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Great Music & Performers I Recommend (II)

“Six sonatas & partitas for violin solo” by Johann Sebastian Bach performed by Mikhail Pochekin. Label Solo Musica.

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“America”, works for piano solo by George Gershwin and Astor Piazzola performed by Claudio Constatini. Label Ibs Classical.

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Works for cello and piano by Chopin, Franchomme & Schubert. Steven Isserlis (cello), Dénes Várjon (piano Érard). Label Hyperion.

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Variation on a Rococo Theme & Piano Trio op. 50 by Tchaikovsky performed by Sergei Istomin (cello), Claire Chevallier (fortepiano) and Martin Reinmann (violin). Label Passacaille.

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Works for piano solo by Clara & Robert Schumann, Schubert and Liszt performed by William Youn. Label Sony.

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Michael Thallium

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Fingers, Hands & Messages

The first thick digit, just a simple finger they call thumb.
It is that strong finger which shows all its strength and greatness
when it is lifted up. It is the finger that says:
EVERYTHING is going to be ALRIGHT.

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Never forget that when you point the finger at someone,
there are three other fingers no one see which are pointing at you as well.

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Michael Thallium

Global & Greatness Coach
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Writing In The Margin And Becoming The World

“There are books in which the footnotes, or the comments scrawled by some reader’s hand in the margin, are more interesting than the text. The world is one of those books.” ― George Santayana (1863-1952)

2What is life? This is an old question that many of us human beings have been asking ourselves for centuries. Philosophers, scientists, artists, writers, ordinary people… And lots of answers have been given as well; some convincing, some less convincing and some others completely unsatisfactory. But in the end it all comes down to living… and living well. No-one likes problems or having trouble going through life. Unfortunately, we all come across problems in our ways and try to find solutions to them. The thing is that sometimes solutions come hard and it may even seem impossible to find them no matter how hard you try. So, what to do when you have been struggling to change things in your life and you still end up pretty much in the same place? What to do when it seems no transformation is possible? Yes, I know, you may be thinking that there is always “transformation” —something Heraclitus said thousands of years ago—, but I mean that “transformation” you really want in your life. Well, here your are a tip: know your limitations and accept them. This is a good start, but not enough if you still want to transform your life. That is why I chose that quote of Santayana. Let’s assume life is just a book we cannot change. Sometimes its text may be so dull and boring that we want out of our particular chapter. But the text is written in indelible letters and either we keep reading the rest of it or quit, and by “quit” I mean “die”. So, the only alternative we have left is to use our resources to scrawl comments in the margin or add footnotes to make our lives more interesting —and remember, the first person to whom your life must be more interesting is YOU. And this is my suggestion: if you want to transform the book of your life, just start by writing in the margin and become the world you want to live in. Then you may even realize that the assumption that you cannot change the book of your life is wrong.

Now, don’t be fooled. Using your resources requires effort and perseverance. It is nothing magical, but practical, that is, you need practice, practice and practice.

Michael Thallium

Global & Greatness Coach
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George Santayana, Persons And Places

SantayanaEnI am writing these lines while I am listening to Musica Ficta perform the Requiem by Tomas Luis de Victoria. I chose this music for practical reasons. Victoria was born in the province of Avila. He was a catholic priest and arguably the greatest Spanish composer of all times; he spent part of his life in Rome and died in Madrid in 1611. He became a choirboy at Avila Cathedral were he was trained as a musician before leaving for Rome, where he masterfully wrote the greatest music. So, what? What are those practical reasons? Let me first tell you that it is not Tomas Luis de Victoria the one I want to write about, but another man born over 250 years after Victoria’s death: George Santayana. So… what? What is still practical about your reasons? Well, Santayana was born in Madrid and spent his early childhood in Avila before moving to the United States, where he became a philosopher, an essayist, a poet and a novelist. So, what? Santayana loved cathedrals and died in Rome. Can you connect the dots? Madrid, Avila, Rome…

