Le Sacre du Printemps

Today, 29-5-2013, it is exactly 100 years ago that in Paris the world premiere took place of Le Sacre du Printemps (the Rite of Spring), a ballet written by the young Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. This first performance caused a scandal, the fashionable Parisian audience almost rioted and made it nearly impossible for the dancers to hear the music. Here is a report in the New York Times, a week later

Now the “Sacre” is widely considered as one of the most influential musical works of the 20th century.

The ballet has as subtitle: “Pictures of Pagan Russia in Two Parts“. The first part, named  L’Adoration de la Terre (Adoration of the Earth), is about the celebration of spring. In the second part, “Le Sacrifice (The Sacrifice)”, one girl is selected by fate as the one who will be sacrificed.  In a dramatic finale she dances herself to death.

To give an impression of this first performance, here is a  photo of the dancers in the 1913 premiere. The choreography was by the famous dancer Vaslav Nijinsky.


A few years ago an attempt has been made to recreate the original Nijinsky choreography. Even after hundred years it is easy to understand the shock this kind of dancing must have given to an audience used to classical ballet.

Many modern performances are nowadays available on YouTube, for example by Pierre Boulez (in a circus with horses!) and Maurice Bejart (very “naked”). Personally I find the performance by Pina Bausch with the Wuppertal Dance Theater the most impressive. I have been fortunate that I could attend both concerts she gave in Amsterdam, in 1982 and in 1995. The stage was covered with brown “earth” and the primitive, erotic vitality of the dancers was fascinating. Here you see them after the concert. The girl in red is the sacrifice.


Here is a video of the last part of the Sacre du Printemps in the choreography of Pina Bausch, where the selected girl dances herself to death. Note how the male dancer lies down after about two minutes on his back. Then the girl starts dancing ecstatically. Is the man waiting for the girl? Watch this short clip until the end to find out.

Although originally created as a musical ballet, nowadays the Sacre du Printemps is often performed without ballet. The most impressive orchestral performance is for me the one conducted by Jaap van Zweden in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. But you can find several more on YouTube.

What would life be without music….:-)?


About five years ago, I have made two trips with my Kiara (walking) and Gang of Four (birding) friends. Searching my archive for something else, I came across the pictures taken during these trips.

Nostalgia! Here are two trips down memory lane..:-)

The first one was on 8-5-2008. A few months earlier I had discovered a nice restaurant in Ulu Yam, so I wanted to bring my friends there and offer them lunch. A Dutch treat, so to speak..:-). The route to Ulu Yam passes the Batu reservoir, where we took a picture of the group.

Batu reservoir

Here are some pictures of the trip. We stopped for a while at the Sg Tua waterfall and then continued to the WK restaurant. Their menu is limited but the quality is good and it is VFM (Value For Money). After the lunch we visited the Buddhist Monastery and Temple near Ulu Yam. It is the Sakya school of (Tibetan) Buddhism that is followed here.

The second trip was a few months later, on 4-9-2008, to the Chiling waterfall. This is one of the most popular waterfalls in Malaysia, an interesting adventure because you have to cross the river several times before you arrive at the fall. During our trip the water level was high, resulting in a strong current, as you can see in this picture

Chiling river

Because of the high water level, crossing was not that easy, but helping each other we managed.

Not so easy

Just before you reach the fall, some scrambling is needed. Also here our fellowship made it easy.

Helping each other

This is the impressive Chiling waterfall.

Chiling Fall

And here is the proof that we have been there. Still so “young” and adventurous…:-)

Kiara Bunch

More pictures in the gallery below. Our group was a mixed one, a few birders stayed behind and took pictures, the others followed me to the waterfall. We had big fun at the fall, before we walked back. Lunch was again at the WK restaurant.

Here are two videos. Quality is not very good, but you can feel the fellowship and the fun we had.

Ulu Rening adventure

The last waterfall I visited was the Upper Tebing Tinggi waterfall in Perak, see A Dream Come True , end of March. That is a long time ago for a waterfall addict like me, I was really craving for a waterfall. Siang Hui had given me info about a waterfall near Ulu Rening, quite remote and not known to many people. A perfect destination for a day trip.

After our usual breakfast in a mamak restaurant, we (Aric, Rani, Edwin and I) drove to Batang Kali, where we bought nasi lemak for our lunch. Siang Hui had provided me with GPS-data and that was very helpful. The beginning of the trail was very clear, later it became  more vague, but no problem for experienced jungle trekkers like Rani and Edwin

It took us about two hours to reach the waterfall, about 4.5 km from where we had parked our car. At the end we had to cross the river a few times. The weather was perfect.

