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Master and Commander Boccherini: 3

Wednesday, 13 December, 2017 0 Comments

All was well in the world of the Italian composer Luigi Boccherini when he was in service to the Spanish Court, until a succession of unfathomable tragedies occurred. The series began in 1785 with the death of his Spanish patron, and in that very same year his wife passed away. The first of their four daughters died that year as well and the remaining three died between 1802 and 1804. Boccherini remarried but his second wife died in 1805. It was all too much and he died that same year. The body of Boccherini lay buried in Madrid’s Pontifical Basilica of St. Michael until 1927, when his remains were repatriated to Italy and buried in the church of San Francesco in his native Lucca.

Boccherini’s Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid became famous through its use in the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World starring Russel Crowe and Paul Bettany. Here, Sydney Rae and Stephanie Lyn give us their version.

“The pleasant thing about fighting with the Spaniards, Mr Ellis, said Jack, smiling at his great round eyes and solemn face, is not that they are shy, for they are not, but that they are never, never ready.” — Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander

Tomorrow, the Master and Commander Boccherini gets the full orchestral treatment with Jaesik Lim conducting.


Master and Commander Boccherini: 2

Tuesday, 12 December, 2017 0 Comments

Luigi Boccherini (1743 – 1805) was an Italian composer whose music was written in a courtly style that quickly became popular in the major European musical centres of the day. His patrons included the French ambassador to Spain, Lucien Bonaparte, and King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia, a talented amateur cellist and flautist. Boccherini’s Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid (String Quintet in C major, Op. 30 No. 6, G324), became famous through its use in the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World starring Russel Crowe and Paul Bettany. Here, Bellai (10), Gani (12) and their father jam a family interpretation of the piece.

“Where there was no equality there was no companionship: when a man was obliged to say ‘Yes, sir,’ his agreement was of no worth even if it happened to be true.” — Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander

Tomorrow, a duet interpretation of the Master and Commander Boccherini by Sydney Rae and Stephanie Lyn.


Master and Commander Boccherini: 1

Monday, 11 December, 2017 0 Comments

Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid is a quintettino for stringed instruments written around 1780 by Luigi Boccherini, an Italian composer who was in service to the Spanish Court at the time. The main violin theme from the work was used throughout the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and in the final scene, Russell Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey and Paul Bettany as the ship’s surgeon, Dr. Stephen Maturin, play the piece together in the captain’s quarters.

“I have had such a sickening of men in masses, and of causes, that I would not cross this room to reform parliament or prevent the union or to bring about the millennium. I speak only for myself, mind — it is my own truth alone — but man as part of a movement or a crowd is indifferent to me. He is inhuman. And I have nothing to do with nations, or nationalism. The only feelings I have — for what they are —- are for men as individuals; my loyalties, such as they may be, are to private persons alone.” — Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander

Tomorrow, Bellai (10), Gani (12) and their father jam a family interpretation of the Master and Commander Boccherini.


When the MSM “resistance” cries “Wolf!”

Sunday, 10 December, 2017 0 Comments

“I remember Watergate pretty well, and I don’t remember anything like this level of journalistic carelessness back then. The constant stream of ‘bombshells’ that turn into duds is doing much more to damage the media than anything Trump could manage.” So commented Walter Russell Mead yesterday. He was responding to this tweet by CNN Communications:

CNN’s initial reporting of the date on an email sent to members of the Trump campaign about Wikileaks documents, which was confirmed by two sources to CNN, was incorrect. We have updated our story to include the correct date, and present the proper context for the timing of email

Glenn Greenwald provided readers of The Intercept with the background to this PR disaster for CNN, in particular, and US journalism, in general: “The U.S. Media Yesterday Suffered its Most Humiliating Debacle in Ages: Now Refuses All Transparency Over What Happened.” Snippet:

FRIDAY WAS ONE of the most embarrassing days for the U.S. media in quite a long time. The humiliation orgy was kicked off by CNN, with MSNBC and CBS close behind, with countless pundits, commentators and operatives joining the party throughout the day. By the end of the day, it was clear that several of the nation’s largest and most influential news outlets had spread an explosive but completely false news story to millions of people, while refusing to provide any explanation of how it happened.

