Thursday, 1 December 2016

ALL ABOUT THE CURRY TREE


“The first meal my husband ever made me was a chicken curry. I have never tasted anything so delicious in my life.” - Lesley Nicol

The curry tree (Murraya koenigii or Bergera koenigii) is a tropical to sub-tropical tree in the family Rutaceae (the rue family, which includes rue, citrus, and satinwood), which is native to India and Sri Lanka. The species name commemorates the botanist Johann König. The genus Murray commemorates Swedish physician and botanist Johann Andreas Murray who died in 1791. The leaves of this tree are used in many dishes in India, Sri Lanka, and neighbouring countries. Often used in curries, the leaves are generally called by the name ‘curry leaves’, although they are also literally ‘sweet neem leaves’ in most Indian languages (as opposed to ordinary neem leaves which are very bitter and in the family Meliaceae, not Rutaceae).

It is a small tree, growing 4–8.7 m tall, with a trunk up to 81 cm diameter. The aromatic leaves are pinnate, with 11–21 leaflets, each leaflet 2–4 cm long and 1–2 cm broad. The plant produces small white flowers, which can self-pollinate to produce small shiny-black berries containing a single, large viable seed. Though the berry pulp is edible (with a sweet but medicinal flavour) in general, neither the pulp nor seed is used for culinary purposes. Leaves can be harvested from home-raised plants as the tree is fairly easily grown in warmer areas of the world, or in containers where the climate is not supportive outdoors. Seeds must be ripe and fresh to plant; dried or shriveled fruits are not viable. One can plant the whole fruit, but it is best to remove the pulp before planting in potting mix that is kept moist but not wet. Stem cuttings can be also used for propagation.

The leaves are highly valued as seasoning in Southern and West-coast Indian cooking, and Sri Lankan cooking especially in curries, usually fried along with the chopped onion in the first stage of the preparation. They are also used to make thoran, vada, rasam and kadhi. In their fresh form, they have a short shelf life and do not keep well in the refrigerator. They are also available dried, though the aroma is largely inferior. Although most commonly used in curries, leaves from the curry tree can be used in many other dishes to add flavour. In Cambodia, Khmer toast the leaves in an open flame or roast it until crispy and then crush it into a soured soup dish called maju krueng.

The leaves of Murraya koenigii are also used as in Ayurvedic medicine. Because of its aromatic characteristic properties, the plant has uses in soap making, body lotions, potpourri, scent, air fresheners, body fragrance, perfume, bath and massage oils, aromatherapy, towel scenting, spas and health clinics, incense, facial steams or hair treatments. In the absence of tulsi leaves, curry leaves are used for rituals, such as pujas.

In the language of flowers, a leafy branch included in bouquets signifies: “Your exotic charms have me in thrall”. A gift of curry tree flowers means: “I have succumbed to your inner beauty.”

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

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

POETS UNITED - SOCIAL STIGMA

“Tolerance, compromise, understanding, acceptance, patience - I want those all to be very sharp tools in my shed.” - CeeLo Green 

The mid-week motif for Poets United this week is “Social Stigma”. In western societies around the world we take pride in touting our tolerance and acceptance of diversity, we quote our laws that protect minorities, and are ready to lecture anyone who dares question our broad-mindedness and understanding of all of those who don’t conform to society’s “norms”.

Yet it is in enlightened countries such as these that we see racial discrimination still raging; we still see ethnic minorities failing to advance socially and professionally because of prejudice against them; we still see inequalities based on gender and patriarchal role models; we still see people victimised, bashed or killed because of their sexuality; we still see people ostracised because of their age; we still see stigmatisation of teenage mothers; we still see demonisation of the unemployed and the homeless; we still see the isolation and marginalisation of the mentally ill…

My poem is based on a true story that affected a family acquaintance. The young woman central to that story made what I believe to have been the right decision. However, it is not explicitly stated in my poem. There are so many young women who find themselves in a miserable quandary and the decisions that they make (or that they have made for them), in so many cases are dictated by the threat of social stigma… Yes, even nowadays in enlightened societies like ours!

The Quandary

She cried her eyes out when he left
She knew she’d never see him again;
And now alone, with all her dreams
Turned into nightmares.

She had believed him and she had loved,
She gave him all and he took even more.
And now alone, whom could she turn to,
But her family?

She had confessed all and she had trusted them;
She hoped that they would give their love, support…
And all she heard were screams and shouts,
Cries, threats and accusations.

