Wednesday, 10 February 2016

POETS UNITED - THE INANIMATE

“And you left your mark on me... With the destruction of us, finally, we became no one.” ― Nadège Richards

This week, PoetsUnited has as its Midweek Motif, “The Inanimate & The Non-Human”. We humans are so anthropocentric that it is seldom that we do not imbue the inanimate and non-human with human qualities… Here is my poem:

Your Door

When I loved you, I loved you so
That even your door, shut as it was,
Was a thing beloved.
When I loved you, I loved you so
That I had to spend each night outside your window,
Until you turned off your light.
When I loved you, I loved you so
That tears would flow from my eyes,
Whenever I but thought of you.

Now so much time has passed,
That your door, even though open wide,
For me has no appeal.
Now so many things have come between us,
That even though your light burns all night,
I would not even know it.
Now so much has my heart hardened,
That the tears that you may shed for me
Are but scattered raindrops in a parched desert.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

TRAVEL TUESDAY #13

“Egypt is not a country we live in but a country that lives within us.” - Pope Shenouda III

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 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.
The Great Pyramid of Giza (also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops) is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza pyramid complex bordering what is now the suburb of Cairo, El Giza, in Egypt. It is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact.

Based on a mark in an interior chamber naming the work gang and a reference to fourth dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu, Egyptologists believe that the pyramid was built as a tomb over a 10 to 20-year period concluding around 2560 BC. Initially at 146.5 metres, the Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for more than 3,800 years. Originally, the Great Pyramid was covered by casing stones that formed a smooth outer surface; what is seen today is the underlying core structure. Some of the casing stones that once covered the structure can still be seen around the base.

There have been varying scientific and alternative theories about the Great Pyramid's construction techniques. Most accepted construction hypotheses are based on the idea that it was built by moving huge stones from a quarry and dragging and lifting them into place. There are three known chambers inside the Great Pyramid. The lowest chamber is cut into the bedrock upon which the pyramid was built and was unfinished. The so-called Queen's Chamber and King's Chamber are higher up within the pyramid structure.

The main part of the Giza complex is a setting of buildings that included two mortuary temples in honour of Khufu (one close to the pyramid and one near the Nile), three smaller pyramids for Khufu's wives, an even smaller “satellite” pyramid, a raised causeway connecting the two temples, and small mastaba tombs surrounding the pyramid for nobles.

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

Monday, 8 February 2016

MOVIE MONDAY - THE RED SHOES

“The dance can reveal everything mysterious that is hidden in music, and it has the additional merit of being human and palpable. Dancing is poetry with arms and legs.” - Charles Baudelaire

Last week we watched a classic old film, which although I had heard lots about I had never actually seen. It was Michael Powell’s and Emeric Pressburger’s 1948 film “The Red Shoes”, starring  Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring, Moira Shearer and Robert Helpmann. It is loosely based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, but is more of a chronicle of the world of ballet dancers, teachers and impresarios. It is one of the early British colour films and it quickly became one of the most popular British films in the post-WWII period. The film is included among the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”, edited by Steven Schneider.

The film has original music by Brian Easdale and cinematography by Jack Cardiff, and is well regarded for its creative use of Technicolor. Filmmakers such as Brian De Palma and Martin Scorsese have named it one of their all time favourite films. The movie employs the story within a story device, with the lives of the dancers, choreographers and impresarios being the main story, and a ballet they are producing being the other story. The film includes a staging of the ballet they are working on, which runs for about 15 minutes.

The plot is as follows: Under the authoritarian rule of charismatic ballet impresario Boris Lermontov (Wallbrook), his protégés realise the full promise of their talents, but at a price: Utter devotion to their art and complete loyalty to Lermontov himself. Under his near-obsessive guidance, young ballerina Victoria Page (Shearer) is poised for superstardom, but earns Lermontov’s scorn when she falls in love with Julian Craster (Goring), composer of “The Red Shoes”, the ballet Lermontov is staging to showcase her talents. Vicky leaves the company and marries Craster, but still finds herself torn between Lermontov’s demands and those of her heart.

