Friday, March 25, 2011
A fantasy world is a fictional universe used in fantasy novels and games. Typical worlds involve magic or magical abilities and often, but not always, either a medieval or futuristic theme. Some worlds may be a parallel world tenuously connected to Earth via magical portals or items; a fictional Earth set in the remote past or future; or an entirely independent world set in another universe. Many fantasy worlds draw heavily on real world history, geography and sociology, and also on mythology and folklore.
The setting of a fantasy work is often of great importance to the plot and characters of the story. The setting itself can be imperiled by the evil of the story, suffer a calamity, and be restored by the transformation the story brings about. Stories that use the setting as merely a backdrop for the story have been criticized for their failure to use it fully. Even when the land itself is not in danger, it is often used symbolically, for thematic purposes, and to underscore moods.
Fantasy worlds created through a process called world building are known as a constructed world. Constructed worlds elaborate and make self-consistent the setting of a fantasy work. World building relies on materials and concepts taken from the real world.
Despite the use of magic or other fantastic elements such as dragons, the world is normally presented as one that would function normally, one in which people could actually live, making economic, historical, and ecological sense. It is considered a flaw to have, for example, pirates living in lands far from trade routes, or to assign prices for a night's stay in an inn that would equate to several years' income for a farmer.
Furthermore, the fantastic elements should ideally operate according to self-consistent rules of their own; for example, if wizards' spells sap their strength, a wizard who does not appear to suffer this must either be putting up a facade, or have an alternative explanation. This distinguishes fantasy worlds from surrealism and even from such dream worlds such as are found in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.
@ Attribution from Wikipedia
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
History of St.Patrick's Day
St Patrick is known as the patron saint of Ireland. True, he was not a born Irish. But he has become an integral part of the Irish heritage, mostly through his service across Ireland of the 5th century.
Patrick was born in the later half of the 4th century AD. There are differing views about the exact year and place of his birth. According to one school of opinion, he was born about 390 A.D., while the other school says it is about 373 AD. Again, his birth place is said to be in either Scotland or Roman England. His real name was probably Maewyn Succat. Though Patricius was his Romanicized name, he was later come to be familiar as Patrick.
Patrick was the son of Calpurnius, a Roman-British army officer. He was growing up as naturally as other kids in Britain. However, one day a band of pirates landed in south Wales and kidnapped this boy along with many others. Then they sold him into slavery in Ireland, was there for 6 years, mostly imprisoned. This was when changes came to him. He dreamed of having seen God. Legend says, he was then dictated by God to escape with a getaway ship.
Finally, he did escape and went to Britain. And then to France. There he joined a monastery and studied under St. Germaine, the bishop of Auxerre. He spent around 12 years in training. And when he became a bishop he dreamed that the Irish were calling him back to Ireland to tell them about God. The Confessio, Patrick's spiritual autobiography, is the most important document regarding this. It tells of a dream after his return to Britain, in which one Victorious delivered him a letter, headed "The Voice of the Irish."
So he set out for Ireland with the Pope's blessings. There he converted the Gaelic Irish, who were then mostly Pagans, to Christianity. He was confident in the Lord, he journeyed far and wide, baptizing and confirming with untiring zeal. And, in a diplomatic fashion he brought gifts to a kinglet here and a lawgiver there, but accepted none from any.
Indeed, Patrick was quite successful at winning converts. Through active preaching, he made important converts even among the royal families. And this fact upset the Celtic Druids. Patrick was arrested several times, but escaped each time. For 20 years he had traveled throughout Ireland, establishing monasteries across the country. He also set up schools and churches which would aid him in his conversion. He developed a native clergy, fostered the growth of monasticism, established dioceses, and held church councils.
Patrick's doctrine is considered orthodox and has been interpreted as anti-Pelagian. Although he is not particularly noted as a man of learning, a few of his writings remain extant: his Confession, a reply to his detractors, and several letters. The Lorica ("Breastplate"), a famous hymn attributed to Patrick, may date to a later period. By the end of the 7th century Patrick had become a legendary figure, and the legends have continued to grow since then. There are many legends associated with St Patrick. It is said that he used the three-leafed shamrock to explain the concept of the Trinity; which refers to the combination of Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Hence its strong association with his day and name Legend also has that; Saint Patrick had put the curse of God on venomous snakes in Ireland. And he drove all the snakes into the sea where they drowned.
True, these are mostly legends. But, after some 1500 years, these legends have been inseparably combined with the facts. And together they have helped us know much about the Saint and the spirit behind celebration of the day. Patrick's mission in Ireland lasted for over 20 years. He died on March 17, AD 461. That day has been commemorated as St. Patrick's Day ever since. The day's spirit is to celebrate the universal baptization of Ireland. Though originally a Catholic holy day, St. Patrick's Day has evolved into more of a secular holiday. Or, rather, 'be an Irish Day '. And the Irish has borne it as part of their national tradition in everywhere they populated and prospered. The Catholic feast day for this most loved of Irish saints has become a holiday in celebration of the Irish and Irish culture. The leprechaun, a Celtic fairy, has become entrenched as a chief symbol for this holiday, as is the shamrock, an ancient symbol for the triple goddess Brigit. It is fitting that this holiday should fall at the time of the year when the return of spring begins to seem at hand. But why the icons like the green color, the tri-leafed shamrock, the leprechaun, or the pot of gold and Blarney's stone- all came to be associated with the celebration of this Day? And what do they all mean?
Thursday, March 10, 2011
The Origins of Swan Lake
"Jezioro łabędzie" to historia kobiety zaklętej w łabędzia oraz młodego, dorastającego mężczyzny.
