'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

27 May 2011

Nicholaus Copernicus

1473 - 1543
One of the greatest figures in the history of scientific thought Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Torun, Poland on 19 February, 1473 to a middle class family. His father Niclas, a merchant, emigrated from Krakow, and had four children, two boys who adopted a clerical career, the older girl became a Cistercian nun and an Abbess, and the younger married. Nicolaus, was ten years old when his father died. His uncle took charge of the children.  
He studied mathematical sciences and Greek at the university of Krakow and at the universities of Bologna and Padua in Italy and Canon Law at the university of Ferrara. At that time Physicians made use of astrology. Copernicus gave astronomical lectures in Rome, and it was there that he began work on a new astronomy. When he returned to Poland, he practiced medicine, at Heilsberg, treating bishops and princes, and especially the poor, though his official employment was as a canon in the cathedral chapter, working under his maternal uncle, a Bishop. In 1537 King Sigismund of Poland submitted his name as a candidate for the vacant Episcopal seat of Ermland, so it is probable that, in later life, he had entered the priesthood. As he had never married and never fathered any children there has been speculation (unprovable) amongst some that he was gay.

In 1516 he was nominated administrator of the diocesan castle of Allenstein. After four years he returned to the Frauenburg. Three years later he became administrator of the diocese. Public office drew him into the study of finance. In 1522 he wrote a memorandum on monetary reforms, which developed and led to the King of Poland making him deputy counselor on the financial regulations of Prussia to 1529.
Copernicus visited Rome, and in about 1513 and wrote a short account of what has since become known as the Copernican theory, namely that the Sun (not the Earth) is at rest in the centre of the Universe. A full account was not published until the very end of his life, under the title On the revolutions of the heavenly spheres (De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, Nuremberg, 1543). Copernicus is said to have received a copy of the printed book for the first time on his deathbed, dying at Frauenburg on 24 May of a cerebral hemorrhage.

On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres
    Copernicus's heliostatic cosmology involved giving several distinct motions to the Earth. It was thus considered implausible by the vast majority of his contemporaries, and by most astronomers and natural philosophers of succeeding generations before the middle of the seventeenth century. Its notable defenders included Johannes Kepler (1571 -1630), Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642) and was given credence by Newton's theory of universal gravitation (1687). He challenged the geocentric cosmology that had been dogmatically accepted since the time of Aristotle. In direct opposition to Aristotle and to the 2d-century astronomer Ptolemy, Copernicus proposed that a rotating Earth revolved with the other planets about a stationary central Sun.
Anticipated by the Pythagoreans and Aristaechus of Samos whom he had read, and by the Muslim astronomer Ibn al-Shatir and certain Christian writers, the new theory that Copernicus proposed had a mixture of both radical and conservative elements. While reordering of the structure of the universe, Copernicus still held to the ancient doctrines of solid celestial spheres, perfect circular motion of heavenly bodies and Aristotelian physics of motion. He also clung to the Ptolemaic representation of planetary motion by means of complicated combinations of circles called epicycles. Copernicus marked the beginning of the scientific revolution, and of a new view of a greatly enlarged universe although he did not see it as infinite.
   Copernicus used the towers of Allenstein, Heilsberg and Frauenburg  as observatories, and his great work "On the Revolutions of the Celestial Bodies" reveal his unremitting observations of the sun, moon, and planets. His reputation was such that as early as 1514 the Lateran Council, convened by Leo X, asked for his advice on the reform of the ecclesiastical calendar. He believed that the length of the year and of the months and the motions of the sun and moon were not yet sufficiently known to attempt a reform. This spurred him on to make more accurate observations, which, seventy years later, were the basis for the working out of the Gregorian calendar.  
Twenty-five years after his university career, he had finished his great work, but hesitated a long time in publishing, considering imitating  the Pythagoreans, who transmitted the mysteries of their philosophy only orally to their disciples for fear of subjection to the contempt of critics. His friends who had become interested in the new theory convinced him to write an abstract for them, copies of which have been discovered in Vienna and Stockholm. In this commentary Copernicus stated his theory in the form of seven axioms, reserving the mathematical part for later. This was in 1531, and then the heliocentric system began to spread. In 1533 Albert Widmanstadt lectured before Pope Clement VII on the Copernican solar system. Three years later Copernicus was urged by Cardinal Schonberg, to publish his discovery, or at least to have a copy made at the cardinal's expense. But all the urging of friends was in vain, until a younger man George Joachim Rheticus was sent to spend two years at the feet of his new master (1539-41). Soon after his arrival he sent a sixty six page "First Narration" of the new solar system to a scientific friend in Nuremberg. This was printed in Danzig (1540) and Basle (1541). Rheticus next obtained the manuscript of a preliminary chapter of the great work on plane and spherical trigonometry. Copernicus, now sixty-eight years, yielded, to the entreaties of Cardinal Schonberg, and others to give up his manuscripts for publication. Rheticus was to edit the work and the manuscript was to be published at Wittenberg, but owing to the hostility prevailing there against the Copernican system, only the chapter on trigonometry was printed (1542). The two copies of the "First Narration" and of the treatise on trigonometry, are in the Vatican Library. Schöner in Nuremberg, together with Osiander, engaged the printing-house of Petreius. Rheticus tried to resume his chair of mathematics in Wittenberg, but on account of his Copernican views, he had to resign. He and Copernicus were prevented attending to the edition. Copernicus became paralyzed on the right side and became weak in memory and mind many days before his death. The first copy of the "Six Books on the Revolutions of the Celestial Orbits" was handed to him the very day he died. Fortunately he could not see what had been done. Knowing the attitude of Luther and others to the heliocentric system, the word "Hypothesis" was added to the title page, and the preface of Copernicus was replaced by one contrasting  with that of Copernicus, warning the reader not to expect anything certain from astronomy, nor to accept its hypothesis as true. The dedication to Pope Paul III was retained, as was the text.  
Opposition to the new system was first raised by Protestant theologians for Biblical reasons and continued  to our own days. Seventy-three years after publication, the work of Copernicus was forbidden by the Catholic Church "until corrected", and in 1620 these corrections were indicated. Nine sentences, claiming certainty,  were omitted or changed and reading of the book was allowed. In 1758 it disappeared from the revised Index. (i.e. forbidden books) The real preface of Copernicus was returned on the four hundredth anniversary of the author's birthday, with all of Copernicus' corrections were given as foot-notes. A monument was erected to Copernicus in Warsaw in 1830, and another at Torun in 1853. Rheticus, and others called Copernicus the second Ptolemy, and his book the second "Almagest." His genius is that he grasped the truth centuries before it could be proved.
Other Scientist's Biographies here.
Stephen Hawking

