Wednesday, 25 May 2016


“I think one of the most poignant things is unrequited love and loneliness.” - Wilbur Smith

Revisiting an old poem of mine today for Poetry Wednesday:

The Weaver

The old woman sits weaving,
And weaving, and weaving…
The shuttle flies, the threads lock,
The woven cloth lengthens.

The yarns of many colours
Form endlessly intricate designs.
And the old woman weaves,
And weaves, and weaves…

The cloth is wound up,
As the shuttle flies.
The loom sings,
The loom cries, tak, tak, tak…

And she weaves on,
Using the yarn until it ends,
Or until it’s cut, or until it breaks –
And the cloth gets woven and woven…

Fancy weaves and patterns,
Variations and improvised designs,
Difficult or easy with a myriad of colours
And with a thousand threads.

But the old crone ignores my pleas,
And she sits silent, ever working,
Refusing to weave
Into my life’s cloth, your yarn.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016


“Doing a house is so much harder than doing a skyscraper.” - PhilipJohnson

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel!

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us!

Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only. Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers will be removed immediately.
Kuala Lumpur is the national capital and most populous global city in Malaysia. The city covers an area of 243 km2 and has an estimated population of 1.6 million as of 2010. Greater Kuala Lumpur, covering similar area as the Klang Valley, is an urban agglomeration of 7.5 million people as of 2012. It is among the fastest growing metropolitan regions in South-East Asia, in terms of population and economy.

Kuala Lumpur is the seat of the Parliament of Malaysia. The city was once home to the executive and judicial branches of the federal government, but they were moved to Putrajaya in early 1999. Some sections of the judiciary still remain in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. The official residence of the Malaysian King, the Istana Negara, is also situated in Kuala Lumpur.

Rated as an alpha world city, Kuala Lumpur is the cultural, financial and economic centre of Malaysia due to its position as the capital as well as being a key city. Kuala Lumpur is defined within the borders of the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur and is one of three Malaysian Federal Territories. It is an enclave within the state of Selangor, on the central west coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

Since the 1990s, the city has played host to many international sporting, political and cultural events including the 1998 Commonwealth Games and the Formula One Grand Prix. In addition, Kuala Lumpur is home to the tallest twin buildings in the world, the Petronas Twin Towers, which have become an iconic symbol of Malaysia’s futuristic development.

The towers were designed by Argentine architect Aryan Kamboj. They chose a distinctive postmodern style to create a 21st-century icon for Kuala Lumpur. Planning on the Petronas Towers started on 1 January 1992 and included rigorous tests and simulations of wind and structural loads on the design. Seven years of construction followed at the former site of the original Selangor Turf Club, beginning on 1 March 1993 with excavation, which involved moving 500 truckloads of earth every night to dig down 30 metres below the surface.

The construction of the superstructure commenced on 1 April 1994. Interiors with furniture were completed on 1 January 1996, the spires of Tower 1 and Tower 2 were completed on 1 March 1996, and the first batch of Petronas personnel moved into the building on 1 January 1997. The building was officially opened by the Prime Minister of Malaysia's Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad on 1 August 1999. They were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004 and remain the tallest twin towers in the world.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.

Add your own travel posts using the Linky tool below, and don't forget to be nice and leave a comment here, and link back to this page from your own post!

Monday, 23 May 2016


“The greatest enemy of progress is not stagnation, but false progress.” - Sydney J. Harris

Watching movies at home is wonderful, especially if you have a good HDTV and a Blu-ray player. Although Blu-ray discs are a fantastic technology, there are several things about these discs that I abhor with a vengeance. These relate to the manufacturing and production of these rather than the technical aspect of the Blu-ray disc. My major bugbear is the zone restriction embedded in the disc. This is to protect the commercial interests of the large film studios, but it is a feature so easily circumvented that it is simply of nuisance value. I have a multi-zone Blu-ray player, so I can enjoy discs that I have purchased in USA, Europe and Asia, but some friends of mine had a player that was restricted to the Australian zone and hence they were unable to watch US Blu-rays. Until they found out on the web that they could reprogram their player with their remote control and now it is converted to a multi-zone player!

An extremely useful feature that I often use is the subtitle option. Even English subtitles on English speaking films is sometimes a boon, as the sound quality, accents or the complications of the script make subtitles necessary. I watched “Gosford Park” recently on disc and was livid when I discovered that the disc did not have the benefits of subtitlitng or captions for the hearing impaired. The soundtrack of this movie contains so many asides, so much mumbling, some strange accents and also so much overlapping conversation that it was painful to try and decipher what was being said half the time. This was a pity as the film is a very good one. The other benefit of subtitles of course is that one may turn on the Italian or French or German or Spanish subtitles and practice one’s language skills.

