Monday, July 28, 2014


I Did Not Go To Church Today
by Ogden Nash (1902-1971)

I didn't go to church today,
I trust the Lord to understand.
The surf was swirling blue and white,
The children swirling on the sand.
He knows, He knows how brief my stay,
How brief this spell of summer weather,
He knows when I am said and done
We'll have plenty of time together.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mothers Who Changed Our Lives

Marie Curie (1867-1934):
French physicist, chemist, wife and mother of two, Marie Curie was a true renaissance woman. Her most famous achievement during her research into radioactivity was discovering the elements polonium and radium. In 1903, Curie became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize. Later, she won a second Nobel Prize making her the first person to win two Nobel Prizes. Marie Curie was also the first female professor at the University of Paris.

Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1938):
The British mother was a passionate suffragette in the late 1800's and founded the Women’s Political and Social Union in 1903. After a lifetime full of protests, demonstrations, hunger strikes and jail sentences, Pankhurst died in 1928- just three weeks before women were finally given the right to vote in the UK.

Harriet Tubman (c.1822-1913):
As the face of the Underground Railroad, Tubman fearlessly escorted over 300 slaves in the U.S. to freedom and became an icon of the Civil Rights Movement. Tubman spent the rest of her life as an abolitionist and humanitarian.

Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007):
As the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan and of any Muslim state, this mother of three ended military dictatorship, fought for women’s rights and served as an inspiration for women across the globe. Bhutto was assassinated via a suicide attack in 2007.

Fanny Blankers-Koen (1918-2004):
During a time when females athletes were often disregarded, a 30-year-old mother of two named Blankers-Koen won four Olympic gold medals at the 1984 Summer Olympics, earning her the affectionate nickname “The Flying Housewife.” This also earned her the distinction of becoming the most decorated athlete, male or female, at the Olympic Games that year.

Dorothy Hodgkin (1910-1994):
Hodgkin was a biochemist who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964. She is credited with significantly improving healthcare thanks to her work on discovering the structure of penicillin, insulin and vitamin B12. She was also a leading practitioner of X-ray crystallography which was a relatively new technology at the time.

Indira Gandhi (1917-1984):
As the first female Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi was a polarizing political figure who tirelessly worked to achieve democracy in her native country. She led a movement known as the Green Revolution which increased crop diversification and created jobs to address the problem of chronic food shortage among the poor. She was assassinated in 1984.

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797):
The 18th-century British writer was referred to as the mother of feminism, and her most famous work The Vindication and the Rights of Women which argued for the equal status and education of women and has influenced generations of feminists after her. She was also the mother of Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, and the mother of Percy Shelly, an English poet.

Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis (1832-1909):
As the mother who inspired Mother’s Day, Jarvis began Mother’s Day Work Clubs in 1858 to improve health and sanitation conditions in an effort to prevent infant mortality. During the Civil War, the organization nursed soldiers from both sides, becoming a symbol of neutrality. In an effort to relieve post-war hostility, Jarvis rallied the members to organize a “Mother’s Friendship Day.” After she passed in 1905, her daughter Anna Jarvis made it her mission to get an official Mother’s Day created which is how this modern-day American holiday came into being.

Vesta Oral Stoudt (1891-1966):
As the mother of two sons in the Navy, while working in an ammunition plant, Stoudt had the idea to use cloth tape to seal boxes of ammunition so it could be opened in mere seconds while keeping the it dry, potentially saving the lives of soldiers when time was critical. When her bosses rejected her idea, she wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt himself. A few weeks later, she received a response that the Navy was going to “fast track” her idea. Thus duct tape was created and named after its use of long strips of plain cotton duck cloth used in making shoes stronger .

