Thursday, November 30, 2006

Still Life

Children's Room Windowsill in Autumn Afternoon

We all agree life's too still when they're not here...

Good Morning

letter gOoODMORNING is for Fruits & Légumes
Spell with Flickr

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Porca miseria!


This chandelier by Ingo Maurer is called Porca Miseria! and it's an exploding dinner service (white porcelain dishes, cutlery, the works...) that emanates light.
It was designed in 1994, it's on display at the MoMA and I saw it for the first time earlier this year in one of Waddesdon Manor's rooms (in stark yet perfect contrast to the reigning 19th century style decor).
It was love at first sight.

The last known asking price for one of these very exclusive lamps that are part of a very limited edition was $55,000.00.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The New 7 Wonders of the World


The "New7Wonders Foundation" was created in 2001 by Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber, with a mission to protect humankind's heritage across the globe. Under the motto "OUR HERITAGE IS OUR FUTURE", the Foundation calls on all citizens of the world to support it; through film, television, the Internet and books, people shall be alerted to the destruction of nature and the decay of our man-made heritage. Monuments in jeopardy, perhaps in a dangerous state of decay, can be saved by publicizing their beauty and highlighting their plight to the international community.
Fifty percent of all net revenue raised by the New 7 Wonders of the World Project will be used to fund restoration efforts worldwide.
At the end of 2005, the N7W panel chose 21 candidates from the top 77 nominees, and these 21 are now in the final stage of the competition. They are:
The final round of voting for the New 7 Wonders will continue through the end of 2006 and half of 2007. This is the biggest global vote ever to have taken place and millions of people have already voted for their favorite 7 wonders (a very special prize to anyone who guesses the seven I voted for...) .
The New 7 Wonders of the World, as chosen by the world's population using modern communications technology, will be announced during the Official Declaration ceremony in Lisbon, Portugal on Saturday, July 7, 2007 (07.07.07).

Monday, November 27, 2006

Night Train

Cool, very cool, jazz playing on my iPod: Oscar Peterson Trio - Things Ain't What They Used to Be.
Click to listen

Welcome

Welcome to the family, little one.
I can't wait to meet you and neither can your owner's delighted nieces who took ages to fall asleep last night, all because you.
You'll be so pampered during the holidays!
I hope you'll be happy and that someone takes a better picture of you soon.
You are adorable.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Another conspiracy theory?

Today, the Guardian reports:

The mysterious death of a former Russian spy living in exile in London turned into an unprecedented public health scare yesterday when it emerged that he had been deliberately poisoned by a major dose of radioactive material.
Further traces of the substance were found at a sushi restaurant and at a central London hotel where Alexander Litvinenko met a number of people before falling ill, and at his home in the city.
He was killed by polonium 210, a rare radioactive isotope which is so toxic that there may never be a postmortem examination of Mr Litvinenko's body, for fear of causing further deaths.
Police and security sources said they had never encountered such an extraordinary death. "Nothing like this has ever happened before," said one Whitehall source. "It is unprecedented, we are in uncharted territory." One priority last night was to establish who has access to polonium 210 anywhere in the world.
Government ministers meanwhile, are said to be "dreading" the possible repercussions of a public inquest into Mr Litvinenko's death, at which they expect his associates to make damning accusations against the Russian government.
Last night health officials were contacting up to 100 people - hospital staff and relatives - who came into contact with the former spy during his three weeks at two London hospitals, so they can be screened for contamination. The home secretary, John Reid, also convened Cobra, the government's emergency planning committee, to discuss the situation.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) said the risk to hospital staff was extremely low, as alpha radiation from the ex-agent's body would need to be inhaled, swallowed, or enter an open wound before causing harm. Normal hospital practices should have prevented this. Nor would anybody be at risk just because they had been close to Mr Litvinenko.
But the agency said it could not assess the level of risk to the public who had visited locations which had been contaminated with the substance. Professor Roger Cox, director of the HPA's centre for radiological, chemical and environmental hazards, said there was insufficient information to make such an assessment. Last night police were refusing to say how much of the substance was found at the hotel and restaurant, or at Mr Litvinenko's house in Muswell Hill, north London.
Radiation from the polonium was first detected in Mr Litvinenko's urine hours before he died on Thursday night. There is no antidote to the substance and the HPA said that such a large dose would always kill once ingested. Scientists are trying to use computer models, based on analysis of Mr Litvinenko's urine, and the apparent damage to his organs over the last three weeks, to work out when he may have been poisoned.
While Scotland Yard say they are treating his death as suspicious, they are not describing their investigation as a murder inquiry. One possibility being considered is that Mr Litvinenko poisoned himself.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism command, which is conducting the investigation, said: "We continue to carry out a thorough investigation. There will also be an extensive examination of CCTV footage."
Enemies of the Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, blamed him - insisting the poisoning bore the hallmarks of an assassination by Mr Litvinenko's former colleagues from the FSB, a successor to the KGB. Mr Litvinenko fled to Britain six years ago after revealing an alleged plot to murder Boris Berezovsky, a multimillionaire businessman also in exile in the UK.
On November 1, he met Mario Scaramella, an Italian academic, at a sushi restaurant. Mr Scaramella showed him two emails, obtained by the Guardian, which warned "Russian intelligence officers speak more and more about necessity to use force" against critics of Russia including Mr Berezovsky and Mr Litvinenko.
Yesterday Mr Litvinenko's associates, many of them employees of Mr Berezovsky, produced a statement which they said was made by Mr Litvinenko last Tuesday, in which he blamed Mr Putin for his impending death.
"The howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life," he is said to have declared. "May God forgive you for what you have done, not only to me but to beloved Russia and its people."
Mr Putin brushed aside such claims yesterday, telling a press conference: "There is no ground for speculation of this kind. A death of a man is always a tragedy and I deplore this and send my condolences to the family."
Some of Mr Putin's aides went further, hinting at an expatriate plot to discredit the Russian government. "I am far from being a champion of conspiracy theory," said Sergei Yastrzhembsky, Mr Putin's chief envoy to the EU. "But it looks like we are facing a well-orchestrated campaign or a plan to consistently discredit Russia and its leader."
The Foreign Office confirmed last night that officials had discussed Mr Litvinenko's death with the Russian ambassador at a meeting yesterday afternoon, and had asked Moscow for any information which would assist Scotland Yard with their inquiries.
Apart from the sensation that we are being transported a good 40 years back in time to when the Cold War was at its apogee, what else is very disturbing in all of this most extraordinary story? The conspiracy theory claims? The shroud of mystery? No. As far as I'm concerned it's just that apparently it's possible to get your hands on Polonium 210 and use it in a restaurant in the middle of London...

La tristesse durera toujours

Vincent Van Gogh, Wheat Field with Crows, Auvers-sur-Oise: July, 1890

Just a few weeks after finishing this masterpiece, Van Gogh's depression deepened, and on July 27, 1890, at the age of 37, he walked into the fields and shot himself in the chest with a revolver. He died in his bed two days later. His brother Theo reported his last words as "La tristesse durera toujours" (French for"the sadness will last forever").
La tristesse durera toujours... his millstone, as mine.

For whom the bell tolls

On hearing the sound of a far away church bell (12th century St Mary's Church, one mile away) piercing the heavy silence of this bleak and dark Saturday morning, John Donne's words spring into my mind:


Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
- John Donne (1573-1631)

Friday, November 24, 2006

Reflection

Ne me quitte pas

Playing on my iPod is a beautiful and powerful song, the simply-perfect expression of that most transcendent, pathetic, overpowering and sublime of feelings: Love.
Jacques Brel - Ne me Quitte Pas
Ne me quitte pas
Il faut oublier
Tout peut s'oublier
Qui s'enfuit deja
Oublier le temps
Des malentendus
Et le temps perdu
A savoir comment
Oublier ces heures
Qui tuaient parfois
A coups de pourquoi
Le coeur du bonheur
Ne me quitte pas