Pressburger originally wrote the screenplay for Alexander Korda as a vehicle for Korda’s future wife Merle Oberon. After some years had passed without the film being made, Powell and Pressburger rewrote the screenplay, including more emphasis on dancing, and produced it themselves. Powell and Pressburger decided early on that they had to use dancers who could act rather than actors who could dance a bit. To create a realistic feeling of a ballet company at work, and to be able to include a fifteen-minute ballet as the high point of the film, they created their own ballet company using many dancers from The Royal Ballet. The principal dancers were Robert Helpmann (who also choreographed the main ballet), Léonide Massine (who also choreographed the role of The Shoemaker), Ludmilla Tchérina and Moira Shearer.

Boris Lermontov is the film’s dominant character, and is an obvious portrait of Sergei Pavlovich Dyagilev (1872-1929), one of the 20th century’s greatest cultural figures and the driving force of the ‘Ballets Russes’. Walbrook plays this character with restraint and is a perfect “bad guy” in a gentlemanly sort of way. Shearer and Goring as the lovers are rather more conventional leading actors and give good but perhaps slightly clichéd performances. Nevertheless Shearer is quite enchanting once she starts to dance.

The film gives an insight into the creative process in the arts, especially so the ballet, but also highlights the sad lot of the composer of the music used in ballet… The conflict between professional life and personal is well depicted, as well the way that true artists are passionate about their art. One exchange that stuck with me was: “Why do you want to dance?” Boris Lermontov asks Victoria Page; “Why do you want to live?”, is her response.

The 15 minute ballet “The Red Shoes” is a highlight of the film and this is a gloriously cinematic view of a ballet sequence. The music conducted flawlessly by Sir Thomas Beecham suits the action well and the choreography by Robert Helpmann and Leonide Massine is amazing. The glorious Technicolor cinematography by Jack Cardiff is quite stunning. Incidentally, we watched the film on Bluray, which was the copy of the 2006 digital restoration of the film done by Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging. The digital pictures were frame by frame digitally restored at Prasad Corporation to remove dirt, tears, scratches, and other artifacts, giving the film its original look.

Quite an amazing film and indeed well worth looking at, especially if you like ballet, music, the arts and the creative process.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

ART SUNDAY - ANDRÉ DERAIN

“I do not innovate. I transmit.” - Andre Derain

André Derain (1880-1954) was considered by leading critics in the 1920s to be the most outstanding French avant-garde painter and at the same time the upholder of the classical spirit of French tradition. He was born on June 10, 1880, in Chatou, and began to paint when he was about 15. He studied at the Academy Carrière in Paris (1898-1899), where he met Henri Matisse. Derain was a close friend of Maurice Vlaminck, with whom he shared a studio in 1900 and also his radical views on painting, literature, and politics.

Derain was drawn, through Vlaminck and Matisse, into the art movement known as Fauvism. Derain’s first artistic attempts were interrupted by military service (1901-1904), after which he devoted himself exclusively to art. He experienced impressionism, divisionism, the style of Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh, and Vlaminck’s and Matisse’s techniques by applying them to his own work. He copied in the Louvre and travelled a great deal in France to paint its various landscapes. He spent the summer of 1905 at Collioure with Matisse and that fall exhibited with the Fauves.

The art dealer Ambrose Vollard signed a contract with Derain in 1905, and the following year the artist went to London to paint some scenes of the city commissioned by Vollard. Derain’s Westminster Bridge is one of his Fauve masterpieces. About 1908 Derain became interested in African sculpture and at the same time explored the work of Paul Cézanne and early cubism. He became a friend of Pablo Picasso and worked with him in Catalonia in 1910.

In Derain’s work, which comprises landscapes, figure compositions (sometimes religious), portraits, still lifes, sculptures, decors for ballets, and book illustrations, we can discern various periods, all of which are distinguished by masterpieces. About 1911 he was attracted by Italian and French primitive masters; he also admired the “primitive” art of Henri Rousseau.

After World War I, during which Derain served at the front, he studied the masters of the early Renaissance and then Pompeian art. All these left traces in his work. Finally he emerged as a realist and intensified his contact with nature. In rejecting the cerebral art of cubism and abstraction, he defended the return of the human figure to painting. His development as an artist was dramatic, and although Picasso called him a guide de musées, in other words, not an innovator but a traditionalist, Derain's best work will survive many of the experimental attempts of his contemporaries because of its inherent painterly qualities.

Toward the end of his life Derain lived, practically forgotten, in his country home at Chambourcy. The retrospective exhibition in Paris in 1937 was the climax of his fame. He died in Garches on Sept. 2, 1954. The large retrospective exhibitions organized from 1955 to 1959 established a new appreciation of Derain as a major artist.