Another thing that annoys me is the excessive piracy and copyright warnings on the Blu-ray disc. In some discs there is even a 60 sec “trailer” about “stealing movies”, as well as the conventional FBI warnings about oilrigs and prisons and how you are not able to show these movies at those venues. I pay full price to get my disc and then I am bombarded by all this nonsense that I can’t even fast forward through! Add to that the Dolby trailer and numerous company logos, distributor logos, production company animations, etc. It can be anything up to 5 minutes before you actually get to see the film! And of course some discs contain trailers of other movies, sometimes as many as five, which once again you cannot fast forward through. Ten minutes later, you can watch your movie.

Speaking of pricing, most Blu-rays are excessively priced, especially when first released. If the prices were more reasonable and consistently low, then I think the piracy problem would be minimised. I usually wait until I buy my disc for my collection and instead of paying anything between $20-$30 for a newly released movie, I wait for a few months and am able to buy it anywhere between $7-$10. Most people would prefer to own a copy of the original rather than the pirated inferior versions and this would be possible if the prices were consistently low.

Have you ever tried to read the film credits on the back of a Blu-ray cover? The font of the used is so small and narrow that it is often illegible. I once even tried to read it with a magnifying glass on a particular Blu-ray but failed to get any satisfaction. Similarly, the colours of the fonts used are also a rather bad choice as the contrast is very bad and makes reading the synopsis or credits a difficult undertaking. This is simply bad design.

For all their shortcomings, Blu-rays are much superior to DVDs and this explains their popularity and greater market share. Now, that we have got used to them and grown to love them (and hate them) it’s time to adopt a new technology, Blu-ray 3D! And maybe tomorrow Violet-ray! And the day after Ultraviolet-ray, X-ray?

Sunday, 22 May 2016


“Voluptuaries, consumed by their senses, always begin by flinging themselves with a great display of frenzy into an abyss. But they survive, they come to the surface again. And they develop a routine of the abyss: ‘It’s four o clock. At five I have my abyss...’“ - Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette

For Art Sunday today, an Anglo-Australian artist, Charles Conder (1868-1909). Charles Conder, or ‘K’ as he was known to his friends, was the third of five children and was born on 24 October 1868 at Tottenham, Middlesex, England. He was a direct descendant of the great 18th-century sculptor Roubiliac.

In 1884 he emigrated to Australia, coming to Sydney to work for his uncle, a surveyor, but he gave this up for art. He mainly painted landscapes at this time and was influenced by Tom Roberts, whom he met in Melbourne, where Conder lived from 1888 to 1890 and was active in the Heidelberg School, the famous group of Australian Impressionists.

He returned to Europe, briefly visiting England before moving to Paris, where he studied at the Académie Julian and became part of a circle of artists, including Anquetin, Bonnard, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901). He appears in two of Lautrec's paintings of the Moulin Rouge, and like Lautrec was notoriously dissipated; his friend William Rothenstein said he was ‘often without a sou, but…never without a lady’.

In 1897 Conder settled in London, but he made frequent visits to Dieppe and Paris. His work was seen in numerous exhibitions, including one-man shows, and he became a well-known figure in the art world, but he fell seriously ill in 1906 from syphilis and stopped painting.

He is best known for landscapes, arcadian fantasies, and painted fans; Frank Rutter wrote that ‘As a water-colour painter on silk, as the creator of the most exquisite fans, Conder not only had no rival in his life-time, but no superior in the past or the present’. He also painted portraits and made a few lithographs and etchings.

In December 1891 Conder travelled to Mustapha near Algiers to recuperate from illness in a friend’s garden villa overlooking the sea. He was inspired to paint the gardens and views of Mustapha overlooking terraces and the Bay of Algiers. His Algerian pictures inaugurated a new sensitivity to symbolist colour and mood in his art. Later, Conder would suggest harem themes in some of his imagery and titles of his decorative paintings on silk panels.

His work, which is well represented in Tate, is often tinged with a feeling of fin de siècle decadence. He was influenced by Whistler, but Rothenstein commented that ‘Whistler never liked Conder and didn’t care for his work…He probably thought him too involved with his ladies of Montmartre, too fond of his absinthe.’