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Quotes about Women

1. No woman can call herself free who does not control her own body. - Margaret  Sanger (1879 – 1966; birth control activist, sex educator, and nurse).
2. I'd much rather be a woman than a man. Women can cry, they can wear cute clothes, and they are the first to be rescued off of sinking ships. - Gilda Radner (1946-1989; comedian and actress).
3. Women, the way I see it, are very evolved people. They're more mature, they're more aware of their feelings, in touch with their feelings. They're connected to things that matter more in life. They know what's important. Men basically run around like idiots until we meet somebody who can show us that those things are important.... They always say girls mature faster than boys, but I don't think that's true, because I think girls just are more mature than boys. We're always trying to catch up to them. - Rob Reiner (born:1947; actor, director, producer, and political activist). 
4. For most of history, Anonymous was a woman. - Virginia Woolf (1882 –1941; writer).
5. Being a woman is a terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men.  - Joseph Conrad (born: Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski; 1857-1924; Polish author who wrote in English; granted British citizenship in 1886).
6. You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.  - Brigham Young (1801 –1877; Mormon religion leader and Utah, US, settler).
7. Here's all you have to know about men and women: women are crazy, men are stupid. And the main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid. - George Carlin (1937- 2008; comedian, writer, social critic, and actor).
8. When a man gives his opinion, he's a man. When a woman gives her opinion, she's a bitch. - Bette Davis (born: Ruth Elizabeth Davis; 1908 -1989; actress).
9. Yes, we praise women over 40 for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it's not reciprocal. For every stunning, smart, well-coiffed, hot woman over 40, there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some 22-year old waitress. Ladies, I apologize. For all those men who say, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?", here's an update for you. Nowadays 80% of women are against marriage. Why? Because women realize it's not worth buying an entire pig just to get a little sausage. - Andy Rooney (1911-2011; radio and television writer).
10. What would men be without women? Scarce, sir...mighty scarce. - Mark Twain (born: Samuel Langhorne Clemens; 1835 -1910; author and humorist).
11. After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels. - Ann Richards (born: Dorothy Ann Willis Richards; 1933 -2006;  politician and 45th Governor of Texas, USA).
12. The trouble with some women is that they get all excited about nothing - and then marry him. - Cher (born: Cherilyn Sarkisian in1946; singer and actress).
13. Feminism is the radical notion that women are human being. - Cheris Kramrae (born: 1938; professor, feminist, author). 
14. Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere. - Mae West (born: Mary Jane West; 1893-1980; actress, singer, playwright, screenwriter and sex symbol).
15. Man can never know the loneliness a woman knows. Man lies in the woman's womb only to gather strength, he nourishes himself from this fusion, and then he rises and goes into the world, into his work, into battle, into art. He is not lonely. He is busy. The memory of the swim in amniotic fluid gives him energy, completion. Woman may be busy too, but she feels empty. Sensuality for her is not only a wave of pleasure in which she is bathed, and a charge of electric joy at contact with another. When man lies in her womb, she is fulfilled, each act of love a taking of man within her, an act of birth and rebirth, of child rearing and man bearing. Man lies in her womb and is reborn each time anew with a desire to act, to be. But for woman, the climax is not in the birth, but in the moment man rests inside of her. - Anais Nin (born: Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell;1903 –1977; author).
16. Like a compass needle that points north, a man's accusing finger always finds a woman. Always! - Khaled Hosseini (born:1965; Afghan-born American novelist).
17. A study in the Washington Post (newspaper) says that women have better verbal skills than men. I just want to say to the authors of that study: 'Duh. - Conan O'Brian (born:1963; television host, comedian, writer, producer, musician, and voice actor).

18. There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty. - Steve Maraboli (born: 1975; internet radio commentator, motivational speaker and author).

19. To terrify children with the image of hell, to consider women an inferior creation—is that good for the world? - Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) British-American author, polemicist, debater, and journalist).

20. The death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world. - Edgar Allen Poe (born: Edgar Poe; 1809-1849; author, poet, editor, and literary critic),

20. A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. - Irina Dunn (born: Patricia Irene Dunn in 1948;  Australian writer, politician, social activist and filmmaker).

21. You see, women are like fires, like flames. Some women are like candles, bright and friendly. Some are like single sparks, or embers, like fireflies for chasing on summer nights. Some are like campfires, all light and heat for a night and willing to be left after. Some women are like hearthfires, not much to look at but underneath they are all warm red coal that burns a long, long while. - Patrick Rothfuss (born:1973; writer and college lecturer).