The painting above is “The Dance”, painted in 1906. After receiving an African fang mask in 1906 by one of Derain’s fauvist contemporaries, Derain started an impressive collection of African art. “The Dance” is an example of the influence that Derain’s African art collection had on his painting. The painting features a brightly coloured landscape, with three main human figures and one figure in the background. The piece references both African art and Fauvism. With the wildly, vibrant colours its apparent that the painting is fauvist in nature. The rest of the painting references African art through African masks, primitive body painting, and curvy forms that reflect ancient stylised female figurines. These heads reflect African fang masks, in particular the face of the figure on the very left. Overall, the canvas is full of vibrant colour, exuberant movement and a rhythm that typifies vivacious African dances.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

MUSIC SATURDAY - HÄNDEL's CONCERTI GROSSI

“Where words fail, music speaks.” - Hans Christian Andersen

Our memories are one of the fundamental things that define us, and to a certain extent, influence who we are and how we shall react to present and future situations. Many of those memories, for me at least, revolve around music. Music that we first heard on a certain occasion, background music that assumed special importance because of what was happening to us at a certain moment, music that was recommended to us by a special person our lives, music that was given to us as a gift, music that we heard at a concert where we were with someone special, music that we perhaps played on a particular moment when there was nothing else that we could do except play music…

Rallentanda, one of the readers of my blog (hello, Rall!), reminded me the other day through one her comments of a special moment in the past when I was first told to listen to a magnificent set of concerti by Georg Friederich Händel. The one that recommended them to me was my music teacher in High School, the one who also encouraged me to take up the study of music theory and the one who played on the piano my first compositions. I remember with fondness and gratitude that very special person who first saw sparks of musical talent in my nature and fanned them into a flame that has been kept alight for decades now. And these concerti always remind me of her, whenever I hear them (and that is often)!

So here are Georg Friedrich Händel’s Concerti Grossi Op 6, Nos 1-12, played by  The Avision Ensemble, conducted by Pavlo Beznosiuk.

Concerto Grosso in G Major, Op. 6, No. 1, HWV 319:
0:00:00 - I. A tempo giusto
0:01:33 - II. Allegro
0:03:17 - III. Adagio
0:05:52 - IV. Allegro
0:08:28 - V. Allegro
Concerto Grosso in F Major, Op. 6, No. 2, HWV 320:
0:11:21 - I. Andante larghetto
0:15:31 - II. Allegro
0:17:50 - III. Largo - Larghetto andante e piano
0:19:58 - IV. Allegro ma non troppo
Concerto Grosso in E Minor, Op. 6, No. 3, HWV 321:
0:22:22 - I. Larghetto
0:23:28 - II. Andante
0:24:57 - III. Allegro
0:27:23 - IV. Polonaise: Andante
0:32:22 - V. Allegro, ma non troppo
Concerto Grosso in A Minor, Op. 6, No. 4, HWV 322:
0:33:42 - I. Larghetto affettuoso
0:36:25 - II. Allegro
0:39:23 - III. Largo e piano
0:41:48 - IV. Allegro
Concerto Grosso in D Major, Op. 6, No. 5, HWV 323:
0:44:47 - I. [Larghetto e staccato]
0:46:20 - II. Allegro
0:48:33 - III. Presto
0:52:38 - IV. Largo
0:54:46 - V. Allegro
0:56:58 - VI. Menuet: Un poco larghetto
Concerto Grosso in G Minor, Op. 6, No. 6, HWV 324:
1:00:01 - I. Largo e affettuoso
1:03:17 - II. Allegro, ma non troppo
1:04:56 - III. Musette: Larghetto
1:09:58 - IV. Allegro
1:13:01 - V. Allegro
Concerto Grosso in B-Flat Major, Op. 6, No. 7, HWV 325:
1:15:29 - I. Largo
1:16:25 - II. Allegro
1:19:23 - III. Largo, e piano
1:22:31 - IV. Andante
1:26:18 - V. Hornpipe
Concerto Grosso in C Minor, Op. 6, No. 8, HWV 326:
1:29:34 - I. Allemande
1:36:08 - II. Grave
1:37:41 - III. Andante allegro
1:39:36 - IV. Adagio
1:40:41 - V. Siciliana: Andante
1:44:12 - VI. Allegro
Concerto Grosso in F Major, Op. 6, No. 9, HWV 327:
1:45:40 - I. Largo
1:47:11 - II. Allegro
1:51:04 - III. Larghetto
1:54:24 - IV. Allegro
1:56:10 - V. Menuet
1:57:30 - VI. Gigue
Concerto Grosso in D Minor, Op. 6, No. 10, HWV 328:
1:59:45 - I. Overture
2:01:14 - II. Allegro Lento
2:03:26 - III. Air: Lento
2:06:24 - IV. Allegro
2:08:37 - V. Allegro
2:11:22 - VI. Allegro moderato
Concerto Grosso in A Major, Op. 6, No. 11, HWV 329:
2:13:13 - I. Andante larghetto, e staccato
2:17:24 - II. Allegro
2:19:07 - III. Largo, e staccato
2:19:38 - IV. Andante
2:24:03 - V. Allegro Concerto Grosso in B Minor, Op. 6, No. 12, HWV 330:
2:29:21 - I. Largo
2:31:20 - II. Allegro
2:34:13 - III. Aria: Larghetto e piano
2:37:34 - IV. Largo
2:38:24 - V. Allegro