She put her hands on her belly and she felt –
She tried to feel what she knew was growing there.
And she sensed that the new life that stirred within
Would bring her turmoil.

She heard her father shout: “Have an abortion!”
She heard her mother cry: “Have it and give it for adoption!”
Within her belly “it” stirred and said:
“Keep me, love me, raise me…”

Small town morality would stigmatise
The tell-tale swelling in her belly;
Her child, if born, would have its own battles to fight,
Wars to lose, perhaps…

She knew what shame, disgrace and isolation
She would have face if she allowed nature take its course;
And then how could she live,
With that blemish of: “Single, underage mother”?

Whom would she listen to?
Who gave the wisest counsel?
Who spoke from the heart?
Whom could she in her green years put her trust in?

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

TRAVEL TUESDAY #55 - LEIPZIG, GERMANY

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” - Leo Tolstoy 

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.
Leipzig is the largest city in the federal state of Saxony, Germany. With a population of 570,087 inhabitants (1,001,220 residents in the larger urban zone) it is Germany’s tenth most populous city. Leipzig is located about 160 kilometres southwest of Berlin at the confluence of the White Elster, Pleisse and Parthe rivers at the southern end of the North German Plain. Leipzig has been a trade city since at least the time of the Holy Roman Empire.

The city sits at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important Medieval trade routes. Leipzig was once one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing. Leipzig became a major urban centre within the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) after the Second World War, but its cultural and economic importance declined. Leipzig later played a significant role in instigating the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, through events which took place in and around St. Nicholas Church.

Since the reunification of Germany, Leipzig has undergone significant change with the restoration of some historical buildings, the demolition of others, and the development of a modern transport infrastructure. Leipzig today is an economic centre and the most livable city in Germany, according to the GfK marketing research institution. Oper Leipzig is one of the most prominent opera houses in Germany, and Leipzig Zoological Garden is one of the most modern zoos in Europe and ranks first in Germany and second in Europe according to Anthony Sheridan.

Since the opening of the Leipzig City Tunnel in 2013, Leipzig forms the centrepiece of the S-Bahn Mitteldeutschland public transit system. Leipzig is currently listed as Gamma World City and Germany’s “Boomtown”. Outside of Leipzig the Neuseenland district forms a huge lake area by approx 300 square kilometres.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme,
and also part of the Ruby Tuesday 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, 28 November 2016

MOVIE MONDAY - VIVE LA FRANCE!

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” – Oscar Wilde

Many English speakers abhor watching foreign language films as they detest subtitling. I on the contrary, not only watch foreign films with subtitles, but in these blessed days of DVDs and Blu-Ray discs, I watch even English language films with the subtitle feature on. This is necessary as the diction of many actors is absolutely terrible, the sound engineering is often despicable and the musical backing is hopelessly intrusive. Add to that some peculiarities of accent or idiomatic forms of English spoken sloppily and you end up with understanding half of what is being said if you don't have the aid of the subtitles. Needless to say I never buy any DVDs or Blu-Rays that don’t have English subtitles or closed captions.

For Movie Monday today, tow movies: The original French film and the Hollywood remake for the native speakers of English who “don’t do subtitles”. The original film (and in my opinion the funnier of the two) is the 1972 Yves Robert comedy “The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe” (Le grand blond avec une chaussure noire) starring Pierre Richard, Bernard Blier and Jean Rochefort. The Hollywood remake is the 1985 Stan Dragoti film “The Man with One Red Shoe” starring Tom Hanks, Lori Singer and Dabney Coleman. And yes, I had the subtitles turned on for both films…

The plot of both films is almost identical except for some sociopolitical, cultural and ethno-geographic adaptations in the US version (obviously!) – I give you here the US film’s plot as you are probably more likely to get your hands on this one to watch: Cooper (Dabney Coleman), the deputy director of the CIA, wants to be the director. So, he tries to make it appear that the director (Charles Durning) is corrupt so that he will resign or be removed. The director appears before a committee and asks for some time to prepare his defense. The director goes home and asks his man Brown (Ed Herrmann) to join him. He then shows Brown that Cooper is bugging him.

