmets. Only in Bermuda, folks.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What The Frack?

Positioned nearly 650 miles off the shores of North Carolina, Bermuda isn't really known for an abundance of natural gas. After all, its an archipelago of volcanic islands in the middle of nowhere. The best hope Bermuda has for producing sustainable energy is capturing the sun or harnessing the wind, which by the way is blowing like gangbusters right about now. Seriously folks, hold onto your hats! But I digress. As many of you know Tuesday brings with it a focus on all things outdoors including adventures, experiences and everything that is the life outside. On today's installment of This Way Out—my Outside Television blog for all you wondering—I'm talking about hydraulic fracturing. Ya know, the controversial natural gas drilling practice that's contaminating water sources across America (and throughout the world). New York's governor recently ordered a temporary moratorium on fracking, something I argue is a good thing. If you agree, or even if you don't, click on over to What The Frack? on Outside Television and give it a read. And to learn more about the ugly truth of hydraulic fracturing—namely, how folks who live near natural gas wells can light their tap water on fire—watch the trailer for the film Gasland above and stay tuned until the very end to see some shocking footage. In the meantime I'll be back tomorrow with your regularly scheduled Bermuda Shorts programming. Happy reading!

Friday, December 17, 2010

At Least We've Got Rainbows...

This may come as a surprise to our friends in the chilly northeast but it does indeed get cold here in Bermuda. Even record breaking cold! According to the Bermuda Weather Service, the island recorded its lowest temperature of the year yesterday when the mercury plummeted to a chilly—wait for it, wait for it—50 degrees Fahrenheit! That beats the previous December low by seven whopping degrees since the old record this month was 57 degrees, set in 1971 (and before that in 1955 and again in 1962). I know, it doesn’t sound very bone-chilling but you try getting on the back of a scooter in 50 degree, rainy, windy weather and see how you feel after a thirty-minute ride, okay? And then of course there’s the wind chill, a factor a Bermuda Weather Service meteorologist said would easily cause islanders to reach for a sweater. “Wind chill is not generally considered significant at temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit and therefore not officially calculated,” he said. “But, considering the current 25 knot winds at 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit, it would feel like 42-49F.” See, 42 degrees. I told you it was cold! And even though we’re nowhere near the chilliest day on record—44 degrees Fahrenheit on February 27, 1950—it’s hard to remember when I could ride my scooter while wearing shorts and T-shirt and still be toasty. Ahh well, rest assured Bermuda’s sunny skies will indeed be returning soon. And hey, at least I don’t have to shovel any snow this weekend.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

In The News

The year is quickly coming to a close, which means year-end “best of” lists will be popping up everywhere long before you’re clinking champagne flutes at midnight. Tis the season, I suppose. The most interesting one I’ve seen thus far has been The 10 Most Powerful Tweets of 2010 (one of my favorites is from @BPGlobalPR, a satire-laden feed created in response to the Gulf Coast oil spill: “Catastrophe is a strong word, let’s all agree to call it a whoopsie daisy”). But of course we’re here to talk about Bermuda so let’s delve into the latest list from Travel+Leisure, its annual World’s Best Hotels list, which was released this week and features the world’s 500 greatest hotels. With a total score of 89.08 out of a possible 100, The Reefs Hotel & Club was selected for the eighth time, this being the fourth year in a row for the beloved Southampton resort (that's the hotel's "Travel+Leisure Terrace," where you can dine next to the ocean). Also on the list, Tucker’s Point Hotel & Spa, which is making its T+L World’s Best debut with a score of 90.59. Considering the magazine also chose luxurious Caribbean stalwarts like Antigua’s Curtain Bluff Resort and Cap Juluca in Anguilla, Bermuda is indeed in very good company.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Now Playing: Mountainfilm in Telluride

Bermuda is well known for its powdery pink sand beaches and its world-class golf courses, but did you also know that the island mid-Atlantic island also hosts a world class film festival every March? Next year the Bermuda International Film Festival begins on March 19 and plans to feature independent documentary films of all kinds. So why the sudden interest in movies? Mainly because I'm particularly jazzed that my show, Outside Film Festival: Mountainfilm is now airing every week on Outside Television. If you're interested in watching some truly groundbreaking films, then check out my short recap of this week's picks on my Outside Television blog This Way Out and read Now Playing: Mountainfilm in Telluride. One of my favorites? Throw Down Your Heart, a film that follows American banjo virtuoso Bela Flek on his journey to Africa to explore the roots of the banjo (watch the film's trailer). And for those that don't yet have Outside Television go here to watch a few of my interviews that appear on the show. In the meantime I'll be back tomorrow with your regularly scheduled programming.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Don't Try This At Home

Here's one of the best reasons why summer in Bermuda is way better than the chilly winter months: Cliff jumping. Of course one could always dive from an 80-foot-high cliff in December, but let's just say the reception once in the water isn't as pleasant. Care to see some of Bermuda's high-flying adventurers take the plunge from cliffs, bridges and towers across the island? Then check out this super-cool video shot entirely in Bermuda this summer. As one of the jumpers notes half-way through you don't train for stuff like this—you just drink, which is clear since most of them are clutching Heinekens throughout the shoot. Turn up your speakers, sit back and enjoy. And for even more cliff-jumping goodness check out this other video from Burnt House Hill Productions. You can thank me later.

