Jan 31, 2008

Янтарная комната

The Amber Room

Having intended to post on something entirely different today, I ran across the following kinescope from the future and knew that I wanted to post it (despite what is to be termed network morning news fluff at some point in time). And in posting it, I felt it only right to do a little more research for this readership and perhaps those of the Royal Society.

Now initially I tried to embed the moving picture here, but that was met with dubious success. Please find the ABC News clip at this location.

The Amber Room was created from 1701 to 1709 in Prussia and remained at Charlottenburg Palace until 1716 when it was given by Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I to his then ally, Tsar Peter the Great of the Russian Empire. The Amber Room was looted during World War II by Nazi Germany and brought to Königsberg. Knowledge of its whereabouts was lost in the chaos at the end of the war. Its fate remains a mystery, and the search continues.

The original room in the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoe Syolo near St. Petersburg was a complete chamber decorated with amber patterns atop gold leaf and mirrors. Due to it's singular and spectacular beauty, it has been called the Eigth Wonder of the World.

The Reconstruction viewed above in the kinescope was started in 1979 and was based primarily on very old black and white photos of the original room. In 2003 the new room was dedicated by Russian President, Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder at the 300-year anniversary of the city of Saint Petersburg.

Creation of the Original
The Amber Room was made from 1701 onwards in order to be installed at the Charlottenburg Palace, home of Friedrich I, the first king of Prussia, at the urging of his second wife, Sophie Charlotte. The concept of the room and its design was by Andreas Schlüter. It was crafted by Gottfried Wolfram, master craftsman to the Danish court of King Frederick VI of Denmark, with help from the amber masters Ernst Schacht and Gottfried Turau from Danzig.

It did not, however, remain at Charlottenburg for long. Peter the Great admired it on a visit and in 1716, the king's son, presented it to him, and with that act cemented a Prussian-Russian alliance against Sweden.

In 1755 Tsarina Elizabeth of Russia had it transferred and installed, first in the Winter Palace, and then in the Catherine Palace. From Berlin, Frederick II The Great sent her more Baltic amber, in order to fill out the originals in the new design by the tsarina's Italian court architect.

The Amber Room represented a joint effort of German and Russian craftsmen. After several other 18th-century renovations, it covered more than 55 square metersand contained over six tons of amber. It took over ten years to construct.

History and Mystery

This opulent gesture of friendship between Russians and Germans would come to serve as a potent symbol of their divisions. When Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, his troops overran Tsarskoye Selo, dismantled the panels of the oversized jewel box, packed them up in 27 crates, and shipped them to Königsberg, Germany (today's Kaliningrad). In January 1945, after air raids and a savage ground assault on the city, the room's trail was lost.
After the war, the German official in charge of the amber shipment said the crates were in a castle that burned down in an air raid. A Soviet investigator found a charred fragment from the room.

It seems hard to believe that crates of several tons of amber could go missing, and many historians have tried to solve the mystery. As noted above,the most basic theory is that the crates were destroyed by the bombings of 1944. Others believe that the amber is still in Kaliningrad, while some say it was loaded onto a ship and can be found somewhere at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. In 1997, a group of German art detectives got a tip that someone was trying to hawk a piece of the Amber Room. They raided the office of the seller's lawyer and found one of the room's mosaic panels in Bremen, but the seller was the son of a deceased soldier and had no idea as to the panel's origin. One of the more extreme theories is that Stalin actually had a second Amber Room and the Germans stole a fake.

Another bizarre aspect of this story is the "Amber Room Curse." Many people connected to the room have met untimely ends. Take Rohde and his wife, for example, who died of typhus while the KGB was investigating the room. Or General Gusev, a Russian intelligence officer who died in a car crash after he talked to a journalist about the Amber Room. Or, most disturbing of all, Amber Room hunter and former German soldier Georg Stein, who in 1987 was murdered in a Bavarian forest.

Despite all the intrigue surrounding the disappearance of this spectacular work of art - this gift -it must be said that the loss of the original dealt a blow to the Russian people and to the world at large. We are fortunate that we now have a facsimile of which we may partake.

The history of the new Amber Room, at least, is known for sure. The reconstruction began in 1979 at Tsarskoye Selo and was completed 25 years—and $11 million—later with primary funding from a German petrol company. The dedication of the new room marked the 300-year anniversary of St. Petersburg in a unifying ceremony that echoed the peaceful sentiment behind the original. The room remains on display to the public at the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve outside of St. Petersburg.