He then decides to turn the tables on Cooper by feeding him false information. The information being that there’s supposedly a man arriving at the airport, who might be able to clear him of the charges against him. The Director tells Brown to just pick anyone who is arriving at the airport thus making Cooper believe that he is the man who can help the director. Brown picks violinist Richard (Tom Hanks) because he is wearing mismatched shoes, one of them being a red sneaker. So Cooper sets up surveillance on Richard and sends his femme fatale, Maddy (Lori Singer) to come on to him and find out what he knows. Add a subplot of a fellow musician (Jim Belushi) who thinks his wife (Carrie Fisher) is having an affair with Richard, and the stage is set for a send-up of spy movies.

The original French film is extremely funny but also sophisticated, even though it often features slapstick, farcical situations. The lead actor, Pierre Richard, is fantastic as the hapless orchestral player who gets caught willy-nilly in the secret service shenanigans. The pace is relentless and one comical situation succeeds the next with the audience laughing out loud without effort. The rest of the cast (including the luscious Mireille Darc as the femme fatale) is exemplary in an ensemble acting effort. The music is unforgettable with a soundtrack written by Vladimir Cosma and performed by the Romanian Pan pipe player Gheorghe Zamfir.

Now, the Hollywood version. Yes, but… I guess the summary is if you haven't seen the original French movie and you moderate your expectations, you will enjoy the US version as a light-weight Spy vs Spy spoof. Hanks is very young but copes fairly well with playing the innocent bystander around whom the whole world collapses. Jim Belushi and Carrie Fisher carry on quite well (although they do ham it up a bit) as the couple with marital problems and the remainder of the cast are adequate. A nice enough, amusing movie to watch in the background on a lazy Sunday afternoon. You will chuckle here and there…

Sunday, 27 November 2016

ART SUNDAY - VIKTOR VASNETSOV

 “A myth is an image in terms of which we try to make sense of the world.” - Alan Watt

Viktor Mikhaylovich Vasnetsov, (born May 3 [May 15, New Style], 1848, Lopyal, Vyatka province, Russia—died July 23, 1926, Moscow, Russia, U.S.S.R.) was a Russian artist, designer, and architect whose monumental works include the façade of the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. He was the older brother of the painter Apollinary Vasnetsov. Born into the family of a priest, Viktor received his first drawing lessons in the Vyatsky Seminary in the early 1860s.

In 1867 he moved to St. Petersburg and enrolled in the Drawing School of the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, where he was mentored by Ivan Kramskoy of the Peredvizhniki (“Wanderers”) group, which rejected the classicism of the Russian Academy. Vasnetsov later finished his studies at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts (1868–75). He was awarded the academy’s Grand Silver Medal for his sketch “Christ and Pilate Before the People” (1870). In 1878 he himself joined the Peredvizhniki.

Vasnetsov’s first works were genre paintings typical of the Peredvizhniki. In paintings such as “Moving House” (1876), “News from the Front” (1878), and “A Game of Preference” (1879), he presented with evident affection closely observed domestic scenes and characters from an array of social backgrounds. From the 1880s on, Vasnetsov’s main theme was the world of folk poetry: Tales, epics, and legends. He discovered the means to give visual expression to legendary and epic verbal phrases and imagery. Dark forest wilds, fiery sunrises and sunsets, stormy clouds—all these elements of his works helped make the legendary episodes depicted in his paintings seem to be actual events in Russian history.

For that reason paintings such as “After Prince Igor’s Battle with the Polovtsy” (1880), “Ivan Tsarevich Riding the Gray Wolf” (1889), and “Alyonushka” (1881 –illustrated above) were extremely popular in Russia. They became, in a sense, surrogates for Russian history, and during the Soviet era many were reproduced in schoolbooks and on consumer goods such as calendars, posters, and boxes of chocolates. That one of his most important paintings, “Bogatyrs” (1898), on which he worked for more than a decade, with countless preparatory studies and sketches, had just this fate is quite characteristic.

His careful approach resulted in the transformation of his paintings into pseudohistorical fantasies based on themes of Russian history. Vasnetsov designed costumes and stage sets for Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera “Snegurochka” (The Snow Maiden) in 1886. He created a monumental panel, “Stone Age” (1883–85), for Moscow’s State Historical Museum. The church of Abramtsevo was also built according to his sketches, as was the Baba-Yaga Hut (1883; also called the Hut on Chicken Legs).

