Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Monday, February 26, 2007
Who is Katie Melua? Chances are you still don't know her, though I am biased in this judgement by my own former ignorance in the context: a year and a half ago I didn't have a clue about who she was, although (ex post realization) I had certainly heard some of her songs. My rendez-vous with her music was intermediated by one of my former housemates here in Denmark, Aleksandra, who has a great taste for, inter alia, music; she suggested that, since I like Norah Jones (who will obviously not escape from featuring in my 'song of the day' rubrique; btw, this comparison should already say something about Katie's profile and potential), I might want to listen to Katie Melua as well (thank you, Sasha, very inspired thought!). Katie Melua is a Georgian-born jazz/blues musician, now living in England, an artist who, despite being still very young, has already proven that she's got an amazing potential, especially as a singer and, to a less extent, but very promising, also as a songwriter (I think she's already more than prepared to try more on that direction). Her collaboration with songwriter (and producer) Mike Batt (writer of her most well-known songs) and other songwriters resulted in some truly great tunes, some of which I'll mention below. Much more details on Katie Melua's bios and discography are on the wikipedia entry dedicated to her.
But let's get back to the music. Lots of music. Good music. Linked to YouTube clips. Some of my favourite pieces sung by Katie Melua are "Closest thing to crazy" (with a great live performance in Belfast), Piece by Piece" (written by Katie herself; here, live on a French TV channel), "I cried for you" (written by herself; excellent idea for the videoclip!), "Nine million bicycles" (perhaps her most commercialized song; see also the original videoclip). I also like a lot some cover songs by her (usually I don't mention covers, but I believe these to be exceptional): "Crawling up a hill" (song included also on her debut album- awesome live performance here; the original version is the classic by John Mayall), "Moon River" (of course, this was Audrey Hepburn' s and will forever remain Audrey's, but I think Katie's signature has got something special) and one of my all-time favourites, "I put a spell on you" (covered by so many since its writer and first singer, Screamin' Jay Hawkins- whose style was certainly unique). The song I chose for today is the superlative "Call off the search", the title song from her 2003 debut album- lyrics here. Enjoy!
PS. BTW, I really wouldn't mind if all "Romanian window cleaners" looked indeed like Katie Melua (apparently her hairdresser tells her that she looks like a Romanian window cleaner...), even without having Katie's voice :-).
Update: If you look carefully at the youtube clip for the song of the day, you'll see at some point (check, for instance, the time ranges min 1:1o to 1:20 or min 2:50 to 3:00, in that videoclip) a close profile of the lead violin player. I would almost bet that this is Alex Balanescu (about whom I wrote a bit on this blog, already). Maybe somebody can confirm or infirm that.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
The Ships (КОРАБЛИ)
Vladimir Vysotsky (translation in English by Alec Vagapov)
And then they’ll take course
But they will return
Breaking through winds a-wailing.
And it won’t take six months
Till I’m back at my house.
Just to set out again,
To set out for a six month’s a-sailing.
But the best of our friends,
And the best loving, faithful,
But for those we need most
I believe not in fate
I believe not in fate
Nor myself I believe in.
Yet I really want
To believe I am wrong,
And that burning one’s boats
Will be soon void of meaning.
I am sure to return
Full of dreams, friends along,
And it won’t take six months
And it won’t take six months
Till I get back to singing.
Friday, February 23, 2007
- infrastructures (telecom and logistics)
- political environment stability
- quality of life
So I think there's a lot to do, rather than fight among the various decision-making institutions, nonsense which has been going on ever since our entry in the EU (before that there was sheer chaos; now at least you know who bullies who). But do we have in power any people that "know things", quoting Larry Page? You judge it.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Previous week's quote.
Pe unde si-a mai varat coada Behemoth sau 'Patriarhia romana si sculele diavolesti din hambarul CNSAS'
Cine a avut ocazia să călătorească în noaptea de Lăsata Secului pe şoselele patriei ar fi putut observa cum şi-a băgat dracul coada în străvechiul obicei de a sări peste un foc de vreascuri întru izgonirea păcatelor. Rugurile urît mirositoare în jurul cărora sătenii stăteau ciopor emanau vălătuci infernali de smog asemănători celor de pe un cîmp de bătălie irakian. Şi asta din pricină că, în locul parfumatelor lemne de brad, amestecate cu crengi uscate de măr şi de prun, creştinii noştri se purificau pe marginea şanţului prăjindu-se la dogoarea unor cauciucuri stropite cu benzină. De la Turnu Severin pînă la Bucureşti n-am văzut măcar un preot care să-i afurisească pe păcătoşii care aduceau cu inconştienţă un omagiu infernului citadin.
Abia ce reuşisem să-mi scuip din plămîni duhoarea de pucioasă, că un vînticel ardeiat bătînd dinspre Patriarhia Română îmi semnala că şi pe acolo arde ceva.
