Whatever curious and interesting subject strikes my fancy, be it silly or serious, gets posted for your reading pleasure.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Preparing the Perfect Christmas

(Post originally published December 24, 2010)




 (Image: Angels pray at the birth of Christ, from the Wellcome Trust)


During these difficult times with the Great Recession, preparing for Christmas seems a near impossible task, trying to be happy when everything around appears to be at its lowest point.


If you think you are alone, don't worry, the Holy Family knows what you are going through: the first Christmas was just like this.


Imagine awaiting the arrival of your first child, but the foreign government that is occupying your country has declared a census in which you must return to your town of origin to register. You are forced to pack up and travel by donkey to a city far away through a rocky, frigid desert, as the heat of the summer is now over, and you cannot take all the things you prepared for the baby other than a pack of swaddling clothes. There is no place to stay when you arrive, the baby is about to be born, and all you are offered is something no better than a shelter for animals. If that were not enough, the ruler of the area fears your newborn child and plans to slaughter it to ensure he stays in power. You are now a refugee forced to flee to a strange country through the Sinai Desert with no friends or family around you.


Everything appears to be a disaster, yet it was the most perfect Christmas: Christ the Saviour was born to free us from the darkness of sin. The Bread of Heaven came to earth and was laid in a manger to become our spiritual food and open paradise to us. God's promise of a Redeemer given to mankind thousands of years in the past was fulfilled at last. Shepherds were sent a heavenly messenger to tell them to adore the Shepherd of shepherds. The stars aligned to show the three wise men where to find the birthplace of the the Saviour and worship him as King of Kings. Providence was there for the Holy Family in their time of need, no doubt the shepherds brought food and warm fleece for them, the kings had provided gifts that could help cover their journey to Egypt. Of course, this did not make the situation any easier, but it is good to know that if you trust in God, He will see you through. A little trust in God goes a long way.



“Christmas is not a time or a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” Calvin Coolidge.



I wish all my readers a holy and a peaceful holiday season, and hopefully a prosperous New Year to you all.

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Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Handel's Path to Covent Garden: Book Review

(Post originally published February 10, 2011)


A big thank you to Randall Radic for posting the following review on BlogCritics.org about my work,  Handel's Path to Covent Garden.


 "Most music lovers go ga-ga over Handel’s famous oratorio ‘Messiah,’ as well they should. However, what most music lovers don’t know is that Handel established his fame upon the bedrock of Italian opera. Handel wrote many operas. During one twelve month span, while at the Royal Academy of Music, Handel wrote three operas, Giulio Cesare, Tamerlano, and Rodelinda. All three were big hits and wildly successful at the box office.

In 1728, just as Handel’s contract with the Royal Academy expired, Italian opera fell out of vogue. The listening public decided they preferred the English style of opera. Still, Handel kept the faith. He started a new company, going into partnership with John Jacob Heidegger, who was the manager of King’s Theatre in Haymarket. Handel and Heidegger continued to produce Italian operas successfully for a few years. Then in 1733, a rival opera company – the Opera of the Nobility – opened for business, bringing in such superstars as Johann Adolf Hasse, Nocolo Porpora, and Carlo Boschi, who was better known as Farinelli. Handel and Heidegger couldn’t vie with such big names. Their venture effectively failed and Handel and Heidegger parted ways.

Instead of retiring, as most thought he would, Handel moved on to Covent Garden, where he joined up with John Rich. For three years, the two impresarios struggled financially and artistically. This period of adversity – from 1734 to 1737 – and how it changed Handel’s life, career, and fortune is the subject of E.A. Bucchianeri’s remarkable book, Handel’s Path to Covent Garden.

Buccianeri examines the intrigues, back stabbings, jealousies, and rivalries that existed at the Royal Academy of Music. The examination reveals that, as in today’s music world, egos and money are greater motivators than musical expression. To put it simply, everyone was caught up in power plays, trying, like a bunch of spoiled brats, to get their way. It makes for amusing reading, especially as it took place almost 300 years ago.


Of particular interest is John Rich’s arrangement with Handel. According to Bucchianeri, unlike most people in his position, John Rich wasn’t motivated by ego or money. “Rich aspired to succeed in overcoming the deficiencies in Italian opera.” Therefore, Rich disregarded “a practical business approach on this one project, he may have decided to afford every opportunity to Handel,” who he recognized as England’s “best composer.”

