Saturday, 1 January 2011

Boring - and so very British

I was fascinated by this piece of news about a conference on boredom that recently took place in London. Wall Street Journal´s reporter Gautam Naik, who attended the conference together with 200 other boredom enthusiasts gives us a summary of the proceedings:

For seven hours on that Saturday, 20 speakers held forth on a range of seemingly dreary diversions, from "The Intangible Beauty of Car Park Roofs" and "Personal Reflections on the English Breakfast," to "The Draw in Test Match Cricket" and "My Relationship With Bus Routes."
Proceedings at the sell-out event were kicked off by Mr. Ward himself, who discussed his tie collection at great length, accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation.
He noted that as of June 2010, he owned 55 ties, and 45.5% of them were of a single color. By December, his tie collection had jumped by 36%, although the share of single-color ties fell by 1.5%.
"Ties are getting slightly more colorful," he noted. Also, apparently, his taste was improving. By December, only 64% of his ties were polyester, down from 73% in June.

Even less stirring was a milk tasting. Ed Ross, an actor, swirled, sniffed and sipped five different milks in wine glasses, commenting on each one's flavor, finish and ideal "food pairing." (Cereals got mentioned a lot.)

One eagerly awaited talk was about writer Peter Fletcher's meticulous three-year—and still running—sneeze count. With the help of graphs and charts, Mr. Fletcher disclosed that he had sneezed 2,267 times in the past 1,249 days, thus gaining "a profound understanding of the passing of time."

The conference was organised by James Ward, who edits a blog called "I like boring things". Due to the success of this years conference, Mr. Ward is already planning a new boredom conference to be held later this year.

Mr. Naik gives us the following additional information on Mr. Ward´s interests:

He is also co-founder of the Stationery Club, whose 45 members meet occasionally to discuss pens, paper clips and Post-it Notes.
For another of his projects, Mr. Ward over the past 18 months has visited 160 London convenience stores and made careful notes about a popular chocolate bar called Twirl, including the product's availability, price and storage conditions. He publishes the details online.

Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year 2011!

“My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne.” 
Last words of John Maynard Keynes, English economist

Today the name of the wine is, of course, champagne!

And the music is this.

Maybe we can agree, that on new year´s eve, we are all Keynesians!

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Simple pleasures nr 9: Free audio books

Do you want to listen to Aldous Huxley read his "Bave New World", Hemingway reading a short story or tens of other great books -  for free? Sounds too good to bee true, but actually the outstanding Open Culture site offers all that - and much more. I just finished listening to Jane Austen´s Pride and Prejudice, which has always been one of my personal favourites, also as a video (the one with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle). It is true that many of the audiobooks are read by volunteers, not professional actors, but still, this is a wonderful resource for friends of good literature.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

My "Oscar" for lifetime achievement goes to Clint Eastwood

Every movie I make teaches me something, and that's why I keep making them. I'm at that stage of life when I could probably stop and just hit golf balls. But in filming these two movies about Iwo Jima, I learnt about war and about character. I also learnt a lot about myself.
Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood (born 31 May 1930) is one of my greatest living film heroes. His over 50 year long involvement with films is unrivalled, with a multitude of roles, covering everything from early action movies - like Dirty Harry - to the under-appreciated boxing trainer in the Million Dollar Baby. And additionally Eastwood is a member of the very exclusive "club" of actors who also have managed to be succesful film directors. He has directed over 30 films.(Among my personal favorites are Eastwood´s two Iwo Jima films, Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima.)

Watch Eastwood as Harry Callahan in this famous scene:

The Telegraph did an interesting interview earlier this year, when Eastwood turned 80.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Two Psalms from the Scottish Psalter of 1650

Youtube is a wonderful resource. Without it I would probably not have learned to know these two beautiful psalms from the Scottish Psalter of 1650. Both are here sung a capella, which I think adds to the warm and intimate feeling. Listen and see if you share my admiration.

Psalm 147
Psalm 103

For those interested, here is some more information about the Scottish Psalter of 1650.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Anna Moffo - the ideal Violetta

The Italian-American lyric-coloratura soprano Anna Moffo (1932-2006) was the ideal Violetta in Verdi´s La Traviata. Moffo, who sang altogether 80 performances as the courtesan at the Met and in many other leading opera houses, was known for her "beauty, brains and a shimmering, radiant soprano", wrote the Met´s Opera News Online in its obituary.

Elizabeth Forbes, writing in the Independent, highlighted Moffo´s Violetta:

In many ways, Violetta was her finest role. Most singers who tackle Verdi's frail heroine excel either in the coloratura of the first act, or in the lyrical music of the second and third. Moffo, who could let off vocal fireworks with the greatest ease, and whose lyrical phrasing was a constant delight, excelled in both. The complete authenticity of her appearance naturally added a great deal of pathos to her interpretation.

Fortunately, for friends of Italian opera, there is a musically and visually radiant version of La Traviata  on DVD with Moffo in her signature role together with tenor Franco Bonisolli and baryton Gino Bechi. The film was directed in 1968 by Moffo´s then husband Mario Lanfranchi. If you do not have this DVD, I urge you to buy it. Anna Moffo is stunning and the other singers are also very good. And how refreshing it is to enjoy the sheer beaty of a production that is true to the music and the libretto! Not, like so often nowadays in opera, with singers performing the beatiful original music, but dressed in nazi uniforms or some other kind of strange outfits.

Here is an excerpt from the DVD: