Monday, December 17, 2007

[coffee and croissants] one explanation of their origin


Another first for this blog - quoting holus-bolus from Wiki, rather than the usual plagiarism. Several culinary legends are related to the Battle of Vienna:

* One legend is that the croissant was invented in Vienna, either in 1683 or in an earlier siege in 1529, to celebrate the defeat of the Turkish siege of the city, as a reference to the crescents on the Turkish flags. Although this version is supported by the fact that croissants in French Language are referred to as Viennoiserie and the French popular belief that Vienna born Marie Antoinette introduced the pastry to France in 1770, there is no further evidence that croissants existed before the 19th century.

* Another legend from Vienna has the first bagel as being a gift to King John Sobieski to commemorate the King's victory over the Turks that year. The baked-good was fashioned in the form of a stirrup, to commemorate the victorious charge by the Polish cavalry. The truth of this legend is very uncertain, as there is a reference in 1610 to a similar-sounding bread, which may or may not have been the bagel.

* After the battle, the Austrians discovered many bags of coffee in the abandoned Turkish encampment. Using this captured stock, Franciszek Jerzy Kulczycki opened the third coffeehouse in Europe and the first in Vienna, where, according to legend, Kulczycki himself or Marco d'Aviano, the Capuchin friar and confidant of Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor, added milk and honey to sweeten the bitter coffee, thereby inventing cappuccino.

It is also said that when the Turks were pushed away from Vienna, the military bands left their instruments on the field of battle and that is how the Holy Roman Empire (and therefore the rest of Western countries) acquired Cymbals, Bass Drums, and Triangles.

One interesting aside is that this info was in a piece on the Battle for Vienna.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

[top 25] popular songs since the 50s


It was a tough job, tougher than I first thought - you see, it wasn't whether I liked the song or not. It was whether it took the world by storm at the time, whether it crossed generations and whether it is still played and sung today. In no particular order:

Zero Shaddap You Face, Joe Dolce, 1 Stairway-to-Heaven, Led Zeppelin, 2 Hotel California, The Eagles, 3 Good Vibrations, The Beach Boys, 4 Nights in White Satin, Moody Blues, 5 River Deep - Mountain High, Ike and Tina Turner

6 Let It Be, The Beatles, 7 Heartbreak Hotel, Elvis Presley, 8 Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Simon and Garfunkel, 9 Whiter Shade of Pale, Procol Harum, 10 When a Man Loves a Woman, Percy Sledge

11 The Times They Are A-Changin', Bob Dylan, 12 Every Breath You Take, The Police, 13 Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen, 14 Bad, Michael Jackson, 15 Light My Fire, The Doors

16 Gloria, Them, 17 Mama Mia, Abba, 18 Crying, Roy Orbison, 19 Eye of the Tiger, Survivor, 20 The Twist, Chubby Checker

21 Another Brick in the Wall, Pink Floyd, 22 My Generation, The Who, 23 Space Oddity, David Bowie, 24 American Pie, Don McLean, 25 Maggie May, Rod Stewart.

The ones I couldn't squeeze into the list were:

Everything I do [I Do for You], Bryan Adams, Like a Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan, I Will Always Love You, Whitney Houston, I Want It That Way, Backstreet Boys, No Woman, No Cry, Bob Marley and the Wailers, You've Lost That Lovin, Feelin', The Righteous Brothers, All Along the Watchtower, Jimi Hendrix, Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On, Jerry Lee Lewis

Whole Lotta Love, Led Zeppelin, Mr. Tambourine Man, The Byrds, I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Marvin Gaye, Great Balls of Fire, Jerry Lee Lewis, Blitzkrieg Bop, Ramones, Mr. Tambourine Man, Bob Dylan, House of the Rising Sun, The Animals, Born to Be Wild, Steppenwolf, Dancing Queen, Abba, EMI, The Sex Pistols

Wild Thing, The Troggs, Born in the U.S.A., Bruce Springsteen, The End, The Doors, La Bamba, Ritchie Valens, Unchained Melody, The Righteous Brothers, I Got You Babe, Sonny and Cher, Under the Boardwalk, The Drifters, Papa Don't Preach, Madonna, Everybody's Talking, Harry Nilsson

Respect, Aretha Franklin, Candle in the Wind, Elton John, Hey Jude, The Beatles, Walk Like An Egyptian, The Bangles , Ruby Tuesday, The Rolling Stones, The Joker, Steve Miller Band, Sex and Drugs and Rock 'n Roll, Ian Dury And The Blockheads, Love Hurts, Nazareth.