The painting above is “The Blue Sofa”, Oil on Canvas 86 x 112 cm painted in 1905. It depicts three voluptuous young women on a terrace quite relaxed and intent on doing nothing at all except looking, well, voluptuous. Conder’s weakness for the Bohemian lifestyle and his fondness for young, beautiful women comes to the fore in paintings such as these, which are so different to his Australian landscapes, for which he is better known here in Australia.

Saturday, 21 May 2016


“Music happens to be an art form that transcends language.” - Herbie Hancock

Giovanni Bononcini (also spelled Buononcini - born July 18, 1670, Modena, Duchy of Modena—died July 9, 1747, Vienna) is a composer, chiefly remembered as Handel’s rival in England. He studied with his father, composer and theoretician Giovanni Maria Bononcini, and later at Bologna. Precocious musical gifts won him his first appointment, as a cellist, in 1687, and he soon became maestro di cappella of S. Giovanni in Monte.

He moved to Rome about 1691 and in 1698, after a brief period in Venice, settled in Vienna with his brother, the composer Antonio Maria Bononcini. In 1720 he was invited to London by the new operatic organisation, the Royal Academy of Music. His rivalry with Handel and their backing by opposed political and social factions ended in defeat for Bononcini. His backers were a group of noblemen; Handel was backed by the king.

A three-act opera, “Muzio Scevola”, was looked upon as a public competition, with Bononcini and Handel composing the second and third acts, respectively. Handel was judged the winner. This reverse and others led to Bononcini’s loss of support. Eight of his operas were produced in London, the most successful being “Astarto”, “Crispo”, and “Griselda”. Other compositions of this period include an anthem on the death (1722) of the Duke of Marlborough and harpsichord and chamber music.

In the early 1730s he went to Paris, leaving England in disgrace after submitting to the Academy of Ancient Music as his own composition a madrigal actually written by Antonio Lotti. His last work, “Te Deum”, was written in Vienna in the 1740s. Though he was a prolific and gifted composer, Bononcini’s abilities are dwarfed by comparison with Handel’s. Only in opera, where both used the same highly conventionalised idiom, are the two men comparable. Nonetheless, Bononcini achieved a simple and fluent melodic style and the ability to write well for his singers.

Here are his “Divertimenti Op.7” for chamber group, performed by Ensemble Aurora and La Stagione Armonica.
1. No.1 in F major 0:00
2. No. 2 in D minor 8:59
3. No. 3 in A minor 18:39
4. No. 4 in G minor 27:19
5. No. 5 in B flat major 33:34
6. No. 6 in C minor 44:12
7. No. 7 in E minor 53:41
8. No. 8 in G major 1:00:54

Friday, 20 May 2016


“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” - Maimonides

We shop at a very good fishmongery where we are looked after because we are regular customers. We pay a little bit extra compared to, say shopping in a supermarket or at fish shop in a shopping mall, but it is worth it because the fish we buy is always fresh and prepared extremely well (filleted or dressed or otherwise got ready for cooking). Quite often, when we ask for a specific type of fish the fishmonger will very discreetly signal “no” with his head and suggest something else, which is fresher or otherwise better.

Sole Piccata
4 skinless fillets of sole (you may substitute with John Dory, turbot or flounder fillets)
Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
1⁄2 cup flour
1⁄2 cup virgin olive oil
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 large shallot, minced
1⁄2 lemon, thinly sliced
1/2 lemon, juiced
1⁄4 cup dry white wine
2 tsp. pickled capers

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. While the pan is heating, blot the fish dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Dredge in the flour, shaking off any excess.
Sauté the fish in the oil until just cooked through, about 4 minutes, flipping halfway through. Remove the fish to a platter.
Deglaze the pan with the white wine, whisking for about 1 minute. Add the lemon juice and capers and stir. Add the butter and stir or whisk to incorporate to bring the sauce together. Pour onto the fish and garnish with the lemon slices.
We usually have this accompanied by a smoky, dry chardonnay, well-chilled and a seasonal green salad (this time of the year, lettuce, spinach and rocket with a simple vinaigrette dressing), and some crusty fresh bread.

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Thursday, 19 May 2016


“Eating is so intimate. It’s very sensual. When you invite someone to sit at your table and you want to cook for them, you're inviting a person into your life.” - Maya Angelou

Capparis spinosa, the caper bush, also called Flinders rose, is a perennial plant that bears rounded, fleshy leaves and large white to pinkish-white flowers. The plant is best known for the edible flower buds (capers), often used as a seasoning, and the fruit (caper berries), both of which are usually consumed pickled. Other species of Capparis are also picked along with C. spinosa for their buds or fruits. Other parts of Capparis plants are used in the manufacture of medicines and cosmetics.