ABC News

Jan 29, 2008

Winter Poem

A Winter Afternoon
S. D'Agostino

The air is cold
The sun is bright. The kind of brightness that makes the blue of the midwinter sky deeper
than lapis
Here am I, with my love, sitting in a corner of a quiet café

Plush velvet seats well worn with time
Seats that have born witness to much:
Children playing
Business associates politely bickering
Relationships beginning and ending
Ladies who gossip and lunch

Today, if these chairs could speak, they would tell the story of lovers
Of two entering the café hand in hand, quietly talking and laughing
Secret touches
A head leaning on a shoulder
Eyes smiling and brightly lighting up
Ordering caffè with chocolate and cream

Of two finding time to be alone in a crowd
Making their way to the purple velvet seats and drawing the chairs more closely together
A small table between
The coffee steaming as it sits on the table while fingers meet and entwine

These two so well known to each other
They have been together for ages, it seems
There is a comfort and ease that even strangers note as they
Tell stories of their day to one another and reminisce in shared events

It is all so normal and mundane, yet somehow remarkably unique and special

Plush velvet seats
Bright winter sun

Here am I, with my love, sitting in a corner of a quiet café

**A poem found on a very gloomy winter day.**

Fun - Endorsed by The Royal Society

I am pleased to link you to The Honourable Kate Nicholas' article on building blocks with thanks to the elder gods. :-)

Jan 28, 2008

SynaesthAsia - Auditory and Visual Richness

Last night I was among the few that were (truly) privileged to be invited to a beta testing of a live performance project conceived and created by Komuso Tokugawa and MoShang Zhao. Komoso who describes himself as one who is "Connecting the real and virtual worlds along a musical energy continuum from Generative Ambient Relaxation Music to High Energy BoogieBluesNoise live performances" provided a stellar performance along with his collaborator, MoShang.

MoShang's biography includes the following brilliant bit of information: "MoShang is a sound jeweler living in Taiwan. He collects rough audio diamonds from the streets of Taiwan (be they overheard conversations, street-ads blared from the ubiquitous blue-trucks, street processions or funeral chants) and fuses them with traditional Chinese instruments and laid-back beats to create a unique blend of downtempo electronica he likes to call Chinese Chill."

You may find other articles and reviews about this team and last night's particular performance at Hotspur O'Toole's fine blog, which includes a machinima of the event, and at Miss Bettina Tizzy's Not Possible in Real Life blog.

I found the music at last night's beta test to be unique and complex; a very interesting and rich musical playlist. There was a good mix of ambient music and blues pieces among the six that were on the hour long program. All were brought to life with the particle visuals, of which we were invited to take part. Flying in and among the effects made the experience even more vivid. This is possibly one of the most compelling arts experiences that I have had in Second Life. I look forward to future work by these accomplished performers.

Jan 26, 2008

Burns Night: Three Suppers - Three Chances to Remember the Bard of Scotland...

...and to drink fine whisky and sample yummy traditional Scottish foods.
(Don't look, George.)

After weeks of planning and organizing we were finally able to bring what we believe is a Metaverse first to reality. Burns Suppers.

The first was celebrated during a time in my real life day that is generally filled with work and after school activities with my children. The Early Bird Social Club held the first of the evening's events in Loch Avie from 12pm - 3pm SLT. I was thrilled that I was able to pop into my SL home at around 2:30pm SLT and could say hello to many European friends and neighbors as they danced their way into the night during the Ceilidh portion of the supper.

Dancing with Miss Fuschia Begonia, Lady Amber, Mr. Pedruly Peccable, Mr. Iason Hassanov, and my cousin, Lady Gabrielle Riel, among others

Our favorite Norwegian Scot, Mr. Roy Smashcan and I converse as we dance

The lovely hostess, Miss Soliel Snook

Jigging with Lady Darkling and Miss Terry Lightfoot

From what I have heard, Miss Snook and her volunteers put on a marvelous dinner in the conservatory at Loch Avie. Well done, Madame! It has been a true pleasure collaborating with you on this. We must do things like this more often.


Immediately following my hasty departure from SL, I made sure my own RL haggis was doing well on the stove and I headed upstairs to get my human self ready for our quiet Burns Supper at home.

Where it begins and ends - whisky and single malt whisky cake sit on the side board

My typist

The main course: Sirloin Haggis, Tatties, Neeps, and Vegetarian Haggis

After getting my lovely little lassies all snugly tucked into their beds with visions of haggis dancing in their heads (yes - they both did try some of the sirloin haggis), I poured myself another glass of whisky, popped into world, and began the last minute preparations of any hostess ensuring that her guests will be happy and comfortable.



The Clan Gathers
Members present: Lord and Lady Primbroke, Carntaigh, Hotspur, O'Toole, Exrex Somme
(not in this picture: ZenMondo Wormser)

Mr. Somme was kind enough to give his seat at the head table to a friend of Mr. O'Toole's,
Miss Chav Paderborn
(photo credit: O'Toole)

Mr. Subghoul Epsilon and Lady Kintyre, Lavendar Beumont

Technical Difficulties
The order of our dinner went a wee bit askew as dear Lord Edward was having major issues with his computer...crashing and then remaining absent for quite a number of minutes. Not to worry though, the crowd was most amenable to the changes (good thing the whisky was flowing freely).

