Great sculptors and painters of their time have created an architectural treasure, whose masterly opulence bears witness to their genius to this day. Jan Preisler, Mikoláš Aleš, Max Švabinský, František Ženíšek, Ladislav Šaloun, Josef Mařatka, Josef Václav Myslbek or Alfons Mucha – names difficult to pronounce – were but a small fraction within the remarkable group of skillful artists involved in building and decorating Obecní dům – the Municipal House located right in the heart of Prague. Since its inauguration in January of 1912, the extraordinary building has served as a splendid stage for atmospheric concerts, grand festive balls and fancy fashion shows and is justly listed a national heritage site.
Its two protagonists – the Smetana Hall and the restaurant Francouzská – alone are well worth the trip to Prague, from whichever corner of the globe it may have to commence.
Reading time: about 2 minutes
Whenever there is reason to celebrate on a festive scale, a dramatic sound scape must not be missing. Worldwide, solemn ceremonies are carried by Beethoven’s „Ode to Joy“ (Ode an die Freude), being played by enthusiastic orchestras and sung by effervescent choirs in front of a mesmerised audience. Since its debut in Vienna in 1824, the compassionate tune and emotional lyrics manifested themselves as the epitome of the brotherhood of man.
Reading time: about 4 minutes
Most of the time, satisfying one’s cultural hunger can easily be accomplished by simply walking into a museum. Theoretically. Yet, the Museo Subacuático de Arte, located in different sites on the map of Mexico, demands a little more effort than that – but surely does offer an additional thrill: its life-size exhibits are mounted to the seabed and thus best inspected in the sporty scuba-diving or snorkeling mode. Accelerated heartbeat assured. Those who would rather keep their noses above sea-level, are invited to explore the arcane population of underwater sculptures conveniently aboard a glass-bottomed boat, with or without a preceding jungle tour.
Reading time: about 2 minutes
When shapely legs are swung high during the meticulously rehearsed Swan Lake performance, they are not made of flesh and blood. Nor, in fact, are any of the lissome corporal parts belonging to the remarkable cast exerting themselves on the miniature stage of the Lindau Marionette Opera (House): they are puppets on strings choreographed and directed with an expertise and finesse that leaves every audience open-mouthed with bafflement. And that doesn’t just account for the ballet troupe bobbing their tutus in tune with Tchaikovsky’s legendary piece of distinguished classical music: there’s Mozart, Verdi, Rossini, Strauss, Bizet and Humperdinck on the programme as well.
Yet, how is it accomplished that rigid images sculpted from wood seem to display credible emotions? Carving features adaptable enough to augment the illusion of changing mien is the craftsmanship their creators are excelling at.
Reading time: about 3 minutes
„One of the most influential approaches in personality science is known as trait psychology, and it aligns you along five dimensions which are normally distributed, and that describe universally held aspects of difference between people. They spell out the acronym OCEAN. So, ‘O’ stands for ‘open to experience’ versus those who are more closed. ‘C’ stands for conscientiousness’ in contrast to those with a more lackadaisical approach to life. ‘E’ — ‘extroversion’ in contrast to more introverted people. ‘A’ — ‘agreeable individuals’ in contrast to those decidedly not agreeable. And ‘N’ — ‘neurotic individuals’ in contrast to those who are more stable.“
Brian Little’s intriguing talk is highly entertaining – and it reminds us that we cannot lick the outside of our own elbow. :-)
Reading time: about 1 minute