The MSM “resistance” has thrown caution to the wind in its “gotcha” coverage of President Trump, but it’s a very risky strategy and those who have spent the past year crying “wolf” might find themselves being called “fakenews” in return.


Gin of the week: Helsinki Dry Gin

Saturday, 9 December, 2017 0 Comments

The Helsinki Distilling company was founded in 2013 in the capital of Finland by three entrepreneurs: Kai Kilpinen, Mikko Mykkänen and Séamus Holohan. Thanks to them, Helsinki’s first distillery for over a century is located in Teurastamo, a former slaughterhouse that has become central to the city’s food culture.

Along with akvavit and applejack, Kilpinen, Mykkänen and Holohan also produce liquors, including the very tempting-sounding Puolukka Gin-Likööri, but pure gin is their premium product: “Helsinki Dry Gin is an artisanal, premium gin distilled with nine choicest hand-picked botanicals including the Arctic lingonberry. Blended with the purest Finnish water, Helsinki Dry Gin is full-bodied and balanced, with aromas of the Nordic forest and floral citrus flavours.”

We purchased bottle number 33-717 to celebrate Finland’s 100th birthday on Wednesday and everything about the experience, from removing the stylish glass stopper to inhaling the first rush of timberland aromatics, was sublime. As this Gin Foundry review from 2015 puts it:

“Helsinki Gin has bright and light floral aromas of citrus, rose, fennel and a verdant juniper on the nose, which are echoed upfront on the palate. The piney elements of juniper come to the fore alongside sharp coriander, presenting an unmistakably ginny profile. However, lingonberries and fennel take it in new directions while a delicate citrus zing balances out the gin. The finish is evocative of walking in a deep Nordic forest with mossy herbaceous tones emerging.”

Helsinki Dry Gin

Note: Helsinki Dry Gin is the sixth in a gin series that began with Blackwater No. 5, was followed by Friedrichs and continued with Dingle, Bulldog and The Botanist.


The lamb and the wolf on 8 December

Friday, 8 December, 2017 0 Comments

The increasingly oppressive commercial Christmas begins on 1 October and then bludgeons consumers into submission with an incessant drumbeat of shopping commands and mawkish carols all the way until midnight on 24 December. The Christmas of the faithful, on the other hand, starts on the first Sunday of Advent and ends on 6 January, the feast day that commemorates the visit of the Magi.

But there is another date, and it’s to be found in the calendar of popular piety: 8 December. Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and it once marked the point when Christmas began in earnest. For my mother, the 8th of December was a serious shopping day and many essential “messages” were purchased in “Town” in preparation for the festivities.

Note: The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary was officially defined as an article of the Catholic Faith by Pope Pius IX in 1854, and the dogma professes that Christ’s Mother was exempt from original sin from the moment of her conception. Traditional belief in the Immaculate Conception long preceded its formal definition, however, which is evident in this 16th century Spanish villancico:

Riu, riu, chiu
The river bank protects it.
God kept our lamb
From the wolf.
The rabid wolf
Wanted to bite her
But Almighty God knew
How to defend her.
Riu, riu, chiu

The lamb there is a stand-in for the Mother of Christ while the wolf is the devil. The words “riu, riu, chiu” are meant to evoke the call of the nightingale — a bird whose call has traditionally served as a muse to poets down the ages.


Lapland

Thursday, 7 December, 2017 0 Comments

Yesterday, here, we paid tribute to Finland, which is celebrating its 100th birthday, and today we’re visiting Lapland, where the salmon are yuuuuuge! As Hooké, who filmed this clip, says: “Laplanders trace le portrait de ceux qui vivent en harmonie avec les rivières dans le nord de la Suède où l’on y retrouve le Saumon Baltique. Voici leur conquête infinie pour essayer de le capturer.”

Hooké: “Born on the river in 2012 Hooké is a crew of artists, photographers, filmmakers, and writers who are passionate about creating a fly fishing community, experiencing epic journeys, and giving a voice to those we meet along the way. Hooké is the story of the people who live for and by nature : the pilot and the guide, the hunter and the hermit, the fly tier and the outfitter. At the end of the day they are the people who prolong the existence of traditions, protect their environment, share their knowledge and influence our practices.”