Friday, December 10, 2010

On Holiday

Although beloved in Bermuda and quite successful on the international reggae circuit, Collie Buddz has never been my cup of tea. The Bermudian singer has long performed dance hall reggae, a louder style of music known to attract fans unleashing the full fury of handheld air horns at live concert events. Don't believe me? Google it. But those who know me know that I like to focus on the positive—and what’s more positive than a song about quitting your job and taking a tropical vacation? That’s why I’m loving Collie Buddz’ newest video, which was shot entirely in Bermuda and has a surprisingly good song to back it up. And no, it’s not dance hall. Called Holiday, the song (and video) is Collie’s latest single, released to the masses on Wednesday. Catchy and quite listenable, it’s actually one of my new favorite Collie Buddz tunes even though I’m convinced his accent was stolen from Kingston, Jamaica but that’s a different story altogether. Check out the video above and marvel at some of the beautiful landscape that is Bermuda including shimmering pink sand beaches and blue-water boat trips. Need a holiday yourself? Remember, the island is only two hours away from most east coast gateways. Happy listening!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

In The News

This just in from AirTran Airways, a low-cost carrier known for its rock-bottom fares: Starting next spring the airline will begin seasonal service to Bermuda from Baltimore and Atlanta. That means travelers in the Baltimore/Washington area can easily fly to the island from April 7 through October 24 and sun-seekers in Atlanta can eschew Delta’s high-priced fares from May 26 through September 6. The move adds a sixth destination to AirTran’s international lineup including Aruba, Cancun, Montego Bay, Nassau and Punta Cana. All good news indeed, especially since there has been much speculation about what airline may follow suit, namely Southwest since the low-fare king plans to buy AirTran for $1.4 billion. So, will Southwest be the next airline to fly to Bermuda? Consider this: The new AirTran routes depart from Baltimore—a major Southwest hub—meaning the airline could connect flights from other cities including New York and Boston to its new Bermuda service. Considering the move would vastly undercut fares from JetBlue, Continental and American, all of which currently serve the island from the northeast, this latest announcement may indeed be checkmate for the legacy carriers to the island.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Remembering John Lennon...In Bermuda

It was 30 years ago today when John Lennon was murdered outside of his New York City home. The former Beatle would’ve been 70-years-old if he were still alive but that doesn’t mean we can’t remember his spirit—or all the time the iconic musician spent in Bermuda. That’s right, folks: Where else do you think he got that groovy T-shirt? Lennon’s time on the island is well-documented, including the CNN reports John Lennon: Living in America and Losing Lennon: Countdown to Murder, both of which discuss a sailing trip the singer took to Bermuda from Rhode Island in the summer of 1980 aboard the 43-foot sloop Megan Jaye. “They got in this big old storm,” said music producer Jack Douglas who told CNN about Lennon’s trip. “This old sailor got really sick. He told John to take the wheel. Torrential rains and waves pounded the boat. Right after this transformative, emotional and physically exhilarating experience on the sailboat he arrived [in Bermuda] with this quiet and this space and it all came through him. John Lennon started making music again.” Making music indeed. After renting a home in Fairylands—a small neighborhood in Pembroke parish—Lennon stayed on the island for several weeks writing songs that would appear on Double Fantasy, his final album named for a Bermuda freesia his four-year-old son Sean spotted while at the Botanical Gardens (listen to the Bermuda Tapes recorded here in June 1980; also, check out this photograph of John and Sean overlooking Spanish Point). “Once I accepted the reality of the situation something greater than me took over and all of a sudden I lost my fear,” Lennon later told then-assistant Fred Seaman of his stormy sail to Bermuda. “I actually began to enjoy the experience and I began to sing and shout old sea shanties in the face of the storm, feeling total exhilaration. I had the time of my life.” Clearly, since Lennon wrote some of his best songs when he got here, even recording some of them with Bermudian drummer Andy Newmark. Lennon joked in the ship’s log that “there’s no place like nowhere,” alluding to Bermuda’s remote mid-Atlantic location, but no doubt it was its beauty that enchanted the singer most.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

