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From the archives…

Portmeirion

The Folly of Sir Clough Williams-Ellis

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

World-famous architects like Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, and Rem Koolhaas often make headlines for their daring and creative buildings, but the vast majority of architects spend their time on more down-to-earth projects, like schools and fire houses. Their work is dictated by the needs of their clients, and their creativity is in service to solving any problems these needs might entail. But what happens when architects are given free rein? What do architects do for fun?

It is easy to imagine that Julia Morgan, the architect who designed William Randolph Hearst’s estate at San Simeon, enjoyed creating that fantastical world to Hearst’s specifications, or that Eduard Riedel, the architect of King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein Castle, found some pleasure in recreating a medieval castle in the 19th century. But these architects were still limited by the wishes and whims of their employers, unable to express themselves fully. [Article Continues…]

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From the archives…

Mondegreens and Eggcorns

Giving old words a new ring

One of the very first things I remember learning in school, around age five or six, was the patriotic song “My County Tis of Thee,” which all the children would sing every morning after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. At that point, we hadn’t yet been taught how to read—priorities, you know—so we learned the words by listening and repeating. That was fine, except that I was confused about the very last word of the song. The way I heard the last line was, “from every mountainside, let free dumring.”

I didn’t know what a dumring was, and I wondered about that, fleetingly, every time I sang the song for years afterward. Clearly it was someone, or something, that had to be “let free,” which I assumed was the same thing as “set free.” Maybe a dumring was a slave or something. I had no idea. For whatever reason, it never occurred to me that I might be singing two separate words (“dumb ring”), although that would have been equally nonsensical. I must have been well into my teens before I saw the lyrics in print for the first time, and I was utterly shocked to discover what I’d actually been singing: “let freedom ring.” In my defense, my five-year-old self wouldn’t have identified freedom as something that could ring. But I certainly did feel stupid for having misunderstood those words. [Article Continues…]

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From the archives…

Pitcairn Island

Haven for homeless mutineers

Guest Article by Morgen Jahnke

The story of the mutinous crew of the British navy vessel HMS Bounty has remained a popular theme in books and movies ever since it occurred in 1789. Four major films have been made with the mutiny as their inspiration, featuring such acting heavyweights as Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, and Anthony Hopkins; one version of the film earned a Best Picture Oscar. There is a good reason for the story’s popularity: the sequence of events ending with the setting adrift of the ship’s captain, William Bligh, along with eighteen of his men, in the middle of the Pacific, is inherently dramatic and fascinating.

The story of what happened to both the mutineers and those forced overboard may be paid less attention, but is equally fascinating. Captain Bligh, with the aid of only a sextant and pocket watch, successfully navigated the small boat to the Tongan island of Tofua, and then on to the island of Timor, a journey that took over 47 days and covered over 3,618 nautical miles (6710km) by Bligh’s reckoning. Only one of those set adrift with Bligh did not survive the voyage; a crewman was killed by the inhabitants of Tofua when the group landed there. [Article Continues…]

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From the archives…

Mystery Park

The theme park that aliens built

Several years ago, a Swiss friend of mine told me excitedly about a new theme park that was under construction near the city of Interlaken. He sent me a magazine article about it, and even went so far as to buy me a 10-Franc stock certificate for the park, giving me some trivial sliver of ownership in this hot new property. Ever since then, Mystery Park has been on my list of things to write about, but for one reason or another it had never managed to percolate up to the top of the list until now. Which is a pity: the park closed permanently on November 19, 2006, due to a shortage of visitors (and, therefore, money). At least I no longer have to wonder how much that stock is worth today: that and a couple of euros, as they say, will buy me a cup of coffee.

I’d like to say, at least, that it was interesting while it lasted. That, I’m sure, is a matter of opinion—and, clearly, not enough people’s opinion to make the park profitable. Nevertheless, Mystery Park was nothing if not unique, and its story is worth telling. [Article Continues…]

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