Friday, 5 February 2016

FOOD FRIDAY - ZUCCHINI

“It's the 21st century. It's healthier for us, better for the environment and certainly kinder to be a vegetarian.” - Ingrid Newkirk

We have a couple of zucchini plants growing in our garden in amongst the rose bushes. They have been very happy and productive this year and we have been using the zucchini in all sorts of recipes, this one below being quite a tasty one, but also quite healthful.

Vegetarian Quiche Squares
Ingredients
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 zucchini, grated and squeezed dry
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
Pepper to taste
3 large eggs
80 mL milk
3 carrots, peeled, grated and squeezed dry
150 g coarsely grated cheddar cheese
1 tbsp chopped dill (optional)

Method
Heat the oven to 190°C. Lightly coat a 20 cm square baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened, for about 3 minutes.
Stir in the zucchini and carrot. Increase heat to medium-high; sauté until zucchini is soft and the liquid has evaporated, for about 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in the salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
In a large bowl, beat eggs, milk and add the vegetable mixture, cheese and dill. Spread in prepared pan.
Bake until quiche is just set in the centre, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Thursday, 4 February 2016

ANEMONES

“The starry, fragile windflower, Poised above in airy grace, Virgin white, suffused with blushes, Shyly droops her lovely face.” - Elaine Goodale

Anemone is a genus of about 120 species of flowering plants in the family Ranunculaceae, native to temperate zones. The genus is closely related to Pulsatilla (Pasque flower) and Hepatica; some botanists even include both of these genera within Anemone. In Greek anemōnē means “daughter of the wind”, from ánemos the wind god + feminine patronymic suffix -ōnē. The windflower often grows on craggy hilltops exposed to the wind and the name signifies that the wind may blow the petal open, but will also eventually, blow the dead petals away.

Anemone are perennials that have basal leaves with long leaf-stems that can be upright or prostrate. Leaves are simple or compound with lobed, parted, or undivided leaf blades. The leaf margins are toothed or entire. Flowers with 4–27 sepals are produced singly, in cymes of 2–9 flowers, or in umbels, above a cluster of leaf- or sepal-like bracts. Sepals may be any colour. The pistils have one ovule. The flowers have nectaries, but petals are missing in the majority of species. The fruits are ovoid to obovoid shaped achenes that are collected together in a tight cluster, ending variously lengthened stalks; though many species have sessile clusters terminating the stems. The achenes are beaked and some species have feathery hairs attached to them.

Anemone coronaria is the type species and is a single flower found in red, magenta, mauve and white forms. Found growing wild in the Mediterranean countries, Anemone coronaria is also widely grown in gardens for its decorative flowers. Numerous cultivars have been selected and named, the most popular including the De Caen and St Brigid groups of cultivars. The De Caen group are hybrids cultivated in the districts of Caen and Bayeux in France in the 18th century.

Greek mythology linked the red anemone to the death of Adonis. This handsome young man was loved by both Persephone, queen of the underworld, and Aphrodite, goddess of love. Adonis enjoyed hunting, and one day when he was out hunting alone, he wounded a fierce boar, which stabbed him with its tusks. Aphrodite heard the cries of her lover and arrived to see Adonis bleeding to death. Red anemones sprang from the earth where the drops of Adonis’ blood fell. In another version of the story, the anemones were white before the death of Adonis, whose blood turned them red. Christians later adopted the symbolism of the anemone. For them its red represented the blood shed by Jesus Christ on the cross. Anemones sometimes appear in paintings of the Crucifixion.