Sir Isaac Newton

24 May 2011

New Naked Operas On Stage

Daniel Okulitch in The Fly
The Fly is an opera in two acts by Canadian composer Howard Shore to a libretto by David Henry Hwang. Commissioned by the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris 2008, also performed in LA 2008 where it was directed by David Cronenberg, conducted by Plácido Domingo.
The story of the opera is loosely based on David Cronenberg's 1986 film The Fly which was based on the short story by George Langelaan; Howard Shore also wrote the —unrelated— score for that film
Daniel Okulitch, a Canadian bass-baritone was born January 30, 1976. He first came to attention on Broadway as Schaunard in Baz Luhrmann's 'La Bohème' in 2002/03 – and again in Los Angeles the following year. He has since begun an international career with opera companies and orchestras throughout Europe and North America, and is admired for both his singing and powerful stage presence. He is sought after for many contemporary operas and world premiers.
Turandot ENO 
 Joseph Raisi-Varzansh (The Prince of Persia) in Rupert Goold's controversial 2009 Turandot at the English National Opera

Johann Kresnik's 'A Masked Ball'
Thirty-five naked pensioners in Mickey Mouse masks in the east German city of Erfurt in a re-interpretation of Verdi's A Masked Ball by the Austrian director Johann Kresnik, 68, a Marxist, who is famous throughout the German-speaking world for his provocative, anti-capitalist productions and his penchant for lavish displays of naked flesh. Its setting is Ground Zero, the post- 9/11 ruin of New York's World Trade Centre.  The naked male and female pensioners, the oldest being 69, will have their bodies coated with grey paint and will wear their masks throughout the show. 
"The naked stand for people without means, the victims of capitalism, the underclass, who don't have anything any more."

'Moses Und Aron' Ruhrfestspiele 2009
This performance is available on DVD from Amazon.

'Salome' Covent Garden
David McVicar's Royal Opera House production of 'Salome' 2008. 

In the opera, Covent Garden busker Duncan Meadows plays the silent role of the executioner who, naked and dripping with blood, presents Salome with the head of John the Baptist. He was discovered locally, painted silver as a human statue by director David McVicar. This Opera is available on DVD from Amazon.

