Mar 6, 2013
Apr 16, 2012
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A night to remember

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By Chris Helgren

The weather was calm, the stars and crescent moon shone and the water lapped gently against the hull as three wreaths were tossed into the sea above the Titanic wreck, 100 years after she went down.

It seemed every one of the MS Balmoral’s 1300 guests, dressed against the cool night air, was crammed onto its terraced decks aft, craning for a view of the event. And at 2:20 when the wreaths went in, all was silent. As Philip Littlejohn, the Titanic historian later noted, these details mimicked what would have been happening during the disaster itself – a black night, no light bar that of the doomed liner, and when she went under, silence.

Apr 11, 2012
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Rocking and Rolling on the Titanic Memorial Cruise

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By Chris Helgren

In what resembles a Trekkie convention gone through a time portal, hundreds of passengers on the Titanic Memorial Cruise, retracing the Titanic’s voyage from Southampton 100 years later, now divide their time between promenading in the latest fashions of 100 years ago and debating the true color of Titanic’s funnels. Yellow, but what kind of yellow? Model maker Kenneth Mascarenhas and painter James Allen Flood don’t see eye to eye on the subject, and it’s suggested that fellow passenger Commodore Warwick should adjudicate the issue. After all, he saw the Titanic wreck in a submersible. However, Mascarenhas fails to take into account that the ship is now rusted through and covered with Oceanic mud, its funnels probably covered in barnacles.

Actually, there are plenty of things to do on board the MS Balmoral. I missed the “fluid retention and swollen ankles seminar” on Monday, but there’s been a parade of Titanic experts on show to fill us in on everything one would want to know (except the color of funnels). Sadly, due to the inclement weather, shuffleboard has been cancelled the last two days. As has a dance show, due to health and safety concerns. Many of my fellow passengers have been sighted hunched over, unable to promenade, green with seasickness.

Apr 6, 2012
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Sarajevo, where they died with dignity

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By Chris Helgren

I was trying to think of something good to write, something positive about this anniversary. But it’s just an impossible task when remembering the smell and mood of the morgues and hospitals tasked with the dirty work of the war. While I was there, I don’t think I met a single family untouched by the violence. Whether it was through loss of a relative or starvation or frostbite or all of the above, every Sarajevan had a sad story to tell. One of those who couldn’t tell me was 10 year old Elvedin Sendo, whose body was brought into the Kosevo hospital morgue with grass stains on his shoes. He was killed when Bosnian Serb shells hit his school’s playing field in the Hrasno neighbourhood, two weeks short of the war’s first anniversary.

The story of Sarajevans surviving the siege was one of community and dignity. Water lines were shattered early on, yet people needed water to survive. Sarajevo’s citizens would nervously queue to fill their containers in places known to those on the hills manning the artillery pieces. Once in a while, a mortar would land, kill a few of them, but they’d be back the next day to provide water for their families. A huge screen made of blue cloth, spanning the width of a street, was erected one year to protect pedestrians from sniper fire. Sadly, it wilted under the weight of a rainstorm within a couple of days.

May 8, 2009
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Angels & Demons by bus tour

With all the fuss kicked up about the premiere in Rome of director Ron Howard’s film Angels & Demons, I thought it would be fun to hop on a bus tour based on the novel by Dan Brown. I must stress that I am not a fan of Brown’s writing, but it’s surely a different way to see many of the Eternal City’s sights.

In the following audio slideshow the tour guide, who can’t be named due to his company’s policy, discusses the book and how it relates to the landmarks of Rome