Wednesday, May 31, 2006
So, what's new?: "Gore: Bush is 'renegade rightwing extremist' " -- The Guardian
Why I don't like the tube: "Trapped in a tunnel on night train to nowhere" - The Times
About YouTube, the latest internet phenomenon: "YouTube's remarkable success is part of a wider internet phenomenon [...]: we are moving from an era when we were all consumers of online information into one where most of us produce it too." --The Guardian
and, last but not least: "48 hours in Lisbon" -- The Guardian
Monday, May 29, 2006
Madrid and Vienna are not yet in there.
Through winter-time we call on spring,
And through the spring on summer call,
And when abounding hedges ring
Declare that winter's best of all;
And after that there's nothing good
Because the spring-time has not come -
Nor know that what disturbs our blood
Is but its longing for the tomb.
poem by William Butler Yeats
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
The opera offers its heroine a role that is both strong and sympathetic with moments of extreme pathos. It demands a capable dramatic soprano with great agility and firm technique who is able to expressively declaim and convey the meaning of Romani's painstakingly selected phrases. Bellini's Norma combines the requirements of both a coloratura and a dramatic soprano, calling for not only perfect vocal agility but intensity, stamina, and a wide range of characterizations as well. Since the opera's premiere in 1831, there have been only a handful of Normas who have truly captured every aspect of this all-encompassing role.
Maria Callas adopted Norma as her signature role and she sang it over 40 times. Between 1948-1965, she was the reigning interpreter of this taxing part.
You can watch Callas perform this aria in a recording made in Paris in 1958.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Buon giorno, Principessa!
I'm longing to meet Venice ... Will I ever go there ?
I'll have to polish a copper coin so that it shines like gold before tonight. Nowadays even tooth fairies have to be subsidized.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
The 2nd movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major will always be sublime.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance-
and charges us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave...
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.
poem by Rainer Maria Rilke
Nicolò Paganini, (October 27, 1782 – May 27, 1840) was an Italian violinist, violist, guitarist and composer. He is one of the most famous violin virtuosi, and is considered one of the greatest violinists who ever lived, with perfect intonation and innovative techniques. He is also widely regarded as the first ever virtuoso violinist.
A pervading myth about him is that he sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for his fearsome technique, a rumor which he delighted in and may have even started himself. During a performance his eyes would roll into the back of his head while playing, revealing the whites. His swaying stance, long unruly hair and thin, gaunt stature would add to this rumor. He played so intensely that women would faint and men would break out weeping.
In 1826, Paganini composed his second violin concerto in Italy. Its third movement, the rondo, owes its nickname "La Campanella" or "La Clochette" to the little bell which Paganini prescribes to presage each recurrence of the rondo theme. The character of the bell is also imitated in the orchestra and in some of the soloist's passages featuring harmonics. The outcome is a very transparent texture, which gains extra charm of gypsy coloration. This movement gives proof of a compositional mastery which Paganini is too often alleged not to possess.
- Taken from the Wikipedia -
- Clara's first wobbly tooth: the tooth fairy is going to give her a shinning coin for the first time when it falls out. She's thrilled: up until now the tooth fairy only left presents for her sister.
- Plans for the midterm break next week: trains (Ana and Clara have never been on a train!), the London Zoo and Prince Edward Theatre to see Mary Poppins; perhaps also Legoland in Windsor... don't know yet. Everything is so expensive! I've just remembered that last year I was in Paris with friends during the girls' midterm break.
- Mum and Dad's visit in a few weeks time. It's been our longest separation yet: 6 months since we were last with them, at Christmas!
- Plans for a garden makeover: new lawn and plants in the backgarden, new pavement and fencing in the front. As soon as the house is ours.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
PS - No other relevant news.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Yo no creo en las brujas, pero que las hay, las hay.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Sunday, May 14, 2006
From saving to food, we make terrible choices
Smokers know what it is to be regulated. How long before over-eaters suffer similar sanction?
by Will Hutton, Sunday May 14, 2006
Choice is today's big thing, but there is growing uneasiness about where it leads. In two very different ways, our capacity to choose was challenged last week and for very similar reasons. Choice might not always be right.
By voting down a proposal that seemed to have logic, compassion and the cultural consensus in favour of choice on its side, the House of Lords decided that it would not accept the right of the terminally ill to choose to die early. And Mr Blair and Mr Brown sued for peace over the Turner pension plan that will enrol every British worker in a national pensions saving plan. You will have to opt out rather than opt in, which changes the nature of the choice.
Choice is becoming more contested and the ideologists are on the prowl. Economic libertarians, such as the Economist, see this as soft paternalism threatening fundamental liberties. Turner's crime, raged the magazine, is that he is setting up his preferred choice against the choice of individuals.
His proposal, they argued, is a paternalist's sleight of hand and we should be on our guard. As every insurance salesman knows, once sold a saving plan we don't leave. When practised on a national scale by the state, it is a cunning extension of state power, not even justified by a doubling of the numbers who save. The right action is to let people suffer the pain of their choices alongside the rewards of their pleasures.