[eu juggernaut] for better or worse


Had a most dispiriting experience from an unexpected quarter yesterday.

Asking a friend over here what he thought of the elimination of Britain as an entity and in particular, England, via the Constitution signed during the week by the Traitor Brown [I didn't use that description of course], he flatly denied it had happened because the BBC had not covered it ad nauseam, the way they'd covered, say, the Arafat Funeral.

He gets BBC World News via cable.

Therefore the issue doesn't exist. Whoa! Where to start on the MSM agenda, its ownership and its slant on issues? When we got down to it, his reason for the flat denial was that in the west there is, in his eyes, a vibrant, working democracy where democratically elected leaders carry out democratically approved decisions and though there might be minor problems, his over here are vastly bigger.

A smiling Britain is clearly cheering Brown on and welcoming the EU with open arms. And his clinching argument was that Britain has 70% exports and that I couldn't deny that that was so.

I'm afraid I didn't handle this well and hurriedly concluded the phone conversation.

Later in the day, another chap, a businessman who's been living in Europe this past year, visited and over coffee we discussed the same issue.

Different mentality. Though he's Russian and wouldn't be averse to Russia being brought into the EU economic space [a common view over here], he described two separate direct dealings with the EU and he was far from impressed with the way they operated. He called it "arrogance" and "high-handedness".

I asked: "And how about inefficiency?"

He reflected then added: "Da, da." We both agreed it was a bureaucratic mentality, a mentality which doesn't admit of entrepeneurship but only of compliance with rafts of regulations where one is lost in an ocean of paperwork and Bureauspeak.

Rather than flatly denying that what had happened to Britain had happened, he asked me to explain and this is what I said:

"By signing that Constitution -"

"Treaty."

"That's an issue too - it's a Constitution by any other name. But yes, by signing this "Treaty", a Scot effectively and simultaneously has signed away both England's status as a nation and Britain's sovereignty, in real terms, as anything more than a region of the EU, slowly to take effect over the next 13 years.

For that Scot and many other Celts too, that was a great thing - revenge for the '45, for the castles in Wales and so on."

At this point I gave a potted history of Britain, neither exonerating the Anglo-Saxons either for Cromwell nor the Highland Clearances and zeroing in on Fields of Athenry. Don't forget my mother's side is Celtic.

"But even so, why would the Britons sit back and invite in the "EU monster", as you call it?"

"That's historic too. One of their leaders invited in the Anglo-Saxons in the first place, for equally short-sighted reasons. The carrot in this current day is that each Celtic nation gets to be recognized, [they don't fully appreciate that it's as a satellite region of the EU yet, in all but name], they get to have their own play-parliament and they can pretend they're now a sovereign nation, the money pours in from the EU for much needed infrastructure to replace lost English revenue and England is effectively isolated."

I thought it would be information overload to bring in the West-Lothian question at this point so I went on:

"It's vital for the EU to isolate England because it was always the major obstacle to any European power's strength. 1066 succeeded, the 1588 Armada didn't, the 100 Years War came to nothing, Napoleon failed, as did the Kaiser and Hitler. England has always been under siege, much as Israel is today."

"And the EU wants to break the U.S. connection."

"Exactly. It's not only the destruction of England as an ancient feud - the British/U.S. nexus also has to be broken and NATO as well, so that the continental bloc paradigm holds sway and the 1984 style "constant warfare" scenario can be effected. Hence Merkel's Army, the drive coming form the Bruderheist and other pondlife, hence Milliband's enthusiastic support."


