Saturday, 18 December 2010

Lots of Snow

This winter here in northern Europe (as well as most other parts of Europe) has started with a lot of cold weather and snow causing all kinds of problems. But the snowy scenery is beautiful!

The snow makes it difficult for birds to find something to eat. Fortunately, many people feed birds during the winter months.

I added two new pictures which I shot this morning (19.12.2010)

(click on images for a larger view)

Friday, 17 December 2010

The ideal Tamino

The aria "Dies Bildnis Ist Bezaubernd Schön" from the Magic Flute is without doubt one of the most beautiful arias that at least I know of. And there is no better singer than the German tenor Fritz Wunderlich (1930 - 1966) to perform it. Listen to the sheer beauty of his voice:

The Magic Flute aria is included in this wonderful CD.

Thursday, 16 December 2010


Trees have fascinated me since I was a small child. (Coming from a Nordic country with a lot of trees and forests, this is probably not suprising). But, of course, people have always been fascinated by trees. Culturally the world tree - connecting heaven and earth - is an ancient symbol present in several religions and mythologies. The tree of knowledge and the tree of life are related symbols in many religions and philosophies.

Trees have also inspired thousands of poets and writers. Here are two of my favourite tree poems by Michael S. Glaser:

The Presence of Trees

I have always felt the living presence
of trees

the forest that calls to me as deeply
as I breathe,

as though the woods were marrow of my bone
as though

I myself were tree, a breathing, reaching
arc of the larger canopy

beside a brook bubbling to foam
like the one

deep in these woods,
that calls

that whispers home

A Blessing for the Woods

Before I leave, almost without noticing,
before I cross the road and head toward
what I have intentionally postponed—

Let me stop to say a blessing for these woods:
for crows barking and squirrels scampering,
for trees and fungus and multi-colored leaves,

for the way sunlight laces with shadows
through each branch and leaf of tree,
for these paths that take me in,
for these paths that lead me out.

I will not here discuss problems connected with the destruction of rainforests. However, I dould like to highlight another worrysome development:  Many valuable and useful tree species are seriously threatened.

Despite their importance over 8,000 tree species, 10% of the world's total, are threatened with extinction. Even more worryingly 1,002 species are listed as critically endangered – likely to go extinct unless urgent action is taken now to save them.

The information above and below is by The Global Trees Campaign, the only international campaign dedicated to saving threatened trees.

  • millions of people around the world rely on food, medicine or other products that can only be derived from a particular species of tree;
  • the life-cycle of many animals or plants is inextricably tied to certain trees;
  • many timber users (both industrial and subsistence scale) need wood with special properties;
  • in many cultures, particular trees play an important spiritual role, such as the kapok tree in South America, which is believed to link heaven and earth.
The Willow tree is probably the most wellknown "medical" tree - and has been so since ancient times.

Image by Zest-pk flickr

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Simple pleasures nr 8: In Praise of Idleness

Let us be lazy in everything, except in loving and drinking, except in being lazy
G. E.Lessing

Few things in this world are as misunderstood as idleness. This force for the good has not received the appreciation that it deserves. Fortunately there are signs of things improving:

Watch this great video - it might change your life (to the better).

The philosopher Bertrand Russell did appreciate idleness. He even wrote en essay with the title "In Praise of Idleness" 

The French seem to have enjoyed the idea of lazyness already in Medieval times. The French economist, writer and psychoanalyst Corinne Maier has continued this noble French tradition in her best selling book "Bonjour Laziness: Jumping Off the Corporate Ladder" .

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Simple pleasures nr 7: Small Museums

(Image by Bagatti Valsecchi Museum)

It is true that most of the great masterpieces of different art forms are to be found in the the big and famous museums in London, Paris, New York, Rome, Berlin and many other cities. But I am probably not the only one who does not like to stand and wait in long lines before being able to actually enter a museum. That is one reason why I nowadays prefer to visit smaller museums, wherever I go. There are thousands of fascinating small museums in every corner of the world, waiting to be explored. No lines at the entrance, and sometimes no entrance fee either. And inside you can look at the most interesting objects without being disturbed by hundreds of other visitors and noisy groups. The staff in these small museums are often friendly volunteers, who are most willing to answer your questions and tell you interesting stories about the exhibits and the museum in general. I remember for example a fascinating discussion that I had with a volunteer - an arts student - in the magnificent Bagatti Valsecchi Museum in Milan a couple of years ago.

There are many fine small museums in the world, but here my own favourites:

                                  A brief presentation of Sir John Soane´s Museum:

                            A brief presentation of the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum:

                             A brief presentation of the Morgan Library & Museum:

A brief presentation of the Galleria Borghese:

Monday, 13 December 2010

How Great Thou Art

The hymn "How Great Thou Art" is, deservedly, one of the most popular Christian songs. Most people outside of Sweden probably do not know that a Swedish lay preacher, politician and author Carl Boberg (1859-1940) wrote the original lyrics - a poem -  in 1886. Soon the poem was matched to an old Swedish folk tune, with the first church performance in the Swedish province of Värmland in 1888.

In 1907 the hymn was translated into German by a wealthy Baptist nobleman, Manfred von Glehn, who lived in Estonia. A few years later a Russian version appeared. The British missionary Stuart K. Hine heard this version in Ukraine in 1931 and started working on an English version. Hine wrote several verses to "How Great Thou Art", the last one as late as 1948.

Many outstanding singers have recorded "How Great Thou Art" (including Elvis Presley), but nobody - in my opinion - does it better than the great Sandi Patty. Listen here, and see if you agree with me:

An old Yiddish song

Why not start the week with this classic Yiddish song, here performed by The Budapest Klezmer Band.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Simple pleasures nr 16: Organ recitals

No wonder that the pipe organ is called “the king of instruments”. There is no mightier sound than the sound of a big organ in a medieval cathedral (although you will find outstanding organs in tiny parish churches and concert halls, too).

And there are literally thousands of organ recitals on offer in churches all over the world. The reason that this post is in the simple pleasures department is not that playing the organ would be simple – quite the contrary, of course – but because most of the recitals, often by world class organists, are either free or with very low ticket prices. This is probably due to the fact that organ music is not part of the commercially created “star” cult dominating so much of popular and parts of classical music these days.

Take for example one of the greatest living organists, Dame Gillian Weir. She toured a number of big and small Danish and Swedish cities earlier this year. To hear one such recital is so much more rewarding than most expensively priced concerts by e.g. some opera singers, who already are past their prime.

In the UK there is a great site which helps you find interesting organ concerts. Similar sites might be available in other countries.

To put you in the right mood, listen to the German organist and conductor Karl Richter play Bach´s famous toccata and fugue in D minor.

The photo shows the organ of the Santa Maria della Scala in Siena (Tuscany), built c. 1515.