.Ulu Rening

The waterfall was a nice surprise, because of the magnificent, very deep pool with crystal-clear water. In the picture you see the waterfall at the back, the water thundering down in a narrow gorge. To get there you have to swim and then scramble up the rocks to the right. Here, in a picture taken by Aric, you see Rani and Edwin trying to get closer to the waterfall in the background.

Ulu Rening fall

We spent a full two hours at the waterfall, having our lunch, making coffee, enjoying the peaceful surroundings. And of course playing with the water..:-) Before reaching the pool, the water went down one last step over smooth rocks, so you could slide down.Big fun!

Sliding down

As you can see, the water was very turbulent, not without danger as I experienced the second time I slid down. I was pulled down and back by the turbulence (see video) but I did not panic and managed to swim out. Scary moment for my friends, who were already prepared to come to  my rescue! That is why the video stops so suddenly..:-)

Here are more pictures of this wonderful trip.

We were hungry when we came out and Edwin suggested a Thai shop near Serendah. Ky IKEA friends had mentioned this shop a few times, but I had never been there. You must really know where it is, otherwise you will overlook it…:-)  We had nice Tom Yam noodles, Fried chicken, and Lok Mei (drink) for RM 41. A place to remember.
Here are two more video clips. The first one shows daredevils Rani and Edwin, conquering the current, so that Aric could take a picture (he is shouting “don’t move” to them, because the picture shown above is actually a HDR composite of three pictures)

And in this video Aric shows how to go down the slide without being caught in the turbulence…:-)

Chatting with my sister in the Netherlands after I came back home, I wondered if I was not getting too old for this kind of playing around.She sent me this cartoon.


The translation of the Dutch text is:

We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.

Thanks, sis…:-)!

Fibonacci (part 2)

In part 1 we have seen that the Fibonacci series can be generated by a simple rule: start with 1, 1 then adding the last two numbers of the series gives the next one

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987, 1597, 2584, 4181, 6765 ...

When you take the ratio of two consecutive Fibonacci numbers, this ratio approaches the Golden Ratio φ (phi) = 1.61803.. as you proceed in the series. And we have seen the close relation between the Fibonacci numbers and the Golden Spiral. Take note in the picture below of the rectangle containing the spiral. The ratio between width and height is φ. You will not be surprised that it is called the Golden Rectangle..:-)

Golden spiral

Has all or any of this a relation with the world around us? It is said that the Golden Rectangle is pleasing to the eye and that therefore many paintings have that format. It is said that the Parthenon temple in Athens was designed with φ in mind. There are people who believe that φ ( like π ) can be found in the dimensions of the  Pyramid of Cheops. And that the spiral arms of galaxies are Golden Spirals.

parthenonMona Lisagalaxy


The above statements are unfounded (the Parthenon) , false (painters had no preference for the Golden Rectangle) or only partly true (spiral arms of galaxies are logarithmic, but in general not golden). People who know me, will not be surprised that I am a skeptic..:-). When you are a believer, you will be pleased with the Golden Number website, maintained by “Phi Guy:” who introduces himself with “The inspiration for the site came as a result of coming to faith in God through Jesus Christ.” The guy must have taken the alternative name for φ (Divine Proportion) very literally.

This site is more to my liking: The Myth That Will Not Go Away

Often in a discussion about the Golden Spiral, the Nautilus shell is mentioned. Here it is,  a beautiful example of a logarithmic spiral in nature. But is a Golden Spiral, does it grow with a factor 1.618 each quarter turn? The answer is negative. The golden spiral is the blue line. It is clear that it grows faster than the Nautilus! The average growth factor for a Nautilus is ~ 1.33.

Nautilus with golden spiral

Many references to Fibonacci and the Golden Ratio in  the world around us, are incorrect.

Here is one more, funny example. Recently I found on FB a picture of Fibonacci Pigeons. The location of the pigeons has been indicated with yellow arrows. Nice how the distance between the pigeons increases from left to right. But is it Fibonacci?


The answer is again negative. In the upper part of the picture I have indicated the Fibonacci positions. Compare the regular increase in spacing with the very irregular spacing of the yellow arrows!

Ok, time to become more positive…:-) Several painters (Dali, Seurat) were intrigued by Fibonacci numbers and the Golden Ratio. One 20th century artist, Mario Merz, was fascinated by it and you can find references in many of his works. Here are a few.

TablesMario MerzSpiral



But the most beautiful examples come from nature, from the Kingdom of Plants.