Anemone coronaria means “crown anemone”, evoking regal associations. The Arabic name is shaqa'iq An-Nu’man translated literally as the wounds, or “pieces”, of Nu’man. One possible source of the name traces back to the Sumerian god of food and vegetation, Tammuz, whose Phoenician epithet was “Nea’man”. Tammuz is generally considered to have been drawn into the Greek pantheon as “Adonis”. Tammuz's Phoenician epithet “Nea’man” is believed to be both the source of “an-Nu’man” in Arabic which came through Syriac, and of “anemone” which came through Greek.

Another possible source of the name is An-Nu’man III Bin Al-Munthir, the last Lakhmid king of Al-Hirah (582-c.609 AD) and a Christian Arab. An-Nu’man is known to have protected the flowers during his reign. According to myth, the flower thrived on An-Nu’man’s grave, paralleling the death and rebirth of Adonis.

In Hebrew, the anemone is calanit metzouya. “Calanit” comes from the Hebrew word “cala” לה" which means “bride”, while “metzouya” means “common”. The calanit earned its name because of its beauty and majesty, evoking a bride on her wedding day (remembering that traditionally brides wore brightly coloured clothes on their wedding day in the Middle East). In 2013 Anemone coronaria was elected as the national flower of the State of Israel, in a poll arranged by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (החברה להגנת הטבע) and Ynet. Anemone coronaria grows wild all over Israel, Palestine and Jordan. During the British Mandate for Palestine, British soldiers were nicknamed “kalaniyot” for their red berets.

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

POETS UNITED - IDENTITY

“In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” - Bertrand Russell

This week, Poets United has as its theme “Identity”. Participants write a poem that fits into this suggested theme and the results are shared with other participants of the challenge. Here is my contribution:


Mistaken Identity

You think you know me,
Because you buy me the cologne I favour,
Currently…

You believe you can guess my thoughts,
Because I smiled when you said you read my mind,
Yesterday…

You assume you understand me,
When you ordered lunch for me, without asking me what I wanted,
Last week…

You’re convinced you read me like an open book,
When you had the room painted with what was my favourite colour,
Last year…

You trust my feelings for you,
Expecting me to carry on loving you, undeservedly,
Forever…

Well think again – don’t dare to believe;
Assumptions are unjustified;
Your convictions are hollow:
You have mistaken my identity,
I am not who you have the effrontery to imagine I am.

Love feeds on love and a reciprocation of feeling,
Not on Pavlovian bells, nor on concessionary gifts.
Love grows when tended tenderly, like a delicate flower,
Not swamped with deluges, nor burned with Summer sunshine.
If you want to know who I really am, ask me, and I shall tell you.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

TRAVEL TUESDAY #12

“We live on an island surrounded by a sea of ignorance. As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.” - John Archibald Wheeler

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 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.
Symi, also transliterated as Syme or Simi (Greek: Σύμη), is a Greek island and municipality. It is mountainous and includes the harbour town of Symi and its adjacent upper town Ano Symi, as well as several smaller localities, beaches, and areas of significance in history and mythology. Symi is part of the Rhodes regional unit. The economy of Symi was traditionally based on of shipbuilding and sponge industries. The population reached 22,500 at its peak during that period. Symi's main industry is now tourism, and its permanent population has declined to 2,500, with a larger population during the summer.

Geographically, Symi is part of the Dodecanese island chain, located about 41 kilometres north-northwest of Rhodes (and 425 km from Piraeus, the port of Athens), with 58.1 square kilometres of mountainous terrain. Its nearest land neighbours are the Datça and Bozburun peninsulas of Muğla Province in Turkey. Its interior is dotted with small valleys, and its coastline alternates between rocky cliffs and beaches, and isolated coves. Its main town, located on the northeast coast, is also named Symi and consists of the lower town around the harbour, typically referred to as Yialos, and the upper town is called Horio or Ano Symi. Other inhabited localities are Pedi, Nimborio, Marathounda and Panormitis. Panormitis is the location of the island's famous monastery which is visited by people from all over the world, and many Greeks pay homage to St Michael of Panormitis each year.