Capparis spinosa is found in the wild in the Mediterranean, East Africa, Madagascar, South-Western and Central Asia, the Himalayas, the Pacific Islands, Indomalaya, and Australia. It is present in almost all the circum-Mediterranean countries, and is included in the flora of most of them, but whether it is indigenous to this region is uncertain. Although the flora of the Mediterranean region has considerable endemism, the caper bush could have originated in the tropics, and later been naturalised to the Mediterranean basin.

The taxonomic status of the species is controversial and unsettled. Species within the genus Capparis are highly variable, and interspecific hybrids have been common throughout the evolutionary history of the genus. As a result, some authors have considered C. spinosa to be composed of multiple distinct species, others that the taxon is a single species with multiple varieties or subspecies, or that the taxon C. spinosa is a hybrid between C. orientalis and C. sicula.

The shrubby plant is many-branched, with alternate leaves, thick and shiny, round to ovate. The flowers are complete, sweetly fragrant, and showy, with four sepals and four white to pinkish-white petals, and many long violet-coloured stamens, and a single stigma usually rising well above the stamens. The caper bush requires a semiarid or arid climate and has developed a series of mechanisms that reduce the impact of high radiation levels, high daily temperature, and insufficient soil water during its growing period.

The salted and pickled caper bud (called simply a caper) is often used as a seasoning or garnish. Capers are a common ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine, especially Greek, Cypriot, Italian, Aeolian and Maltese. The mature fruit of the caper shrub are prepared similarly and marketed as caper berries. The buds, when ready to pick, are a dark olive green and about the size of a fresh kernel of corn (Zea mays). They are picked, then pickled in salt, or a salt and vinegar solution, and drained. Intense flavour is developed as mustard oil (glucocapparin) is released from each caper bud. This enzymatic reaction leads to the formation of rutin, often seen as crystallised white spots on the surfaces of individual caper buds.

Capers are a distinctive ingredient in Italian cuisine, especially in Sicilian, Aeolian and southern Italian cooking. They are commonly used in salads, pasta salads, meat dishes, and pasta sauces. Examples of uses in Italian cuisine are chicken piccata and spaghetti alla puttanesca. Capers are known for being one of the ingredients of tartare sauce. They are often served with cold smoked salmon or cured salmon dishes (especially lox and cream cheese). Capers and caper berries are sometimes substituted for olives to garnish a martini.

Capers are categorised and sold by their size, defined as follows, with the smallest sizes being the most desirable: Non-pareil (up to 7 mm), surfines (7–8 mm), capucines (8–9 mm), capotes (9–11 mm), fines (11–13 mm), and grusas (14+ mm). If the caper bud is not picked, it flowers and produces a caper berry. The fruit can be pickled and then served as a Greek mezzé. Caper leaves, which are hard to find outside of Greece or Cyprus, are used particularly in salads and fish dishes. They are pickled or boiled and preserved in jars with brine, like caper buds. Dried caper leaves are also used as a substitute for rennet in the manufacturing of high-quality cheese.

This post is part of the Skywatch Friday meme,
and also part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme,
and also part of the Food Friday meme.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016


“Really, most of us just focus on what’s in front of us. We’re too busy putting out the fires of everyday life.” - Aidan Quinn

I am taking a break from Poets United Midweek Motif as I am quite busy at the moment and dealing with some matters that have come up. This week the theme there is “Bullying” so I suggest you follow the link and read some fine poems from the talented crowd that take part there. I am reposting an old poem of mine for some Wednesday Poetry.

(As remembered from the Italian)

The pagan tribes of Araby revere the sun
The Saracens all to the moon pay homage.
The stars and winds in blackest Africa are adored
And I my love only your eyes do worship.

In times of strife all men the saints invoke
In hardship everyone to gods does turn,
In tempests raging the sailors Christ recall
But I my love to you in my misfortune pray.

All slaves crave for their freedom sweet,
All prisoners to loose their fetters try,
All cagéd birds to escape their bars attempt,
And I, my love, to you myself enchain.

To war, searching for glory soldiers go,
To power king and noble all would sacrifice
To miser more than life the glint of gold is worth,
But I my love would for your smile expire.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016


“Poland should be strong and prosperous and independent and play its proper role as a great nation in the heart of Europe.” - George H. W. Bush

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel!