Here is a sunflower. What we call the flower is actually a combination of hundreds of small flowers (florets) surrounded by petals. As you see the florets are arranged in two series of spirals, starting from the center. One series is curving clockwise (red), the other one anticlockwise (blue). Can you count the number of blue spirals and red spirals?


The answer is : 55 red spirals and 34 blue ones. Two Fibonacci numbers!

Here is a pine cone, that I found in the forest a couple of years ago. Also here the scales form  two series of spirals. I counted how many and found 13 green ones and 8 yellow ones. Again two Fibonacci numbers! Isn’t it amazing? Try it yourself with a pineapple..:-)

pine cone

Is this Intelligent design? The Divine Proportion in action? The explanation is very interesting: by arranging the florets/scales this way, the available space is used the most efficiently. The idea is that new flowers/seeds are not formed in line with the old one, but rotated. If we express this rotation as part of a full turn (360 degrees), then a rotation of 0.5 would mean that each new cell is rotated 180 degrees. A rotation of 0.25 gives a rotation of 90 degrees, etc. Here are a few examples for various rotations. As you see, the result depends strongly on the chosen rotation value. For a value of 1.610, the space is used already quite efficiently.


So, let us try 1.6180, the golden ratio. We see an almost perfect filling of the space. Notice the two series of spirals and count the number in each series and you will find 13 and 21 !


The pictures above have been created with a beautiful app, which can be found on the website Math Is Fun . Have a look, and try out other values of the rotation. You will also find there an explanation why φ is so special.

Much more can be said about the Fibonacci numbers and the Golden Ratio. A Google search gives numerous hits. Also a book has been published: The Golden Ratio: The Story of PHI, the World’s Most Astonishing Number

Fibonacci (part 1)

Let me start with a rabbit tale..:-)


Once upon a time a pair of rabbits was born. One month later they were mature and mated. After a pregnancy of 1 month, a new pair of rabbits was born (and being rabbits, the parents mated again immediately). In this tale rabbits have eternal life and keep mating. The question is, how does the number of rabbit pairs grow with time?

Let us do some simple arithmetic (if you are afraid of numbers, skip this paragraph)

  1. At the start there is 1 pair, just born. We call it pair A
  2. After 1 month this pair A is mature and mates, so still 1 pair
  3. After two months, pair A delivers a new pair B, so we have now 2 pairs
  4. After three months pair A delivers again a new pair C, pair B has matured and mated, so 3 pairs
  5. After four months pair A delivers pair D, pair C has matured and mates, but now also pair B produces pair E, so totally 5 pairs
  6. After five months pair A delivers pair F, pair C delivers pair G, pair B delivers pair H, totally 8 pairs of rabbits.

Complicated..:-)?  Maybe the graph below will help. Red vertical lines show mating (M), yellow diagonal ones indicate gestation and delivery  (N), black vertical ones are stable (each month producing a new pair)


So the sequence gives (in rabbit pairs) 1,1,2,3,5,8… can you guess how it continues?

Here is the answer, each number is the sum of the two preceding ones! 2+3=5, 3+5=8, so the next term should be 5+8=13, then 8+13=21, 13+21=34. A very simple rule..:-)

Still you may wonder, who came with such a funny story. Well, that was Fibonacci, an Italian mathematician, living from c. 1170 – c. 1250.


The numbers are now called Fibonacci numbers:

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987, 1597, 2584, 4181, 6765 ...

This Fibonacci series has several remarkable properties. To explain one of them, I first have to introduce the Golden Ratio, also known as the Divine Proportion!

Hm, a little bit more mathematics (skip it if you are afraid of formulas). We have to go back to the old Greek philosophers. They were fascinated with numbers and ratios between numbers. You you may remember the Pythagorean triangles from your school days! Here is one of the problems they were interested in. Suppose you have a stick you like to divide in two parts a and b in such a way that the the ratio (a + b) / a is the same as the ratio a/b


Hm, let’s try. We have a stick of 100 cm long and we divide it in a =50 cm and b = 50 cm. Then (50+50)/50 = 2 and 50/50 = 1. Not at all the same. Next we try a = 60 and b = 40. This results in (60+40)/60 = 1.6666.. and 60/40 = 1.500. Not yet equal. Next a =62 and b =38. Result: (62+38)/62 = 1.6129.. and 62/38 = 1.6315.. Getting closer! Refining this, we finally find a division of a = 61.8034.. and=38.1966.. with a common ratio of 1.6180..  The Greek mathematicians named this ratio the Golden Ratio with  φ (phi) as its symbol.

