Symbol of True Love

“Not a piece of architecture,
as other buildings are,
but the proud passions
of an emperor’s love
wrought in living stones.”
Sir Edwin Arnold 

There have been many men throughout the course of history who have shown their never-ending love for a woman. Wars were fought, duals lost, and many historical events took place because of a man’s love for a woman. But, there is one man who went beyond expressing his love and left behind something beautiful for all the World to enjoy and behold.

Mughal emperor Shah Jahan build the famous, Taj Mahal for his cherished and favorite of his three queens, Mumtaz Mahal. Sadly, in 1631 Mumtaz died after giving birth to the couple’s 14th child. The grieving Shah, ordered the building of a magnificent mausoleum across the Yamuna River from his own royal palace at Agra.

Construction of the enormous Taj Mahal, named in honor of his beloved wife, began in 1632 to house her remains. More than 20,000 workers from India, Persia, Europe and the Ottoman Empire, along with some 1,000 elephants, were brought in to build the mausoleum complex. It took over a 20-year period and is one of the most outstanding examples of Mughal architecture, which combined Indian, Persian and Islamic influences. At its center is the Taj Mahal itself, built of shimmering white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones (including jade, crystal, lapis lazuli, amethyst and turquoise) forming intricate designs.

Shah intended to build a second grand mausoleum across the Yamuna River from the Taj Mahal, where his own remains would be buried when he died. The two structures would have been connected by a bridge. However, his third son Aurangzeb deposed his ailing father in 1658 and took power himself. Shah lived out the last years of his life under house arrest in a tower of the Red Fort at Agra, with a view of the majestic resting place he had constructed for his wife. He was buried next to his wife when he died in 1666.

Throughout the centuries the Taj Mahal fell into disrepair. Near the turn of the 19th century, Lord Curzon ordered major restoration of the mausoleum as an effort to preserve India’s artistic and cultural heritage. The other threat to the mausoleum was air pollution from nearby factories and automobiles which posed a continual threat to the mausoleum’s gleaming white marble façade. To protect the building from further deterioration, in 1998 India’s Supreme Court ordered a number of anti-pollution measures. Some factories were closed, while vehicular traffic was banned from the immediate vicinity of the complex.

In 2019, it was reported that over 3 million people a year (or around 45,000 a day during peak tourist season) visit the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal remains one of the World’s most celebrated structures and a stunning symbol of India’s rich history as well as a symbol of true love.

 Shine On

Dreamy 007 Rides

“No action hero is more closely associated  
with cars than James Bond.” 
Richard Hammond 

 

 

The cars driven by the James Bond character started a Worldwide love affair with the automobile. I was not immune from this love affair. On the contrary, Bond cars were extremely influential in my taste in automobiles throughout my life. Out of the dozens and dozens of sexy cars driven by Bond, there are so many, I decided to list just five of my top favorites.

The white 1966 Toyota 2000 GT from the movie, You Only Live Twice, is my favorite of all the Bond cars. I was fortunate to see this work of art in person at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles Mother’s Day 2019. How apropos that Bond’s first film to take place in Japan should feature the country’s first supercar. Just like Bond, the Toyota 2000 was sexy, fast, powerful, and rare. There were only 351 models produced in total. Sean Connery was too tall to move around comfortably in the Japanese supercar, so Toyota modified the traditionally hard top coupe so Connery could zip around in a special open-top version.

The 1962 Sunbeam Alpine Series II, is the car he drove in the first Bond movie, Dr. No. This little gem of a car was not Mr. Bonds most extravagant car, but the two-seater, droptop with its lake blue coat of paint was a perfect introduction to the James Bond character.

I had never heard of Aston Martin before seeing the 1964 movie, Goldfinger. The silver 1963 DB5 Aston Martin was the first to make its motion picture appearance with James Bond. Aston Martins continued to show up in future films such as the 1965 Thunderball, 1995 Goldeneye, 1997 Tomorrow Never Dies, 2006 Casino Royale and 2012 Skyfall. Since its 007 film debut, the Aston Martin has become one of the most infamous Bond franchise movie cars. It is often referred to as, “James Bond’s car.” Some even argue that James Bond films were what really put Aston Martin on the map.

A yellow 1970 Triumph Stag was driven by Sean Connery in the movie, Diamonds Are Forever. Loved the design of this sports car but due to its unreliable engine, the Triumph Stag was not a big success.

In the 1999 movie, The World is Not Enough, starring in his first 007 role, Pierce Brosnan drove a silver 1999 BMW Z8. The appearance of this roadster screams BondIt was a sleek and classic designed sports car, and of course was equipped with surface-to-air missile launchers.  BMW’s decision to put James Bond in their car was a good choice because every movie they were featured in caused a huge spike in their sales. 

Throughout the James Bond film series, Q Branch has given 007 a variety of vehicles to battle his enemies. They have been equipped with various modifications to include elaborate weapons and anti-pursuit systems, and various other functions to make memorable dreamy James Bond rides.

Shine On

James Bond

 

“There is nothing like a challenge 
to bring out the best in man.”
Sean Connery

 

We lost a movie legend this past weekend. To my generation, Sean Connery was the one and only James Bond. He set the standard for all Bonds to follow.

Over the last 58 years, Connery starred in 7 of the 26 Ian Fleming Bond movies. Not only did these movies introduce the World to James Bond, secret agent with a license to kill, but also introduced us to state-of-the-art technology and some iconic automobiles of its time.

Connery at age 31 had been acting less than 10 years when he was cast for the first James Bond movie, Dr. No. Actors such as Cary Grant, Richard Burton and even Rex Harrison were all considered for the part. Point of fact, Ian Fleming didn’t want Connery for his James Bond character. The author quickly changed his mind when he saw Connery on the screen and realized the magnetism and sexual chemistry Sean exhibited for the part.

His last Bond movie in 1983 was appropriately named by his wife, Never Say Never Again, because he had vowed never to play Bond again. He went on to make numerous successful movies including the 1998 movie, The Untouchables, which won him an Oscar for best supporting actor.

One of my favorite movies of Connery’s was the little known 1964 Alfred Hitchcock thriller, Marnie. This was my introduction to this charismatic actor.

His last movie was the 2003 film, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Then after receiving the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award on June 8, 2006, he confirmed his retirement from acting. He turned down the role of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, declaring himself tired of acting and sick of the “idiots now making films in Hollywood”. However, in 2012 he briefly came out of retirement by voice acting the title character in the Scottish animated movie, Sir Billi the Vet.

Sean Connery embodied Hollywood but always hated the Hollywood lifestyle. He preferred a more private life with his second wife, Micheline Roqubrune. He spent his time playing golf at his homes in Spain, Portugal and the Caribbean. He believed that to get anywhere in life you have to be anti-social, otherwise you’ll end up being devoured.

The latest new Bond movie, No Time To Die starring Daniel Craig is scheduled to be released next year. Connery was undoubtedly responsible for the success of this multi-million-dollar franchise and will be forever recognized by those unforgettable words, “The name’s Bond… James Bond”.

 Shine On