"But England is still strong - it's exports and GDP still ensure it's a powerful opponent."

"Yes, unless there is no England, only nine regions under an EU umbrella."

"But the English wouldn't put up with that."

"Unless countless millions are poured into the nine regions for visible infrastructural improvements and for the relief of unemployment, which has been induced anyway in the first place. I also suspect personal debt relief will come into this somewhere down the track also. That would quell most opposition."

"How?"

"Look at a hypothetical analogy. Russia offers itself to its people as the motherland/fatherland. Pensions and salaries are woeful and gloom abounds. OK, the EU is a shining 1000 Points of Light. Russians have eyes for money and the EU has it.

Now imagine that the EU offered to pour billions into Russian infrastructure to the point where unemployment is greatly reduced, jobs abounded and building projects could be seen everywhere.

The people then have a choice between an idea - being a poor Russian - or living well under the auspices of the EU. Wouldn't you be happy to cede your sovereignty for the moment [always planning to get it back somewhere down the line] in exchange for medium term prosperity?"

"Russians wouldn't put up with that."

"No, they wouldn't. And neither would Americans. So the EU would ensure that the word "Russia" would still exist, just as the SPPNA will ensure that the U.S.A. remains as a concept, long after the organs of state have passed to the NGO called the NAAC from March, 2009. There'd still be token assemblies, there'd still be a Capitol Hill, still be a Westminster and White House, still be a pretence of democratic process in the post-democratic era and the people could rest assured that all was well.

Except for the pesky checkpoints, armed militia, restrictions on travel [for ecological reasons of course], the sheer weight of bureaucratic constraints and all your personal data in central giant computers [the EU's original computer was nicknamed "The Beast"]. Chipped from birth to death and "mentored" your whole life.

Iris scan ID and eventually the successor to patents #5,629,678 and #5,878,155 - the Digital Corp maintenance free, under-the-skin chip security ID, using GPS, which they call the 'Digital Angel' - these would be used to help "protect the free economic space" called the EU."

"I don't believe it."

"Neither did my friend this morning. But you've just come back here from Europe. Was the level of security the same as ten years ago?"

"Go on."

"In the English scenario, the short term benefits of free [but scrutinized] travel within the EU space would suit many Brits, the obscene amounts of money which the British government has simply not ploughed into the infrastructure in past decades, including in education and hospitals - now this money starts to pour in and the benefits of EU membership are apparent to all.

The only people who would rail against it are malcontents now labelled as "English Nationalists"; they do not enjoy universal support from the newly economically pampered people who have become less and less English anyway as unrestricted immigration is rampant and so these "English" then find themselves isolated as "Separatist Insurgents" within their own country. They're now told there's no such thing as a "pure Englishman" anyway."

"I can see how it would look to English eyes but surely it's better to live well than scratch for a living."

"True but why did we have to scratch for a living in the first place? It was induced, that's why. In the 5th largest world economy, there is no need for EU money beyond simple trading within an EEC economic space. How did the idea of an armed Union arise?

Trouble is, many people have themselves travelled in the past few decades and they've seen another life out there beyond English borders - they see a more sophisticated, cosmopolitan life and wouldn't want to go back to the days of Harold Wilson, the coalminers' strike and the Winter of Discontent - just three examples."

"Just as the Russians don't wish to go back to the Soviet Union."

"All of this helps the EU along and people's patriotism for this strange thing called England becomes just words, semantics. It's all been very well done."

"And so?'

"And so nothing. You need another coffee?"

[kiss] the most satisfying ever

I'm a James Bond fan from way back, have four or five reviews of every film ever made in the franchise, I've seen them all many times and have a few on disk. For what it's worth, the current Bond might be the best yet.

That said, it doesn't alter the fact that the character was wrong in his approach to the interpersonal, which sprang to mind with Oestrebunny's post on kissing at the office party and the comment by one of her commenters:

I love kissing but there are so many bad kissers out there!

