About Amy P

Amy is the Director of Adult Education at HMNS.

Bits and bobs: 36 British phenoms that make Americans utterly gobsmacked

Americans are as rightly possessive of Magna Carta as are the Brits — along with other transatlantic sensations. 

But you don’t have to be an Anglophile to admit you can’t get enough of these faves from jolly ol’ England. What should we add to this list?

British — and American — Sensations
(in no particular order)

  1. Magna Carta
  2. Downton Abbey
  3. Princess Diana
  4. Fish and “chips” (aka French fries)
  5. James Bond
  6. Burberry plaid
  7. The Royal Wave
  8. Pints (as in, “Mind your pints and quarts” / Ps & Qs)
  9. The British accent (per Madonna, et. al.)
  10. Tabloids
  11. Wimbledon
  12. Pubs
  13. Monty Python
  14. Twiggy
  15. British humor
  16. Princess Kate
  17. William & Harry
  18. Stonehenge
  19. “Football” (a.k.a. soccer)
  20. Harry Potter
  21. Love Actually
  22. Gwyneth Paltrow/Chris Martin (and their recent conscious uncoupling)
  23. The Titanic
  24. One Direction
  25. Kate Moss
  26. Topshop
  27. Benny Hill
  28. Bridget Jones
  29. The Beatles
  30. The Rolling Stones
  31. Shakespeare
  32. Afternoon tea
  33. Fawlty Towers
  34. Doctor Who
  35. Punk culture
  36. Royal weddings

But why do these strike a chord in folks on both sides of the pond?

Paul Smith, the director of the British Council U.S.A. in Washington D.C. will examine some of the reasons why. As part of our Distinguished Lecture Series, he’ll explore icons in British cultural history that have captivated the U.S. and contributed to the special relationship between the two nations.

What might be in store for us Yanks during the next British invasion?

HMNS Distinguished Lecture
British and American Sensations
Wednesday, May 14, 6:30 p.m.                                            
Click here for advance tickets

Paul Smith joined the British Council in 1983 and has also been director of the British Council in Egypt and Afghanistan. He was educated at King Edward’s School, Birmingham and Queens College Cambridge. His interests include history, international cultural relations and all the arts, especially drama. He has directed plays, particularly Shakespeare, in various countries.

Magna Carta programs are generously supported by the British Council.

Looking to move? Try Mars! Robert Zubrin on the fast track to colonizing Mars

In July 1989, on the 20th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, President George H.W. Bush called for America to renew its pioneering push into space with the establishment of a permanent lunar base and a series of human missions to Mars. Almost 25 years later, these goals still seem like pipe dreams to many Americans. However, as the nation debates how to proceed with human space exploration, a human mission to Mars must still be on the table.

While many have said that such an endeavor would be excessively costly and take decades to complete, a small team at Martin Marietta drew up a daring plan that could sharply cut costs and send a group of American astronauts to the Red Planet within ten years.

The plan, known as Mars Direct, has attracted both international attention and broad controversy.

Mars Direct is a sustained humans-to-Mars plan, advocating a minimalist, live-off-the-land approach to exploring the planet Mars. It allows for maximum results with minimum investment. Using existing launch technology and making use of the Martian atmosphere to generate rocket fuel, extracting water from the Martian soil and eventually using the abundant mineral resources of the Red Planet for construction purposes, the plan drastically lowers the amount of material which must be launched from Earth to Mars. Thus, it sidesteps the primary stumbling block to space exploration, and rapidly accelerates the timetable for human exploration of the solar system.

The principal author of Mars Direct, Robert Zubrin, has presented the plan to such fora as the blue ribbon Synthesis Group, headed by former Apollo astronaut General Thomas Stafford, the Augustine Committee, as well as to various government officials, including House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Senator John McCain, and NASA Administrators Dan Goldin, Mike Griffin, and Charles Bolden.

He will present at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on May 7 at 7 p.m. in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre. Click here for advance tickets.

Principal author of Mars Direct, Robert Zubrin

HMNS DISTINGUISHED LECTURE
“Mars Direct: Humans to the Red Planet within a Decade,” with Robert Zubrin, Ph.D.
Wednesday, May 7, 7 p.m.
HMNS Wortham Giant Screen Theatre
Tickets $18, HMNS Members $12

Can Americans reach the Red Planet in our time? Principal author of Mars Direct, Robert Zubrin, addresses this question. Zubrin is an aerospace engineer and founder of the Mars Society. Following the lecture, he will sign copies of his popular books The Case for Mars, How to Live on Mars, and Merchants of Despair. Click here for advance tickets.

SPECIAL EVENING SCREENING
The Great Planet Adventures
Wednesday, May 7, 6 p.m.
HMNS Burke Baker Planetarium
Tickets $8, HMNS Members $4

Discover what it would be like to live, dress, and work on each planet and what you would need to survive in each planetary environment — particularly the local weather and gravity fields. Click here for advance tickets.