It is a small, picturesque and quiet place to relax and perfect for a Summer holiday. At the same time, there are quite a few activities and places to visit, while in Summer there is entertainment to be had in the evenings also…

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

Please link your entry using the Linky tool below:

Monday, 1 February 2016

MOVIE MONDAY - THE DRESSMAKER

“There is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us, and not we, them; we may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking.” - Virginia Woolf

For Movie Monday today, an Australian film, the 2015 Jocelyn Moorhouse movie “The Dressmaker” starring Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving and Judy Davis. The film is based on Australian author Rosalie Ham’s Gothic novel first published by Duffy & Snellgrove on January 1, 2000. The story is set in a 1950s fictional Australian country town, Dungatar, and explores love, hate and haute couture. The novel is divided into four sections, each named after a different fabric and representing different phases in the story: Gingham, shantung, felt and brocade. I have not read the novel, but the quirky film was interesting and entertaining.

The plot centres on Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage (Winslet) who returns home to rural Australia after spending time abroad becoming an accomplished fashion designer. Much of the story hinges on her childhood: As a child Tilly was sent to a boarding school in Melbourne by Sergeant Farrat (Weaving) as she was accused of killing the boy who bullied her. Her mother, Molly (Davis) initially doesn’t recognise the adult Tilly on her return o town and thinks she is dealing with an impostor. Molly eventually accepts her into her home and Tilly transforms it into a couturier’s salon where she begins to make haute couture clothes for the women of the town. In the meantime, she becomes romantically involved with Teddy McSwiney (Hemsworth) whom she has known since they were children. The town still hasn’t forgiven Tilly for apparently killing the boy and believe she is cursed. Tilly’s plan is to exact revenge on all those who did her wrong and she will apparently stop at nothing to succeed...

The film is episodic in nature and difficult to classify into a single genre. There is quite a great deal going on and there are many characters introduced throughout. Many familiar Australian actors get lines in this movie and it’s great to see them doing their thing so well. Kate Winslet assumes a fantastic Australian accent and it certainly complements Hemsworth’s drawl. Judy Davis is fantastic in her role, which deserves a supporting actress Oscar.

There are moments of hilarious humour, moments of poignancy, great sadness, frustration and quirkiness. A true roller-coaster in terms of everything that is going on. Part of the film’s charm perhaps is because of this failure to classified and pigeon-holed and it can be considered to mirror life in this respect. There is poetic license, of course, and an almost magical realism about the situation as well as an unconventional ending. Given the film’s title and the short publicity blurb I read about it before seeing it, I thought it was going to be a standard chick-flick, but no, it doesn’t fall into that type either.

The sets, costumes, cinematography and authentic touches of the 1950s era were extremely well done and one felt transported back in time, watching this idiosyncratic tale. I would recommend it anyone and I would say that it was quite an entertaining two hours we spent watching it. The film has a great message, as well, about the few bad people who are hasty in making terrible judgments and who are able to influence a whole lot of others, thus making life miserable for everyone…

Sunday, 31 January 2016

ART SUNDAY - JAMES ENSOR

“My art tends toward the literary. My pictures tend toward the outskirts of painting: But why generalise? It is possible to realise one thing or another, according to the impressions gained from one point of view or another. But it is too difficult to make a general rule.” – James Ensor

James Sidney Edouard, Baron Ensor (13 April 1860 – 19 November 1949) was a Belgian painter and printmaker, an important influence on expressionism and surrealism who lived in Ostend for almost his entire life. He was associated with the artistic group Les XX.

Ensor’s father, James Frederic Ensor, born in Brussels of English parents, was a cultivated man who studied engineering in England and Germany. Ensor’s mother, Maria Catherina Haegheman, was Belgian. Ensor himself lacked interest in academic study and left school at the age of fifteen to begin his artistic training with two local painters. From 1877 to 1880, he attended the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, where one of his fellow students was Fernand Khnopff. Ensor first exhibited his work in 1881. From 1880 until 1917, he had his studio in the attic of his parents’ house. His travels were very few: Three brief trips to France and two to the Netherlands in the 1880s, and a four-day trip to London in 1892.