Preafericitului Teoctist i se făcu poftă de sculele diavoleşti din hambarul CNSAS-ului, dorind să depoziteze numaidecît dosarele fostei securităţi în magazia unde ţine sub cheie sfintele moaşte, tămîia, busuiocul şi agheasma neîncepută.
Ca o dovadă că pe sub nasul politicienilor n-au trecut doar geamantane cu bani, ci s-au traficat şi paporniţe cu colivă şi colaci, invocînd principiul separării puterilor în stat, un sobor de senatori a hotărît scoaterea înalţilor ierarhi şi a cultelor religioase de sub incidenţa legii privind colaborarea sfinţiilor lor cu poliţia politică.
The impression I had was that we were leaving the West and entering the East; the most western of splendid bridges over the Danube, which is here of noble width and depth, took us among the traditions of Turkish rule.
We left in pretty good time, and came after nightfall to Klausenburgh. Here I stopped for the night at the Hotel Royale. I had for dinner, or rather supper, a chicken done up some way with red pepper, which was very good but thirsty. (Mem. get recipe for Mina.) I asked the waiter, and he said it was called "paprika hendl," and that, as it was a national dish, I should be able to get it anywhere along the Carpathians.
I found my smattering of German very useful here, indeed, I don't know how I should be able to get on without it.
Having had some time at my disposal when in London, I had visited the British Museum, and made search among the books and maps in the library regarding Transylvania; it had struck me that some foreknowledge of the country could hardly fail to have some importance in dealing with a nobleman of that country.
I find that the district he named is in the extreme east of the country, just on the borders of three states, Transylvania, Moldavia, and Bukovina, in the midst of the Carpathian mountains; one of the wildest and least known portions of Europe.
I was not able to light on any map or work giving the exact locality of the Castle Dracula, as there are no maps of this country as yet to compare with our own Ordance Survey Maps; but I found that Bistritz, the post town named by Count Dracula, is a fairly well-known place. I shall enter here some of my notes, as they may refresh my memory when I talk over my travels with Mina.
In the population of Transylvania there are four distinct nationalities: Saxons in the South, and mixed with them the Wallachs, who are the descendants of the Dacians; Magyars in the West, and Szekelys in the East and North. I am going among the latter, who claim to be descended from Attila and the Huns. This may be so, for when the Magyars conquered the country in the eleventh century they found the Huns settled in it.
I read that every known superstition in the world is gathered into the horseshoe of the Carpathians, as if it were the centre of some sort of imaginative whirlpool; if so my stay may be very interesting. (Mem., I must ask the Count all about them.)
I did not sleep well, though my bed was comfortable enough, for I had all sorts of queer dreams. There was a dog howling all night under my window, which may have had something to do with it; or it may have been the paprika, for I had to drink up all the water in my carafe, and was still thirsty. Towards morning I slept and was wakened by the continuous knocking at my door, so I guess I must have been sleeping soundly then.
I had for breakfast more paprika, and a sort of porridge of maize flour which they said was "mamaliga", and egg-plant stuffed with forcemeat, a very excellent dish, which they call "impletata". (Mem.,get recipe for this also.)
I had to hurry breakfast, for the train started a little before eight, or rather it ought to have done so, for after rushing to the station at 7:30 I had to sit in the carriage for more than an hour before we began to move.
It seems to me that the further east you go the more unpunctual are the trains. What ought they to be in China?
All day long we seemed to dawdle through a country which was full of beauty of every kind. Sometimes we saw little towns or castles on the top of steep hills such as we see in old missals; sometimes we ran by rivers and streams which seemed from the wide stony margin on each side of them to be subject ot great floods. It takes a lot of water, and running strong, to sweep the outside edge of a river clear.
At every station there were groups of people, sometimes crowds, and in all sorts of attire. Some of them were just like the peasants at home or those I saw coming through France and Germany, with short jackets, and round hats, and home-made trousers; but others were very picturesque.
The women looked pretty, except when you got near them, but they were very clumsy about the waist. They had all full white sleeves of some kind or other, and most of them had big belts with a lot of strips of something fluttering from them like the dresses in a ballet, but of course there were petticoats under them.
The strangest figures we saw were the Slovaks, who were more barbarian than the rest, with their big cow-boy hats, great baggy dirty-white trousers, white linen shirts, and enormous heavy leather belts, nearly a foot wide, all studded over with brass nails. They wore high boots, with their trousers tucked into them, and had long black hair and heavy black moustaches. They are very picturesque, but do not look prepossessing. On the stage they would be set down at once as some old Oriental band of brigands. They are, however, I am told, very harmless and rather wanting in natural self-assertion.
