Mirrors are not more silent
nor the creeping dawn more secretive;
in the moonlight, you are that panther
we catch sight of from afar.
By the inexplicable workings of a divine law,
we look for you in vain;
More remote, even, than the Ganges or the setting sun,
yours is the solitude, yours the secret.
Your haunch allows the lingering
caress of my hand. You have accepted,
since that long forgotten past,
the love of the distrustful hand.
You belong to another time. You are lord
of a place bounded like a dream.
England, known as the country of tea consumers, increased the influence of coffee among the population since the second half of XVII century.
The first coffeehouse in England was set up in Oxford in 1652 by a Jewish man named Jacob at the Angel in the parish of St Peter in the East in a building now known as "The Grand Cafe".
Oxford's Queen's Lane Coffee House, established in 1654, is also still in existence today. The first coffeehouse in London was opened in 1652 in St. Michael's Alley, Cornhill. The proprietor was Pasquale Rosée, the servant of a trader in Turkish goods named Daniel Edwards, who imported the coffee and assisted Rosée in setting up the establishment in St Michael's Alley, Cornhill.
After a quarter of a century from the opening of the first coffee shop, London counted ever 300 places. To attract more customers in the first public place they diffused a leaflet that is currently exposed in the British Museum.
The success of coffee in England was due to the fact that it helped fighting the problem of alcoholism, which was very diffused in the English society around the second half of the seventeenth century. The propaganda against alcohol handled by the doctors marked the diseases caused by the abuse of high gradation drinks facilitated the
success of coffee and its consumption reduced remarkably the vice of drunkenness. Anyway in this country coffee had some periods of uncertainty. In fact, due to the growing popularity of the new public places, women felt neglected by their men that often used to meet in the coffee-shops. For this reason in 1674 they diffused a petition against the drink. As reply to this action, men printed a document aimed to confute those calumnious insinuations.
More drastic effects, even if for a short time, were caused by a real measure against coffee.
King Charles II of England, thinking that coffee-shops were places where people could organize subversive demonstrations, in
December of 1675, ordered the closure of the shops. This action raised a discontent among the population and the king was forced to revoke it after one week. These two episodes remarked a defeat of the coffee enemies and the success of individual freedom of the citizens and a new input to appreciate the drink in the coffee-shops.
Coffee appeared in Europe during the second half of the seventeenth century: its official introduction might be dated in the year of defeat and expulsion of the Turks who were besieging the city of Vienna. After the expulsion of the Ottomans, in their camps some bags full of strange dark beans were found. No one had ever seen those beans and no one knew how to use them. But luckily there was Mr. Kulczycki; he was a western Ukrainian nobleman of Orthodox faith, merchant, spy, diplomat and soldier, and considered a hero by the people of Vienna for his actions at the 1683 Battle of Vienna . He had lived for long time in Turkey, so he knew what to do with the odd beans, he took them and opened a Coffee Shop where a black and bitter drink was served to the Viennese. At the beginning this drink was not appreciated but Mr. Kulczycki didn't resign. He mixed coffee with honey and milk, obtaining a drink that was very similar to our current cappuccino. The success was immediate. This was the first triumph for coffee in the western world.
In the second half of XVI century coffee crossed the east borders to approach Europe: during the period of the great tall-ships sailing over the Mediterranean Sea, coffee was introduced in the main countries of the continent.
The merit for having introduced coffee in Italy, in Venice, must be assigned to the Paduan Prospero Alpino, well-known botanist and doctor, who brought some bags from East.
The Venetians were the first who learned to appreciate the drink. Anyway, at the beginning the drink was very expensive and only the rich people could afford to buy it, because it was sold in the chemist’s shops.
After the first Coffee Shop, so many other shops opened in Venice that the owner of the first Coffee Shop was forced, in order to fight the competitors, to publish a booklet exalting the healthy properties of his product. It was 1716 and this booklet can be considered as the first advertising document of a Coffee Shop.
