Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Bamboo near Kyoto


Friday, December 11, 2009

Melba: The Dame and the Dessert


So this is my first time participating in Postcard Friendship Friday, But I figured it was about time to try it! And speaking of postcards of friendship, I wanted to share one of the amazing postcards I received as a HUGE surprise in my mailbox. The Postcrossing Official Forum hosted a "Random Act of Smileness" drawing to win a set of beautiful Australian maxi cards. Anyone could nominate a person who made them smile, and then a winner was drawn at random. I knew about the contest but had no idea I was nominated, and I was totally shocked when the prize showed up in my mailbox. Hurray! :)

This card shows Dame Nellie Melba (1861-1931), an Australian soprano and the first Australian to achieve international fame as a classical musician. Her parents came from Scotland, but Dame Melba was a native Australian and considered it her home throughout her life. She had an astoundingly successful career, with her major success being her appointment as prima donna at Covent Garden for nearly 30 years. Her albums always sold for a higher price than other singers', and before WWI, her performances were always known to be lavish affairs - important social events where women wore their finest jewels.

Dame Melba received that title from the British Empire for her charity work during World War I. She was the first entertainer to receive the title. She was also the first Australian to grace the cover of Time Magazine, and she was chosen to sing the Australian national anthem at the official opening of the Parliament House in Canberra on the day which Canberra became Australia's capital city.

Despite these accolades, Dame Melba was known to be a temperamental diva, and fought tooth and nail to be the center of attention whenever possible. She was generally not well-liked by her colleagues, and the three words "I am Melba" were considered an acceptable explanation for her frequent demands.

The stamp on this lovely card shows a delightful confection named after Dame Melba - the Peach Melba. This dessert was invented around 1892 by the French chef Auguste Escoffier at the Savoy Hotel in London to honor the Dame. In its original incarnation, the decadent dessert was displayed on an ice sculpture of a swan. The swan carried peaches, which rested on a bed of vanilla ice cream, and were topped with spun sugar. In 1900 Escoffier altered the recipe, omitting the ice swan and topping the dessert with fresh raspberry purée, which is how it is still served today.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Legong dancers of Bali, Indonesia


I love learning about traditional dances - they often say so much about the local culture, and they're almost always interesting to watch. And thanks to the marvel of YouTube, I can watch all of them with my own eyes. The girls pictured on the card here are dressed up for the traditional Legong dance of Bali, Indonesia.

The Legong Dance is a reenactment of a period in history of East Java during the 12th and 13th centuries. When on a journey the King of Lasem finds the maiden Rangkesari lost in the forest. He takes her home and locks her in a house of stone. Rangkesari's brother, the Prince of Daha, learns of her captivity and threatens war unless she is released. Rangkesari begs the king to release her to prevent war, but the king refuses. On the way to battle he sees a bird of ill omen that predicts his death, which eventually comes true. In particular, the dance dramatizes the the farewell of the king on his way to battle and the ominous encounter with the bird.

The dance includes three performers - the condong, a female attendant of the court, and two legongs. The girls, who are rarely older than 14, are bound head to toe in gold brocade, with a gold and flower crown and dramatic face make-up. Often the performers are handpicked by the local prince. These girls would have trained in Legong from the age of 4 or younger. The dance is accompanied by the unique instrument, the gamelan, and individual layers of eye, hand, hip, and foot movements are meant to reflect the various percussive layers of the gamelan.

But words never do justice to a beautiful and complicated dance like the Legong. Watch the video below and see for yourself how amazing it is. I especially love the eye movements.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Festival of Postcards - White


Are you ready for the 2010 Winter Olympics? I know I am! I've always been fond of the Winter Olympics - I love the figure skating, the skiing, hockey, and those crazy people who do the skeleton, who must be missing the fear gene. This year the Olympics are going to be held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, with some events taking place in nearby Whistler, which you see in the postcard to the left. Whistler has the largest single ski area in North America, and it's gorgeous, too!

The logo for the 2010 Olympics depicts Ilanaaq the Inunnguaq. What on earth does that mean? you ask. In the language of a local Native American tribe, the Inuktitut, Ilanaaq means friend, and an Inunnguaq is a stone landmark or cairn, which is what the logo depicts. There is a very similar stone landmark on Whistler Mountain. The mascots for the Olympics are Miga, a mythical sea bear (part orca and part kermode bear), and Quatchi, a sasquatch (also known as Bigfoot).

Vancouver is hosting the Olympics, and what a magnificent setting for these events. Vancouver is known around the world for being beautiful, with a diverse population, a high standard of living, and has been consistently named one of the most livable cities in the world for over a decade. Vancouver is the warmest city ever to host the Winter Olympic games, with an average temperature of 4.8 C (40.6 F) in February. It is the most populous city to ever host the Games (2.1 million metro population), and it is unique in holding its opening ceremonies indoors. It is also one of very few cities to hold several events at sea level.

So I don't know about you, but I'm definitely going to tune in! The Olympics will be held February 12-28, 2010.

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