Monday, June 26, 2017

The Magnificent City Of Bruges

The City of Bruges by Air
Bruges (/ˈbruːʒ/DutchBrugge ('ˈbrʏɣə];): French: Bruge (bry,3) s is the capital and largest city of the  province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium, in the northwest of the country.
The area of the whole city amounts to more than 13,840 hectares, including 1,075 hectares off the coast, at Zeebrugge (from Brugge aan zee meaning "Bruges on Sea". The historic city centre is a prominent World Heritage Site of UNESCO. It is oval and about 430 hectares in size. The city's total population is 117,073 (January 1st. 2008),  of whom around 20,000 live in the city centre. The  metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of 616 km2 (238 sq mi) and has a total of 255,844 inhabitants as of January 1st, 2008.
Along with a few other canal-based northern cities, such as Amsterdam and Stockholm, it is sometimes referred to as The Venice of the North. Bruges has a significant economic importance thanks to its port and was once one of the world's chief commercial cities.  Bruges is well known as the seat of the College of Europe, an elite university institute for European studies regarded as "the EU's very own Oxbridge.
Origin of The Name
The place is first mentioned in records as Bruggas, Brvggas, Brvccia in 840–875, then as  BruciamBruociam (in 892), Brutgis uico (toward end of the 9th century), in portu Bruggensi (c. 1010), Bruggis  (1012), Bricge (1037, in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle),  Brugensis (1046),  Brycge  (1049–1052, again in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle), Brugias (1072),  Bruges (1080–1085), Bruggas (c. 1084), Brugis (1089), and  Brugge (1116).
The name probably derives from the Old Dutch for "bridge": brugga. Also compare Middle Dutch  brucge, brugge (or brugghebrigghebregghebrogghe), and modern Dutch bruggehoofd ("bridgehead") and brug ("bridge").The form brugghe would be a southern Dutch variant. The  Dutch word and the English "bridge" both derive from the Proto German word brugjō.
Bruges was a location of coastal settlement during prehistory. This Bronze Age and Iron Age settlement is unrelated to medieval city development. In the Bruges area, the first fortifications were built after Julius Caesar's conquest of the Menapii in the first century BC, to protect the coastal area against pirates. The Franks took over the whole region from the Gallo-Romans around the 4th century and administered it as the Pagus Flandrensis.
The Viking incursions of the ninth century prompted Count Baldwin I of Flanders to reinforce the Roman fortifications; trade soon resumed with England and Scandinavia. Early medieval habitation starts in the 9th and 10th century on the Burgh terrain, probably with a fortified settlement and church.
Golden age (12th to 15th centuries)
Bruges became important due to the tidal inlet that was important to local commerce, This inlet was then known as the "Golden Inlet". Bruges received its city charter on July24th,1128, and new walls and canals were built. In 1089, Bruges became the capital of the County of Flanders. Since about 1050, gradual silting had caused the city to lose its direct access to the sea. A storm in 1134, however, re-established this access, through the creation of a natural channel at the Zwin. The new sea arm stretched all the way to Damme, a city that became the commercial outpost for Bruges.
Bruges had a strategic location at the crossroads of the northern Hanseatic League trade and the southern trade routes. Bruges was already included in the circuit of the Flemish and French cloth fairs at the beginning of the 13th century, but when the old system of fairs broke down the entrepreneurs of Bruges innovated. They developed, or borrowed from Italy, new forms of merchant capitalism, whereby several merchants would share the risks and profits and pool their knowledge of markets. They employed new forms of economic exchange, including bills of exchange (i.e. promissory notes) and letters of credit. The city eagerly welcomed foreign traders, most notably the Portuguese traders selling pepper and other spices.
With the reawakening of town life in the twelfth century, a wool market, a wool weaving industry, and the market for cloth all profited from the shelter of city walls, where surpluses could be safely accumulated under the patronage of the counts of Flanders. The city's entrepreneurs reached out to make economic colonies of England and Scotland's wool-producing districts. English contacts brought Normandy grain and Gascon wines. Hanseatic  ships filled the harbor, which had to be expanded beyond Damme to Sluys to accommodate the new cog-ships.
In 1277, the first merchant fleet from Genoa appeared in the port of Bruges, first of the merchant colony that made Bruges the main link to the trade of the Mediterranean. This development opened not only the trade in spices from the Levant, but also advanced commercial and financial techniques and a flood of capital that soon took over the banking of Bruges. The Bourse opened in 1309 (most likely the first stock exchange in the world) and developed into the most sophisticated money market of the Low Countries in the 14th century. By the time Venetian galleys first appeared, in 1314, they were latecomers. Numerous foreign merchants were welcomed in Bruges, such as the Castilian wool merchants who first arrived in the 13th century. After the Castilian wool monopoly ended, the Basques, many hailing from Bilbao (Biscay), thrived as merchants (wool, iron commodities, etc.) and established their own commercial consulate in Bruges by the mid-15th century. The foreign merchants expanded the city's trading zones. They maintained separate communities governed by their own laws until the economic collapse after 1700.