The result of this “opportunity” was Handel’s growth and change as a composer. Bucchianeri relates this adaptation in detail, using the evolution of Handel’s opera Ariodante’ to illustrate Handel’s genius and creativity. For one thing, Ariodante had no magical content, which meant it was neither heroic nor anti-heroic. In other words, Handel was doing something totally different. The difference wasn’t shocking or scandalous. It was simply unique. And, according to Bucchianeri, this distinctiveness eventually found its way into Handel’s oratorios.

What makes Handel’s Path to Covent Garden so much fun to read is the author’s scholarship and the author’s ability to express that same erudition in simple language. In other words, although Bucchianeri does occasionally get technical, Handel’s Path to Covent Garden is a book for the average Joe or Susie. One doesn’t have to have a musical background or a doctorate to enjoy the book. At the same time, the book is just technical enough to appeal to music lovers. For the latter group, the book fills in a gap surrounding Handel’s life and work.

On the Read-O-Meter, which ranges from 1 star (terrible) to 5 stars (delightful), Handel’s Path to Covent Garden comes in at 5 stars.


Handel's Path to Covent Garden


Download free chapter preview on Scribd

Get your copy at Amazon 


Monday, 3 August 2015

The Curse of the 'Printer's Devil' ~ Why Authors and Editors Fail to Spot Typos

(Post originally published December 20, 2010)

 In the good old days of the printing press when texts were set by hand letter by letter, it was easy to make typos as all the type had to be set backwards like the image in a mirror to ensure it would print correctly on the velum or paper. Whenever a mistake would show up in the printed work, it was always blamed on the ‘printer’s devil’ similar to our ‘gremlins’ today. Eventually the poor apprentices in the print shop were stuck with the title as they carried out a considerable amount of typesetting and were blamed when type went missing. They were usually covered in black ink, which didn't help, giving them the appearance of devilish imps.


 
 (Image: A replica printing press at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky)


 However, why are we still stuck with typos when we have electronic equipment with keyboards to handle the typesetting and spell-checking? No longer do printers have to envision sentences backwards in order to print a book or newspaper. Perhaps the two paragraphs below may help solve this annoying riddle:


“Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a tatol mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.”


Stargne, ins’t it?


Now take a look at the poem below, (it might help if you read it out loud):


“Spell Check Poem”   Also known as…

“The Pullet Surprise Can Did Ate”



Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea,
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight for it two say,
Weather eye and wring oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long,
And eye can put the error rite
Its rare lea ever wrong.
To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should bee proud,
And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
Sew flaw's are knot aloud.
Eye have run this poem threw it
Your sure reel glad two no,
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.
-Sauce unknown


In this electronic age, perhaps ‘Printer’s Devils’ have evolved into ‘Spell Checker Spirits’?

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Sunday, 2 August 2015

Philosophy is Dead?

(Post originally published Septmber 5, 2010)

Reading a little more about Hawking's latest theory that the Universe did not need a God to set the Big Bang in motion as presented in his new book “The Grand Design”, (see my previous post), he has also dared to make the bold statement in the introductory sections that “Philosophy is Dead”.


According to Hawking, the importance of presenting the theory why or how the universe came into being was reserved for the philosophers, but that field of enquiry is now “dead” as it has not kept up with modern developments in the world of science, especially in the field of physics. So now, philosophers are redundant as scientists have become now the sole leaders in the quest for knowledge.


I think Hawking has misunderstood a very important concept: “Philosophy” comes from the Greek “philosophia” = “love of wisdom”. “Science” comes from the Latin “scientia”= “to know”.


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “science” is defined as: “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.”


“Philosophy” is defined as: “the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.”


When you consider these definitions, scientists basically collect new data about our world and the universe, while philosophers study the nature of the new knowledge presented, obviously to find the wisdom in it.


It was always the job of scientists to present us with new knowledge, but philosophers too will always exist to find the truth in the information the scientists present and if it follows sound, logical principles. Hence the reason why philosophers cannot keep up with physicists like Hawking who claim that the “Law of Gravity” is useful evidence that there need not be a God for the Universe to exist or the Big Bang to occur, and that everything occurred via “Spontaneous Creation” with no need to have a Creator present. Where is the “wisdom” in Hawking's statements? As I mentioned in a previous post, there had to be a great Authority at work to create the Law of Gravity--Nothing begets Nothing. The very existence of mathematical equations used by scientists displays that a Great Mind is at work since everything discovered concerning the workings of the cosmos can be explained by numbers. They had to be created by Someone, and the fact that numbers have no end displays this Being is indeed infinite.