22. At the age of eleven or thereabouts women acquire a poise and an ability to handle difficult situations which a man, if he is lucky, manages to achieve somewhere in the later seventies. -P.G. Wodehouse (aka: Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse; 1881-1975; English humorist, novelist, short story writer, playwright, poet, lyricist and journalist).

23. We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly. - Margaret Atwood (born:1939; Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, and environmental activist).

24. Woman's degradation is in mans idea of his sexual rights. Our religion, laws, customs, are all founded on the belief that woman was made for man. - Elizabeth Caty Stanton (1815- 1902) American social activist, abolitionist, and women's rights activist).

25.  Nothing on this planet can compare with a woman’s love—it is kind and compassionate, patient and nurturing, generous and sweet and unconditional. Pure. If you are her man, she will walk on water and through a mountain for you, too, no matter how you’ve acted out, no matter what crazy thing you’ve done, no matter the time or demand. If you are her man, she will talk to you until there just aren’t any more words left to say, encourage you when you’re at rock bottom and think there just isn’t any way out, hold you in her arms when you’re sick, and laugh with you when you’re up. And if you’re her man and that woman loves you —I mean really loves you —she will shine you up when you’re dusty, encourage you when you’re down, defend you even when she’s not so sure you were right, and hang on your every word, even when you’re not saying anything worth listening to. And no matter what you do, no matter how many times her friends say you’re no good, no matter how many times you slam the door on the relationship, she will give you her very best and then some, and keep right on trying to win over your heart, even when you act like everything she’s done to convince you she’s The One just isn’t good enough. That’s a woman’s love—it stands the test of time, logic, and all circumstance....Well, I’m here to tell you that expecting that kind of love— that perfection—from a man is unrealistic. That’s right, I said it—it’s not gonna happen, no way, no how. Because a man’s love isn’t like a woman's love. - Steve Harvey (born: Broderick Steven Harvey,1957; actor, comedian, author, entertainer, and television and radio personality).

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Church of England

The churches of the Anglican Communion have their historical roots in the English Reformation, When King Henry VIII (reign: 1509-1547) wished to obtain a divorce that the Pope would not grant. Henry was anxious to ensure a male heir after his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, Spain, had borne him only a daughter. Henry wanted his marriage annulled in order to remarry.  The Pope originally was willing to grant the annulment, but the Spanish King threatened to invade and take over the Vatican if he did. In 1534 after several attempts to persuade the Pope to grant an annulment on the grounds that Catherine was betrothed to Henry's older brother, Henry passed the Act of Succession and then the Act of Supremacy. These recognized that the King was "the only supreme head of the Church of England called Anglicana Ecclesia". Through the Act of Supremacy, the king made himself the "supreme head" of the Church of England in place of the Pope and Henry adopted a title given to him by the Pope in 1521, that of Defender of the Faith.

After this dramatic move, King Henry dissolved England's monasteries, destroyed Catholic shrines, and ordered the Great Bible (in English) to be placed in all churches. However, Henry allowed very few doctrinal changes and very little changed in the religious life of the common English worshipper. Under Henry VIII, and the Church of England remained almost fully Catholic with the exception of following the Pope of Rome.

A power struggle between English Protestants and Catholics ensued during the reigns of Edward VI and Mary I. Under King Edward, Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer contributed a great deal to the Protestant movement, including the first two versions of the Book of Common Prayer (1549 and 1552) and the 42 Articles (1553). After the ascension of the Catholic  Queen Mary (aka: "Bloody Mary") to the throne in 1553, England was restored to Catholicism, much of the reforming work under Kings Henry and Edward was undone, and Thomas Cranmer was burned at the stake.