Meaning that the commenter goes around with her slavering chops, inviting any good looking man in to be tasted and spat out if found wanting. I once had the experience of one of those and the strange thing is I have two photos of her on my computer because she is quite well known.

It was definitely just curiosity on both our parts and it was awful. For a start she was wet and full on, the vibe was token resistance then what she really wanted - to consume. It was like an alcoholic's approach to alcohol or a coffeeholic's approach to coffee. She was definitely not in it for me.

Interesting that Oestrebunny's commenter went on:

I think a good kiss is one where you stop breathing!

Well there are a number of reasons you stop breathing and one is that you're being asphyxiated. Once was in the back of a taxi for me and she was crushing me against the back seat and not letting me come up for air. I don't mind being pinned to a seat by a girl's thighs but it's nice to gasp a couple of breaths now and then.

The other time was the one with the "wet consumer" already mentioned, tongue straight to the back of the throat and aggressive. Uggggh! And the whole raison d'etre for that kiss was wrong. Let me explain via my reply to Oestrebunny's commenter:

No wonder you think there are so many bad kissers. A kiss from someone you're not in a love relationship with is never as good - you can't hide the satyric insincerity behind the kiss because you're not giving yourself.

A great kiss is always the Romeo and Juliet type where two people have eyes only for each other.

All other kisses are either mechanical, from long experience or anxiously speculative. Neither of these types is ultimately satisfying.

I'd rather one kiss from a girl who loves me than all the ones I get for all the reasons they do it.

The excitement in the "taking of" a fantastic girl and peeling away her defences one by one is infinitely preferable to a "drop the gear, nibble the ear and into it" - that's a total turn off when it's just the aperitif.

The very best kiss is the forbidden kiss, the one you've worked for so long to achieve, the one you've forced onto her by degrees [though naturally it's her agenda] and the more intelligent and the more modest the girl, the better.

This is entirely different to "the more innocent she is". Where's the pleasure in taking candy from a baby? The real buzz is when she's worldly and you've got no chance at all, not being tall and not being handsome. And yet you get there in the end. When she finally lets you in, it's a huge buzz - the best there is.

And that's where the charismatic satyr stops his development as a person. He's so taken with the conquering, with the thrill of the chase, that he's not willing to step up to the next, more satisfying phase - getting completely inside the woman and she inside him. It's not consuming one another, it's joining auras and saying inside the soul: "She's all I want".

And most importantly for the other - it's setting aside all the other possibilities he or she both have and this is the ultimate compliment. Where's the compliment in knowing she's just going to move onto the next one after you?

It recognizes all the faults, all the difficulties and it's ultimately forgiving and tolerant, something I'm currently not and it's clear I need to find such a woman. It matters not a damn if she's the most ravishing beauty or has the technique down pat. Better she doesn't.

It matters that your eyes are for her in the sense of "let's work hard on this and try to make it a goer". You can still have light-hearted laughs with all the other girls but there's only one who really satisfies you now.

This satisfaction has little to do with technique, which Oestrebunny's commenter seems so consumed by. It's to do with one-on-one, dancing a complex dance of growing love because once the initial fire passes, real love has to replace it.

It has to do with maturity, trust, knowing the footstep of the other, knowing the little things and building up and supporting the other - this is the true carnal knowledge.

And always working on it, always dreaming up new ways to make her happy. The day that stops is the day it's over.

Finally, it's about losing Self, fusing it with the other to a great degree - true love does not demand total devotion.

So you can keep your shallow, beauty-based, Cosmo style sex-by-numbers approach to love. Give me a real woman any time over a promiscuous, pleasure model T-213 robot.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

[blogfocus saturday] of higher things


1. You want to see an interesting site, through the eyes of the artist? Norman explains:

St. Ives harbour. The beach at low tide. Pencil drawing on 150 gsm cartridge size 10 x 10 cm. I took a small pocket sized sketchbook with me to St. Ives. A handy size when working outside in an Atlantic gale.