#Suomi100: Olet mun kaikuluotain

Wednesday, 6 December, 2017 0 Comments

Finland is 100 today and we’re celebrating with Ville Valo, best known as the lead singer with the hugely popular Finnish gothic rock band HIM. Ville’s life is a very Finnish tale. He was born in 1976 in central Helsinki to Kari and Anita Valo and the family then moved to the suburb of Oulunkylä, where Anita worked in a shoe shop. Kari was a taxi driver, but he gave up that profession to open a sex shop in downtown Helsinki, called Aikuisten lelukauppa (“adult toy store”), where Ville worked occasionally as a teen.

Anyway, John Denver wrote Annie’s Song in 1974 and in 1976, the year when Ville Valo was born, a man by the name of Hector Finnish (!) repurposed it into Finnish with the title Olet mun kaikuluotain. Happy #Suomi100.


Haiku for a drowned oBike

Tuesday, 5 December, 2017 0 Comments

The oBike company from Singapore is not feeling the spirit of Christmas in Europe this Advent. Is it playing fast and loose with users’ data? Some allege that it is. Is it creating an urban blight of cheap bicycles? The evidence is mounting. In some cities, citizens are taking matters into their own hands by damaging or discarding the bikes. The semi-submerged example in our photo was seen in Munich’s Olympiapark.

oBike rage rising
Olympian grave beckons
Splash! Stillness surrounds.

oBike

Note: The haiku follows a strict form: three lines, with a 5-7-5 syllable structure. That means the first line must have five syllables, the second line seven syllables and the last line must have five syllables. A haiku does not have to rhyme or follow a certain rhythm as long as it adheres to the 17-syllable count.


One channel to rule them all

Monday, 4 December, 2017 0 Comments

As J.R.R. Tolkien fans know, the One Ring is the central plot element in his masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings. It’s got a malevolent power, this ring, which is not surprising as it was created by Sauron as part of his plan to conquer Middle-earth. The words inscribed on the Ring were uttered by the Dark Lord himself as he forged it:

“One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them”

There is no parallel to be drawn between YouTube and the One Ring, of course, but it has turned into the internet for video content from Middle-earth. All the big players publish on Google’s channel: Amazon is there, so is Microsoft, so is Twitter, so is Facebook and Apple has now bowed to reality.

“Someone else always has to carry on the story.” — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings


Christiaan Barnard and the beating heart

Sunday, 3 December, 2017 0 Comments

It’s one of those milestones that demands the time traveller must halt before it for a while and ponder the nature of life and death. We’re talking heart transplantation. On this day in 1967, the South African cardiac surgeon Christiaan Barnard performed the world’s first human-to-human heart transplant. Despite the absence of the internet, the news reached the four corners of the world in quick time and McLuhan’s global village was electrified by the implications.

Looking back, the most significant aspect of what Christiaan Barnard did on that 3 December morning in the Groote Schur Hospital in Cape Town was not the insertion of a beating heart in the chest of Louis Washkansky but the removal of a beating heart from the chest of Denise Darvall. She was the donor, he was the recipient and the two were united as never before in human history. The medical innovations and breakthroughs that enabled Barnard to risk the transplant had been done in the United States by cardiac pioneers such as Thomas Starzl, Norman Shumway, Richard Lower and James Hardy, but what these scientists and surgeons had not done was remove a beating heart from the body of a one human being and transplant it into the body of another human being. Christiaan Barnard They were not allowed to do so by the ethics of their profession and the laws of the land.

Christiaan Barnard could do what he did because no one prevented him from doing so. The real revolution that he sparked, however, was not clinical but moral. It set in train a vital debate on the definition of life and, especially, death, which had centred on the notion of the beating heart. And, especially, it gave the concept of organ donation a relevance that continues to resonate. Christiaan Barnard was standing on the shoulders of giants when he conducted the first human-to-human heart transplant in 1967, but he was that man who did it and everyone in possession of a beating heart should pause for a moment today and think of his courage.

“For a dying man it is not a difficult decision [to agree to become the world’s first heart transplant] … because he knows he is at the end. If a lion chases you to the bank of a river filled with crocodiles, you will leap into the water convinced you have a chance to swim to the other side. But you would not accept such odds if there were no lion.” — Christiaan Barnard (1922 – 2001)