Moi je t'offrirai
Des perles de pluie
Venues de pays
Où il ne pleut pas
Je creuserai la terre
Jusqu'apres ma mort
Pour couvrir ton corps
D'or et de lumière
Je ferai un domaine
Où l'amour sera roi
Où l'amour sera loi
Où tu seras reine
Ne me quitte pas

Ne me quitte pas
Je t'inventerai
Des mots insensés
Que tu comprendras
Je te parlerai
De ces amants là
Qui ont vu deux fois
Leurs coeurs s'embraser
Je te racont'rai
L'histoire de ce roi
Mort de n'avoir pas
Pu te rencontrer
Ne me quitte pas

On a vu souvent
Rejaillir le feu
De l'ancien volcan
Qu'on croyait trop vieux
Il est paraît-il
Des terres brûlées
Donnant plus de blé
Qu'un meilleur avril
Et quand vient le soir
Pour qu'un ciel flamboie
Le rouge et le noir
Ne s'épousent-ils pas
Ne me quitte pas

Ne me quitte pas
Je ne vais plus pleurer
Je ne vais plus parler
Je me cacherai là
À te regarder
Danser et sourire
Et à t'écouter
Chanter et puis rire
Laisse-moi devenir
L'ombre de ton ombre
L'ombre de ta main
L'ombre de ton chien
Ne me quitte pas


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

"As we express our gratitude,
we must never forget that the highest appreciation is
not to utter words, but to live by them."
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Happy Thanksgiving



Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Remember the good times

Click on CD cover to listen

Behind the scenes

I'd like to work in such a place, surrounded by piles of books and paper (who'd say I used to be an IT consultant involved in office automation projects...)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Bravo! Bravissimo!

The tune playing on my iPod reflects how I feel right now (lets enjoy it while it lasts): Largo al Factotum, from Rossini's fabulous Il barbiere di Siviglia. Leo Nucci's voice is simply perfect for Figaro!

....
Ah, che bel vivere, che bel piacere (che bel piacere) ...
....
Bravo, bravissimo!
Bravo!
La la la la la la la LA!
Fortunatissimo per verita!
Bravo!
La la la la la la la LA!
Fortunatissimo per verita!
Fortunatissimo per verita!
La la la la, la la la la, la la la la la la la LA!
....
Fortunatissimo, fortunatissimo,
fortunatissimo per verità
a te fortuna non mancherà.


I won something!



Not a big prize but enough to cover what I spent!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Can you solve this puzzle?


Good luck.
It finishes at 23.

Note: You can use the Net for aid a couple of times but please resist the temptation to look up the solution: it's worth getting your little grey cells to work a bit.

Happy Birthday, blue-eyed sis!

I hope you have a wonderful day!
Click on cake to get your birthday song (in sexy Italian...)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Family Music Day 2006

Program
MOZART Overture, The Marriage of Figaro
DEBUSSY Children's Corner Suite
PROKOFIEV Peter & the Wolf
Mark Stephenson conductor, Tim Pigott-Smith narrator, Richard Frostick presenter.

Apart from the Debussy (highly soporiferous, as always, especially for children and after lunch), it was a success!!!
About the Corn Exchange:"During the Second World War when the BBC Music Department relocated to Bedford, the Bedford Corn Exchange reached new heights of recognition: there were some 8,000 broadcasts from Bedford over this time, including the Promenade concerts in 1944, the last conducted by Sir Henry Wood bearing his name. Other stars that gave performances broadcast from Bedford Corn Exchange during the war include Bing Crosby, Marlene Dietrich, Vera Lynn, Bob Hope, Humphrey Bogart, Gracie Fields, David Niven and Yehudi Menuhin. Since then hundreds of other acts have enjoyed the friendliness and professionalism of the venue with more recent performances from Lenny Henry, Elkie Brooks, Ken Dodd, Jethro, Mike Reid and many more. Artists who have appeared there recently include Sir Charles Mackerras, Christoph von Dohnányi, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Midori, Joshua Bell, Mikhail Pletnev and Vadim Repin."
By the way, we really liked downtown Bedford. The only part of the city I had driven through before, a couple of years ago, was horribly run down and very unappealing. The city centre, however, is beautiful and with all the Christmas decorations already up, it was lovely just strolling about.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Autumn

Garden corner in Autumn morning.
PS - After sleeping for more than twelve hours, Ana has just got up and she's feeling much better. Even the weather has changed for the better. It's a pity hubby is away...