Shortly before the Russian Revolution of 1917, Vasnetsov created sketches of military uniforms for the Russian army, which were then used during Soviet times (such as the well-known budyonovka [initially bogatyrka] cap worn by the Red Army cavalrymen). After the revolution, Vasnetsov continued to paint folkloric themes. He died in Moscow in 1926.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

MUSIC SATURDAY - HEINRICH I.F. VON BIBER

“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” - Khalil Gibran 

Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (12 August 1644 [baptised] – 3 May 1704) was a Bohemian-Austrian composer and violinist. Born in the small Bohemian town of Wartenberg (Stráž pod Ralskem), Biber worked at Graz and Kroměříž before he illegally left his Kremsier (Kroměříž) employer (Prince-Bishop Carl Liechtenstein-Castelcorno) and settled in Salzburg. He remained there for the rest of his life, publishing much of his music but apparently seldom, if ever, giving concert tours.

 Biber was one of the most important composers for the violin in the history of the instrument. His technique allowed him to easily reach the 6th and 7th positions, employ multiple stops in intricate polyphonic passages, and explore the various possibilities of scordatura tuning. He also wrote one of the earliest known pieces for solo violin, the monumental passacaglia of the “Mystery Sonatas”.

During Biber’s lifetime, his music was known and imitated throughout Europe. In the late 18th century he was named the best violin composer of the 17th century by music historian Charles Burney. In the late 20th century Biber’s music, especially the “Mystery Sonatas”, enjoyed a renaissance. Today, it is widely performed and recorded.

The “Rosary Sonatas” (also known as the “Mystery Sonatas”) are a collection of 16 short sonatas for violin and continuo, with a final passacaglia for solo violin. Each has a title related to the Christian Rosary devotion practice and possibly to the Feast of the Guardian Angels. It is presumed that the “Mystery Sonatas” were completed around 1676, but they were unknown until their publication in 1905. Once rediscovered, the “Mystery Sonatas” became Biber’s most widely known composition. The work is prized for its virtuosic vocal style, scordatura tunings and its programmatic structure.

The music of Biber was never entirely forgotten due to the high technical skill required to play many of his works; this is especially true of his works for violin. Violinists therefore always were partial to the works as they provide a showcase for their talents and they allow exploration of the violin’s potential for different sonorities and unusual chord soundings with the scordatura  tuning.

The second work in which Biber explored scordatura techniques is Harmonia Artificioso-Ariosa (1696), his last known published collection of instrumental music. It contains seven partitas for two instruments and basso continuo: five for two violins, one for two violas d’amore, and one for violin and viola. Six of the partitas require scordatura tunings, including those for viola and two violas d’amore; Biber utilises the full potential of the technique, including all possibilities for complex polyphony: Some of the pieces are in five parts, with both of the melodic instruments carrying two. Interestingly, no other chamber works by Biber use such devices, and the only other pieces to use scordatura are two of the sonatas included in Sonatae violino solo of 1681. That collection comprises eight sonatas for violin and basso continuo, all noted already by Charles Burney in late 18th century, for the brilliant virtuosic passages and elaborate structures. In contrast to both Mystery Sonatas and Harmonia, these works consist mostly of pieces in free forms (prelude, aria) or variations, rather than dances.

Here is Harmonia Artificioso-Ariosa of 1696, played by by Musica Antiqua Köln and Reinhard Goebel. You may buy these excellent CDs on Amazon.

Friday, 25 November 2016

FOOD FRIDAY - CHRISTMAS CAKE


“Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.” - Oren Arnold 

It’s that time of the year again and if you haven’t made your Christmas cake yet (like us, here), you’re leaving it a bit late. This weekend is our last chance, so here it goes, leaving it to mature a few weeks before serving it up at the Christmas table!

Christmas Fruit Cake
Ingredients
1kg mixed dried fruit (use a mix of raisins, sultanas, currants, cherries, cranberries, prunes, figs, candied citrus peel)
zest and juice 1 orange
zest and juice 1 lemon
150ml brandy, plus extra for feeding
250g unsalted butter , softened
200g light soft brown sugar
175g plain flour
100g finely ground almond meal
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 tsp ground cloves
1/3 tsp ground mace
100g flaked almond
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Icing of your choice (optional)

Method
Put the dried fruit, zest and juice, brandy, butter and sugar in a large pan set over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Tip the fruit mixture into a large bowl and leave to cool for 30 mins.
Heat fan-forced oven to 130˚C. Line a deep 20cm cake tin with a double layer of baking parchment, then wrap a double layer of newspaper around the outside – tie with string to secure.
Add the remaining ingredients to the fruit mixture and stir well, making sure there are no pockets of flour. Tip into your prepared tin, level the top with a spatula and bake in the centre of the oven for 2 hrs. Remove the cake from the oven, poke holes in it with a skewer and spoon over 2 tbsp of brandy. Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin.
To store, peel off the baking parchment, then wrap well in cling film. Feed the cake with 1-2 tbsp brandy every fortnight, until you ice it. Don’t feed the cake for the final week to give the surface a chance to dry before icing.