Protestantism finally emerged victorious under Queen Elizabeth I (reign:. 1558-1603). It was under Elizabeth that "Anglicanism" took shape, established on the notion of a via media between Catholicism and Protestantism (specifically Reformed Protestantism). Elizabeth appointed Protestant bishops, but reintroduced a crucifix in her chapel, tried to insist on traditional clerical vestments, and made other attempts to satisfy conservative opinion. The 42 Articles were reduced to 39 and the Book of Common Prayer was reissued. The 39 Articles and Book of Common Prayer, which together expressed the faith and practice of the Church of England, were sufficiently vague to allow for a variety of interpretations along the Catholic-Protestant spectrum.

After Elizabeth, Calvinist influences were dominant for a time, but High Churchmen regained control of the Church of England in the Restoration of 1660. In the latter 17th and early 18th centuries, Anglicanism was characterized by its emphases on reason, simple devotional religion and moral living. After about 1690, the controversy quieted down and the Church of England settled into the form that still characterizes it today.
Evangelicalism arose in 18th century in part as a reaction against the lack of spiritual fervor and enthusiasm in the Church. This had a balancing effect on Anglicanism (and there remains a strong evangelical group within the Church of England), but evangelicals also went beyond the bounds of the traditional Anglican outlook and many, like John Wesley's Methodists, broke away from the Church of England.

Another important development in the history of Anglicanism, the Oxford Movement, began in 1833. Also known as the Catholic Revival, this movement sought to restore the sacraments, rituals and outward forms of Catholicism to the Church of England. By the mid-20th century, many of the practices advocated by this group had been incorporated.

Also in the 19th century, the Church of England found room for the new German biblical criticism and liberal theology. Scholarship is still highly regarded in Anglicanism, and Anglican scholars have generally been free to adopt views ranging from conservative to radical while remaining in the Anglican fold.
Anglicanism expanded along with the British Empire, creating a network of autonomous churches that were loyal to the faith and forms of the Church of England. After the American Revolution, Anglicans in the U.S. called themselves Episcopalians (the name reflecting the role of the episcopate, or bishops) to distinguish themselves from the British crown and the Church of England. Today, the Episcopalian Church in the United States and many other Anglican churches in former British colonies are members of the Anglican Communion.

Today the reigning English monarch retains the title Defender of the Faith and is still the Supreme Governor of the Church. He or she has to: approve the appointment of archbishops, bishops and deans (on the recommendation of the Prime Minister), formally open each new session (every five years) of the General Synod (the church's governing body),and promise to maintain the Church in his or her coronation oath.

The Church of England also has a law-making role in Britain. Twenty-six bishops (including the two Archbishops) sit in the House of Lords and are known as the Lords Spiritual. They are thought to bring a religious ethos to the secular process of law. However, in an increasingly multi-cultural society, questions are being asked as to whether that role needs to be specifically fulfilled by Church of England Bishops. Future reform of the House of Lords could see the Lords Spiritual made up of a variety of Christian denominations and other faiths to reflect the religious make-up of Britain.

The Church of England is a broad church, representing a wide spectrum of theological thought and practice. However, as part of the Anglican Communion there are some distinctively Anglican ideas which can be identified in the Church of England. They are: a belief that the Bible contains the core of all Christian faith and thought, a loyalty to a way of worship and life that was first set out in the Book of Common Prayer; celebration of the sacraments ordained by Jesus -that of Baptism and Eucharist or Holy Communion; a system of Church order that stems from ancient times and is focused in the ordained ministry of Bishop, Priest and Deacon; a firm commitment to the ministry of the whole people of God, lay and ordained together; and a way of Christian thinking that involves Scripture, Tradition and Reason held together in creative tension.

Individual parishes can decide how many services they hold in the week, how often they conduct Eucharistic services and how they structure the service to include hymns/songs, readings, the Creed, a sermon and prayers. Despite this flexibility, each priest is expected to conduct a service which has been authorized by the church in the service book.

The Church of England allows for the ordination of gay priests as long as they are celibate. Alongside issues of homosexual clergy, the wider Anglican Communion has been wrestling with whether to sanction same-sex blessings. Both these issues could cause divisions within the Anglican Communion with the provinces of the global south (Nigeria, South East Asia, South America among many others) threatening to split permanently from those sanctioning the blessing of same-sex relationships and the ordination of non-celibate gay clergy - mainly in North America. A commission set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury and headed by Dr Robin Eames, Primate of Ireland made recommendations on the matter in autumn 2004.