Alfama


Last Summer I bought this watercolour in Lisbon. A very thin, smallish, dark-haired woman who smoked like a chimney was painting and selling her work on a luminous morning half way down Rua do Carmo and both Ana and Clara took an affection to this romantic depiction of Alfama. I like it myself: bright-yellow trams are becoming rare in Lisbon (they're all covered in adverts nowadays) but will always be one of the city's landmarks. Tram 28 is still the best choice to enjoy some of the prettiest sights in the oldest part of Lisbon.
How strange to become a tourist in your own city...
How strange that the city you call your own and which you knew like the palm of your hands isn't your home any more...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Royal wedding

Will Wills be popping the question soon? Woolworth's thinks he will and they're ready!

Ségolène

So this is what it takes for a woman to win a presidential election in France...

"Ségolène Royal, 53, is head of Poitou-Charentes regional government, and served as a minister in past Socialist governments - although has never held a major cabinet post.
She is best known for campaigns against school bullying and child pornography, and for introducing paternity leave. Her rise has been so unexpected that a book last year profiling the 15 most likely presidential winners, she was not mentioned. Although educated at an elite graduate school where she met her partner, Francois Hollande, the Socialist party leader, she has positioned herself as an outsider who will reengage with the people and end the reign of the political elite - she sees the people as the "experts", and wants citizen juries to hold politicians to account.
This year, she was the only MP among France's top 50 most loved personalities. FHM magazine voted her one of the world's sexiest women, and stolen pictures in a bikini on the beach dominated summer news. She has attracted a public curious about her difficult childhood, one of eight children in a strict family dominated by an authoritarian father, a colonel who believed women's only role was to procreate." -- The Guardian
I do have to admit that she's très charmante.
Can you imagine a world with Angela Merkel as German Chancellor, Ségolène Royal as French President and Hillary Clinton as the President of the United States? I'm sure it will be a better world...

View from my window


It's been a very wet and miserable day so far.
Ana has been complaining of stomach pains since yesterday and stayed home from school today. I took her to the doctor this afternoon because she's also developed a fever and I was afraid she might have appendicitis but it looks like it's only a virus. Nothing ultralevure and paracetamol won't cure by Monday. She feels pretty miserable and, due to maternal empathy, so do I.
In the U.K. today is Children in Need Day: the whole country goes mad trying to raise as much money as possible for child related causes. People get sponsors to do something completely insane (on BBC One I've just seen a very hairy man's chest being waxed... ouch!) and the money they raise goes to the Children in Need fund. At school kids usually earn the right not to wear their school uniform by making a £1 donation and when I went to Tesco's earlier on, most employees were dressed in the most outrageous costumes. BBC One is airing the customary star-studded live variety show from 7 pm to 2 am and this year the BBC's news presenters will be acting a James Bond parody (last year they sang Queen's "Bohemian rhapsody").

Well it's not like I was going anywhere anyway and Ana's is enjoying the show: she's just donated £10 of her own money (from the £20 she got from Granny Vicky last week!).

PS-Little pink "borrego" is fine!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Dreams

Painting by René Magritte , La Grande Famille, 1963

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen w
ith snow.

poem by
Langston Hughes

I am the pilot


Saint Exupery's 'The Little Prince' Quiz.

You are the pilot.
Take this quiz!
Thanks little sis!

Science is fun...

... and it's pretty sticky...AND ALSO... there's one born every minute!

Read this Guardian article on the Extreme Diet Coke and Mentos experiment. Includes link to similar video.

Good morning!

Thanks little sis! A very special Good Morning to you!