Les Mamelles de Tiresias - Barcelona
 Poulenc's Dadaist story of Les Mamelles de Tirésias from a cabaret play by French Surrealist poet Guillaume Apollinaire (1880–1918), centers on the adventures of a couple — Thérèse and her unnamed husband — in an imaginary Zanzibar. 
Troy Cook as the husband is seen a transvestite part and in the full frontal nudity shower scene. 
Parsifal Stuttgart
American tenor Andrew Richards' brief nude appearance at the end of Wagner's Parsifal in Stuttgart.
Armida by Gluck Calixto Beieto Berlin

 I do not know what the voice over is about but the staging looks great.

Mozart's 'Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail'  Calixo Bieito.
Berg's Wozzeck once again by Calixto Bieito Barcelona
DVD Available
More such Videos on this Blog

19 May 2011

Brisbane Queensland Australia

These are some views of the city where I live
click to enlarge - detail is in the JPG file name
Migaloo (white fella) the white celebrity Humpback Whale who visits our city.
Tidal Brisbane River and Moreton Bay 
Botanical Gardens
River at Dusk and a Gay Pub
Treasury Casino and Queen St Mall
St John's Anglican Cathedral and St Stephen's Catholic Cathedral
Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art
Concert Hall and Opera Theatre
Gabba Cricket Grounds and evening lights
Judith Wright Arts Centre and Powerhouse Theatres
A little bit of Gay Brisbane which is being once again marginalised by a newly installed  Christian Right influenced, conservative government
Brisbane Gay Magazines Q News and Queensland Pride
 Brisbane is a large city with warm weather, a beautiful tidal river, hills and greenery, We have plenty of outlets for the arts. What we lack is the commitment of the people (about 2 million of them) to get involved. This is what I am always trying to address in some way with my small efforts. Please join me if you are so inclined.
In Jan 2011 we experienced yet another great flood which sent the city underwater for the second time in my lifetime. 
Link to my Brisbane Flood Page.
Some references to Brisbane when I grew up are in this passage from my fictional novel 'Dance With the Sun'
........It did take some years after the War to establish themselves, but in time the three of them moved from Sophie’s parents home to a new house in what was then, the far edge of the city. The yard was bare, because in those days it was the habit to tear down every native tree, and plant small European flowerbeds. They soon tired of this precision, and the garden flourished into a sub- tropical jungle much to the disgust of the neighbours who took pride in the clean manicured lawns edged by pruned rose bushes and short unimaginative flowering annuals, that to them appeared the height of suburban good taste. The overgrown town was the epitome of modern sterility. Looking over the many hills of Brisbane in those days provided a neat, stiflingly hot vista of acres of red oxide tin, greying fibro or orange clay tiled roofs, purposely unhindered by the slightest sign of any tall green vegetation. Little could be gained from venturing out into the pastel plastic of 1950's suburbia, and hence the oasis of their home life sheltered the boy from the stagnant reality of what surrounded him. It was within the privacy of the secret garden that the boy played. From the window or the back veranda the boy's little white feet and bottom could be seen darting through the trees and bushes. Every branch, every insect, every breeze became his plaything. Keenly he explored what was about him and just as intensely did he explore his body. Nipples, belly button, testicles were fascinating things that he initially found no explanation for. He would sit on the grass and as his attention was redirected from a hopping sparrow to his hands, and then to probing the parts of himself that were nice to touch he pondered the mysteries of his flesh. At night while sitting on the carpet he would clasp his genitals excitedly and ask ' What's this for? What do they do? Have you got some?' Eventually he became aware of society’s inhibitions, and the subsequent contradiction of this with his parents’ encouragement of freedom. This muddled his thoughts, but he could hardly accept what to him was irrational.

The unpaved, dirt street on which they built their home wound itself up into the bush on the side of a small mountain. There was much to explore on that mountainside where the child could lose himself and act out his imaginative adventures. This second oasis was where he could refresh himself, contemplate and experiment in isolation with the fantasies he developed. Explorers, hunters, Tarzan, ballet dancers, orators and heroes of every description roamed or skipped through the bushes on his wild, private playground. The only place that scared him was the remains of a long gone farm. The rusty old tin sign warning that 'Trespassers will be prosecuted', somehow always looked like 'executed' to him. He stared at this sign and knew what it said, but his mind continued to think that he had somehow misinterpreted it, and even though it was clear, he might one-day see that it really meant death to those whom entered. There was probably a deranged and hideous old man with a shotgun, or perhaps a ghost in the collapsed wooden vine-covered building hidden in the shadows behind the trees. It was frightening, but stimulating to imagine that such danger was close by. His fantasies did not always make for security in his life, but they exercised and stretched his emotions, in that his protective parents were unwilling and unable to offer.