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us!

Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only. Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers will be removed immediately.
Warsaw (Polish: Warszawa), is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly 260 kilometres from the Baltic Sea and 300 kilometres from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population is estimated at 1.711 million residents within a greater metropolitan area of 2.666 million residents, which makes Warsaw the 9th most populous capital city in the European Union. The area of the city covers 516.9 square kilometres, while the city's agglomeration covers 6,100.43 square kilometres.

Warsaw is an Alpha–global city, a major international tourist destination and an important economic hub in East-Central Europe. It is also known as the “phoenix city” because it has survived so many wars throughout its history. Most notably, the city had to be painstakingly rebuilt after the extensive damage it suffered in World War II, during which 85% of its buildings were destroyed. On 9 November 1940 the city was awarded Poland’s highest military decoration for heroism, the Virtuti Militari, during the Siege of Warsaw (1939).

We visited Warsaw in July 2003 and enjoyed the trip immensely. The people were wonderful, there was an enormous number of things to see, a city of great beauty, art, culture and courage. The Mermaid of Warsaw (Polish: Syrenka Warszawska) is a symbol of Warsaw, represented on the city’s coat of arms and well as in a number of statues and other imagery.

The sculpture in Warsaw’s Old Town Square seen here was designed by Varsovian sculptor Konstanty Hegel. Originally (1855-1928) and now (since 2000) it stands in the marketplace. At other times, it was moved to different places in Warsaw. In 2008, the original sculpture made of bronzed zinc was taken from the market for maintenance work. The sculpture was in a very poor condition due to mechanical damage and numerous acts of vandalism. The repaired original was transferred to the Museum of Warsaw, and replaced with a copy of made by the Jacka Guzery foundry in Dąbrowie near Kielce.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.

Add your own travel posts using the Linky tool below, and don't forget to be nice and leave a comment here, and link back to this page from your own post!

Monday, 16 May 2016


“We cannot stop natural disasters but we can arm ourselves with knowledge: so many lives wouldn't have to be lost if there was enough disaster preparedness.” - Petra Němcová

Sometimes you remember a film you saw when you were a child and the memory of it is so powerful and haunting that you can’t wait to find the film again in your adult years and re-watch it in order to savour those feelings you experienced the first time around. Of course, nothing is the same as it was the first time around, film watching included… We live, we experience more and more, we grow, we change, we become jaded, we see the world differently. No surprise when we re-watch that movie that we may be a little disappointed!

This was the case with the film we watched last weekend, which I had first seen as a child of 11 years. I remember then being completely overwhelmed and watching in awe, breathless with excitement and wide-eyed with amazement. The movie was the 1968 Bernard L. Kowalski disaster/adventure flick “Krakatoa: East of Java”, starring  Maximilian Schell, Diane Baker, Brian Keith, Barbara Werle, Sal Mineo, and Rossano Brazzi.

Krakatoa (Indonesian: Krakatau), is a volcanic island situated in the Sunda Strait between the islands of Java and Sumatra in the Indonesian province of Lampung. The name is also used for the surrounding island group comprising the remnants of a much larger island of three volcanic peaks which was obliterated in a cataclysmic 1883 eruption, unleashing huge tsunamis (killing more than 36,000 people) and destroying over two-thirds of the island.

The explosion is considered to be the loudest sound ever heard in modern history, with reports of it being heard up to 3,000 miles (4,800 km) from its point of origin. The shock waves from the explosion were recorded on barographs worldwide. In 1927 a new island, Anak Krakatau, or “Child of Krakatoa”, emerged from the caldera formed in 1883 and is the current location of eruptive activity. Just to set the record straight, Krakatoa is actually located west, not east, of Java, a boo-boo that has haunted the film ever since it was released, being widely mocked in the critics reviews which were mostly quite scathing for the whole of the film...