I think I should first explain how I came across George Santayana —quite a chance encounter by the way—, whom I had never heard of in my life. Of course, since he died in 1952, I do not mean I met him personally unless I were dead —knock on wood!— and had that strange power of coming back to life from the afterworld. No, my encounter with him was a bit more intelectual than physical. It was reading Invitation to Philosophizing Following The Spirit and Writings of Antonio Machado (“Invitación a filosofar según espíritu y letra de Antonio Machado”) by Juan David García Bacca —another Spanish philosopher— that I read the name “Jorge Santayana”. It caught my attention, because I had never heard of him before, and my attention turned into curiosity when I found out about him and got to know that Santayana had written all of his books in English. Actually, he changed the Spanish name “Jorge” —roughly pronounced ‘Horhey’— by “George” and he is considered one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. However, he always remained Spanish. That was striking to me! Was it possible that a Spanish born in 1863 would turn into an American man of letters? After a little research I did, I manage to buy one of his books, Persons and Places, at Menosdiez, a little second-hand bookshop in Madrid downtown. I wanted to try and see whether he really was such a great writer as they said. Santayana had been a nominee to the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Last Puritan (1936), but he was never awarded with the prize, apparently because he was not an American citizen and had always kept his Spanish passport.

And what a great writer he is indeed! I loved Persons and Places, an autobiography written at his late 70s where he beautifully describes an amazing life of academical achievements, travelling and philosophy. The book is divided up into sixteen chapters where he speaks about his origins in Spain, his teenage years in Boston, his achievements at Harvard University as an adult and his later return to Europe when he quit Harvard at age 48.

George Santayana may be the writer —not only prose but poetry as well, see A poet’s testament and O World who best wrote about Spain in English. And for sure reading Persons and Places is a great exercise for those of us who want to master the English language and the knowledge about life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States, Spain and Europe. In all that regards himself, his thoughts, or his happiness, Santayana crossed a desert more than once in his life; so that when he looks back over those years, he sees objects, he sees public events, he sees persons and places, but he doesn’t see himself. His inner life, as he recalls it, seems to be concentrated in a few oases, in a few halting places, Green Inns, or Sanctuaries, where the busy traveller stopped to rest, to think, and to be himself. Now you may understand the practical reasons why I chose the music of Victoria while I was writing these lines. If you don’t, don’t worry, maybe someday you too will connect the dots.

Michael Thallium

Global & Greatness Coach
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(Español) A propósito de… “El mito”

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Great Books & Authors I Recommend (I)

“A Short History Of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson. Transworld Publishers.

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“Exuberance” by Kay Redfield Jamison. Vintage Books.

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Michael Thallium

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Great Music & Performers I Recommend (I)

Performer: Marc-André Hamelin (piano) / Composer: Marc-André Hamelin

Label: Hyperion

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Performer: Pablo Ferrández (cello) / Composers: Dvořák & Schumann

Label:Onyx

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Performers: Los hermanos Pochekin(viola, violin) / Composers: Mozart, Haydn, Glière, Prokofiev

Sello: Melodiya

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Performer: Matthias George (baritone) / Composer: Schubert

Label: Harmonia Mundi

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Performers: Ensemble Modern, Nina Hagen, Max Raabe, HK Gruber / Composer: Weill

Label: RCA

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Michael Thallium

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Finite Time

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Finite time is nothing but a mere notary that records the life of each person without judging it: the achievements, the feats, the prowess, the failures, the mistakes, the misunderstandings… And when one comes to the end of his time, one cannot but take stock and turn into a kind of forced judge of his vital undertakings. Only the magnanimity of he who judges himself will save him from regretting to have led an undesirable or ill-fated life. And also only when one listens, he will come to understand just a little of those around him. Time and listening… Lo and behold the marvellous formula.

Michael Thallium

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(Español) Oviedo y una noche blanca de oro y estrellas

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(Español) Invitación a filosofar con Juan David García Bacca

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