Celebrate Earth Day 2014 with environmental documentary Trashed at its Houston premiere

The beauty of Earth from space stands in stark contrast to the view from the ground. There is now more human detritus across the globe than ever before. Industrialization, coupled with exponential population increases, pose a serious threat to the life and health of humans and ecosystems across the world.

A scene from the documentary Trashed, making its Houston  premiere Thursday, April 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Houston Museum of Natural Science in celebration of Earth Day 2014.

A scene from the documentary Trashed, making its Houston premiere on Thursday, April 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Houston Museum of Natural Science in celebration of Earth Day 2014.

Vast landscapes in China are covered in tons of rubbish. The wide waters of the Ciliwung River in Indonesia are now barely visible under a never-ending tide of plastic. Children swim among leaking bags; mothers wash in the sewage-filled supply.

On a beach in Lebanon, a mountain of rubbish towers — a pullulating eyesore of medical waste, household trash, toxic fluids and dead animals. It’s the result of 30 years of consumption by Sidon, just one small city. As the day’s new consignments are added to the top, debris tumbles off the side and into the blue of the Mediterranean.

Trashed Blog 1

“There is an equally urgent need for the most imaginative and productive solutions to this troublesome subject to be understood and shared by as many communities as possible throughout the world. This is where movies can play such an important role: educating society, bringing ‘difficult’ subjects to the broadest possible audience,” says Irons on the urgent need for addressing the problem of waste and sustainability.

In the North Pacific, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch shows the detrimental effect of plastic waste on marine life. Chlorinated dioxins and other man-made persistent organic pollutants are attracted to the plastic fragments. These are eaten by fish, which absorb the toxins. We then eat the fish, accumulating more poisonous chemicals in our already burdened bodies.

Meanwhile, global warming, accelerated by the emissions from landfill and incineration, is melting the ice caps and releasing decades of these old poisons, which had been stored in the ice, back into the sea.

Trashed Blog 3Each year, we throw away 58 billion disposable cups, billions of plastic bags, 200 billion liters of water bottles, billions of tons of household waste, toxic waste and e-waste. We keep making things that do not break down.

You have all heard these horrifying facts before. In Trashed, you can discover what happens to the billion or so tons of waste that go unaccounted for each year.

The documentary Trashed makes its Houston debut Thursday, April 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Houston Museum of Natural Science in celebration of Earth Day 2014.

The documentary Trashed makes its Houston debut Thursday, April 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Houston Museum of Natural Science

In the award-winning documentary Trashed, Academy-Award winning actor Jeremy Irons travels to locations around the world to see how natural landscapes are now tainted by pollution to discover the extent and effects of the global waste problem. He then turns to hope and searches for solutions. From individuals who have changed their lives and produce almost no waste, to increasing anti-waste legislation, to an entire city which is now virtually waste-free, he discovers that change is not only essential, but happening.

Join Dr. Herb Ward, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University for the Houston premiere of Trashed on Thursday, April 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. This is a great way to celebrate Earth Day 2014.

Click here for advance tickets.

To learn more about the film, visit trashedfilm.com or watch the trailer for Trashed below.

 

A fancy Fabergé holiday: Hop on over to HMNS for a regal Easter

Easter has long been considered a time of rebirth and renewal. In late nineteenth century Russia, there was no better way to celebrate this Christian holiday than with the gift of Easter eggs. Family members would often be given eggs with small chocolates or other surprises inside.

But for members of the Russian Imperial family, more was always more. So why would you settle on chocolate when you could give diamonds? Expanding the simple Easter tradition to extravagant extremes, the Russian Imperial family enlisted the help of the House of Fabergé to begin a tradition that would last a generation.

The first Imperial Easter Egg is known as the Hen Egg, and was made of gold coated in white enamel to look like a real egg. When opened, the egg revealed a matte finish gold yolk, containing a hen wearing a miniature crown and pendant.

This gift was such a success that Fabergé and his group of master artisans were given complete freedom over any future designs. Each Imperial Egg was uniquely designed to delight and surprise its owner.

The eighth Fabergé egg, presented in 1892 on Easter morning to Empress Maria Fedorovna, was a gift from her husband Tsar Alexander III. This stunning jadeite egg with rose-cut diamonds contained an ivory elephant surprise tucked inside. The beautiful egg, known as the Diamond Trellis Egg, was kept at the Anichkov Palace until the revolution in 1917. Visitors can now view it on display at HMNS with other Fabergé masterpieces in the Fabergé: A Brilliant Vision exhibition.

Learn more about the history and significance of Fabergé Easter eggs from collector Dorothy McFerrin in a presentation at HMNS on Mon., April 7 at 6:30 p.m. Click here for advance tickets.

Come early to the presentation and do your Easter shopping! From 4 to 6 p.m., the HMNS Museum Store is hosting a special Fabergé Trunk Show. Featuring enameled egg pendants and other Fabergé-inspired baubles —the perfect addition to any Easter basket, ahem, — this Trunk Show includes a reception and book signing of From a Snowflake to an Iceberg with Dorothy McFerrin from 5 to 6 p.m. prior to the evening lecture, “The Splendor of Fabergé Eggs” at 6:30 p.m.

Faberge