Such wealth gave rise to social upheavals, which were for the most part harshly contained by the militia. In 1302, however, after the Bruges Matins (the nocturnal massacre of the French garrison in Bruges by the members of the local Flemish militia on May 18th, 1302), the population joined forces with the Count of Flanders against the French, culminating in the victory at the Battle of the Golden Spurs, fought near Kortrijk on 11 July. The statue of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck, the leaders of the uprising, can still be seen on the Big Market square. The city maintained a militia as a permanent paramilitary body. It gained flexibility and high prestige by close ties to a guild of organized militia, comprising professionals and specialized units. Militia men bought and maintained their own weapons and armor, according to their family status and wealth.
At the end of the 14th century, Bruges became one of the Four Members, along with Franc of BrugesGhent and Ypres. Together they formed a parliament; however they frequently quarreled amongst themselves.
In the 15th century, Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, set up court in Bruges, as well as Brussels and Lille, attracting a number of artists, bankers, and other prominent personalities from all over Europe. The weavers and spinners of Bruges were thought to be the best in the world, and the population of Bruges grew to at least 125,000 and perhaps up to 200,000 inhabitants at this time around 1400 AD.
The new oil-painting techniques of the Flemish school gained world renown. The first book in English ever printed was published in Bruges by William Caxton. This is also when Edward IV and Richard III of England spent time in exile here.
Decline after 1500
Starting around 1500, the Zwin channel, (the Golden Inlet) which had given the city its prosperity, also started silting and the Golden Era had ended.] The city soon fell behind  Antwerp as the economic flagship of the Low Countries. During the 17th century, the lace  industry took off, and various efforts to bring back the glorious past were made. During the 1650s, the city was the base for Charles II of England and his court in exile. The maritime infrastructure was modernized, and new connections with the sea were built, but without much success, as Antwerp became increasingly dominant. Bruges became impoverished and gradually faded in importance; its population dwindling from 200,000 to 50,000 by 1900. 
The symbolist novelist George Rodenbach even made the sleepy city into a character in his novel Bruges-la-Morte, meaning "Bruges-the-dead", which was adapted into Erich Wolfgang Korngold's opera, Die tote Stadt (The Dead City).
19th century and later: The revival
In the last half of the 19th century, Bruges became one of the world's first tourist destinations attracting wealthy British and French tourists. By 1909 it had in operation an association called 'Bruges Forward: Society to Improve Tourism.
In World War I German forces occupied Bruges but the city suffered virtually no damage and  was liberated on October 19th,1918\, by the allies. From 1940 in World War II the city again was occupied by the Germans and again spared destruction. On 12 September 1944 it was liberated by Canadian troops.
After 1965 the original medieval city experienced a renaissance. Restorations of residential and commercial structures, historic monuments, and churches generated a surge in tourism and economic activity in the ancient downtown area. International tourism has boomed, and new efforts have resulted in Bruges being designated 'European Capital of Culture' in 2002. It attracts some 2 million tourists annually.
The port of Zeebrugge was built in 1907. The Germans used it for their U-boats in World War I. It was greatly expanded in the 1970s and early 1980s and has become one of Europe's most important and modern ports.
The municipality comprises: The historic city centre of Bruges, Sint-Jozef and Sint-Pieters,
Bruges has most of its medieval architecture intact, making it one of the most well-preserved medieval towns in Europe. The historic center of Bruges has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.
Many of its medieval buildings are notable, including the Church of Our Lady, whose brick spire reaches 122.3 m (401.25 ft), making it one of the world's highest brick towers/buildings. The sculpture Madonna and Child, which can be seen in the transept, is believed to be Michelangelo's only sculpture to have left Italy within his lifetime.
Michelangelo's Madonna and Child
Bruges' most famous landmark is its 13th-century belfry, housing a municipal carillon made of 48 bells. The city still employs a full-time carillonneur, who gives free concerts on a regular basis.
Other famous buildings in Bruges include: The Béguinage, The Basilica of the Holy Blood  (DutchHeilig-Bloedbasiliek). The relic of the Holy Blood, which was brought to the city after the Second Crusade by Thierry of Alsace, is paraded every year through the streets of the city. More than 1,600 inhabitants take part in this mile-long religious procession, many dressed as medieval knights or crusaders, The modern Concertgebouw ("Concert Hall Building"), The Old St. John's Hospital, The Saint Salvator's Cathedral,  The Groeningemuseum, which has an extensive collection of medieval and early modern art, including a notable collection of Flemish Primitives. Various masters, including Hans Memling and Jan van Eyck, lived and worked in Bruges, The City Hall on the Burg (Bruges) (nlBurg (Brugge)square, The Provincial Court (Provinciaal Hof), and the preserved old city gateways: the Kruispoort, the Gentpoort, the  Smedenpoort and the Ezelpoort.  (However, the Dampoort, the Katelijnepoort and the 
Boeveriepoort are now all gone.)