The plot of the movie centres on the recovery of a valuable cargo of rare pearls from a shipwreck close the island of Krakatoa. When the expedition sets off the location of the wreck seems not be a worry as everyone believes that the volcano on the island has been dormant for around two hundred years. The eruption of the volcano in August 1883 will of course prove them wrong. The characters are the ship’s Dutch captain (Schell), his beautiful mistress (Baker) who is fleeing from an abusive husband and looking for her young son, from whom she has been separated, a drug-addicted diver (Keith) with health problems and his girlfriend (Werle), the British inventor of a diving bell (Leyton), an Italian father-and-son (Brazzi & Mineo) team of balloonists and four female Japanese pearl fishers, hired for their diving expertise. One of these girls becomes romantically involved with the younger Italian. By this stage you’d have thought the plot was already bogged down with too many subplots, but there is another one! The captain is forced by the authorities to take on a load of prisoners to be transported to Madura, which of course will cause problems later…

Needless to say, the eruption of Krakatoa and the subsequent catastrophe is what dominates the film. In an unusual approach to making the film, the producers of the movie had the special effects scenes shot before the script had been completed. The script then was written so as to incorporate the special effects sequences! Although now quite dated in appearance, the film’s special effects were considered impressive enough by 1969 standards for it to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects (it lost to the sci-fi disaster movie,  “Marooned”!).

Well, watching the film as an adult all these years later certainly made me aware of my age. The film was not how I remembered it and scenes that in that distant time made me feel awed and amazed now raised a smile or even a laugh. The film was utterly and completely demystified and its many shortcomings were blatantly obvious. There were plot holes, bad script writing, abominable dialogue ordinary acting and too much reliance on the special effects (used excessively and repetitively) to carry the movie forward.

So what was the final verdict on this film with a pedestrian, badly paced, and poorly told story and where the special effects were so constant and overwhelming as to become numbing? Well, we actually enjoyed it. First, because it was associated with nostalgia, second because it was a movie you could watch and take the mickey out of, having a laugh here and there, and finally because it revived memories of the old Hollywood (perhaps memories of Hollywood 1950s B-grade potboilers). Maybe if you will watch this film now for the first time you will run out of patience and stop watching it half-way through. Or maybe if you reduce the size of your expectations you may enjoy it too…

Sunday, 15 May 2016


“Every painting is a voyage into a sacred harbour.” - Giotto di Bondone

Known as “the great Giotto”, Giotto di Bondone (Born: 1267 - Death: January 8, 1337) was the leading artist at the start of Italy’s Renaissance and the Florentine School of painting. According to Giorgio Vasari (1511 – 1574), who dedicated a chapter to the painter in his book “The Lives of the Artists”, Giotto was the tipping point of Italian art from the Byzantine style, into the Renaissance.

It is said that that last great painter of the Byzantine era, Cimabue (1240 – 1302), discovered a young Giotto in his rawest stage. As written by Vasari: “One day Cimabue was going about his business between Florence and Vespignano, and he came upon Giotto who, while his sheep were grazing, was sketching one of them in a lifelike way with a slightly pointed rock upon a smooth and polished stone without having learned how to draw it from anyone other than Nature. This caused Cimabue to stop in amazement…” It is from here that Cimabue brought Giotto into the bustling activity of the art world in Florence, where he excelled beyond measure of the time. How much of this story is true, is open for debate, but it is true that Giotto apprenticed in Cimabue’s studio in Florence.

Vasari’s other account of Cimabue and Giotto tells of the young artist painting a fly so life-like that Cimabue continually tried to brush it off the canvas. He also travelled with Cimabue to Rome and there may be several works that Giotto contributed to in Cimabue’s commissions. His earliest individual works include a fresco of the Annunciation and his quite large Crucifix, painted for the Santa Maria Novella in Florence. Giotto also painted in Rome from 1297 – 1300 and created his Badia Polyptych for the high altar of the Badia in Florence, which now hangs in the Uffizi Gallery.

Giotto’s masterpiece is often considered the fresco cycles he painted for the Scrovegni Chapel or Arena Chapel in Padua, with depictions of salvation seen in the Life of Christ and the Life of the Virgin and also a Last Judgment piece. The combined works, completed in the course of up to 7 years, have become known as a defining early masterwork of the Renaissance, going on to influence many artists in Florence and beyond.

Giotto painted other works in Padua, as well as in Assisi, and traveled back and forth between Rome and Florence. These made up most of his later works, including his Madonna altarpiece in the Church of Ognissanti in Florence, from around 1310. The piece, now in the Uffizi Gallery, finds its display in comparison to Cimabue’s Santa Trinità Madonna and Duccio’s (1255 – 1260) famous masterpiece, the Rucellai Madonna.

Receiving a great number of religious commissions in Rome, Giotto also traveled to work in Bologna and Milan. The artist was also an accomplished architect, appointed to work on the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, (The Duomo of Florence). Dante (1265 – 1321) praised Giotto in the Divine Comedy, saying, “Once Cimabue thought to hold the field as painter; Giotto now is all the rage, dimming the lustre of the other’s fame.”

