Sunday, February 25, 2007

The United Kingdom of Great Britain, Northern Ireland... and France?

At the eve of the one hundredth anniversary of the Entente Cordiale between the UK and France in 2004, President Chirac of France qualified the relationship between the two countries, which has always been something of a love-hate relationship, as an "amour violent", a phrase apparently borrowed from Johnny Hallyday, "France's only contribution to rock music" according to BBC World Affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds.

Little did he know then that back in 1956, against the background of the Suez crisis, plans had been in the making to form a union between France and Britain, or failing that to have France enter the British Commonwealth. As explained in greater detail on the BBC News website, the then Prime Minister of France Guy Mollet made repeated requests to his British counterpart Anthony Eden, and while the request to form a union was quickly turned down Eden did initially seem taken by the idea of France entering the Commonwealth, and thereby accepting the headship of HM the Queen. With the UK pulling out of Suez under international pressure and the battle against the Egyptian president Nasser lost, the French Prime Minister presumably decided not to pursue his astonishing ideas any further...

Friday, February 16, 2007

Technical notice: Switch to Google Accounts

For some time now, the Blogger system has been urging me/us to move to a new version which relies on Google accounts. I have put this off for as long as possible so as to save you any further technical challenges, but unfortunately I reached the end of this road and have had to accept the move to the new Blogger interface. This means that, when you next sign in to Blogger (in exactly the same way as you've done up to now), you too will be asked to reconfirm your password and create a Google Account (unless you already have one -- for instance because you have a Gmail address -- in which case you can use this one). I apologize for this new round of technical hassle, but there's nothing I can do about it. In any case, the steps to follow are clearly indicated and not at all difficult to carry out. Good luck :)

Le nouveau BAAHE est arrivé!

BAAHE, the Belgian Association of Anglicists in Higher Education, has launched its new website earlier this week (the old website has been archived, so you can try to spot the seven differences!).

BAAHE members include teachers in Belgian institutes of higher education as well as advanced students. While in this sense it is not of immediate importance to you, one day perhaps its 'job offers' section might interest you, if you are looking for a job at a university or other higher education institute.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Tchaikovsky: a literary composer

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) is a romantic composer and conductor. For some critics and music-lovers he is still regarded as one of the greatest of all Russian composers.
Throughout this week the BBC radio will broadcast his masterpieces (radio player, down the list and click on 'The Tchaikovsky experience') and proposes to vote for your favourite music piece from the top 10 including 'Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture'. It is a long symphonic poem which captures the tension between the two families and the street fight of the first act in order to set it into music. This sensation of agitation is followed by a slower rhythm which leads the hearer to the central love theme and which also relates the fatal course of their love. All this remaining magical for me some more practical information is to be found on the very useful Wikipedia Encyclopaedia as well as concerning the music made for other W. Shakespeare's plays ('The Tempest', 'Hamlet').
Tchaikovsky is also well-known for his operas. One of his 11 operas is based on the novel 'Eugène Onéguine' which is written in verse by his compatriot A. Puschkin who started the tradition of the 'great Russian writers'. Being faithful to the novel the opera depicts the life of the main charachter Eugène who is a selfish young man. After having denied the feelings of Tatiana he falls in love with her sister Olga who is his friend's fiancée. This betrayal of friendship leads to a cruel dual between the two men and so Eugène killed his friend. Nevertheless, Eugène regrets not to have well considered Tatiana when he sees her again but it is too late for she is married to a prince and remains faithful to him. Another opera based on Puschkin's short story is 'The Queen of the Spades', but other ones are also to be traced back to novelists'works such as N. Gogol for instance.
Besides operas, he also composed ballets. It is said that this genre regained its 'noble' status thanks to Tchaikovsky who succeeded in incorporating symphonic elements. The 'Swan Lake' ballet is inspired by a German legend which features two lovers who cannot consume their love. Indeed, the princess was turned into a swan by a curse and both died at the end even if one speaks of transcendent love. To give an idea on how the lover will catch and shoot the graceful swan the very well done site of the BBC proposes to watch a documentary on the rehearsals.

Isn't it romantic? As B. Disraeli said:"We are all born for love. It is the principle existence and its only end." I wish you all (lovers and singles) a lovely St Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Jim carrey as Vera de Milo

Before we knew him as Ace Ventura, Hollywood funnyman Jim Carey got his start on the 90's sketch comedy show 'In Living Color'. Here he plays his popular character, female body builder Vera De Milo. He teaches you some workout routines, weightlifting and bodybuilding.
It's so great and hilarious!

Enjoy!! ;-)