Back to our Fibonacci numbers. Let us take the ratio of two consecutive numbers. We start with 1/1 = 1, then 2/1 = 2, 3/2 = 1.5, 5/3 = 1.666, 8/5 = 1.6, 13/8 = 1.625, 21/13 = 1.615, 34/21 = 1.6190, 55/34 = 1.6176, 89/55 = 1.6182, 144/89 = 1.6180 etc

Surprise! The Fibonacci numbers and the Golden Ratio are related!

The ratio of two consecutive Fibonacci numbers approaches the Golden Ratio !

For the second remarkable property we will visualise the Fibonacci numbers in two dimensions, as squares. We add each square so that the result will be a rectangle. The last rectangle in the picture below measures 13 by 8, ratio 13/8 = 1.625, already close to the Golden Ratio..:-)


Next step, in each square we draw a quarter-circle. This is the result, we get a beautiful spiral, the Golden Spiral!

golden spiral

Not surprisingly, artists throughout the ages have been fascinated by Fibonacci numbers and the Golden Ratio. And in nature we come across many examples of Golden Spirals.

But that will be the topic of a separate post.

Note for readers with a mathematical background. The spiral above is an approximation of the Golden Spiral. And the Golden Ratio can be easily calculated.

golden ratio

Finally: the Golden Spiral is a special case of a logarithmic spiral, with a growth factor of φ for every 90 degrees of rotation.

GE13: the results

Just a short post.

It was an exciting day, yesterday, with a slightly disappointing outcome: BN will remain in power, although with a reduced majority. Here are the results of the GE13 election, together with the results of the 2004 and 2008 elections

Results GE13

In my last post I explained the malapportionment and the gerrymandering, resulting in an unbalance between the percentage of votes and the percentage of seats in Parliament. In G13 this has led to a dramatic result. BN still has a majority in seats, but, for the first time in many decades, it has lost in the popular vote! The government received 48.7 % of the votes, the opposition 51.3%  (Data taken from the Malaysian Insider)

I joined Aric’s family to the polling station. Of course we first had a nice breakfast (dim sum).

Dim sum breakfast

The voting takes place in schools, same as  in the Netherlands. It was well organised, with different queues for the various age groups. I was not allowed to enter the school grounds, but I did not have to wait  long, before the family came out again.For the first time “indelible” ink was used to make it impossible to vote twice! Of course everybody tried to test how indelible the ink was. Not very, it seems, just use toothpaste or grass or chlorox..:-)

Indelible inkalmost Malaysian

So, what will happen now? Opposition leader Anwar is protesting that there have been many irregularities. Yesterday, many video clips were circulating on the Internet about “foreign” voters, who had supposedly been given IC cards by BN. A good thing is that there have hardly been any clashes after the results came out, yesterday evening.

So probably no Ubah this time…:-(

It will be interesting to see if these GE13 results will weaken the position of PM Najib. The former PM, Badawi, resigned after the disastrous results of the 2008 election. The expectation was that Najib would at least win back some of the losses. But the results of these elections are worse for BN! Ok, the opposition lost Kedah, but strengthened its position in Penang and Selangor.


In my last post I mentioned that tomorrow the 13th General Elections will be held in Malasysia. Some of my Dutch friends asked me for more information about these elections and why everybody here is so excited/anxious/worried about the outcome.

So this post is meant primarily for my non-Malaysian followers, but of course I hope that my Malaysian friends will also read it. It is now Election’s Eve, so I must publish it fast, hopefully without mistakes…:-)

The present government is formed by BN (Barisan Nasional = National Front). BN is a racially based coalition of basically three parties, UMNO (Malay), MCA (Chinese) and MIC (Indian). BN (and its predecessor Alliance) has been in power from the Independence of Malaysia in 1957. That is more than 55 year and almost all the time they had absolute power ( more then 2/3 majority).

Well, as you know: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely!

About the corruption and the cronyism in BN, I will not elaborate in this post. Do a Google search for Altantuyaa, Teoh Beng Hock, Rosmah, Taib, Khir Toyo, etc if you are interested.

Was there no opposition? Yes, there was. But Malaysia doesn’t have proportional representation, like we have in the Netherlands (and in many European countries). The country has (at this time) 222 parliamentary seats and is divided in 222 constituencies. In each constituency the winner takes all. So, if in each constituency the opposition gets 40% of the votes, at the end of the day they will not be represented in Parliament at all!

Before the 2004 election, the opposition parties formed an alternative coalition, Barisan Alternatif. Basically consisting of three parties: Keadilan (multiracial, progressive), DAP (Chinese, progressive) and PAS (Malay, conservative). At first not very successful, quite a lot of distrust between the component parties. But under the charismatic leadership of Anwar, they managed to cooperate better in the 2008 election. With a shocking result!