Ensor was an acknowledged master by the time he was 20 years old. After a youthful infatuation with the art of Rembrandt and Peter Paul Rubens, he adopted the vivacious brushstroke of the French Impressionists. When Ensor’s works were rejected by the Brussels Salon in 1883, he joined a group of progressive artists called Les Vingt ( Les XX, The Twenty). During this period, in such works as his “Scandalised Masks” (1883), he began to depict images of grotesque fantasy—skeletons, phantoms, and hideous masks. Ensor’s interest in masks probably began in his mother’s curio shop.

His “Entry of Christ into Brussels” (1888), filled with carnival masks painted in smeared, garish colours, provoked such indignation that he was expelled from Les Vingt. Ensor, nevertheless, continued to paint such nightmarish visions as “Masks (Intrigues)” (1890) and “Skeletons Fighting for the Body of a Hanged Man” (1891).

As criticism of his work became more abusive, the artist became more cynical and misanthropic, a state of mind given frightening expression in his “Portrait of the Artist Surrounded by Masks”. He finally became a recluse and was seen in public so seldom that he was rumoured to be dead. After 1900 Ensor’s art underwent little change. When, in 1929, his Entry of Christ into Brussels was first exhibited publicly, King Albert of Belgium conferred a baronetcy on him.

As Ensor achieved belated recognition in the final years of the 19th century, his style softened and he painted less. Critics have generally seen Ensor’s last fifty years as a long period of decline. The aggressive sarcasm and scatology that had characterised his work since the mid-1880s was less evident in his few new compositions, and much of his output consisted of mild repetitions of earlier works. Significant works of Ensor’s late period include “The Artist’s Mother in Death” (1915), a subdued painting of his mother’s deathbed with prominent medicine bottles in the foreground, and “The Vile Vivisectors” (1925), a vehement attack on those responsible for the use of animals in medical experimentation.

James Ensor is considered to be an innovator in 19th-century art. Although he stood apart from other artists of his time, he significantly influenced such 20th-century artists as Paul Klee, Emil Nolde, George Grosz, Alfred Kubin, Wols, Felix Nussbaum, and other expressionist and surrealist painters of the 20th century. The yearly philanthropic “Bal du Rat Mort” (Dead Rat Ball) in Ostend continues a tradition begun by Ensor and his friends in 1898.

His works are in many public collections, notably the Modern Art Museum of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, and the Museum voor Schone Kunsten in Ostend. Major works by Ensor are also in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Musée d'Orsay, Paris, and the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne. A collection of his letters is held in the Contemporary Art Archives of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels. The Ensor collections of the Flemish fine art museums can all be seen at the James Ensor Online Museum (http://jamesensor.vlaamsekunstcollectie.be/).

The painting above is Ensor’s “The Despair of Pierrot” of 1892 and is typical of his oeuvre. The Commedia Dell’ Arte characters Pierrot, Columbine and Harlequin typify the eternal triangle of relationships, and Ensor’s obsession with masks can be allowed to vent in this thematic wonderland. The central jealous and despairing Pierrot is depicted in his blackest misery while Columbine and Harlequin are jauntily making their escape towards the windmill in the upper left. The masked figures around Pierrot seem to be deriding him and mocking his despair. It is a powerful image and one which creates unease, anxiety and disquietude. The blues and browns of the palette complement and contrast one another and contribute to the psychological effect of the painting.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

MUSIC SATURDAY - MOZART VIOLIN CONCERTO No5

“Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.” - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791), baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart,[ was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. Born in Salzburg, Mozart showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty.

At 17, Mozart was engaged as a musician at the Salzburg court, but grew restless and travelled in search of a better position. While visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. He chose to stay in the capital, where he achieved fame but little financial security. During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and portions of the Requiem, which was largely unfinished at the time of his death. The circumstances of his early death have been much mythologised. He was survived by his wife Constanze and two sons.

He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers, and his influence on subsequent Western art music is profound. Ludwig van Beethoven composed his own early works in the shadow of Mozart, and Joseph Haydn wrote that “posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years”.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote at least five violin concertos between 1773 and 1776 in Salzburg, Austria, most likely for his own use as concertmaster of the Archbishop of Salzburg’s orchestra. The Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219, often referred to by the nickname The Turkish, was written in 1775, premiering during the holiday season that year in Salzburg. It follows the typical fast-slow-fast musical structure.