Every other house in the recently developed suburb was neat, new and small. Families were young, and the streets resounded with the screams and calls of children playing and chasing each other around and unhindered from yard to yard. Neighbours chatted over fences, exchanged gossip at the local store, and praised each other for their fortunate life.

In the 1950's home-grown culture was almost non-existent, or at most embryonic. Crime was low, people left their doors open at night, and pets were allowed to leave their droppings on the footpath. Being so close to the bush, snakes were often seen in those days. Wild horses, kangaroos and once, even two confused elephants were found wandering down the stony, ungrassed footpath. The huge grey beasts had escaped from a travelling circus, and immediately headed off in search of freedom, away from the screams of children and traffic. The huge blue and white tent, with all its accompanying smells of sawdust and manure hitched itself annually in a vacant lot at the end of the street. The boy loved the wild and special beasts, and the story of the elephants was one he loved to tell and wait for people's look of disbelief. It gave an air of primitive frontier adventure to the exterior blandness of those early years. All was not without meaning though. There was a spirit that did give simple sincerity to this evolutionary stage in Australia's development.

It was all part of the beginning of the post war recovery, full of hope and optimism, because the earth was being repopulated with the children of the future. Having not been ravaged like Europe and Asia by the full impact of explosive destruction, and nature having blessed the land with a wealth of resources, this country was well placed to leap ahead into what would become a boom period. A security that removed the constraints of general poverty from the daily lives of a very unadventurous, unchallenged and stable people.

Somewhere amongst this spirit of regeneration was hidden a sadness at what the world had become. Two great wars, the collapse of Empires and the knowledge that the Atomic Bomb hung dangerously over the heads of us all, gave an undertone to the abandonment with which people committed themselves to the pursuit, and accumulation, of twentieth century advances. As fashions became more industrial and functional the germ of opposition was taking shape in the minds of those who longed for the comfort, stimulation and rewards of beauty. The age of the common man was taking hold. An egalitarian greyness gripped the western world like a tightened spring that would strain on the minds of the rebels until it burst forth in a shower of reactive creativity that would eventually destroy the concept of discipline for decades to come......

Thank you Driver!
People in Brisbane almost universally thank the bus driver when they alight from public transport. They may be an old lady with a walking stick, someone in a suite or a kid with green hair and piercings, they all yell from the back of the bus. "THANK YOU DRIVER." Foreign students, of whom we have thousands, seem to love adopting this habit even if it is only one of the few English phrases they are familiar with. I have travelled the world a few times and have never noticed this elsewhere. It may happen in other countries and cities, but I have discussed this widely and most think that it is possibly unique to Brisbane.
Some Major Events
G20 meeting of world leaders to be held here in 2014.
Commonwealth Games Brisbane 1982
World Expo Brisbane 1988
Cultural Links
Queensland Performing Arts Complex
Queensland Theatre Company
Brisbane Powerhouse Theatres
Opera Queensland
Brisbane Festival
Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art
La Boite Theatre Company
Expressions Dance Company
Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre
Queensland Ballet
Museum Of Brisbane
Queensland Museum
What we looked like in 1954 when I was 5 - An overgrown country town.

Brisbane Under Flood

The glories of global warming.
The number of huge and tragic natural disasters worldwide has trebled in the last 30 years.

The Brisbane River as you can see winds snakelike through the city and hence when flooding occurs it spills into vast areas. Below are the most notable inundations.

Brisbane has had the regular floods since its settlement.
Early records talk of floods in 1824 (the year of its foundation), 1825, 1836, 1839

January 1841 flood 8.43 metres (27 feet, 8 inches). Highest flood in Brisbane's recorded history.

March 1890

February 1893  flood8.35 metres (27 feet, 5 inches) occasionally referred to as the Great Flood of 1893 or the Black February Flood,

February 1931

 January 1974 The highest since 1893
This one I recall and I had a house full of stranded people. From our back stairs we watched two houses float down a creek at the bottom of the hill that usually had no more than a foot of water. One friend had a dead body float in and got stuck in a front yard tree. The city looked like a collection of islands as hill tops poked above the water.

 January 2011 The largest disaster ever.
The current flood in Brisbane that is part of the biggest natural disaster in this country's history. Friends and relatives are all out cleaning houses and businesses. Volunteers are out in their tens of thousands along with the Armed forces as they bulldoze the tons of mud and rubbish from the houses, streets and highways. 84 other towns and cities in Queensland have also been devastated.The huge flood affected 500,000 square kilometers. Food production has been totally destroyed and mines are now lakes.
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