However, the recent ordination of a gay bishop in America and the disapproving reaction from the Communion will have great implications for the question of how much variation can be tolerated within Anglicanism. And, as always, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the bishops and the priests in Anglican churches must decide how to react to the continuing influences of biblical criticism, liberal theology and modern ethical values.
Currently in Britain...

1.7 million people take part in a Church of England service each month, a level that has been maintained since the turn of the millennium. Approximately one million participate each Sunday. About 3 million people participate in a Church of England service on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. Thirty-five per cent of the population attend a Christmas service, rising to forty-two per cent in London and twenty-two percent among those of non-Christian faiths.

The Church of England has the largest following of any denomination or faith in Britain today. More than 4 in 10 in England regard themselves as belonging to the Church of England, while 6 in 10 consider themselves Christian.

People support their local churches in many different ways at different points in their lives. Each year, 3 out of every 10 people attend regular Sunday worship and more than 4 out of every 10 attend a wedding in their local church.  The largest number, about 5 out of every10 people, attend funerals.

Eighty-five percent of the population visit a Anglican church or place of worship in the course of a year, for reasons ranging from participating in worship to attending social events or simply wanting a quiet space.

The Church of England has more than 16,000 churches. There are 42 mainland cathedrals, plus one in Peel on the Isle of Man and the Diocese in Europe's cathedral in Gibraltar. There are 14,500 places of worship in England listed for their special architectural or historic interest, 85% of which belong to and are maintained by the Church of England. Every year, around 12 million people visit Church of England cathedrals, including 300,000 pupils on school visits. Three of England's top five historic 'visitor attractions' are York Minster, Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.Three church and cathedral locations are World Heritage Sites: Durham Castle and Cathedral, Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine's Abbey & St Martin's Church, and Westminster Abbey and St Margaret's Church.

Around £110 million is currently spent on repairs to Church of England churches per annum, 70% of it raised by the congregations and local community.

Seven in ten (72%) of the population agree that Church of England schools help young people to grow into responsible members of society and 8 in10 (80%) agree that they promote good behavior and positive attitudes.

Latest available statistics indicate one in four primary schools and one in 16secondary schools in England are Church of England schools. Approaching one million pupils are educated in more than 4,700 Church of England schools.

The Church of England provides activities outside church worship in the local community for 407,000 children and young people (aged under 16 years) and 32,900 young people (aged 16 to 25 years). More than 116,000 volunteers and an additional 4900 employed adults run children/young people activity groups sponsored by the Church of England outside church worship.
Church of England congregations give more than £51.7 million each year to other charities.

Nearly half the population (46%) think that central taxation, local taxation, the National Lottery or English Heritage should be 'primarily' responsible for providing money to maintain churches and chapels. These churches and cathedrals are largely supported by the efforts and financial support of local communities. Often, they are the focus of community life and service

People value their local church and 68% consider it an important part of their local community. Those who consider churches important include 45% of people with no religion and 62% of adherents of other  faiths. 70% believe it provides valuable social and community facilities and 57% believe it should be more actively involved in the local community.

Women can be Church of England priests and bishops.

Facts about The Netherlands, No. 1

The Netherlands and Holland are not the same.

Holland is a region and former province on the western coast of the Netherlands. The name  "Holland" is frequently used as an informal word to refer to the whole of the country of the Netherlands. This usage is commonly accepted outside of the Netherlands but many individuals  from the other parts of the Netherlands dislike the use of "Holland" as a substitute for the Netherlands and sometimes find it insulting.

The word "Netherlands" means "Low Country" in Dutch. About half of its surface area is less than 1 meter above sea level. Its highest point is 321 meters (1,053 feet) above sea level. Most of the areas below sea level are man-made. Since the late 16th century, large areas (polders) have been reclaimed from the sea and from lakes, amounting to nearly 17% of the country's current land mass.