For the first time in decades BN lost its 2/3 majority!

Elections stats

Now, when you study the statistics in this table, you will notice something strange. In these last election the opposition got 47.8 % of the votes, but only 37% of the seats! And in 2004 it was  even much worse, 36% of the votes against not even 10% of the seats!

How can that happen? The answer is: by Malapportionment and Gerrymandering

About Mal-apportionment: If you have an election system with constituencies, each of them voting for one MP, then each constituency should have about the same number of voters, right? In Malaysia that would result in about 49.000 voters for each constituency.

The real situation is stunningly different! Here is a graph of the constituencies in the 2008 election. As you see, there is a huge difference in size between the constituencies. The largest one, Kapar, has more than 100.000 voters, the smallest one, Putrajaya (center of the government!) not even 7000.

constituency size

Most countries with a constituency system (like the UK) have (constitutional?) election rules about which differences in size are allowed between constituencies (for example + or – 15%). Malaysia had those rules, but first they were relaxed and later replaced in 1973 by a vague “a measure of weightage”. Yes! With all due respect to my 2nd home, politically Malaysia is still a banana republic…:-(

But this is not all. In the graph the results of the 2008 elections are represented. Blue for a BN win, red for a win by the opposition. Do I have to explain in more detail? The constituencies with a small number of voters are dominantly BN, the larger ones vote for the opposition! Accidentally? No way. This is gerrymandering, choosing the boundaries of the constituencies in such a way,  that it favours the ruling powers. I find it really unbelievable that this is accepted by the Malaysian population.

Ok, back to tomorrow’s elections.  It will be a battle between a (weakened) BN and Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance), the successor of Barisan Alernatif. The elections are already named the dirtiest in the history of Malaysia. BN is doing its utmost best to remain in power, by any means. They have been flooding the country with flags and banners, rumours are that they are flying in phantom voters from Sarawak and Sabah while I am writing this. But there is a kind of vibrant feeling in the air, that a Malaysian spring might occur this time.

Ubah! Ini Kali lah    =  Change! This it the time

Here are a few pics taken the last few days.

2013-05-04 10.35.49 BN Opposition

Ini Kali Lah

Are people worried? Well, after the 1969 elections, race riots exploded, which are still remembered vividly by everybody staying in Malaysia at that time. Many people died, there was a curfew for several days. However, times have changed.

Will update you soon…:-)

Journal 1-5-2013

The last week we had some unusually heavy downpours, sometimes with strong winds. On my daily walks in Bukit Kiara I encountered several uprooted trees. I also noticed these uncommon flowers, stemming directly from the tree trunk. Beautiful.

Bukit KiaraKiara flower

When I had my breakfast in IKEA, there was this big group of Malay ladies, probably on an outing, having a jolly good time. I asked permission to take their picture, no problem, and after that of course I had to be in the picture too.


Sunday May 5, the 13th General Election will be held in Malaysia. It will be a battle between Barisan Nasional, in power since the Independence of Malaysia and tainted with cronyism and corruption, and Pakatan Rakyat, a loose coalition of opposition parties. BN has spent a lot of (taxpayers?) money on flags and banners, many streets are colored blue. In Bangsar and also my neighbourhood the last few days, many small flags have appeared in bright colors, symbolising the “Malaysian Spring” which will hopefully begin this weekend.


In my native country on the 30st of April, the coronation took place of the new Dutch king, Willem Alexander, the first male Dutch monarch in more than 100 years. The Dutch population in Malaysia had received an invitation from the ambassador for a Coronation Party at his residence. Although basically more of a Republican than a Royalist I decided to attend the event.  It was actually quite a nice happening, there was a large crowd, more than 400 people. Large TV screens with streaming video, so we could follow the ceremony live.  After the speech by the ambassador,  I even joined in the singing of the National Anthem! Good that the staff had distributed the text, because to be honest, I only know the first lines of the first verse….:-)

Dutch embassyNational anthem


There was Heineken beer, herring, “bitterballen”, probably not only for me an important reason to attend the event…:-)

Herring and beerBitterballen


Here is the official photo taken after the coronation, with some of the royal guests. It is a tradition that ruling monarchs will not attend the coronation ceremony, only crown princes, so that after the coronation the new king is automatically the highest in rank! And an interesting detail: for Charles, the Prince of Wales, this is the second time that he attends a Dutch coronation ceremony, as he was already the crown prince when Beatrix became queen, 33 years ago..:-)