Feel free to share a recipe of your own:

Thursday, 24 November 2016

ALL ABOUT THE CURRY PLANT

“A little backbiting gives life piquant sharpness.” - Agatha Christie 

Helichrysum italicum is a flowering plant of the daisy family Asteraceae. It is sometimes called the curry plant because of the strong smell of its leaves. It grows on dry, rocky or sandy ground around the Mediterranean. The stems are woody at the base and can reach 60 cm or more in height. The clusters of yellow flowers are produced in summer, they retain their colour after picking and are used in dried flower arrangements. 

An oil is produced from its blossoms, which is used for medicinal purposes. It is anti-inflammatory, fungicidal, and astringent. It soothes burns and raw chapped skin. It is used as a fixative in perfumes and has an intense fragrance. It has been claimed on some gardening forums that the curry plant is as effective a cat deterrent as the “scaredy-cat” plant, Plectranthus caninus (also known as Coleus canina).

This plant is used as a herb. Although called “curry plant” and smelling like curry powder, it has nothing whatsoever to do with this mixture of spices, nor with the curry tree (Murraya koenigii), and is not used as masala for curry dishes either. Rather, in cooking it has a resinous, somewhat bitter aroma reminiscent of sage or wormwood and is used like these: The young shoots and leaves are stewed in Mediterranean meat, fish or vegetable dishes til they have imparted their flavour, and removed before serving. Use cautiously as the flavour is intense!

A flowering branch in the language of flowers means: “Your manner is piquant”.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

POETS UNITED - HYPERBOLE

“Only the broken-hearted know the truth about love.” - Mason Cooley

“Post-Truth” is Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year. The Oxford Dictionaries website told readers post-truth could be “one of the defining words of our time.” The term comes from an idea that became popular during the 2016 election campaign in the United States. Post-truth, as the website defines it, means to relate to situations where “objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Oxford Dictionaries officials say they chose post-truth as Word of the Year because of its rising popularity. They said the term’s usage appeared to increase 2,000% in 2016 alone…

I note this as the Midweek Motif in the Poets United site this week relates to “stretching the truth” or to give it a more literary mien, to “use hyperbole”. This means to make exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally; and as a literary device relates to use exaggeration, going beyond the truth, in order to make a point. The word comes from the Greek: “huperbolē” meaning ‘excess’ (from huper ‘above’ + ballein ‘to throw’).

When in love we live in a world of hyperboles and our emotions are working overtime, being thrown above and beyond the ordinary, our every action and word being an exaggeration. Hence my poem is a love poem, which I cast in the form of a folk song – once again rather aptly, given the theme this week:

How Much Do I Love You?

I love you, dear, as heaven’s high
As deep as deep blue sea;
As broad and wide as endless sky
As tall as greenwood tree.

My love as endless, darling heart,
As universe no bounds;
And for each lovely starry part
My love expands its grounds.

To me you are more precious, love,
Than all the purest gold;
Rich gems and jewels I think of
Unmoved will leave me, cold.

Your sparkling eyes so lucent, clear,
Put diamonds bright to shame;
Your rosy lips so fiery red appear,
That put out fulgent flame.

I love you, dear, as hell is hot,
And as the ice is frozen;
My love for you a steady thought
For you’re the one I’ve chosen.

The illustration is a detail from John William Waterhouse's painting" "The Soul of the Rose".

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

TRAVEL TUESDAY #54 - SAN DIEGO, USA

“I love driving; driving along the California coastline is the best drive in the world.” - Al Jardine

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.
San Diego (Spanish for “Saint James”) is a major city in California, in San Diego County, on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, approximately 190 km south of Los Angeles and immediately adjacent to the border with Mexico. With an estimated population of 1,394,928 as of July 1, 2015, San Diego is the eighth-largest city in the United States and second-largest in California. It is part of the San Diego–Tijuana conurbation, the second-largest trans-border agglomeration between the US and a bordering country after Detroit–Windsor, with a population of 4,922,723 people.