I took with me my usual four clutch pencils; HB 0.5 mm., 3B 2 mm., 6B 3mm. and 4B 6mm. This latter functioned as a sort of graphite stick. I had a chunk of putty rubber and a collection of servietttes gleaned from the various caf├ęs I visit.

2. Dabrah can say something not too many others can:

The thing about skiing in Dubai is the contrast between the extreme heat of the desert and the coldness of the ski dome. In Lebanon, nature provides this contrast for free. I can remember, in my youth, snow skiing in the mountains of Lebanon in the morning, and water skiing in Beirut in the afternoon, all on the same day! I do not exaggerate.

3. Mousy meets some intelligent people in his medical work:

One of the paramedics phones to say they're at a students' Christmas party with a buffoon who has drunk some bubble bath for a bet. They're wondering if it's dangerous and they actually need to bring him to hospital, or if they can safely leave him there. I explain that there should be no need to bring him, as, generally speaking, ingestion of detergents isn't harmful (the exception to this is dishwasher detergent, I might add).

4. Lady MacLeod is buying action heroes for Christmas, which is only meet and right:

I found a special vehicle (kismet I tell you) for "President Arnold S" (one of the main characters) - it is the Mr. Freeze auto that I am given to understand he drove in the Batman movie and the package included that car of the same genre, the Batmobile - which is now the vehicle that will convey our hero on his sojourns around the globe in the name of ...well I am just not sure of his motives yet as he is a Captain in SOCOM and being 28 years old he is embodied with the earnestness of youth.

5. Colin Campbell has always been one to go against the flow:

The story here.

That is an incredibly powerful instinct at work. I can remember watching bears catch fish in Alaska. They would just sit on the falls and wait for a big juicy one to try to jump up the fall. These guys are jumping into a flowing pipe so that they can go 50 metres into the river where the water is coming from. That is a lot of power.

[aw shucks] is this sweet or is this sweet?

[st. george] scourge of islam and the eu monster

Sigh:

FC Barcelona shirts sold in Saudi Arabia have had their club emblems altered to exclude the St George's Cross, the municipal flag of the Spanish city, according to reports in La Vanguardia newspaper.

The alterations have supposedly been made due to a fear of offending Muslims through the cross' connotation to the Crusades during the 12th and 13th centuries when English soldiers adopted the St George's Cross as they attempted to recapture Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Muslim rule.

[independent boys] know when they're not wanted

Looks frightening for the parents:
When Connor Wilson was turned away from after-school care because his name wasn't on the list, he took matters into his own hands and decided to walk home - all 15km. Police found the six-year-old walking along Geelong's busiest road, the Princes Highway, more than 6km into his journey to his Whittington home.
Quite apart from the issue of the inadequate care provided and the mother's possible guilt as well, I'd like to focus instead on the resilience of the child - of any child that age.

I remember such situations well:

Age 4 - I'd pick up my raffia case with cut lunch [not being up to preparing my own sandwiches at that stage] and would nip round the corner to my girlfriend's place, collect her and walk her to kinder, just under a kiklometre away. There was only one dangerous corner but I'd been trained for that. Naturally, I had no idea who was observing - I just thought it was my job.

Age 8 - We were in the High Street, doing Christmas shopping. In one store, maybe Woolworths, my mother told me to wait by the "snack bar" for her, while she went to get something further into the store. So, I went looking for "a" snack bar, not realizing I was actually beside "the" snack bar she was referring to.

Not having any luck here, I went outside onto the footpath and asked a lady if she knew where "a" snack bar was. To think that my choice of the indefinite article could have been the catalyst of all the troubles.

She did know where "a" snack bar was. It was about a hundred metres further down the street and it had a big sign "snack bar".

No problems.

Down I went and waited dutifully beneath the sign until my mother found me, distraught - she was distraught, not me - I was more concerned with what had gone wrong with my mum.

Age 11 - Don't know if I should mention this one. My father took me to the football but because for some strange reason, I had a membership card and he didn't, he explained in detail where I'd go in and he'd watch me in, then I had to turn left and follow the tunnelway to the barrier, where he'd be waiting.