This most revered of classical ballets did not appear in a blaze of glory, and even the exact origins of the ballet are uncertain. The Petipa/Ivanov version of Swan Lake that we consider the "standard" today was in fact created after Tchaikovsky’s death and was greatly altered from the original concept. Many of the features of Swan Lake that we believe to be from the original production (e.g. the White Swan pas de deux) were the result of revisions after the Petipa/Ivanov version. There is surprisingly little that was written down during the creation of the music or choreography. All we have to go on are personal recollections and memoirs that were written a long time after the event and thus subject to some skepticism and much debate among scholars.
It is known that Tchaikovsky was commissioned by Vladimir Petrovich Begichev, the intendant of the Russian Imperial Theatres in Moscow and a friend of Tchaikovsky, to write a score for Swan Lake in May 1875 for the sum of 800 roubles. It was Begichev who authored at least the initial programme of the ballet. He, along with Vasily Fedorovich Geltser, a dancer in the Moscow company, are credited with writing the libretto for the ballet, though many contend that Geltser was probably no more than the copyist. The first published libretto of Swan Lake did not correspond exactly to the musical lay out and was probably produced by a staff writer who based it on observations of rehearsals in progress. It is highly likely that Tchaikovsky had a good deal of influence over the story’s development. Legends of swans were presumably familiar to Tchaikovsky and his artistic friends, who no doubt discussed the idea of the swan as a symbol of womanhood at its purest.
Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake was composed in 1875 as a commission by Vladimir Petrovich Begichev, the intendant of the Russian Imperial Theatres in Moscow. The legend of the Swan-Maiden goes back for centuries, appearing in differing forms in both eastern and western literature. Women who turn into birds and vice versa were popular themes, and the swan was particularly favored due to its grace when swimming in the water. The ancient Greeks considered the swan to the bird closest to the Muses. When Apollo was born at Delos, the event was celebrated by flights of circling swans.
Sweet Mikhail Ivanovich the Rover is a Slav tale that begins with Mikhail the Rover who is about to shoot a swan that warns him "Shoot not, else ill-fortune will doom thee for evermore!" On landing the swan turns into a beautiful maiden. When Mikhail tries to kiss her she warns that she is an infidel. However, if he takes her to the holy city of Kiev, then she might be received by the church and thus free to marry him. So they set out. In a similar South German legend a swan speaks to a forester who is about to kill her. The beautiful maiden in this case says that she would be his if he could keep her existence a secret for one year. He fails and thus looses her.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
History of Monaco
Founded in 1215 as a colony of Genoa, Monaco has been ruled by the House of Grimaldi since 1297, except when under French control from 1789 to 1814. Designated as a protectorate of Sardinia from 1815 until 1860 by the Treaty of Vienna, Monaco's sovereignty was recognized by the Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861. The Prince of Monaco was an absolute ruler until a constitution was promulgated in 1911.
The 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia wrote, "From ancient times until the nineteenth century the port of Monaco was among the most important of the French Mediterranean coast, but now it has lost all commercial significance. Among the notable constructions of the principality are the ancient fortifications, the old ducal palace which contains beautiful frescoes by Annibale Carracci, Orazio Ferrari, and Carlone, the cathedral, built (1884-87) in the Byzantine style, by Prince Albert III, the Casino of Monte Carlo, and the monumental fountain of the public square. Monaco dates from the time of the Phoenicians, who, on the promontory upon which the old town is built, erected a temple to the god Melkarth, called Monoicos, solitary, that is, not connected with the cult of Ashtoreth; whence the town derived its name, which is Moneque, in Provencal.
In the early Middle Ages the neighbouring lords often contended with each other for the possession of this important port, which later was occupied by the Saracens; it was taken from them in the tenth century by Count Grimaldi, in whose family the principality remains to this day. Formerly, it comprised Mentone and Roquebrune. The Grimaldis often had to defend themselves against Spanish or Genoese fleets; the most famous blockade of the town was that of 1506, which failed. In 1619 Prince Honoratus II, with the assistance of the French, drove the Spaniards from Monaco, and since that time the principality has been under the protection of France. During the Revolution, Monaco was annexed to France, but the principality was re-established in 1814. A revolution broke out in 1848 against the misgovernment of Prince Honoratus V, who lost Mentone and Roquebrune, these cities declaring themselves free republics, and (1860) voting for their annexation to France."
In July 1918, a treaty was signed providing for limited French protection over Monaco. The treaty, formally noted in the Treaty of Versailles, established that Monegasque policy would be aligned with French political, military, and economic interests. Prince Rainier III, acceded to the throne following the death of his grandfather, Prince Louis II, in 1949. The current ruler, Prince Albert, was born in 1958 and acceded to the Throne upon the death of his father in April 2005. A new constitution, proclaimed in 1962, abolished capital punishment, provided for female suffrage, and established a Supreme Court to guarantee fundamental liberties. In 1993, Monaco became an official member of the United Nations with full voting rights. The Principality of Monaco is a sovereign and independent state, linked closely to France by the Treaty of July 1918, which was formally noted in Article 436 of the Treaty of Versailles of 1919.
The foreign policy of Monaco is one illustration of this accord: France has agreed to defend the independence and sovereignty of Monaco, while the Monegasque Government has agreed to exercise its sovereign rights in conformity with French interests. Since then, the relations between the sovereign states of France and Monaco have been further defined in the Treaty of 1945 and the Agreement of 1963. Monaco is renegotiating its treaty with France. The revised treaty is expected to enter into force in 2004. It is reported that the terms of the new treaty would assist Monaco in joining the Council of Europe as a full member, and would: 1. Upgrade France's representation in Monaco from Consulate General to that of an embassy; 2. Permit, for the first time, other countries to accredit ambassadors to Monaco; and 3. Formally recognize the succession scheme set out in the 1962 Constitution, which extends eligibility to the Prince's daughters and other family members.
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