San Diego is known as “the birthplace of California” and is known for its mild year-round climate, natural deep-water harbour, extensive beaches, long association with the United States Navy and recent emergence as a healthcare and biotechnology development centre. Historically home to the Kumeyaay people, San Diego was the first site visited by Europeans on what is now the West Coast of the United States. Upon landing in San Diego Bay in 1542, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo claimed the entire area for Spain, forming the basis for the settlement of Alta California 200 years later.

The Presidio and Mission San Diego de Alcalá, founded in 1769, formed the first European settlement in what is now California. In 1821, San Diego became part of the newly-independent Mexico, which reformed as the First Mexican Republic two years later. In 1850, it became part of the United States following the Mexican–American War and the admission of California to the union. The city is the seat of San Diego County and is the economic centre of the region as well as the San Diego–Tijuana metropolitan area.

San Diego’s main economic engines are military and defence-related activities, tourism, international trade, and manufacturing. The presence of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), with the affiliated UCSD Medical Centre, has helped make the area a centre of research in biotechnology.

Downtown San Diego is located on San Diego Bay. Balboa Park encompasses several mesas and canyons to the northeast, surrounded by older, dense urban communities including Hillcrest and North Park. To the east and southeast lie City Heights, the College Area, and Southeast San Diego. To the north lies Mission Valley and Interstate 8. The communities north of the valley and freeway, and south of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, include Clairemont, Kearny Mesa, Tierrasanta, and Navajo. Stretching north from Miramar are the northern suburbs of Mira Mesa, Scripps Ranch, Rancho Peñasquitos, and Rancho Bernardo.

The far northeast portion of the city encompasses Lake Hodges and the San Pasqual Valley, which holds an agricultural preserve. Carmel Valley and Del Mar Heights occupy the northwest corner of the city. To their south are Torrey Pines State Reserve and the business centre of the Golden Triangle. Further south are the beach and coastal communities of La Jolla, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, and Ocean Beach. Point Loma occupies the peninsula across San Diego Bay from downtown. The communities of South San Diego, such as San Ysidro and Otay Mesa, are located next to the Mexico–United States border, and are physically separated from the rest of the city by the cities of National City and Chula Vista. A narrow strip of land at the bottom of San Diego Bay connects these southern neighbourhoods with the rest of the city.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme,
and also part of the  ABC 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, 21 November 2016

MOVIE MONDAY - ORPHAN BLACK

“Twins have a special bond. They feel safer with each other than with their peers.” - Jeanne Phillips

We are watching the 2013 TV Series “Orphan Black created by John Fawcett and Graeme Manson, and starring Tatiana Maslany, Dylan Bruce and Jordan Gavaris. It is a Canadian science fiction thriller and focusses on human cloning. The series raises issues about the moral and ethical implications of human cloning, and its effect on issues of personal identity.

The plot centres on Sarah Manning (Maslany), who is an orphan, an outsider and street-wise grifter. After witnessing the suicide of a woman who seems to be her twin, Sarah assumes the stranger’s identity. Sarah wants to clean out the dead woman’s savings, but instead Sarah is thrust into a deadly mystery as she realises the unbelievable truth: She and the dead woman are clones. Sarah searches for answers that will help her survive, and she discovers that there are plenty more women like her out there – all genetically identical individuals who were planted in unsuspecting birth parents and nurtured in completely different circumstances. With no idea who created the clones, she’ll need to discover the reason in a hurry as an assassin is killing them one by one. Her foster brother Felix Dawkins (Gavaris), an eccentric, gay, over-the-top, artist helps Sarah in her quest for the truth.

After watching the first few episodes we were hooked. The series is well-written, well-produced, with extremely good acting and direction and a perfect blend of mystery, comedy, drama, science fiction and poignancy. Tatiana Maslany is amazing in her depiction of the clones, each of which has her own personality, quirks and mannerisms. Jordan Gavaris does a great job in depicting the unconventional Felix, but so often provides comic relief, making the sometimes “heavy” plot roll along. Maria Doyle Kennedy who plays Sarah’s foster mother does a great job with a character that hides many surprises.