It was on the dark side of twilight when we got to Bistritz, which is a very interesting old place. Being practically on the frontier--for the Borgo Pass leads from it into Bukovina--it has had a very stormy existence, and it certainly shows marks of it. Fifty years ago a series of great fires took place, which made terrible havoc on five separate occasions. At the very beginning of the seventeenth century it underwent a siege of three weeks and lost 13,000 people, the casualties of war proper being assisted by famine and disease.
Count Dracula had directed me to go to the Golden Krone Hotel, which I found, to my great delight, to be thoroughly old-fashioned, for of course I wanted to see all I could of the ways of the country.
I was evidently expected, for when I got near the door I faced a cheery-looking elderly woman in the usual peasant dress--white undergarment with a long double apron, front, and back, of coloured stuff fitting almost too tight for modesty. When I came close she bowed and said, "The Herr Englishman?"
"Yes," I said, "Jonathan Harker."
She smiled, and gave some message to an elderly man in white shirt-sleeves, who had followed her to the door.
He went, but immediately returned with a letter:
"My friend.--Welcome to the Carpathians. I am anxiously expecting you. Sleep well tonight. At three tomorrow the diligence will start for Bukovina; a place on it is kept for you. At the Borgo Pass my carriage will await you and will bring you to me. I trust that your journey from London has been a happy one, and that you will enjoy your stay in my beautiful land.--Your friend, Dracula."
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
But that was a long introduction (introduction?!). To get to the gist of this post: I searched of course for renditions of "Ciocarlia" on YouTube. I found 3 (completely different ones), that are certainly worth mentioning and that I warmly recommend to you.
- The first is the "standard ", popular, version, with leading violins, interpreted here by an artist called Marek Balog and his Hungarian colleagues, playing in some pub in the Czech Republic (taking the info on the clip at face value). I thought this was a good rendition (somewhat better than the one in Le Regal by the-most likely Romanian - trio :-))- they even put some "personal feeling" in it (though there is a clear heterogeneity among the players here).
- The second version I found on YouTube would have been truly amazing if it weren't from a sort of jam session where people in the audience simply couldn't keep quiet. But, apart from that, this electric guitar player (Cristi Iakab if the info on the YouTube clip is correct) is extremely good and I just love his version of "Ciocarlia".
- The last and my favourite version among the three circulated already, quite a lot, through the Romanian blogosphere ("roblosphere"), and strangely enough exactly in the last few days when I was also searching- independently!- for it, on YouTube (inter alia, I noticed that somebody placed a link to the same clip on the hotnews blogroll, yesterday). Just think of it, this seems impossible: playing "Ciocarlia" (by now you've listened to the previous two versions, I hope) with an acoustic guitar!!! And still, there is one artist who did it and you can admire his outstanding rendition here. Incredible, really. The musician is an Israeli flamenco (I'll most likely come back to the 'flamenco' style which really experiences a hype lately, all around the world) artist called Baldi Olier, who was born in Romania in 1953 and emigrated to Israel in 1964 (info on the bios section from his website). I searched YouTube for other instrumental pieces by him, but I did not really find, among the available ones, one that- in my opinion- comes anywhere near "Ciocarlia".
I hope you enjoyed listening to "Ciocarlia" (any impressions are welcome). If I were to talk about branding Romania through music, it is this sort of melodies (if played with style!) that I would really want to include in that set (in particular, what can be more Romanian then a "Romanian folk tune"?). But this will of course be a recurrent theme on my blog.
Monday, February 19, 2007
- There is a serious marketing problem in science, in general and much more should be done to remedy that. Page explains this state of facts by the typical lack of any expert in marketing in the scientific environment - you can't expect people who are paid to do research, to think of how to sell research ideas to the public (in particular, Page gives as example the enormous time and effort it took him and Brin to even come up with the name 'Google' for their venture).
- It is necessary to have people in power who "know things" (inter alia, to have some idea about science and technology), which is so hard to come by with respect to current political leaders, for instance
- Linked to the first point, society should be encouraged to think that 'things are possible', that scientific research has attainable and desirable goals. If people have a positive attitude about this, the rest comes easier. Page underlies that the media is to play a much bigger role in this.
- Science and engineering should be much more integrated; the scientists should use the engineers' insight in what are the problems requiring priority and what are feasible solutions to them, while the engineers should use the scientists' depth of knowledge and level of abstraction and generalization etc.
- On scientific publishing, articles and working papers should be made readily accesible (free of charge) for the public, it is in the best interest of both parties. And obviously the issues with the time lags in publishing and all that should be given priority.
- On USA: USA has a marketing problem in general, in the eyes of the rest of the world, in the opinion of Page. Much more attention should be given right now to making more friends in the world.
- Creating and taking advantages of great opportunities is a very important part of any succesful strategy and the scientist- entrepreneur should be the model. Page gives the example of the 'cyclicality' between Silicon Valley and Stanford University, a place where interaction of "brains" was at its best (people starting Silicon Valley after leaving from Stanford, others returning to Stanford after having had succesful entrepreneurship spells etc), which could and should be followed in other places.
I also found very interesting the short interview with Stanford's Robert Sapolsky (starts around min 8 in the Science podcast linked above) about the influence of stress on health and general well-being, with the clear difference between short-term "good stress", which can have positive outcomes on the subject, and the severe problems (starting from high blood pressure, to malfunction of the reproductory organs, to nervous breakdown etc.) that can be caused by the chronic, "bad stress". Reminds me strongly of the discussions in the 'stress at the workplace' workgroup that I was part of when attending, years ago, a "Generation Europe" Summit on the Role of Business in Society, in Bruxelles (I must say that I was then thinking much more about the positive role of (short term) stress- alert stimulus, for instance- than of its negative outcomes on, eg., job productivity, but Dr. Sapolsky is obviously right - the hazards of chronic stress are not at all negligible).
There is one (perhaps only one) musician whose concerts I would in no way miss, should he perform anywhere around the place I were located. This person is Yann Tiersen, a true musical genius (unequalled composer; superlative player of pretty much any conventional music instrument, not to mention that he uses many unconventional ones!- I am not kidding, see the evidence below). Unfortunately, I wasn't lucky and didn't yet get a chance to actually see him on stage: the last missed opportunity was exactly a week ago, on Monday the 12th of Feb, when he performed in Amsterdam's Paradiso (and when you think that he could have done so in all the years I was fulltime in Amsterdam!). Nothing unexpected, the tickets for his concert were sold out long time before the date of the concert. I have written a bit on Tiersen and his music also before, inter alia already mentioning some of my favourite pieces from him and linking to some excellent clips available on YouTube; hence, I will not repeat myself - and cut short the introduction for the purpose of this post.
The song for today (and for the last 5 days or so...) is Yann Tiersen's sweet & intriguing "Rue des cascades" (vocals Claire Pichet). The linked clip contains sequences from the movie "La vie rêvée des anges" (which I haven't yet seen, but it is on my list of "must see movies"), which has "Rue des cascades" as one of its soundtracks. Talking about movie soundtracks, Tiersen has got a lot of experience and outstanding successes with those (and this includes basically the entire soundtrack set for one of my favourite movies of all times, "Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain", likely his most famous). See also a live interpretation of "Rue des cascades".
I believe that all of Tiersen's creations are masterpieces in their own right (as I already stated, this guy is a genius); however, given time and space constraints (next to youtube availability...), I'll single out only an additional few of my top favourite ones, next to those I mentioned in my old "Monochrome" post and to today's song of the day. Such outstanding pieces are: "La boulange" (excellent original clip of this song!) or "Comptine d' un autre été" (with a perfectly assorted videoclip!). You can also watch the whole short (about 12 min) animated movie "Le cyclope de la mer", with superb music composed entirely by Yann Tiersen (first part movie, second part movie).
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Our Bulgarian neighbours and their bus stations or How to make buses popular again, as transport means? :-)
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Monday, February 12, 2007
Note: I have to say that my absolute favourite piece from de Gregori is "Generale" (in fact this is how I got interested in the music of Francesco de Gregori to start with, by travelling - years ago- with a bus, from L'Aquila to Roma, and listening for the first time, on radio, to this amazing song!), but I could not find anywhere to link it here. I only found a cover of it (not bad, gives you an impression of its force, but it is certainly not the 'de Gregori signature'...) by another Italian legend (in my top 5 as well), Vasco Rossi, about whom more with the next occasion.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Second - and truly amazing (particularly considering that she recorded so little before her premature and unfortunate death)- on YouTube there are video recordings of several of the pieces she used to sing at the Blues Alley. These include exceptional renditions of what had already been famous musical pieces, receiving however a unique Eva Cassidy "signature" once they became part of her repertoire. Among my favourites: "Cheek to cheek" , "Time after time", "You've changed", and of course what I consider THE masterpieces: "What a wonderful world", "Fields of gold" (for each of these pieces, I believe she is the only other person able to SING them), "Tall trees in Georgia", "Over the rainbow" (her favourite song) and my number 1 and song of this weekend, "Autum Leaves". Enjoy!
Friday, February 09, 2007
PS. Talking about control freaks, for long time now I think Mr. Basescu, the Romanian President, got inspired by the wrong side of Mr. Bush.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
- Find a complete stranger.
- Reveal to each other intimate details about your lives for half an hour.
- Then, stare deeply into each other’s eyes without talking for four minutes. ( I realize why it didn't work for me in most cases: 2 minutes were already too boring...)