But, suddenly, the argument has less resonance. Turner is winning in a way impossible even five years ago. There is a growing awareness that we are myopic in the way we make choices and that the abundance of choice that affluence brings is making us unhappy. We seem incapable of making choices in our own best interests and wealth makes the consequences worse.
An intriguing book by Avner Offer, one of Britain's most subtle thinkers about how we live now, champions an alternative to the view of choice, as expressed in the Economist piece. In The Challenge of Affluence, Offer argues that economists (by inference, the magazine) are wrong in the way they think about choice.
The Oxford economic historian marshals an extraordinary array of evidence to demonstrate that the instinct of human beings is to want instant gratification: whether from sex, food, gambling or spending rather than saving, the human animal consistently underestimates the future costs of what he or she is doing in the here and now.
This is hardly news, except to economists who believe human beings rationally calibrate the costs and benefits of any action over time.
The question for all societies, argues Offer, is how to solve this individual tendency to self-destruct, and the answer has generally been to create incentives for self-control. Some are social, such as the stigma that used to be associated with deserting your family; some are regulatory, like controls on gambling. One way or another, society tries to limit bad individual choices.
What makes Offer's thesis original is that he argues that affluence makes self-control even harder and the capacity for individual self-destruction even greater.
Take eating. There is an epidemic of obesity (a fifth of the British are now obese). Waistlines have expanded, airline seats are larger, coffins are too small. More than that, there is unambiguous evidence that obesity diminishes life expectancy and life chances generally.
Yet we are helpless over-eaters. Affluence has brought more to eat that is cheaper, tastier and more readily available. The best way of controlling your food intake is eating in a socially controlled setting, the old system of family meals cooked by women at home. That has been shattered.
Women's entry into the labour market, and men's refusal to take on the cooking role, means that family eating has collapsed as a phenomenon, pushed aside by the supermarket and the microwave. Affluence means that we now spend a quarter of our food budgets on eating out.
The consequence is a profound conflict. Like gamblers, we cannot resist the next tasty snack or extra portion even though we know it will make us fat. We try in vain to slim. We try to exercise, hence the growth in the number of gyms and private trainers. Some binge eat in revolt. Some, mainly women because society values female thinness, become anorexic or suffer from bulimia. Eating disorders are becoming more prevalent. More and more people seeking cosmetic surgery do so for fat reduction.
In vain, economists try to explain this crisis as the result of a collectively rational choice. It is obvious to all but the most obtuse that it is the result of collective myopia; moreover, affluence is making the crisis worse. For Offer, however, there is a ray of hope. Smokers were in the same situation as today's over-eaters but have willingly submitted to greater and greater regulations. Could we go the same way over food?
Last week, Tesco signalled that it had read the runes and offered to label its own products more clearly so that consumers can make better-informed choices over what they buy. But, as Offer argues, even if we know that some item of food is bad for us because we can read its contents in the label, we still go ahead and buy it. To go further, we may need some of what the Economist would disparagingly call 'soft paternalism', and direct supermarkets to locate unhealthy food in the least visited part of the store, thus helping to save us from ourselves.
One of Offer's findings is that women may be better at self-control than men and more aware of the consequences of their actions. Any parent comparing their son's approach to studying for GCSEs against a daughter's will know what Offer means. Many more women than men are now going on to higher education; like obesity, this is threatening to become an epidemic.
Do we stand idly by on all these issues? For the past 20 years, the story has been that nothing must obstruct choice. We still want to choose, but we want safeguards against our own blindness and mistakes, even when the case seems irrefutable. Our culture is now subtly changing.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Thank you sis. It is lovely.
Le Sud-Express au départ de Paris-Austerlitz
The sunshine seeks my little room
To tell me Paris streets are gay;
That children cry the lily bloom
All up and down the leafy way;
That half the town is mad with May,
With flame of flag and boom of bell:
For Carnival is King to-day;
So pen and page, awhile farewell.
Poem by Robert William Service
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Not a good week to blog, as inspiration evidently lies elsewhere. There would be a lot to blog about, though, starting with some disturbing international news involving the USA, Russia, Iran, Iraq and the EU, going on to having my say - who cares ?? - about the ludicrous pseudo-crisis fueled by the media and the opposition around Tony Blair's stepping down from power to give way to Gordon Brown - or maybe I should just say it outright: to David Cameron - and ending with my impressions of tonight's final episode of The Apprentice (Ruth Badger should have won !). None of that, though. Maybe when it starts raining again ...
PS - Ana's SAT's have been going fine so far. Science and English are over. Maths tomorrow and on Friday. They are having a disco party next week to celebrate the end of it.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Monday, May 08, 2006
Sunday, May 07, 2006
I'm beat but it was worth it: everyone had a good time and happiness really was in the air !
Another big week ahead: SAT's week for Ana.