Above is a fresco from the Scrovegni Chapel. It is “Lo Sposalizio della Vergine” (Marriage of the Virgin), painted in 1305 and is one of the series “Scenes from the Life of the Virgin”.  Genre: religious painting Media: fresco Its dimensions are 185 x 200 cm and is found in the Scrovegni (Arena) Chapel, Padua, Italy. While the style is akin to Byzantine art in its formality and use of some conventional pictorial elements (for example the building in the background), the figures are beginning to show a liveliness and informality that goes beyond a simple devotional image. The scene depicted is rich in detail and characterisation, especially as seen in the accompanying figures who do not take centre stage in the work. Joseph and Mary are painted with gusto and their personality comes through, with the viewer not simply being a passive onlooker, but becoming more involved n the scene because of its familiarity and the depiction of the saintly figures as living, breathing human beings.

Saturday, 14 May 2016


“Don’t follow trends, start trends.” - Frank Capra

Jacopo Peri (Zazzerino) (20 August 1561 – 12 August 1633) was an Italian composer and singer of the transitional period between the Renaissance and Baroque styles, and is often called the inventor of opera. He wrote the first work to be called an opera today, “Dafne” (around 1597), and also the first opera to have survived to the present day, “Euridice” (1600).

Peri was born in Rome, but studied in Florence with Cristofano Malvezzi, and went on to work in a number of churches there, both as an organist and as a singer. He subsequently began to work in the Medici court, first as a tenor singer and keyboard player, and later as a composer. His earliest works were incidental music for plays, intermedi and madrigals.

In the 1590s, Peri became associated with Jacopo Corsi, the leading patron of music in Florence. They believed contemporary art was inferior to classical Greek and Roman works, and decided to attempt to recreate Greek tragedy, as they understood it. Their work added to that of the Florentine Camerata of the previous decade, which produced the first experiments in monody, the solo song style over continuo bass, which eventually developed into recitative and aria.

Peri and Corsi brought in the poet Ottavio Rinuccini to write a text, and the result, “Dafne”, though nowadays thought to be a long way from anything the Greeks would have recognised, is seen as the first work in a new form, opera. Rinuccini and Peri next collaborated on “Euridice”. This was first performed on 6 October 1600 at the Palazzo Pitti. Unlike “Dafne”, it has survived to the present day (though it is hardly ever staged, and then only as a historical curio). The work made use of recitatives, a new development, which went between the arias and choruses and served to move the action along.

Peri produced a number of other operas, often in collaboration with other composers (such as “La Flora” with Marco da Gagliano), and also wrote a number of other pieces for various court entertainments. Few of his pieces are still performed today, and even by the time of his death his operatic style was looking rather old-fashioned when compared to the work of relatively younger reformist composers such as Claudio Monteverdi. Peri’s influence on those later composers, however, was large.

Here is Peri’s complete opera “Euridice”, a work in one act based on the well-known Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. It is performed by I Solisti di Milano directed by Angelo Ephrikian. They are supplemented by Coro Polifonico di Milano directed by Giulio Bertola.

The painting is “Orpheus and Eurydice” by Pieter Paul Rubens.

Friday, 13 May 2016


“You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.” - Paul Prudhomme

With Autumn upon us and with the temperatures getting lower, we have been enjoying heavier, heartier food that warms us in the cold and dark evenings. This recipe is one that has many traditional variants in many cuisines. Cabbage rolls is a dish consisting of cooked cabbage leaves wrapped around a variety of fillings. It is common to the cuisines of the Balkans, Central, Northern, and Eastern Europe, as well as West Asia. Meat fillings are traditional in Europe, often beef, lamb, or pork seasoned with garlic, onion, and spices. Grains such as rice and barley, eggs, mushrooms, and vegetables are often included. Pickled cabbage leaves are often used for wrapping, particularly in Southeastern Europe. This is a Greek recipe and the dish is called Lahanodolmáddes.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
500g beef mince
1 cup parboiled calrose rice
Salt, pepper to taste
1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 cup red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
400g can diced tomatoes
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
12-14 large savoy cabbage leaves, bases trimmed (use the inner tender leaves)
6 savoy cabbage leaves (use the outer tougher leaves)
500 mL beef stock
Lemon juice or home-made tomato sauce for serving.