On The Rocks

If I'm hankering for a cocktail in Bermuda it's no secret that I'd normally grab a Dark n' Stormy. The sweet and spicy mix of Gosling's Black Seal rum and fizzy ginger beer is the country's national drink and can easily be ordered at any island bar or restaurant. If I'm looking for a drink in the South Pole however, I might reach for something a little stronger—ya know, something to warm the bones that also has a long shelf life. Like whiskey. More specifically single malt Scotch whiskey, which has long been the preferred hooch of the world's greatest explorers like Ernest Shackleton. How can I be so sure? Five cases of 114-year-old Mackinlay's whiskey were recently found buried in Antarctic ice beneath Shackleton's Cape Royds expedition hut, a discovery that has delighted whiskey enthusiasts the world over since they've been frozen since 1907. If you'd like to learn more about the literally groundbreaking discovery, then head on over to my Outside Television blog This Way Out and read On The Rocks, about the newest oldest whiskey in the world. In the meantime I'll be back tomorrow with all of your regularly scheduled Bermuda Shorts programming. Cheers!

Monday, December 6, 2010

First Rudolph and Now, Muppets!

Thanks to an anonymous commenter, Bermuda Shorts has learned of yet another island connection to a famed children’s classic (ala “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” which I wrote about on Friday). According to one of you intrepid readers—and confirmed by a local news story last month—Bermuda’s crystal caves were actually the inspiration for the underground world of Fraggle Rock, the children’s television series co-created by puppet master Jim Henson and Bermudian Michael K. Frith. Reports Bernews: “In a letter included in [Fraggle Rock’s] DVD boxed set, Mr. Frith explains his inspiration for the show came from his childhood in Bermuda, specifically from the island’s exclusive reliance on rainfall as a source of water. ‘And so a water cycle became the center of the Fraggle world,’ Mr. Frith said. ‘The difference being that they didn’t understand it or how each resident of the Rock (and beyond) depended on the others to maintain it.’”

I always enjoyed the Fraggles as a kid, but now their crazy underground world totally makes sense. For example, listen to what Frith had to say in this interview from LongTale Productions (or watch for yourself at the six-minute mark in the interview above): “One of my absolutely most magical memories as a kid was lying in bed at night during a rainstorm and listenening to the water going down through the pipes from the roof down into the tank underneath. It was music. It was just pure music. And it so connected you to this process of being part of the world. The whole idea behind [the Fraggles] was to show both the natural eco system that ties all these different worlds together but also the metaphorical human eco system that ties all of theses disparate groups in ways that they don’t understand. What [the Fraggles] see as differences [are] actually strengths and the strength of each group becomes the strength of the world as a whole. Time after time as I explore this world of the Fraggles I find myself going back to my world and relating from that to this magical place. Because I do believe that Bermuda is a magical place. I think you can find in it an energy, a beauty and a mystery and possibilities that I don’t see anywhere else in the world.”

I don’t think I could've said it better myself.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Like Animated Classics? Thank Bermuda.

I’m a sucker for cheap animation and of course, for evergreen characters like Hermey the elf who instead of making toys just wants to become a dentist (you go Hermey!). A cheerful narration by Burl Ives doesn’t hurt either. Nor does a slate of original Christmas tunes like “Misfits,” which you can watch on the short video above. So what does this all have to do with Bermuda? Well my friends, I’m happy to report that “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” the 46-year-old, much-beloved holiday special was created by none other than Arthur Rankin Jr., a native Bermudian who also created animated favorites “Frosty the Snowman” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” The special originally aired on December 6, 1964 on NBC and it remains the longest-running highest-rated show of its kind in the history of American television. In fact, with an estimated 11.9 million viewers according to Nielsen ratings, it just beat out the oh-so-popular Fox program Glee when it aired on CBS last week. I guess Santa Claus knows where Bermuda is after all! I told you it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bermuda, From a Distance

It's a considerably slow news day here in sunny Bermuda so I leave you with this—your official photo of the day. It was taken from approximately 700 kilometers above Earth by NASA's Landsat 7 satellite on August 14, 1999. Have a good long look and start counting those dots because contrary to popular belief, Bermuda is not one island but an archipelago of over 180 islands and cays. Ya know, in case you need a conversation starter at your next cocktail party. You can thank me later.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like...

It's December, which means the halls are being decked, eggs are getting nogged and my Christmas tree will soon be delivered to my front door (Seriously. I can't get a large pizza delivered to my home, but a balsam from North Carolina? No problem!). This weekend also welcomed Bermuda's annual Christmas parade, complete with high school marching bands and the island's famous Gombeys—traditional Bermudian folk dancers in brightly colored costumes. That's them in the photo above and with a full calendar of holiday events slated for December no doubt we'll be seeing more and more of the festive troop throughout the month. In the meantime for more pictures of Bermuda's Christmas Parade check out Bernews. Only 24 days left till Christmas, folks!