No problems.

I went in but there were two tunnelways, so I took the one that looked as if it would lead to a mesh fence and it did. However, he didn't appear. I waited for half an hour but as the game was about to start, I gave it away, determined to go looking for him at halftime.

I managed a spot down by the touchline and had a good first half. Now it was time to find him. I asked officials about the layout of the ground, about where he probably would have come into the ground if I'd come in where I had and so on.

No luck. My dad had got lost.

OK, well there was a damn good game on, so I settled down for the second half and it was well worth the money I'd never paid. Now it was time to find him - I'd have to pull out all stops in this endeavour but the huge crowd pouring out of the ground made it difficult.

I went round that ground three times and was getting tired so thought it best to ask a friendly policeman if he'd seen a stray father. Nope but the policeman now had some questions for me I don't remember.

The upshot was that they took me to the station and when I saw one of their guns, the desk sergeant let me check it over. I'd given my address and phone number already and so they now reported that all was well. My father had been found and was safely at home.

The biggest problem was calming my mother down on the phone but once that was done, it was into the car and they even gave a blast of the siren for effect and we stopped off at a chippy and had supper. I still remember the fun that evening.

Then the boys in blue delivered me home - door to door, mind - no walking at all and my mother embarrassed me by embracing me in front of them. Don't remember much else.

So I understand wee Connor completely - it's what any boy would do under the circumstances. They don't want me? OK, I go home. No money? Well, nothing to be done - I'll just have to walk.

You have to like young Connor very much. Check out the photo - is he in tears or is he angry?

[banksy] let us spray in bethlehem

It appears that Banksy has gone seasonal - he's made it to Bethlehem and is graffitiing in the Manger Square:

One colour mural on a Bethlehem wall shows a little girl frisking an Israeli soldier in combat gear. A downtown gable end is decorated with a silhouette of an Israeli soldier checking a donkey's identity card. Elsewhere, one of Banksy's trademark rats brandishes a catapult at a watchtower set in the wall.

I'd like to know your view on Banksy and graffiti in general. He certainly does it well, the authorities would like to catch him, I've seen a possible photo of him and he brings a smile to the face.

But is he right for somewhere like Bethlehem?

Another of Bansky's supposed works


[top 25] popular musicians and singers since the 50s

This is the last musical post for a little while.

What does "greatest artists" mean? This is my attempt at a workable definition:

1. Technically excellent;
2. Heavily influential;
3. Internationally acclaimed [not just in the U.S. or the U.K.];
4. Leaving a substantial legacy of recordings or sheet music;
5. Memorable for far more than one song.

We then get into the problem Rolling Stone found - that of different generations revering different sets of artists so that should perhaps give N6 - cross generation. On that basis, my Top 20 non-classical musical artists since the 50s would comprise:
1. The Beatles 2. Elvis Presley 3. The Rolling Stones 4. Led Zeppelin 5. Bob Dylan 6. Michael Jackson 7. The Doors 8. The Eagles 9. Abba 10. Roy Orbison 11. Van Morrison 12. Sex Pistols 13. Bruce Springsteen 14. Elton John 15. The Beach Boys 16. Simon and Garfunkel 17. Eric Clapton 18. The Drifters 19. Joe Cocker 20. Pink Floyd 21. Creedence Clearwater Revival 22. Queen 23. Rod Stewart 24. Tina Turner 25. The Shadows
What changes would you make to the above list? Don't forget that they must transcend generations and continents. For example, Aretha Franklin was largely U.S. and the Hollies were largely U.K.

Run DMC or Patti Smith are too specific, as are Joy Division and there must be a legacy people still sing today all over the world. On the other hand, Prince is just a prat and I wouldn't put him on any list.

Also, you couldn't put in virtual illiterates like, Spears, Lavigne or Martin. They have to be artists who've actually achieved something.

Don't forget either that these are not the 25 best [I'd put in Touch 'n Go] but the 25 greatest.