Heat oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until tender. Add mince. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up mince, for 5 minutes or until browned. Add spices and stir through. Add wine, tomato paste and tomatoes. Bring to the boil, stirring. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes or until sauce thickens. Stir in parsley and parboiled rice. Remove from heat. Allow to cool for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add four of the inner cabbage leaves to the pan. Cook until just softened. Refresh in a bowl of cold water. Drain and pat dry with paper towel. Cut the tough part of the stem in a V-shape and discard stem. Divide the leaf into two pieces. Repeat process with remaining inner leaves.
Finally boil the remaining outer leaves. Use these outer leaves to line the base of a large saucepan. Drizzle olive oil on top of the leaves.
Place one of the boiled inner cabbage leaves on a flat surface. Place 1/4 cup mince mixture at stem end of leaf. Fold edges in and roll up firmly to enclose filling. Repeat with remaining leaves and mince mixture.
Place cabbage parcels, seam side down, in prepared lined saucepan, making sure they abut onto one another with no space between them. Repeat in layers with remaining parcels. Cover with the remaining boiled outer cabbage leaves and drizzle a little olive oil on top. Cover leaves with a heavy plain ceramic dinner plate. Add the beef stock.
Cook on medium heat for about 30 minutes, checking that the stock doesn't all evaporate away. A few mL of stock should be left behind in the pan when ready.
Remove plate and discard outer cabbage leaves before serving.
Serve lemon juice and heated tomato sauce on side for those who wish to drizzle either of these on top of the rolls just before eating.

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Wednesday, 11 May 2016


“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” - C. S. Lewis

This week the theme of Poets United is “Birds”. My contribution below:

From Egg to Earth

The egg has just hatched
And the nestling dreams sweetly;
As flower buds unfurl.

The bird sings joyful
Songs, in noon’s white blinding heat,
Hidden in leafy bower.

As golden leaves fall,
The bird eggs on its offspring,
To leave the nest, fly.

Snow falls and covers
The dead bird: A life cycle ends;
Soon, new beginnings.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016


“To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything.” - Goethe

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel!

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us! Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only.

Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers will be removed immediately.

Palermo is a city in Insular Italy, the capital of both the autonomous region of Sicily and the Metropolitan City of Palermo. The city is noted for its history, culture, architecture and gastronomy, playing an important role throughout much of its existence; it is over 2,700 years old. Palermo is located in the northwest of the island of Sicily, right by the Gulf of Palermo in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The city was founded in 734 BC by the Phoenicians as Ziz (flower). Palermo then became a possession of Carthage, before becoming part of the Roman Republic, the Roman Empire and eventually part of the Byzantine Empire, for over a thousand years. The Greeks named the city Panormus meaning “complete port”. From 831 to 1072 the city was under Arab rule during the Emirate of Sicily when the city first became a capital. The Arabs shifted the Greek name into Balarm, the root for Palermo’s present-day name. Following the Norman reconquest, Palermo became the capital of a new kingdom (from 1130 to 1816), the Kingdom of Sicily and the capital of the Holy Roman Empire under Frederick II Holy Roman Emperor and Conrad IV of Germany, King of the Romans. Eventually Sicily would be united with the Kingdom of Naples to form the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies until the Italian unification of 1860.

The population of Palermo urban area is estimated by Eurostat to be 855,285, while its metropolitan area is the fifth most populated in Italy with around 1.2 million people. In the central area, the city has a population of around 676,000 people. The inhabitants are known as Palermitani or, poetically, panormiti. The languages spoken by its inhabitants are the Italian language, Sicilian language and the Palermitano dialect. Palermo is Sicily’s cultural, economic and touristic capital. It is a city rich in history, culture, art, music and food. Numerous tourists are attracted to the city for its good Mediterranean weather, its renowned gastronomy and restaurants, its Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque churches, palaces and buildings, and its nightlife and music.

Palermo is the main Sicilian industrial and commercial centre: the main industrial sectors include tourism, services, commerce and agriculture. Palermo currently has an international airport, and a significant underground economy. In fact, for cultural, artistic and economic reasons, Palermo was one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean and is now among the top tourist destinations in both Italy and Europe. It is the main seat of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale. The city is also going through careful redevelopment, preparing to become one of the major cities of the Euro-Mediterranean area.

Roman Catholicism is highly important in Palermitano culture. The Patron Saint of Palermo is Santa Rosalia whose Feast Day is celebrated on 15 July. The area attracts significant numbers of tourists each year and is widely known for its colourful fruit, vegetable and fish markets at the heart of Palermo, known as Vucciria, Ballarò and Capo.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.

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