Pictures of Bruges

Manneken Pis

Political Cartoons of the Week, No. 78

Tips to Reduce Your Daily Stress and Anxiety


There are two major reasons that for several decades more Americans become stressed, agitated and anxious which in turn increases their daily physical stress, which itself in turn has led to the ongoing decades-long epidemic in stress-related disorders and diseases.

The first reason is societal. As inequality rises, so do our fears about affording basic necessities  or if we’re relatively well off, about losing social standing and financial security for ourselves or our children.

The second reason is more personal. Many more of us suffer from stress dysregulation than we did 40 years ago. Mainly through excess cortisol, a key stress hormone, this dysregulation makes the typical stress response too easy to trigger and too hard to turn off. This leaves us feeling highly agitated (even with no reason) and without effective ways to self-regulate and get back to a calmer, more functional state.

In recent years, though, we have gained a much better understanding of this stress epidemic (which, it should be noted, is significantly different from clinical anxiety disorders or related diagnoses that merit consultation with a physician). We can use the knowledge learned to help protect ourselves from many of its consequences. Here’s how.

Build Social Connections

Strong social networks  - especially if they include some close confidants -  help us regain our emotional balance and rein in our anxiety. The psychological benefits are well known, and social networks become even more important when ambient stress increases sharply. But also, biologically, they release the “good feeling” hormones  serotonin and oxytocin, both of which counter cortisol. Social engagement itself also promotes the functioning of the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain we use for regulating our emotions and making thoughtful decisions.

Become Mindful

We can also protect ourselves from the stress epidemic by exercising conscious mindfulness that allows us to focus on what is happening in the present moment, rather than indulging in past anger or remorse, or fear of the future. Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis improves the brain functions that enhance our ability to avoid excessive stress responses. This doesn’t change the underlying stress physiology, but it allows us to interrupt the stress cycle by consciously controlling our reactions. This is not the same, though, as ignoring what is happening by burying our heads in the sand. Taking some time away from the relentless flow of societal stressors — now consistently present due to 24/7 exposure to social media and online news — can help. But disappearing from the scene altogether generates additional stress; people then lack information and become concerned about what they should be doing.

Retake Control

A perceived lack of control is among the most debilitating factors in terms of stress biology - in the extreme, learned helplessness leaves us shattered. We can look for opportunities to expand our sense of control, both at work and in daily life, through asserting ourselves and through seeking beneficial partnerships. There are limits, though: Perceiving that we have control where the reality is the opposite is short-lived. But even planning to exercise more control and taking initial steps to enact a plan can have beneficial effects.

Stay Physically Active

Physical activity directly reduces excess cortisol -  also known as the “fight or flight” hormone, since its job is to make more energy available in stressful situations -  by using that energy. This works to dispel cortisol that may be lingering from problems at work or at home. It also provides a host of direct benefits to many stress-related difficulties - obesity, diabetes, metabolic disorders - but also in increased brain functioning that supports self-regulation.

