Thursday, 30 July 2009


Wednesday, 29 July 2009

2001 A Floyd Odyssey: Echoes

During my late teen years, few bands had influenced me as profoundly as Pink Floyd had and Echoes was, and remains, one of my all time favourite songs. The album "Meddle" was released in 1971, three years after Kubrick's seminal film "2001: A Space Odyssey" but rumour has it that Kubrick first approached Pink Floyd to write the soundtrack to the film; a request which they refused. Upon viewing the film however, they regretted this decision and the rumour goes on to say that Echoes was recorded to score with the last section of 2001 as a sign of respect to the director's work. The video below shows that the two actually sync pretty well.

Of course the members of the band always denied that the synchronization was intentional and there's no reason to dispute that but it is true that Roger Waters is sometimes quoted as saying that the band's failure to contribute music to 2001's official score was his "greatest regret".

Echoes (Part 1) Lyrics:

Overhead the albatross
Hangs motionless upon the air
And deep beneath the rolling waves
In labyrinths of coral caves
The echo of a distant time
Comes willowing across the sand
And everything is green and submarine
And no one showed us to the land
And no one knows the where's or why's
And something stirs and something tries
And starts to climb toward the light

Strangers passing in the street
By chance two separate glances meet
And I am you and what I see is me
And do I take you by the hand
And lead you through the land
And help me understand
The best I can

And no one calls us to the Lord
And no one forces down our eyes
And no one speaks and no one tries
No one flies around the sun
Cloudless, everyday you fall
Upon my waking eyes
Inviting and inciting me to rise
And through the window in the wall
Comes streaming in on sunlight wings
A million bright ambassadors of morning

And no one sings me lulabyes
And no one makes me close my eyes
So I throw the windows wide
And call to you across the sky

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Unusual teamups: Dalí & Disney

In 1946, Walt Disney and Salvador Dalí, in one of cinema's oddest collaborations, teamed up on a short film called Destino. But Disney's studio ran into financial trouble and put the unfinished film on hold. Fast forward 57 years and a team of Disney animators took the project off the shelf and using traditional and 3-D animation techniques brought Dalí­'s paintings and sketches to life. The six-minute film, spearheaded by Walt's nephew Roy Disney, premiered at the Annecy Animation Festival in June 2003. An official home DVD release is expected in 2010 along with a documentary about the two artists' history together.

The film is sometimes oddly reminiscent of René Laloux's La Planète Sauvage.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Eric Shanower's Age of Bronze

Eric Shanower's Age of Bronze is a retelling of the Homeric epic story of the Trojan war, including the events not covered in the Iliad. In fact, beyond the Iliad, it draws its sources from major and minor works from classical Greece and Rome (such as the plays of Sophocles and Euripides), many Medieval European sources, and continues through Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida and beyond. There is an extensive list of the sources at the back of each issue, including a glossary and multithreaded genealogical charts for the main houses.

Only three volumes have been published so far (the last one being part 1 of 2) and it already stands at a staggering 600 pages. The story is marvelously told and the writing and art are well within the spirit of the times and well deserving the 2 Eisner awards. The first installment, A Thousand Ships, opens with Paris as a cowherd on mount Ida, which grounds the series before launching into more fantastic adventures.

Equally impressive is Eric's artwork in the Age of Bronze. Not only is it finely drawn with exquisite attention to details and expressions, it is also historically accurate. It draws upon the archaeological excavations of the places where the story took place: Mycenae, Knossos, and Pylos, among others, and especially Troy itself. Eric Shanower has done amazing work researching and reconstructing the architecture and clothing of the time. Impressively, even the geological lay of the land is rendered quite closely, at least for the places that I have personally visited. Mycenae's ruins become gloriously alive in these pages with Agamemnon and Klytemnestra walking down the palace corridors.

The author-cum-artist has researched quite well the wide range of literature, art, and archaeology. . . . The clothing, hairstyles, pottery, frescoes, architecture, boat construction, and the settings in general are in such close agreement with current research that it makes one reflect how differently modern scholars envision the Late Bronze Age Achaeans than did past Homeric specialists. . . . Aegean prehistorians will appreciate how much archaeology has advanced our knowledge of the Mycenaean world to allow Shanower to reproduce it so faithfully.
Thomas F. Strasser, American Journal of Archaeology

Beyond the awesome scope of the story — this is the closest thing in comics to a true generational saga, what with previously unknown princes, kidnappings, and the other schemes of the rich and powerful. The tragic element in Sacrifice is overwhelming and makes you feel like you're watching a Greek play. Shanower sticks to the sources and, as much as possible, downplays the theological elements.