In 1763 Venice counted 218 shops. In a short time coffee becomes a highly appreciated product, often a sign of friendship and love: in Venice, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, wooers and lovers took the habit to send their favourites some trays full of chocolate and coffee as expression of love.
Also in Italy, as for other countries, the introduction of coffe clashed with the opinion of some exponents of the Church, so that some
Christian fanatics instigated Pope Clement VIII to prohibit the "devil drink" to the believers. But the Pope, once tasted a cup, did not prohibit its use. Thanks to the papal approval and benediction,coffee
multiplied its success.
Coffee was appreciated by the culture men of eighteenth century who called it "intellectual drink". Coffee was interesting not only for its characteristic of being a "refreshment infusion", but also for its curative properties (a leaflet printed in Milan in 1801 stated the importance attributed to coffee by some doctors who described it
as a good medicine).
This is just a strictly personal evaluation, based on my individual tastes and in the way I perceive certain visual emotions.
So once I started with this disclaimer, now I feel free to say that Josef Koudelka is the greatest living
Koudelka is Czech, he was born in a small Moravian village, and then he moved to Prague, where, in 1968,
he took amazing photos during the Soviet invasion after the short period of the Prague spring.
He could not sign his photos with his name, for obvious political reasons after the repression, but those photos were published in many international newspapers and magazines as the work of “anonymous photographer of Prague” and in 1969 he won the Capa’s award in New York.
He was worried to be recognized in his country and he found the way to leave the country with an excuse and moved to France, like many other Czech intellectuals during that gloomy and dark period ( but this is, obviously another story).
He would have come back to his country only after twenty years, after the velvet revolution which marked the end of Communist regime in Czechoslovakia.
At very beginning of his “exile” Josef Koudelka was invited to an important photographic exhibition in London, organized by Cornell Capa and at the end of the evening he was asked to join all the other photographers for a dinner in a rather formal restaurant.
At the door of the restaurant he was stopped by the maître, because he didn’t wear any tie, someone manage to lend him one, but the supercilious and formal maître was not satisfied yet, because he considered that the style of the clothes Koudelka wore was totally inadequate to the high standard of the restaurant, so the poor Czech was left alone on the sidewalk, the heaven doors were apparently closed for him…
Then one of the photographers, who were already sitting at the smart table in the luxurious restaurant, realized what was happening, he got up and asked the maître what the matter was and once he received the embarrassed justification, he looked at the maître wearing an impeccable tuxedo and told him:
“He – and pointed and the very shy Koudelka out of the glass door - is dressed much better than you, who looks like a penguin clown, if he cannot come in, we all will join him out!”
All the photographers followed his example and in a spontaneous fit of solidarity, they all left the pompous restaurant and ended having dinner all together with Koudelka in a very easy-going little Greek tavern.
The photographer who had reacted this way was Henri Cartier-Bresson.
One year later, in Paris, Koudolka went to visit him to show him his photos, he was a bit worried, because he knew Cartier-Bresson didn’t like wide angle, while most of his photos were taken with wide-angle, to take advantage of the little light he had in particular circumstances.
But the master immediately liked the work of the Czech photographer, and asked him for two photos as present and hung them up on a wall of his home.
I don’t dare to post any photos of Koudelka, here while I usually post my average pictures, but you can easily find his photos on the net, if you don’t know them yet.
I chose only this symbolic one, because it’s one of the two photos Cartier-Bresson asked Koudelka to give him as present.
It’s a photo of 1963, taken in Slovakia, the melancholy candid portrait of a young man in handcuffs.
Charles Baudelaire, great French poet and one of the most important innovators in French literature, was an unhappy and melancholy dandy, with erratic interests. He ran a quite dissolute and disorderly life.
When he was only 20 his stepfather sent him on a voyage to India thinking to stop his dissolute habits, which was a totally bizarre decision, since a young and emotional dandy in India would have probably found even more reasons to experiment dissolute emotions in exotics environments.
That shows how often adults, when they want to be strict to correct youngsters’ faults get the opposite results.