There are 12 provinces in the European part of the Netherlands. But, there are four parts of the The Kingdom of the Netherlands (Dutch: Koninkrijk der Nederlanden). They are the Netherlands in Europe and the Carribean islands of Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten. The islands are referred to as countries (Dutch: landen) and participate on a basis of equality as partners in the kingdom.

The "special municipalities" of the Caribbean islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba (also referred to as the BES Islands) are part of the Netherlands proper but do not form part of a province. They resemble ordinary Dutch municipalities in most ways with a mayor, aldermen, and a municipal council. Residents of these three islands are also able to vote in Dutch national and European elections. However, there are some unique policies connected only for these islands. For example, social security is not on the same level as it is in the Netherlands and all three islands decided to use the U.S. dollar instead of the Euro as their official currency.

The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy. The current  reigning monarch is King Willam-Alexander.

The Netherlands has one of the oldest standing armies in Europe. It was first established by Maurice of Nassau (1567 -1625).
Under Charles V, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire and King of Spain, the current Netherlands region was part of the Seventeen Provinces of the Low Countries, which also included most of present-day Belgium, Luxembourg, and some land in France and Germany. In 1568, the Eighty Years' War between the Provinces and Spain began. In 1579, the northern half of the Seventeen Provinces forged the Union of Utrecht, a treaty in which they committed to support each other in their defense against the Spanish army. The Union of Utrecht is seen as the foundation of the modern Netherlands. In 1581, the northern provinces adopted the Act of Abjuration, the declaration of independence in which the provinces officially deposed Philip II of Spain as reigning monarch in the northern provinces.
The Netherlands intended to remain neutral during World War II. Despite its neutrality, Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands on May 10, 1940, and the country was overrun in five days.
During the occupation, over 100,000 Dutch Jews were rounded up and transported to Nazi German extermination camps. Although there were thousands of Dutch who risked their lives by hiding Jews from the Germans, there were also Dutch who collaborated with the German occupying forces.
Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch government in exile went to London. Princess Juliana, the only child of Queen Wilhelmina and heir to the throne, sought refuge in Ottawa, Canada, with her two daughters, Beatrix and Irene. During Princess Juliana's stay in Canada, preparations were made for the birth of her third child. To ensure the Dutch citizenship of this royal baby, the Canadian Parliament passed a special law declaring Princess Juliana's suite at the Ottawa Civic Hospital "extraterritorial", meaning it was part of The Netherlands. On 19 January 1943, Princess Margriet was born. The day after Princess Margriet's birth, the Dutch flag was flown on the Peace Tower. This was the only time in history a foreign flag has waved above Canada's parliament buildings.
 In 1944–45, the First Canadian Army, which included Canadian, British and Polish troops, was responsible for liberating much of the Netherlands from German occupation. The joyous "Canadian summer" that ensued after the liberation, forged deep and long-lasting bonds of friendship between the Netherlands and Canada.
The Netherlands has the highest population density (493 inhabitants per square km - water excluded) of any European country with over 1 million inhabitants. Worldwide, only Bangladesh and Taiwan, among major countries, have a higher density of population.

The Netherlands has a market-based mixed economy, ranking 17th of 177 countries according to the Index of Economic Freedom. It had the tenth-highest per capita income in the world in 2011. In 2013, the United Nations World Happiness Report ranked the Netherlands as the fourth happiest country in the world.

Dutch people are the tallest in the world, with an average height of 184 cm (about 6 & 1/2 feet),  for men and 170 cm (about 6 feet) for women.

A 2007, UNICEF report on child well-being in rich countries ranked the Netherlands as the best country for children to live.

Dutch people have the lowest incidence of lactose intolerance of any country, only 1%.

The village of Giethoorn, in the province of Overijssel, does not have any roads. All transport is done by water over one of the many canals. It is known as the "Venice of the Netherlands".

The Dutch national anthem, Wilhelmus, is the oldest in the world. It was written and first used from 1568, although it was only officially adopted in 1932. The national flag of the Netherlands dates from 1572 and is also the oldest tricolor flag (red, white and blue).