We are up to Season 3 at the moment and still enjoying it immensely. The series received generally favourable reviews, with the first season scoring a 73 out of 100 on Metacritic; season 2 scoring a 79 out of 100; season 3 scoring 70 out of 100; and season 4 has a score of 80 out of 100. The fifth and final season will be aired in 2017 and I look forward to watching this series to the end. I am sure it will not disappoint.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

ART SUNDAY - PUVIS DE CHAVANNES

“To my mind, a picture should be something pleasant, cheerful, and pretty, yes pretty! There are too many unpleasant things in life as it is without creating still more of them.” ― Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (in full Pierre-Cècile Puvis de Chavannes; born December 14, 1824, Lyon, France—died October 24, 1898, Paris) was the leading French mural painter of the later 19th century. He was largely independent of the major artistic currents of his time and he developed a style characterised by simplified forms, rhythmic line, and pale, flat, fresco-like colouring for allegorical pieces and idealisations of themes from antiquity. He was much admired by a diverse group of artists and critics, including Georges Seurat, Paul Gauguin, Charles Baudelaire, and Théophile Gautier.

Puvis de Chavannes was born Pierre-Cécile Puvis in a suburb of Lyon, France. He was the son of a mining engineer. Being descended from of an old noble family of Burgundy, he later added the ancestral ‘de Chavannes’ to his name. Throughout his life, however, he spurned his Lyon origins, preferring to identify himself with the ‘strong’ blood of the Burgundians, where his father originated. Puvis de Chavannes was educated at the Amiens College and at the Lycée Henri IV in Paris. He intended to follow his father’s profession until a serious illness compelled him to convalesce at Mâcon with his brother and sister-in-law in 1844 and 1845, interrupting his studies.

A journey to Italy opened his mind to fresh ideas, and on his return to Paris in 1846 he announced his intention to become a painter. He studied first under Eugène Delacroix, but only very briefly, as Delacroix closed his studio shortly afterwards due to ill health. He studied subsequently under Henri Scheffer and then Thomas Couture. His training was not classical as he found that he preferred to work alone. He took a large studio near the Gare de Lyon and attended anatomy classes at the Académie des Beaux Arts. It was not until a number of years later, when the government of France acquired one of his works, that he gained wide recognition. Puvis de Chavannes made his Salon debut in 1850 with “Dead Christ”, “Negro Boy”, “The Reading Lesson”, and “Portrait of a Man”. In Montmartre, he had an affair with one of his models, Suzanne Valadon, who would become one of the leading artists of the day as well as the mother, teacher, and mentor of Maurice Utrillo.

Puvis de Chavannes’ work is seen as symbolist in nature, even though he studied with some of the romanticists, and he is credited with influencing an entire generation of painters and sculptors, particularly the works of the Modernists. One of his protégés was Georges de Feure. Puvis de Chavannes is best known for his mural painting, and came to be known as 'the painter for France.' His first commission was for his brother’s chateau, Le Brouchy, a medieval-style structure near Cuiseaux in Saône-et-Loire. The principal decorations take the four seasons as their theme. His first public commissions came early in the 1860s, with work at the Musée de Picardie at Amiens. The first four works were “Concordia” (1861), “Bellum” (1861), “Le Travail” (Work; 1863) and “Le Repos” (Rest; 1863).

Over the course of his career, Puvis received a substantial number of commissions for works to be carried out in public and private institutions throughout France. His early work at the Musée de Picardie had helped him to develop his classicising style, and the decorative aesthetic of his mural works. Among his public works are the later cycles completed at Amiens (“Ave Picardia Nutrix”, 1865), at Marseille, at Lyon and at Poitiers. Of particular importance is the cycle at the Palais de Beaux Arts in Lyon, which includes three significant works, filling the wall space in the main staircase. From left to right, the works are “Antique Vision” (1884), “The Wood Dear to the Arts and the Muses” (1884), and “Christian Inspiration”(1884).

Puvis’ career was tied up with a complicated debate that had been ongoing since the beginning of the Third Republic (1870), and at the end of the violence of the Paris Commune. The question at stake was the identity of France and the meaning of ‘Frenchness’. Royalists felt that the revolution of 1789 had been an immense disaster and that France had been thrown off course, while the Republicans felt that the Revolution had allowed France to revert to its true course. Consequently, works that were to be displayed in public spaces, such as murals, had the important task of fulfilling the ideology of the commissioning party. Many scholars of Puvis’ works have noted that his success as a ‘painter for France’ was largely due to his ability to create works which were agreeable to the many ideologies in existence at this time.

