Showing posts from June, 2013

George Orwell - plain English and a nice cup of tea.

When George Orwell wasn't lampooning totalitarian regimes in 1984, or maligning pigs in Animal Farm, he was passionate about two other things:The use of plain English; and How to make a nice cup of tea.

In his essay published in 1946 entitled 'Politics and the English language', Orwell set out six rules to follow for writing plain English.

Orwell Rule 1. 
Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

Included in this rule is the irritating and persistent use of clichés, such as 'What's not to like?','Join the club', and 'Try thinking outside the box'.

Clichés are a lazy way of expressing oneself and so are particularly popular with politicians. One cliché that politicians are particularly fond of is: 'Doing nothing is not an option', which is ironic as they seem to spend most of their time doing nothing.

Another cliché favoured by politicians is 'not acceptable', which they can use in th…

Henri Matisse and all that jazz....

Was Henri Matisse, the celebrated artist of the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries, also a jazz fan?

Was he ever Groovin’ High and Scrapplin’ from the Apple to the bebop chops of Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie?

To stroll around the park in front of the Matisse Museum in Nice (France), where all the lanes are named after jazz musicians, it might indeed seem that he was.

Not forgetting the book of gouaches paper cutouts that he published in 1947 with the simple title JAZZ.

But alas, there ain't nothin' shakin'. For the principle theme of the book was not jazz but CIRCUS, the word 'jazz' used only to reflect the rhythm of the pictures.

For all that it was a wonderful book and is now being celebrated as part of the festival A Summer for Matisse (Un été pour Matisse) taking place in Nice from 21 June thru 23 September Twenty Hundred and Jumpin' Thirteen.

Palais Lascaris
15 rue Droite
06300 Nice (France)

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing !

Atahualpa - the unhappy Inca Emperor

The Incas of Peru worshipped their Sun God Inti.

They built lavish temples to Inti, which they garnished with gold, believing gold to be Inti's tears - 'the tears of the Sun'.

But it was also gold that the Spanish conquerors wanted. 

For them gold was not the Sun God's presence on Earth, but a commodity they could use to finance their wars and conquests.

So the invaders' leader Francisco Pizarro kidnapped the Inca Emperor Atahaulpa and would only free him in exchange for a ro0m full of GOLD.

The Inca people loved their king and they quickly amassed a mighty hoard of gold and silver. 

But Pizarro had never any intention of sparing Atahaulpa, and once he had his gold he sentenced him to death by burning him alive.

Atahaulpa pleaded with his captor, telling him that if he were burnt his soul would be unable to join his ancestors in the afterlife.

His Spanish gaoler listened to his plea and agreed to his request. But on condition that he convert to Christian Catholicism. 

For c…

Alexander the Great and the Greek waiter

'I foresee a great funeral contest over me'.Alexander the Great
On 13 June 323 BC, in a room surrounded by his doctors, Alexander the Great died of a fever.

Some said he had been poisoned by the Macedonian general Antipater. Others that the death of their commander was due to excessive drinking. 

But it is more likely that the conqueror of Egypt, Persia, and Asia Minor as far as the banks of the Hyphasis in India, where he wept that there were no more kingdoms for him to conquer, was carried away by the humble mosquito, a victim of West Nile fever or of malaria.

Alexander's body was barely cold when it was embalmed and placed in a human shaped sarcophagus filled with honey. 

But what to do with it then?

Alexander's wish was that they toss the body in the river! 

But his wife, Roxanne, and one of his generals, Perdiccas, decided to evoke the wishes of his mother, Olympias, and transport the remains for burial in the family crypt at Aegae in Macedonia.

A sumptuous funeral carria…

Cats in Art : some famous artists' paintings of cats

'Did you know that many of the world's greatest artists have painted cats?' said the gentleman.
'Yars', said the lady.
'Maybe it's the feline form and the kittenish nature - if you'll pardon the pun - which attracts them', said the gentleman.
'Yars', said the lady.
'Pierre-Auguste Renoir, for instance, with his Sleeping Girl (Girl with a Cat) from 1880. A charming picture, don't you find?' said the gentleman.
'Yars', said the lady.

'Renoir also gave us his Woman with a Cat from around 1875', said the gentleman.
'Yars', said the lady.
'A delightful painting, yes?' said the gentleman.
'Yars', said the lady.
'And we musn't forget his Young Boy with a Cat from 1869', said the gentleman.
'Yars, said the lady.

'Edouard Manet, too, produced a work around 1880 which he also called Woman with a Cat', said the gentleman.
'Yars', said the lady.
'Quite different to Renoir's, e…

The de Mailly Sisters and the Lover King

Louis XV of France was born in 1710 and became king in 1715 at the tender age of five.

In 1721, when he had reached the kingly age of eleven, it was decided the Louis should marry his three-year-old Spanish cousin, the Infanta Maria Anna Victoria. But the young king was more interested in playing with his Xbox and he turned the proposal down.

Louis’s childhood continued until he was fifteen when he finally married Marie Leszczynska, the daughter of the deposed king of Poland.

The marriage proved a happy and a productive one. But Marie was seven years older than he was and the king’s royal feet were starting to get itchy. 

“I want a mistress!” he wailed, and what he got was a whole family of them in the shapely shapes of the de Mailly sisters.

de Mailly Sister #1 : Louise-Julie

The 23-year-old beauty had no difficulty in seducing the love-sick Louis. She was interested neither in power nor in honours, and for three years their affair remained a tightly guarded Court secret. 

It was idyllic, u…