Entrance of the Haggis

The haggis-bearer, Hotspur O'Toole

The Piper, Exrex Somme

The Supper

The Loyal Toast

Here I stand to give the Loyal Toast in both voice and text.





(photo credit: O'Toole)

The Toast to the Lassies

Sir ZenMondo Wormser in his Bellambi Tartan rises to toast the Lassies

The Toast to the Laddies

Miss Tib Freschi responds for the Lassies as Mr. Hassanov looks on.

Toasts Galore

To friends and family
Air Force
George the Domesticated Wild Haggis
Our Typists
really - anything was fair game.....what a grand time!

Immortal Memory

Presented by Mr. Iason Hassanov - shown here with Miss Riven Homewood

Burns Readings

Dominic and Lunar listen as the first of the poems is recited

After his reading, Radslns Hutchence perform a song for us on his newly created pipes
Well done sir!

The crowd enjoys their dessert, Tipsy Laird - created by Lady Primbroke


Miss Eladrienne Laval and Dr. Darien Mason

Radslns, Herr Munster, and Miss Caewn jig to the more up-tempo music

There were some quiet spots to be found, however, which is something I always try to ensure.
Lady SeaSong and Lord Kintyre

Miss Lumina

The special fireworks exhibit - begins to spell Robert

Watching the display - Maev and Edward

A lovely guest arrived toward the end of the evening - Miss Jaxxon was her name, I believe

Auld Lang Syne

Jan 25, 2008

Très à propos

Really - I need say no more.


The Bonney Bard of Scotland

Today at two distinct suppers, the good Citizens of Caledon will honour Scotland's favourite son, Robert Burns.

Ready Sir?

Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796) (also known as Rabbie Burns, Scotland's favourite son, the Ploughman Poet, the Bard of Ayrshire and in Scotland as simply The Bard) was a poet and a lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland, and is celebrated worldwide. He is the best-known of the poets who have written in the Scots language, although much of his writing is also in English and a 'light' Scots dialect, accessible to an audience beyond Scotland. He also wrote in standard English, and in these pieces, his political or civil commentary is often at its most blunt.

He is regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement and after his death became an important source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism. A cultural icon in Scotland and among Scots who have relocated to other parts of the world (the Scottish Diaspora), celebration of his life and work became almost a national charismatic cult during the 19th and 20th centuries, and his influence has long been strong on Scottish literature.

As well as making original compositions, Burns also collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them. His poem (and song) Auld Lang Syne is often sung at Hogmanay (New Year), and Scots Wha Hae served for a long time as an unofficial national anthem of the country. Other poems and songs of Burns that remain well-known across the world today, include A Red, Red Rose, A Man's A Man for A' That, To a Louse, To a Mouse, The Battle of Sherramuir, and Ae Fond Kiss.
from the Wikipedia entry on Robert Burns

Whisky? Check. Tipsy Laird? Check. Haggis? Check.

Burns Night, effectively a second national day, is celebrated on January 25th with Burns suppers around the world, and is still more widely observed than the official national day, Saint Andrew's Day, or the proposed North American celebration Tartan Day. The format of Burns suppers has not changed since Robert's death in 1796. The basic format starts with a general welcome and announcements followed with the Selkirk Grace. Following the grace comes the piping and cutting of the Haggis, where Robert's famous Address To a Haggis is read, and the haggis is cut open. The event usually allows for people to start eating just after the haggis is presented. This is when the reading called the "immortal memory", an overview of Robert's life and work is given; the event continues with many toasts and some presentation of a selection of his works and usually concludes with the singing of Auld Lang Syne.

See you all there!
Sláinte meath!!

Jan 23, 2008

Sometimes One Just Needs To Leave The Work

Even as the preparations for the Burns Supper are all coming together - and hard work still ahead - sometimes it's just good to heed the call of a friend who says, "You MUST come see this."

Such was the call I received from Lady Kate last night. She had been exploring in the mainland fairly near Sir Adso's latest property, and came across a beautiful and fun set of Protected Land Sims. She and I do share a winter-time passion: skiing. So that was all she had to say when I responded to her initial call. "There is skiing! Skiing across three sims!"

She was unfortunately not able to stay in world for too long once I arrived in the sim, but she did show me the slope and took a run or two downhill with me.

Near the bottom of the run

Well lit even for night-time skiing

I made the run a number of times. The whole of the experience is gorgeous and fun, unfortunately the lift does not actually work. Working "magic chairs" (as my typist's children call them) would have made the experience nearly perfect. The Lindens do provide free skis and poles (no scripting), and the ski animation which takes you all the way to the lake at the bottom of the run.

After skiing several times, I flew around for a little while finding not only beautiful vistas, but also a sledding run. Wheeeeee!

Double Black Diamond Sledding Hill????

Just the break I needed.....

Now back to the planning and preparation for Burns Night with renewed vim and vigor. The cold air, and exertion of sport does wonders for the mental health of your Duchess.