I've chosen to downplay the supernatural element in order to emphasize the human element. The only fantastic details I've retained are dreams and visions. And when you think about it, these aren't necessarily as supernatural as they might first appear. Everyone draems. Many people have hallucinations. Others are convinced they've had visions. People the world over believe they communicate with gods - it's called prayer. So I've let dreams and visions remain - they're pretty human after all. But no gods in the flesh.
All things considered, a highly recommended read! I'm eagerly awaiting for the next volume.
Thank you Eric.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Wiring a web for global good

We're at a unique moment in history, says UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown: we can use today's interconnectedness to develop our shared global ethic -- and work together to confront the challenges of poverty, security, climate change and the economy.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Caloric Restriction Delays Disease Onset and Mortality in Primates

It’s been a big week on the longevity front: First, scientists found that an immunosuppresant drug called rapamycin extended the lifespan of mice. Now, a 20-year-long study reported in the journal Science shows that a diet 30 percent lower in calories than normal decreased the incidence of age-related diseases in macaque monkeys as the animals got older.

Half the monkeys were fed a low-calorie diet, and the other half a standard diet. All were closely monitored, with researchers regularly measuring their body composition, blood chemistry, endocrine function, and heart and brain function. When monkeys died, they were necropsied and the causes of death established []. Researchers found that monkeys on a calorie-restricted, nutrient-rich diet (on the left in photo) were three times less likely than monkeys on a full-calorie diet (on the right) to die from age-related diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Scientists have hypothesized that calorie restriction triggers mechanisms that evolved to help organisms survive in times when food was scarce, but the exact process is still mysterious.

The anti-aging benefits even extended to the monkeys’ brains. MRIs reveal less shrinking with age in areas important for decision-making and controlling movement in the brains of calorie-restricted animals [Science News]. This corroborates previous studies that found calorie restriction helps mice, dogs, fruit flies, and yeast age more slowly and can even help them live longer. But because macaques can live to the age of 40, scientists cannot yet ascertain whether a low-calorie diet actually extends lifespan in monkeys.

Researchers speculate that further research will eventually show that humans, too, can benefit from a low-calorie diet. “Up until now, all the clear-cut evidence that caloric restriction slows aging has come from lower organisms,” said John Holloszy, … who studies caloric restriction in people and was not involved in the current monkey study. “This is the first study to show that caloric restriction slows aging in a primate species. And of course, we’re primates, too. It’s a lot more relevant to humans than the mouse”. In fact, a person who switches from the typical nutrient-sparse, high-calorie American diet to one that is high in nutrients and low in calories may benefit more than the monkeys did. That’s because even the macaques that ate a higher-calorie diet consumed plenty of nutrients.

Still, a lifetime of deprivation may not be feasible, much less enjoyable, for most people (although it’s estimated that a few thousand people already follow a calorie-restricted diet for its suspected anti-aging effects). Instead, scientists hope to deliver in a drug the anti-aging effects of a low-calorie diet, or of chemical compounds that seem to replicate the effects of a calorie-restricted diet. Several teams are hoping to harness the age-defying benefits of red wine. GlaxoSmithKline last year spent $720 million to buy Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, which has developed a souped-up version of the red wine compound resveratrol that has been found to make mice live longer and stay healthier [Reuters].

The article has been published in Science.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Trick Question

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Open-mindedness and the supernatural

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Sonata No.1, Op.5 in D Major (1/4) - A. Corelli

Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713) Sonata No.1 D Major from "Sonate a Violino e Violone o Cimbalo, Op.5, Parte Prima", Mov. I Rome, 1700

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Ed's Teapots from Space

The Teapots from Space perfect the art of teapot abduction to find out what astronomers are and why they like astronomy, and whether they take sugar.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Gordon Brown/Golden Brown

Thursday, 9 July 2009

USA: Why we fight (2005)

The grim warning by Dwight D. Eisenhower on his farewell address sounds today like the prophecies of Cassandra. This documentary features interviews with many prominent individuals, including Senator John McCain, retired CIA experts, pentagon experts as well as ordinary citizens. The premise is, as the title suggests, to explore the reasons that have led the US to wage wars, although the main part of the movie concentrates on the decision to invade Iraq.

Full movie:

Things have certainly changed since 2005, with the Obama administration coming to power in 2008, but it's still worth a watch.

Hiroshima. Was it necessary?
The Project for a New American Century
Iraq body count

The Pearl Fishers' Duet

I first listened to this piece on Classic FM some years ago and loved it. This is a pretty old recording (1906) of a performance by Enrico Caruso and Mario Ancona. "Au fond du temple saint" from Bizet's Les pêcheurs de perles.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Anni Rossi

Keep an eye out for this one! 23 year old Anni Rossi has been classically trained since an early age and her voice is smooth and lugubrious. She's been a performing solo artist for the past few years and has only recently signed with a record label. Here's a lyrically odd taster:

Friday, 3 July 2009

Method or Madness?