Gin was invented in the Netherlands under the name of Jenever. It was first sold as a medicine in the late 16th Century.

Orange-colored carrots appeared in the Netherlands in the 16th century. Before that carrots were white, yellow, black, purple or red. Orange carrots are said to have been bred in honor of the House of Orange, who led the Dutch Revolt against Spain and later became the Dutch Royal family. Orange is still the official color of the Netherlands and a sign of patriotism. The Dutch national football team wears a bright orange shirt. And the country's largest financial institution, the ING Group, makes abundant use of the national color on its logo and on the decoration of its banks.

The Netherlands has two capitals: Amsterdam (the official capital according to the Dutch constitution since the 19th century) and The Hague (the seat of government and first capital since 1584).

Soft drugs (e.g. cannabis, "magic mushrooms") are legal in the Netherlands. Only licensed "coffee shops" are allowed to sell such drugs, although people are allowed to grow cannabis at home for their personal use.

Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands. However, prostitutes must be at least 18, and clients must be at least 16.

Abortion on demand at any point between conception and viability has been legal since 1981.

The Dutch government legalized same-sex marriages in 2000.

The Dutch government legalized euthanasia in 2002.

New York City started as Dutch colony called New Amsterdam. Many places names in New York remind people about the Dutch origins of the city, such as Flushing in the borough of  Queens. It was named after Flushing in the Dutch province of Zeeland (Sealand).

The Dutch were the first Europeans to discover Australia and New Zealand in the 17th century. Australia was then named "New Holland". New Zealand was named after the  Dutch province of Zeeland. Tasmania was named after Dutch explorer Abel Tasman (1603-1659).

The island country of Mauritius was named in 1598 in honor of Prince Maurice of Nassau, the Stadtholder of the Netherlands at the time.

Although the Portuguese were the first Europeans to "discover" tea in East Asia, it was the Dutch who introduced the beverage commercially to Europe in 1610. Tea didn't reach England until the 1650's.

Indonesia was a Dutch colony until 1945. Jakarta was then called "Batavia", after the Latin name for the Netherlands. Dutch language is still spoken by a minority of Indonesians.

The Netherlands is responsible for many famous  painters, such as Rembrandt, Jan Vermeer, Jan Steen, Vincent van Gogh or Piet Mondrian.

The microscope, the telescope, pendulum clock and the mercury thermometer are all 16th or 17th century Dutch inventions.

The Dutch company 'Philips' invented the audio tape (in 1967), the video tape (in 1972), the Compact Disk (in 1982) and the CD-ROM (in 1985).

There are 1180 windmills in The Netherlands.

Tulips were imported from the Ottoman Empire and became very popular in Holland in the early 17th century. The Netherlands is now the world's number one grower and exporter of tulips.

Keukenhof Park is the largest flower garden in the world.

Smith & Jones in Amsterdam is Europe's first and only addiction clinic, treating everything from compulsive gambling to alcoholism, and from eating disorders to video game addiction.

Famous Dutch companies include Philips, Akzo Nobel , Royal Dutch Shell (half-British), Unilever (half-British), Heineken, IKEA (formerly Swedish) as well as the banks ING and ABN-AMRO.

The KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) is the oldest national airline in the world. It was founded in 1919.

The Netherlands has long been one of the richest countries in the world. Its GDP per capita was estimated to be the highest in the world in 1820, and the 2nd highest in Europe in 1900 (after Belgium). It has the 4th highest nominal GDP per capita (or 3rd at PPP) within the European Union.

The Netherlands has the highest level of foreign direct investment per capita in the world.

Rotterdam in South Holland is the largest seaport in Europe.

The Global Connectedness Index 2012, computed on data from 2005 to 2011, ranked the Netherlands as the world's most internationally connected country. The ranking is based on economic depth (size of the country's international flow compared to its domestic economy) and geographic breadth (number of countries with which it has connects).

