Thursday, January 29, 2009

Humanity's Most Shining Achievement

Undertake this ingenious set of calculations:

(A)     Pick you favourite number between 1 and 9

(B)     Multiply it by 3

(C)     Add 3 and multiply by 3 again

(D)     Add the digits of the resulting number  together

Now, using this final number, check the list below to see what you have judged to be the most important achievement of humanity in the last 5000 years:

(1)     The discovery that the world is not flat 

(2)     Michelangelo's painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

(3)     The landing of a man on the moon

(4)     The birth of your current partner

(5)     The formulation of the innoculation for the flu
(6)     E  =  M C 

(7)     The building of the Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza

(8)     The invention of plastic

(9)     The blog 'Cute Hairy Blond Guys & the Organ between my Ears'

(1o)    The construction of the decimal number system

Oh, you're such flatterers!

I'm blushing!

But then you're right ... of course!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Khan El Khalili Souk, Cairo - One of the Most Magical Places on Earth

Pascal Sebah (1823-1886) - Photograph of Khan el Khalili, Cairo (c1880)

You're probably aware by now that I'm dead crazy about Egypt and take any excuse to post about it. With Khan El Khalili being a particular obsession - on my second visit I literally jumped off the bus and rushed into the souk!

The market was established as a caravanserai by Emir Djaharks el-Khanili in 1382 - خان being khan in Arabic.

And it's still a veritable Aladdin's cave of 'treasures' - a riot of colours and textures ...

... where all the senses are challenged, with the olfactory being firstly and almost over-poweringly but sensuously assaulted in the spice markets ...

... and then in the perfume quarter ...

... where your nose is taken in a half-nelson by the pungent aromas thickly emanating from sacks of rose petals, cinnamon, frankincense and all manner of flowers and unguents ...

Here, you can even have your own fragrance concocted ... and then of course recorded in a suitably dusty old book for future purchases.

There are a couple of eyebrow-raising stops ...

... on your way to lunch at the worthily world-famous Felfela Restaurant (familiar?) ...

... followed of course by coffee or mint tea or a cool sherbet drink at the equally famed El Fishawy Cafe ...

After which it's just a short walk to the 1648 merchant's house of Bayt Al-Suhaymi.

Okay okay okay!!! So I've contrived an excuse for another post - sue me (LOL)!

Honestly, if you ever just happen to be in Cairo and have nothing to do (!!!), you'd be certifiably mad if you didn't spent time in Khan El Khalili and at the Bayt Al-Suhaymi house!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

What Was It Really Like?

There are legendary performances in all areas of the arts.

In ballet, one was the opening night of 'L'apres midi d'un faune' in Paris in 1912.

The work was presented by Serge de Diaghilev's Ballets Russes at the Theatre du Chatelet. It was choreographed and danced principally by Vaslav Nijinsky. Set to mysterious other-worldly music by Claude Debussy of 1894. Inspired by a poem by Stephane Mallarme of 1876, in part ...

I adore you, rage of virgins o fierce Delight of the sacred naked weight slipping away Fleeing my fiery lip as it drinks, like trembling Lightening! the terror of the flesh: From the feet of the heartless to the heart of the timid one, abandoned together by an innocence Moist with wild tears or less unhappy vapours

Nijinsky was inspired in his choreography by the stiff stylized poses and actions depicted in the friezes of ancient Greek vase painting and sculpture. In a sense such a mode allowed the portrayal of sexual themes not possible in a more realistic presentation.

The sensation of this legendary night was caused mainly by the fact that the faun, after chasing one of nymphs ...

... and picking up a dropped drapery, ...

... placed the garment on the ground ...

... mounted it and proceeded to masturbate into it.

Uproar ... women fainted ... tiaras went askew ... . Gay guys probably got hard.

The newspapers went on full attack.

So I've always wondered what the ballet looked like in performance.

I've studied the photographs - but of course they only go so far.

There have been re-constructions, such as that by Colonel de Basil's Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, with David Lichine as the faun - photographed by Max Dupain in Australia in 1940.

These images seem to say even less!

Now there are the more recent and well-intentioned reproduction stagings, like that at the Paris Opera - with of course location creds!

And there have been 'evocations' with new choreography such as the beautiful modern classical work for the New York City Ballet by Jerome Robbins in 1958. Later remounted for the Royal Ballet in London. And there's Maurice Bejart's take on the piece. Among many.

Then there was the sad concoction of a 'poem animation' by someone who should remain nameless. Before the subterfuge was exposed, I was so incredibly excited by this supposed discovery of new film of perhaps the greatest dancer of all time - in reputation at least.

I think the only performance that may give some sense of the original is some home footage (?) by one of Nijnsky's successors at the Ballet Russe - Serge Lifar.

Lifar with Tamara Karsavina in 'Romeo and Juliett' (?)

Lifar in 'Zephir et Flore' (1925)

Lifar joined the Diaghilev company in 1923, a year after their last mounting of the work by Bronislava Nijinska.

The film fragment is set outdoors - and begins just before the faun gets over -excited by the scarf. It does have the strong unapologetic erotic charge and complete narcissism that I have imagined in the Nijinsky performance on that opening night early last century.

Lifar wouldn't have seen the original but may have heard enough about it to create a viable re-creation.

And I certainly now think I have a much better sense of that extraordinary evening!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Spin Meisters Extraordinaire

Congressman Harry Reid

Perhaps this is not exactly the right moment to be cynical about our politicians, Barack Obama in his honeymoon period an' all, but I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to post this true story.

It happens that genealogist Judy Wallman was researching her own family tree, in particular a C19 ancestor - Remus Reid. And she thought of enlisting the help of a family relation, the politician Harry Reid, about their mutual antecedent.

She currently knew that Remus Reid had been hanged in 1889 in Montana for horse stealing and robbery.

Remus Reid's Execution, 1889

Harry Reid, old pollie spin meister that he is, sent her the biographical 'information' he had in his possession:

'Remus Reid was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to government service, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency.
In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honour when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed

LOL !!!
Some Pretty Nice Photos of Flying Creatures

My fav's are the last two ...

... with the very last one occasionally reconstructed for me ... in nightmares!