Greece’s policy regarding illegal immigrants used to be very successful: People caught trying to sneak into the country were either forced back across the border or were abandoned to their fate, in the knowledge that the migrants would do all in their power to keep moving on toward more welcoming members of the European Union. Of the hundreds of thousands of people from places like Afghanistan and Pakistan, a small minority chose to seek their fortune in Greece – a country that provided no benefits but did offer more work than what these (mostly) unskilled young men could find at home. In the last couple of years, however, things have become more difficult for those trying to get to more western or northern EU countries, leading to a large concentration of illegal immigrants in some Greek cities, especially Athens and Patras. With minimal – if any – social services to rely on, the migrants formed their own support networks and gravitated toward areas where others of their kind had found lodging – whether in residential neighborhoods or shanties on vacant lots. As time passed and their numbers grew, the new arrivals became a problem for local residents, prompting calls for “something to be done.”

The pressure hit the Greek government in last month’s elections for the European Parliament, when the populist, anti-immigrant Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), was the only party to gain votes – mostly at the ruling New Democracy party’s expense. At their recent summit, the EU leaders finally appeared to heed the cries of Greece, Italy, Malta and Cyprus, all in the frontline of illegal migration, and expressed “great concern at the dramatic situation in the Mediterranean area.” Among the measures Commissioner for Justice Jacques Barrot is preparing: permitting people to seek asylum in countries other than the ones of first entry, establishing new rules for reception procedures, reuniting minors with their families in other EU countries and setting up an EU office to support asylum seekers. Barrot, who was in Greece the past week, adopted a carrot-and-stick approach, demanding that Greece create a public administration capable of dealing with asylum applications, while also promising to press Turkey to take back migrants who entered Greece from its territory. Ankara refuses to honor a protocol signed with Athens in 2001, saying it does not want to become a dumping ground for unwanted migrants. Greece now says it will help push for repatriation agreements with Afghanistan and Pakistan, so that migrants can go home without staying in Turkey.

Barrot’s proposals aim at bridging the gap between the southern countries that bear the brunt of immigration and the more welcoming countries of Northern and Western Europe, which criticize their southern partners but would like to avoid getting involved in the problem. The problem of illegal immigration is a problem for all Europe, not just the countries that stand on the EU’s porous borders. But it is one thing to need support because a problem is too big for one country and another to force your partners to take over a large part of your duties because of your own incompetence.

The lack of a comprehensive policy over many years and the breathtaking incompetence of state employees charged with dealing with immigrants weigh on the government. The European Union has been forced to both warn Athens of serious consequences if it does not get its act together and to take over a large part of its responsibilities. Instead of this pushing Greece to formulate a serious policy, the government has brushed aside domestic criticism and passed a law that could lead to immigrants – both legal and illegal – being deported without trial, simply by being charged with any crime that carries a jail sentence of three months or more. We can only wonder if this madness is aimed simply at a domestic audience or whether its purpose is the abdication of even more of our responsibilities.

From an article in Kathimerini.

Arabesque No1 - Debussy

Isao Tomita's eerie rendition of Debussy's Arabesque No 1.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Gift Silver poem


I know that all this is worthless
and that the language I speak
doesn't have an alphabet

Since the sun and the waves
are a syllabic script
which can be deciphered only
in the years of sorrow and exile

And the motherland a fresco
with successive overlays
frankish or slavic which,
should you try to restore,
you are immediately sent to prison and
held responsible

To a crowd of foreign Powers
always through
the intervention of your own

As it happens for the disasters

But let's imagine
that in an old days' threshing-floor
which might be in an apartment-complex
children are playing
and whoever loses

should, according to the rules, tell the others
and give them a truth

Then everyone ends up
holding in his hand
a small

Gift, silver poem.

Odysseas Elytis
"The Tree of Light and The Fourteenth Beauty"

Δώρο Ασημένιο Ποίημα

Ξέρω πως είναι τίποτε όλ' αυτά και πως η γλώσσα
που μιλώ δεν έχει αλφάβητο
Aφού και ο ήλιος και τα κύματα είναι μια γραφή
συλλαβική που την αποκρυπτογραφείς μονάχα στους καιρούς
της λύπης και της εξορίας
Kι η πατρίδα μια τοιχογραφία μ' επιστρώσεις
διαδοχικές φράγκικες ή σλαβικές που αν τύχει και
βαλθείς για να την αποκαταστήσεις πας αμέσως φυλακή
και δίνεις λόγο
Σ' ένα πλήθος Eξουσίες ξένες μέσω της δικής σου
Όπως γίνεται για τις συμφορές
Όμως ας φανταστούμε σ' ένα παλαιών καιρών αλώνι
που μπορεί να 'ναι και σε πολυκατοικία ότι παίζουνε
παιδιά και ότι αυτός που χάνει
Πρέπει σύμφωνα με τους κανονισμούς να πει στους
άλλους και να δώσει μιαν αλήθεια
Oπόταν βρίσκονται στο τέλος όλοι να κρατούν στο χέρι
τους ένα μικρό
Δώρο ασημένιο ποίημα.

(από το Tο Φωτόδεντρο και η Δέκατη Tέταρτη Oμορφιά,
Ίκαρος 1971)