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ravel's Bolero

Joseph-Maurice Ravel (1875 -1937) was a French composer known especially for his melodies, masterful orchestration, richly evocative harmonies and inventive instrumental textures and effects. Along with Claude Debussy (1862 -1918), he was one of the most prominent figures associated with Impressionist music. Much of his piano music, chamber music, vocal music and orchestral music is part of the standard concert repertoire. Ravel is best known for his orchestral work  Boléro  (1928) which he once described as a piece for orchestra without music.
Before he left for a triumphant tour of North America in 1928, Maurice Ravel agreed to write a Spanish-flavored ballet score for his friend, Ida Rubinstein (1885-1960) The idea was to create an orchestral transcription of Albeniz’s piano suite Iberia. But on his return Ravel discovered that the orchestration rights had been granted to the Spanish conductor Enrique Arbós. Although Arbós generously gave up these rights, Ravel abandoned the idea and set about preparing an original score.
Ravel had long toyed with the idea of building a composition from a single theme which would grow simply through harmonic and instrumental ingenuity. The theme for his Boléro came to him on holiday in Saint-Jean-de-Luz. He was about to go for a swim when he called a friend over to the piano and, playing the melody with one finger, asked: “Don’t you think that has an insistent quality? I’m going to try to repeat it a number of times without any development, gradually increasing the orchestra as best I can.”
He began work in July, 1928. By Ravel’s standards the piece was completed quickly because in five months it had to be ready for Rubinstein to choreograph. Once the idea of using only one theme was discovered, he asserted, any conservatory student could have done as well.
Ravel's created a one-movement orchestral work. It became known for beginning softly and its  loud dramatic ending (according to the composer’s instructions, as loudly as possible). The piece is a set of 18 variations on an original two-part unchanging theme. After an opening rhythm on the snare drum, an unchanging rhythm that continues  throughout the work, the piece proceeds as follows: (1) solo flute, (2) solo clarinet, (3) solo bassoon, (4) solo clarinet, (5) solo oboe d’amore, (6) muted trumpet  and flute, (7) solo tenor saxophone, (8) solo soprano saxophone, (9) French horn and celesta, (10) quartet composed of clarinet and three double-reeds, (11) solo trombone, and (12) high woodwinds. With variation 13, the strings emerge from their background role to take the lead for the remaining variations. The crescendo continues to build; the drumbeat persists and become more prominent. Before long, trumpet accents are added, contributing to the intensity until, in the final moments, the full orchestra is tossed into the mix bringing the piece to an exultant and abrupt conclusion. The relentless snare-drum underpins the whole of the 15-minute work as Ravel inexorably builds on the simple tune until, with a daring modulation from C major to E major, he finally releases the pent-up tension with a burst of fireworks.
Ravel's Boléro was given its first performance at the Paris Opéra on November 20, 1928. The premiere was acclaimed by a shouting, stamping, cheering audience in the midst of which a woman was heard screaming, Au fou, au fou! (The madman! The madman!). When Ravel was told of this, he reportedly replied, That lady… she understood. And, many in the audience were appalled because they likened the piece to the sex act, slow and gentle at the beginning but reaching a thunderous climax at the end.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Ravel said, I am particularly desirous there should be no misunderstanding about this work. It constitutes an experiment in a very special and limited direction and should not be suspected of aiming at achieving other or more than it actually does. Yet, although Ravel considered Boléro one of his least important works, it has always been his most popular.
There are many recording and videos of Ravel's Boléro. But, arguably one of the most famous of the uses of Boléro was as the accompanying music to the gold-medal-winning performance by British ice dancers Torvill and Dean at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. The pair got the highest score ever under the old 6.0 system as well as the gold medal. And, in Torvill and Dean's home city of Nottingham, the square by the National Ice Centre is named Bolero Square in honor of their achievements.
Now look at these performances. I think that you will find each of them fascinating.
Boléro, Kent Nagano conducting:
Boléro, Flash mob, Copenhagen Airport:
Boléro, Ricardo Muti conducting:

Boléro, Royal Concertgebouw Amsterdam: