It’s also a Planetarium. I went to the Stars Over the Atlantic show - runs every half hour until the projectionist goes mad and has to be replaced - and it was . . . okay. I mean, it’s a planetarium on a cruise ship, so you’re inclined to give them some slack. On the other hand, “planetarium on a cruise ship” is like the tits-on-a-boar line. No one chooses a ship because it has a planetarium. It’s a bonus. It’s one of things you can say you did.
It was fuzzy. You expect sharper images these days - if they’re going to show an interstellar nursery or Andromeda, you want details and subtle gradients. Right? Don’t we all? Who hasn’t walked out of an up-to-date planetarium taking about those subtle gradients?
It had lore about the constellations, but not an oversupply. Never addressed the matter of inferring a bear from six points of light. We all understand Orion’s Belt, and that ought to have been the standard for all the rest. Instead we get a W for Cassiopea, and this elaborate backstory about her daughter being cuter than Poseidon’s nymphs and so she was condemned to be chained to a rock because all the gods were thin-skinned dicks, but now she’s in the heavens and that’s her daughter up there, the smudge, which is actually another galaxy with 80 billion stars, give or take, filled - one hopes - with an uncalculable number of civilizations. It would stink if we were stuck in the one that didn't have any.
Makes you want to go topside at night and look out at the sky to find the smudge, and think: that's where my parallel self is on a Canard liner, heading towards the spot where Arthur Colon Dowel died, taking with him a dozen unpublished Havelock VanDoren stories.
I’d like to think that Star Wars takes place in the Andromeda galaxy. Or is it too close? It’s far away, but is it far, far away?
Anyway. The Planetarium show was fuzzy because it’s not exactly new. It ended with the International Space Station, and noted that when it’s completed in 2003, it will be the most advanced etc etc.
Then an Inner Party lunch (see? it’s all about food) at the Veranda, one of the hoity-toit spots where you’re not packed in with the commoners. When I said it was for Inner Party I meant it was a National Review Institute gathering, David French and I representing the magazine, I guess. About 12 people. Fancy menu. I mean, quail-breast appetizer fancy. Nine out of 12 people had thebeef bourguignon, because it was a dish you could understand; everything else looked like terrine of venus with paper sauce. It was incredible.
In the next room a wine-tasting lunch was going on; an overmiked fellow, presumably the Veranda’s smellier, you know, the wine guy, was leading them through pairings and tastings, and I’ll bet everyone loved what they were drinking, and was happier with the offerings as the meal goes out. It would be interesting to see how the event would unfold if there was one person in the middle of the room who consistently spat out every offering, pronouncing it undrinkable or banal.
TODAY’S SHIP ART
On any ship you know your location by the gangway art. On Holland America ships there’s a theme that identifies the particular location - maps in one, 60s art in another. Here it varies. There’s no theme, so you have to recognize particular works. Here’s today’s Ship Art.
This one tells me I am on the mid-20th century version of better Seurat paintings deck:
Reminded me of this, as I said. If you want to be reminded of a Hopper seen through a mirror:
The artist is Michael Ryan. I don't like any of these, but his recent landscapes are better.
I prefer the ships, which give you a nice historical sense and tie your voyage to the long-ago days when the spaces were smaller, the ships slower, the service probably better, and the number of things to do distinctly fewer. You took the ship across the ocean because there weren’t any alternatives. It was a pleasure to see this:
The Green Goddess, as it was known at one time - the ship we met on this page a few weeks ago. On another deck:
She was the world's largest ship until the completion of RMS Olympic in 1911 as well as the fastest until Bremen's maiden voyage in 1929. Mauretania became a favourite among her passengers. After capturing the Eastbound Blue Riband on her maiden return voyage in December 1907, she claimed the Westbound Blue Riband for the fastest transatlantic crossing during her 1909 season. Mauretania would hold both speed records for twenty years.
Her sister ship went down thanks to Boche perfidy, but the Mauretania sailed until 1934.
This is preferable to the modern stuff, except that it’s almost not preferable. As detailed as it is, I had two friends who are actual artists tells me what was wrong with it - respectfully, but persistently - and after they were done I wanted to well, other than that Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play? Which makes no sense, because no one would say that to Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, because if there was a Mr. there would be no “that.” Unless it was a botched assassination attempt.
What a structure! A map of the area adjacent says it’s the ROYAL LIVER. building. I gather that means Liverpool, since it seems a rather large structure for just insuring livers.
Note: Once I got internet, I discovered I was wrong: it is the ROYAL LIVER BUILDING.
The cupolas are topped with Liver Birds.
Still blustery out. People are still walking around the deck, though. I'm tempted to go out and do it myself and then I see them shivering, hair flying, clothes billowing, and think: right here by the window with this plate of salami is fine.
Oh, and I am sick as hell.