Avoid the Alcohol and “Comfort Food” Traps 

Certain choices we make may reduce stress temporarily, but then have long-term negative effects on health and well-being. “Comfort foods” with high calories and fat do counteract cortisol, but at the risk of increasing the chances of heart diseases and other disorders. In the same way, substances like alcohol and other drugs can briefly alleviate the feelings of being over-stressed and agitated, but at a risk of becoming a “go-to” solution that can cause serious problems down the road.

Forget “Magic Bullets”

Being aware of the major stressors that are propelling the existing stress epidemic is a first step, but we all understand that no one thing solves everything here. Making use of our social connections, practicing conscious mindfulness, taking back control where we can and staying physically active are evidence-based pathways for dealing with stress. There are no shortcuts, but persistent efforts will pay off.


Daniel Keating, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, is the author of Born Anxious: The Lifelong Impact of Early Life Adversity – and How to Break the Cycle

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Art Of Statues

A statue is a sculpture, representing one or more people or animals (including abstract concepts allegorically represented as people or animals), free-standing (as opposed to a relief) and normally full-length (as opposed to a bust) and at least close to life-size, or larger.
A small statue, usually small enough to be picked up, is called a statuette or figurine, while one that is more than twice life-size is colossal statue.
The definition of a statue is not always clear-cut; equestrian statues, of a person on a horse, are certainly included, and in many cases, such as a Madonna and Child or a Pietà, a sculpture of two people will also be.
Statues have been produced in many cultures from prehistory to the present; the oldest known statue dating to about 30,000 years ago. The world's tallest statue, Spring Temple Buddha, is 128 meters (420 ft), and is located in Lushan County, Henan, China.
Many statues are built on commission to commemorate a historical event, or the life of an influential person. Many statues are intended as public art, exhibited outdoors or in public buildings. Some statues gain fame in their own right, separate from the person or concept they represent, as with the Statue of Liberty.

The Löwenmensch figurine from the Swabian Alps in Germany is the oldest known statue in the world, and dates to 30,000-40,000 years ago. The Venus of Hohle Fels, from the same area, is somewhat later.
Throughout history, statues have been associated with cult images in many religious traditions, from Ancient EgyptAncient Greece, and Ancient Rome to the present.
Egyptian statues showing kings as sphinxes have existed since the Old Kingdom, the oldest being for Djedefre (c. 2500 BC). The oldest statue of a striding pharaoh dates from the reign of Senwosret I (c. 1950 BC) and is the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. The Middle Kingdom of Egypt (starting around 2000 BC) witnessed the growth of block statues which then became the most popular form until the Ptolemaic period (c. 300 BC).
The oldest statue of a deity in Rome was the bronze statue of Ceres in 485 BC. The oldest statue in Rome is now the statue of Diana on the Aventine.
The wonders of the world include several statues from antiquity, with the Colossus of Rhodes and the Statue of Zeus at Olympia among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Middle Ages
While Byzantine art flourished in various forms, sculpture and statue making witnessed a general decline; although statues of emperors continued to appear. An example was the statue of Justinian (6th century) which stood in the square across from the Hagia Sophia until the fall of Constantinople in the 15th century. Part of the decline in statue making in the Byzantine period can be attributed to the mistrust the Church placed in the art form, given that it viewed sculpture in general as a method for making and worshiping idols. While making statues was not subject to a general ban, it was hardly encouraged in this period. Justinian was one of the last Emperors to have a full-size statue made, and secular statues of any size became virtually non-existent after iconoclasm; and the artistic skill for making statues was lost in the process.

Modern Era
Starting with the work of Maillol around 1900, the human figures embodied in statues began to move away from the various schools of realism that had held them bound for thousands of years.
The Futurist and Cubist schools took this metamorphism even further until statues, often still nominally representing humans, had lost all but the most rudimentary relationship to the human form. By the 1920s and 1930s statues began to appear that were completely abstract in design and execution.
The notion that the position of the hooves of horses in equestrian statues indicated the rider's cause of death has been disproved.

Famous Old Statues
(How Many Can You Identify?)