It's never enough Bach

Bach is playing on the iPod once again. It's the second movement of Concerto no.5 for Piano and Orchestra in F minor, BWV 1056, which Woody Allen superbly used in "Hannah and Her Sisters" (my favourite film of his). A balm for the soul.

Thanks little sis !


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The environment scam

It's always refreshing to find a credible sober and sound opinion that goes against the mainstream. Even more so if that opinion sparks very reasonable doubt about one of the hottest subjects in present day global politics: climate change. Is it all a big scam? We all need little triggers to set us thinking every now and then.
Christopher Monckton's recent sceptical articles in the Daily Telegraph set the scientific community buzzing and are provoking some political unease; they deliver plenty of food for thought and a lot to follow up on regarding climate change. I consider them an "absolutely must read":


"[...]politicians, scientists and bureaucrats contrived a threat of Biblical floods, droughts, plagues, and extinctions worthier of St John the Divine than of science."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

All systems go

Yesterday's bad luck has vanished and after almost 24 hours of dedication and looking at the blinking cursors, rotating hourglasses and moving status bars that are meant to keep you amused during the frustratingly slow and nail-biting installation of any Microsoft based application, my laptop is now ready for takeoff (knock on wood!).
Since I had to format the software partition in the hard disk and re-install Windows XP (no data lost this time thanks to hard disk partitioning), I decided to bring all my applications up to date and so I've just finished installing the latest versions of everything from Microsoft et al, including the very streamlined Explorer v.7.0, which has a bunch of privacy and safety features that come in very handy because of the kids. I also took the time to reorganize my iTunes library, photos, videos and junk (amazing how much clutter I've managed to collect since the last crash).
Let's see how long it lasts this time.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Murphy's Law

Today I shouldn't have got out of bed. It was one of those days when anything that could go wrong, did. Good ol' Murphy must have suffered terribly.
You know, generically speaking, the kind of day when you pick something up and then you immediately ruin it by letting it fall; and then you enter a room and the light bulb goes kaput leaving you in the darkness holding a tray full of heavy stuff; and then you go out and buy something somewhat expensive that turns out to be faulty only to realize you've thoughtlessly thrown away the receipt into a public bin; AND then, to top it all off, cherry-on-top-of-the cake, you install some cute little driver for some cute little gadget on your very fragile computer that makes it crash so badly you need to format your hard disk and reinstall your OS and all applications (this only happens to those who stupidly insist on sticking to Windows instead of relying on mighty Apple Technology).
Oh well, I can honestly say that the only good thing about today is that I'm heading off to bed now. I hope the celestial bodies that might have triggered my bad luck streak realign themselves during the night.
My treasures's smiles and happy chatter got me through the day.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Ingmar's Sarabande

Last night I finally had a chance to watch Ingmar Bergman's last film, Sarabande.
I was deeply moved and disturbed by it: such a perfect portrayal of human misery and personal tragedy, such a skillful and painful unveiling of daunting psychological and emotional drama, such uncomfortable depth...
The dialogue between Johan and Henrik (father and son), in particular, is of an almost unbearable violence that leaves you dumbstruck and gasping for air.
Henrik and Karin's relationship (father and daughter) is very disturbing, Marianne and Johan's relationship (ex-wife and ex-husband) is thought provoking and a bit touching, Anna's haunting afterglow is somewhat distressing (she's the prematurely deceased Henrik's wife, Karin's mother and Johan's daughter-in-law: the family's keystone, portrayed like an angel) , but as far as sheer psychological violence goes, Johan and Henrik's scene is unbeatable.
A masterpiece. At 84. Long live Ingmar Bergman. And Liv Ullman...
Use goear to hear the Sarabande in Bach's Suite No. 5 in C minor for unaccompanied cello, which Karin plays in the film.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Here's looking at you, kid

Casablanca is one of my favourite films. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman are at their best in it, truly iconic figures, and most of the film's lines have been quoted so often they've become classics. Who has never heard "I stick my neck out for nobody", "Here's looking at you, kid", "Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she had to walk into mine", " I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship", "We'll always have Paris", "That [my heart] is my least vulnerable spot"?