The following year, in France again, young Baudelaire kept on spending his nights in taverns and started writing some of the poems of his “ Les Fleurs du Mal”, a sublime collection of poems, inspired by decadence and
Obviously he was prosecuted and accused of insult to public decency. As a consequence of this prosecution,
Baudelaire was fined 300 francs. Six poems from the work were suppressed and the ban on their publication was not lifted in France until 1949.
“Les Fleurs du Mal” ( The Flowers of Evil) was published in 1857 and immediately provoked problems to Baudelaire.
In 1856 Gustave Flaubert published his extraordinary masterpiece the novel “ Madame Bovary” and it was attacked for obscenity.
A trial was held in January 1857 and Flaubert was acquitted.
Those were the times…
Charles Baudelaire loved only two women in his life, even though he had many relationships and affairs: his mother and Jeanne Duval, a mysterious Haitian Creole actress, who was his mistress for nearly 20 years.
Edouard Manet the famous French impressionist painter, who was a friend of Baudelaire, painted a portrait of his creole lover Jeanne.
Baudelaire died at the age of 46 after a massive stroke and consequent paralysis and aphasia. In spite of his incapacity of expressing his will, he received the last rites of Catholic Church.
After his death his beloved mother recalled: "Oh, what grief! If Charles had let himself be guided by his stepfather, his career would have been very different... He would not have left a name in literature, it is true, but we should have been happier, all three of us".
Baudelaire was one of the best French translators of Edgar Allan Poe, whom he admired immensely.
They had many things in common in their tormented personalities.
Here is the end of the preface of “Les Fleurs du mal”
There are cat people and dog people, as everybody knows, and it’s a waste of time to try to come to an agreement about their different preferences.
There are few topics about which people very rarely change their mind and their liking for either cats or dogs is one of them.
Someone, for sure a cat lover, once said that cat people are different, to the extent that they generally are not conformists. How could they be, with a cat running their lives?
It’s practically impossible to train a cat to come or sit, while a dog learns that behaviour quite easily. Does it mean that dogs are more
Cats learn to use litter tray with almost no training, while for a small dog to do the same takes more
persistence than the majority of owners can invest.
Does it means that cats are cleaner a more proper than dogs?
Of course not, simply they are different kinds of animals and I do think we should stop to be victim of Walt Disney’s syndrome, which consists in attributing to animals human feelings and features.
Dogs are social, gregarious animals genetically happy to live in packs and pet dogs identify their owners as the leaders of their pack, they are more attached to the group than to the territory.
Cats, on the opposite, are not gregarious and they don’t develop any pack structure where leadership has a fundamental role.
Cats are solitary, independent animals, they hunt alone and they are extremely territorial.
Dogs can learn from punishments, cats don’t learn from punishment, because they simply avoid the source of a punishment, as their presumed owners (cats cannot have owners in reality).
I have read somewhere a funny and a little paradoxical definition of the difference between cats and dogs, which, like all paradoxes reflects reality quite well.
"My dog looks at all the things I provide for him and says: "You must be God.
My cat looks at all the things I provide for him and says: “I must be God."
Blue is a cold colour, it’s the colour of ice, the colour of winter, but it’s also the colour of the sea and
of clear sky.
It has a positive effect on all people who are not fond of exaggerations of summer.
Blue is not banal it comes out of the blue, once in a blue moon and is really blue ribbon.
The song I chose to “decorate” this lazy post is voluntarily kitsch, out of time, old fashioned at the point to sound nicely ironical.
It suits blue colours….
"All theory, dear friend, is gray, but the golden tree of life
springs ever green."
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ~
Words are important and, exactly like with everything which is really important, it’s a good playing also with them... a little.
A palindrome is a word or phrase or a sequence of numbers which reads the same in both directions.
The word palindrome is derived from the Greek palíndromos, meaning running back again (palín = AGAIN + drom, drameîn = RUN).
A palindrome phrase might drive us often to a world of whimsical surrealism.
There are palindromes in all languages.
Today we might smile with a few ones in English.
Ma is a nun, as I am.
Madam, in Eden I'm Adam
A man, a plan, a cat, a canal: Panama.
Do geese see God?