Hawking in earlier writings claims the triumph of human reasoning will come when man can find the 'perfect theory' of why or how the universe came into being. That will never happen for the simple reason man cannot discover how God or the Great Being created matter, or the Big Bang, from nothing. It was done by the power of His Will, and no physical evidence of this Great Act of creation can be discovered, especially as we still haven't found the physical boundaries to the universe, with all our knowledge.


Let's take a quick look at the Bible for a moment, since Hawking says philosophy, the “love of wisdom”, is dead and foolishness is alive and kicking:


“And he said to man: Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom: and to depart from evil, is understanding.” (Job 28:28)   Hawking does not fear or believe in a traditional God, so he is definitely lacking in wisdom.


“The fool said in his heart: There is no God.” (Psalm 52:1) (Self explanatory.)

 
“As a house that is destroyed, so is wisdom to a fool: and the knowledge of the unwise is as words without sense.” (Ecclesiasticus 21:21) This explains why Hawking's comments do not make sense to me.


“Every man is become a fool for knowledge, every artist is confounded in his graven idol: for what he hath cast is false, and there is no spirit in them.” (Jeremias 10:14) Has Hawking become a 'fool' for knowledge? Certainly seems that way.



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Saturday, 1 August 2015

A Pathetic Demise to a Brilliant Career?

(Post originally published September 5, 2003)


 Recently, the famous theoretical physicist Steven Hawking announced he had changed his mind about the existence of God and claims in so many words that He does not exist.

Before I wrote a counterargument to his theory, of course, I would have to read what his theories were in the first place, so I discovered the following Press Release published by Reuters and posted on Yahoo news: 




  “By Michael Holden Michael Holden – Thu Sep 2, 9:08 am ET

LONDON (Reuters) – God did not create the universe and the "Big Bang" was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics, the eminent British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking argues in a new book.

In "The Grand Design," co-authored with U.S. physicist Leonard Mlodinow, Hawking says a new series of theories made a creator of the universe redundant, according to the Times newspaper which published extracts on Thursday.

"Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist," Hawking writes.

"It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."

Hawking, 68, who won global recognition with his 1988 book "A Brief History of Time," an account of the origins of the universe, is renowned for his work on black holes, cosmology and quantum gravity.

Since 1974, the scientist has worked on marrying the two cornerstones of modern physics -- Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, which concerns gravity and large-scale phenomena, and quantum theory, which covers subatomic particles.

His latest comments suggest he has broken away from previous views he has expressed on religion. Previously, he wrote that the laws of physics meant it was simply not necessary to believe that God had intervened in the Big Bang.

He wrote in A Brief History ... "If we discover a complete theory, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason -- for then we should know the mind of God."

In his latest book, he said the 1992 discovery of a planet orbiting another star other than the Sun helped deconstruct the view of the father of physics Isaac Newton that the universe could not have arisen out of chaos but was created by God.

"That makes the coincidences of our planetary conditions -- the single Sun, the lucky combination of Earth-Sun distance and solar mass, far less remarkable, and far less compelling evidence that the Earth was carefully designed just to please us human beings," he writes.

Hawking, who is only able to speak through a computer-generated voice synthesizer, has a neuro muscular dystrophy that has progressed over the years and left him almost completely paralyzed.

He began suffering the disease in his early 20s but went on to establish himself as one of the world's leading scientific authorities, and has also made guest appearances in "Star Trek" and the cartoons "Futurama" and "The Simpsons."

Last year he announced he was stepping down as Cambridge University's Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, a position once held by Newton and one he had held since 1979.

"The Grand Design" is due to go on sale next week.

(Editing by Steve Addison)”

Greetings! (This Blog is under construction.)


 "I'm an artist you know....it is my right to be odd." ~ Brushstrokes of a Gadfly


Thank you for visiting my new blog, however, as you can see, I have just moved in to E-Blogger, and therefore my house is a little empty at the moment!

Currently, I have a blog on Goodreads and will be moving all my old posts here.  Of course, I will write some new posts as soon the inspiration strikes me.


 You can visit my Goodread blog here:  Goodreads Author Blog

As the title suggests of the blog suggests, whatever curious and interesting subject strikes my fancy, be it silly or serious, will be posted for your reading pleasure. Plus, I also make annoucements on occasion concerning my latest projects. 


So please, tune in, I promise to fill these empty pages.