Bardiness

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Dodo

dodoThe Dodo, an ungainly flightless bird, is extinct. “As dead as a dodo” is a phrase synonymous with finality. Yet in truth it also represents mankind’s ignorance, exploitation, and failure to recognise natural and delicate balances of ecology and habitat.

Today we can frown upon those early seafarers who during the course of trade and exploration systematically devastated indigenous wildlife on their travels. The Dodo was just one of many creatures which provided easy meat. Just as the giant tortoises of the Galapagos Islands fell easy prey to hungry jack-tar and matelote – the rough sailors who had suffered long sea journeys with maggot ridden food, and succumbed easily to sickness.

Charles Darwin surmised, through his theory of evolution and natural selection, that species will invariably lose their original design if no predators exist to threaten them.

Hence why does a bird need wings if it doesn’t need to fly? All creatures, having evolved over millions of years, will adapt to their surroundings. If the Dodo felt threatened in its environment, it would not have lost its wings.

The Dodo, endemic to the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, was a bird over three feet tall, and nested on the ground, which is indicative of it’s perceived security. It would never know that a ruthless predator would pounce one day. These predators came as passing seafarers and found easy pickings. Sailors tell tales, and the news of their experiences would soon spread.

Early explorers and colonists would not have considered the long term environmental impact of their enterprise. Nor would they have seen that introducing domesticated animals like cats and pigs to their new found land would have such a detrimental impact.

The Dodo, having never encountered a cat before, would be at a loss to defend itself. Having no wings was a significant drawback. Similarly, livestock required land, and as harmless as a pig may appear, they were much more dominant in foraging than the humble dodo which survived on fruit and lived in harmony with the tambalacoque tree.

Together with rats which were always unwelcome stowaways, and the deforestation of land to clear areas for human habitation, the Dodo’s peaceful and harmless existence was severely under threat.

Maritime exploration is laced with stories about sightings of strange creatures on land or at sea. The dodo was first sighted during the mid 17th Century in Mauritius by Dutch sailors. Back then conservation and protection would have been as remote a concept as satellite navigation.

Whilst modern man may wring his hands and lament about the extinction of a species, everything must be viewed in the historical context of the times. The dodo is dead, but not forgotten. It’s a permanent reminder – a symbol – that man is the custodian of Earth’s flora and fauna. This is the legacy of the Dodo.

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June 16, 2015 Posted by | Conservation, Culture, Education, History, Travel | , | 3 Comments

Edith Piaf

“The Little Sparrow was the epitome of the classic French chanson: supercharged, even melodramatic, and emotionally extracting every last drop of sentiment from a lyric.”

The singer gained popularity as she toured France, her petite frame concealing an energy which would drive her to the pinnacle of her profession, singing in cabarets and vaudeville theatres and, from 1936, performing on radio and recordings.

Her great fame came after World War II, with her song “Le Vie en Rose” becoming an international standard.

During World War II she worked with the French Resistance by using her popularity to have herself photographed with French prisoners that she had performed for. These photos were then used to make identity papers that would be smuggled back to the prisoners during her return engagements.

Born Edith Gassion on December 19, 1915, in Ménilmontant, a poor district of Paris, legend has it she was born under a street light on the corner of the Rue de Belleville, with two policeman in attendance.

A difficult and exploited childhood led eventually to her being found singing on a street corner in the Pigalle area in 1935 by Louis Leplée, a cabaret owner. Leplée took the young singer under his wing and renamed her “La Môme Piaf” (which in Parisian slang translates roughly as “the little sparrow”.]

The voice of Edith Piaf carries with it perhaps more national identity than that of any other recorded artist in the world. Tiny, frail, and tragic in her life, Piaf brought French identity to the rest of the world in a way that was understandable to all.

Her voice was strong, bold, and passionate, even as she grew more frail and  infirm.

When she died on October 11th, 1963 the news heralded a nationwide outpouring of grief, two million people jammed the streets of Paris, stopping traffic to watch her funeral procession.

Her grave at Père-Lachaise has become a shrine for thousands of visitors every year, and her music continues to stir the heartstrings with vibrant, passionate and yet vulnerable emotions.

Edith Piaf was one of the most popular female singers of all time, with a unique voice and talent that conquered the hearts of admirers around the world.

Her life story was truly remarkable: from her birth in 1915 on a policeman’s cape, under gaslight, to her extraordinary love affairs and heart-breaking tragedies, she was a true artist that lived to sing.

 

June 16, 2015 Posted by | Arts, Culture, Europe, General, History, Music | , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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