His first Parisian commission was for a cycle at the church of Saint Genevieve, which is now the secular Pantheon, begun in 1874. His two subjects were “L’Education de Sainte Geneviève” and “La Vie Pastoral de Sainte Geneviève”. This commission was followed by works at the Sorbonne, namely the enormous hemicycle, “The Sacred Grove” or “L’Ancienne Sorbonne” amongst the muses in the Grand Amphitheatre of the Sorbonne. His final commission in this trinity of Republican commissions was the crowning glory of Puvis’ career, the works “Summer” and “Winter”, at the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) in Paris. Many of these works are characterised by their nod to classical art, visible in the careful balanced compositions, and the subject matter is frequently a direct reference to visions of Hellenistic Greece, particularly in the case of “Antique Vision”.

Puvis de Chavannes was president and co-founder in 1890 of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (National Society of Fine Arts) founded in Paris. It became the dominant salon of art at the time and held exhibitions of contemporary art that was selected only by a jury composed of the officers of the Société. Those who translated best the spirit of the work of Pierre-Cécile Puvis de Chavannes in their own creations were, in Germany, the painter Ludwig von Hofmann and in France, Auguste Rodin. His easel paintings also may be found in many American and European galleries.

The illustration above is the fresco “Summer” painted in the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) in Paris, from the end of the artist’s career.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

MUSIC SATURDAY - FRANCESCO MANCINI

“Put a compass to paper and trace a circle. Then tell me which other country has such a concentration of places like Amalfi, Naples, Ischia, Procida, Sorrento, Positano, Pompeii, and Capri.” -  Diego Della Valle

The late Baroque Neapolitan composer Francesco Mancini (16 January 1672 – 22 September 1737), although somewhat obscure now, was second only to Alessandro Scarlatti in his day. His music represents a transitional period between the Baroque and Classical eras. Mancini was mainly an opera composer who served the insatiable Neapolitan market, writing as many as 30 works for the stage, plus numerous oratorios, and a body sacred vocal music that was granted wide distribution throughout Europe. He also composed a number of flute sonatas that are still considered important in the late-Baroque repertoire of that instrument.

He must have begun his musical training early in life, for at the age of 16 he entered the Conservatorio di Maria della Pietà dei Turchini to study organ under Francesco Provenzale and under Ursino. Six years later, he was working as an organist and by 1704, he was the principal organist of the royal chapel. Mancini's career as an opera composer was already underway. His first known composition, the opera “Il Nodo Sciolto”, was completed in 1692, his next, Ariovisto, in 1702. From that time on, through shifting fortunes, he was almost constantly occupied with arranging or conducting operas, apparently to the neglect of his other ambitions.

Scarlatti vacated his position as maestro di capella at the Conservatorio in 1708. Mancini then temporarily stepped into the maestro’s shoes only to be ousted and demoted to Scarlatti’s deputy when the elder returned to the position at the end of the same year. Mancini may have worked in Scarlatti’s shadow throughout his life, but his years as deputy to him were in fact his most productive ones. He seems to have been a man more interested in his own music than in his official appointments. Because of this preoccupation with his own work, his progress in that domain was slow and he had to wait until 1725 to again become maestro, though in 1718 he received a guarantee that he’d inherit the position once it became vacant.

He was made director (a position lower than maestro) of the Conservatorio in 1720. Although none of his students are now known, he must have had hundreds of them. Around this time, Mancini seems to have been deliberately courting a relationship with the English throne through the Consul General to the Reign of Naples, John Fleetwood, because he dedicated his collection of 12 flute sonatas to him. His successful and overt cultivation of Fleetwood resulted in those sonatas being published in London in 1724. In the following year, he at last succeeded Scarlatti as maestro di capella position at the Conservatorio, but wasn’t able to enjoy his official prestige for very long; in 1735 a stroke left him semi-paralysed and he died in 1737.

His works include 29 operas, sonatas, 7 serenatas, 12 oratorios and more than 200 secular cantatas in addition to assorted sacred music and a small amount of instrumental music. Today he is best known for his recorder sonatas.

Here are two of his instrumental works:
Recorder Concerto in D minor: 1) Amoroso 2) Allegro 3) Largo 4) Allegro
Lorenzo Cavasanti – Recorder; Caroline Boersma – Cello; Sergio Ciomei – Continuo

Concerto in G minor for flute, two violins, viola and basso continuo
Tommaso Rossi – Recorder; Rossella Croce & Marco Piantoni – violins; Patrizia Varone - continuo.