The concerto is scored for two oboes, two horns and strings. The movements are as follows:
Allegro aperto – Adagio – Allegro aperto
Adagio
Rondeau – Tempo di minuetto

The rondo Finale is based on a Minuet theme, which recurs several times. In the middle of the movement the metre changes from 3/4 to 2/4 and a section of “Turkish music” is played. This is characterised by the shift to A minor (from the original A major), and by the use of grotesque elements, such as unison chromatic crescendos, repetition of very short musical elements and col legno playing in the cellos and double basses. This is the section that gave the concerto the nickname “The Turkish Concerto”. The famous Rondo alla Turca from Mozart's piano sonata in A major features the same key and similar elements.

Here is Anne Sophie-Mutter performing Mozart’s 5th violin concerto in A major, K.219, accompanied by the Camerata Salzburg.

Friday, 29 January 2016

FOOD FRIDAY - FESTIVE TARTLETS

“Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: For that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.” - Ecclesiastes 8:15

My grandmother used to say that some festive foods that were traditionally made only once a year were too good to save for only that one occasion. Consequently, she made those foods many times a year. The only thing she did was that she renamed them so that people would not argue with her on why she made those particular foods at “inappropriate” times. Here is her recipe for mincemeat pies, which she renamed “Festive Tartlets”…

Festive Tartlets
Ingredients
1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup icing sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup ice water
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup sugar for dusting
Filling:
4 walnuts, roughly crushed
1 tbsp mixed candied peel
2 tbsp chopped glacé cherries
2 tbsp sultanas
1 tbsp chopped dried apricots
2 tbsp dates, chopped
2 tbsp apricot jam
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
A little brandy

Method
Prepare the filling by mixing thoroughly all of the ingredients. Add a little brandy to ensure the filling is not too thick. Lay aside. You may like to prepare this a day or two before you make the tarts so as to allow the flavours to meld. Keep in a covered container in the fridge.
Preheat oven to 200˚C. Sift together the flour, 1/4 cup icing sugar, and cinnamon. Use a pastry cutter or two forks to mix in the butter until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the lemon zest. Sprinkle with ice water, and gather dough into a ball. Let the dough rest fro 30 minutes in the fridge.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/2 cm thick. Cut out approximately 18 (8 cm) diameter circles, and 18 (5 cm) circles, rerolling dough as needed. Line muffin cups or tart tins using the larger pastry circles. Fill each pastry cup with about 1 tablespoon of filling. Top with smaller pastry circles, pinching circles together to seal the edges. Brush the top of each pie with egg and dust with 1/4 cup sugar.
Bake pies in preheated oven until tops are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool slightly on wire racks.

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Thursday, 28 January 2016

ALL ABOUT HYACINTHS

“In your Curled petals what ghosts Of blue headlands and seas, What perfumed immortal breath sighing Of Greece.” AdelaideCrapsey

Hyacinthus is a small genus of bulbous flowering plants in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Scilloideae, that are commonly called hyacinths. The genus is native to the eastern Mediterranean (from south Turkey through Lebanon and Syria to northern Israel/Palestine), Iraq, north-east Iran, and Turkmenistan. Several species of Brodiea, Scilla, and other plants that were formerly classified in the lily family and have flower clusters borne along the stalk also have common names with the word “hyacinth” in them. True hyacinths should also not be confused with the genus Muscari, which are commonly known as “grape hyacinths”.

The generic name is derived from Greek mythology: Hyacinthus (in Greek, Ὑάκινθος, Hyakinthos) was a beautiful youth and lover of the god Apollo, though he was also admired by the gentle West Wind, Zephyr. Apollo and Hyacinth took turns throwing the discus. Hyacinth ran to catch it to impress Apollo, but was struck by the discus as it fell to the ground, and he died. A twist in the tale makes the wind god Zephyrus responsible for the death of Hyacinth. The beauty of the youth caused a feud between Zephyrus and Apollo. Jealous that Hyacinth preferred the radiant archery god Apollo, Zephyrus blew Apollo’s discus off course, so as to injure and kill Hyacinthus.

When the youth died, Apollo did not allow Hades to claim him; rather, he made a flower, (the hyacinth), to sprout from his spilled blood. According to Ovid’s account, the tears of Apollo stained the newly formed flower's petals with the sign of his grief. The flower of the mythological Hyacinth has been identified with a number of plants other than the true hyacinth, such as the iris.

Hyacinthus was the tutelary deity of one of the principal Spartan festivals, the Hyacinthia, held every summer. The festival lasted three days, one day of mourning for the death of the divine hero Hyacinth, and the last two celebrating his rebirth as Apollo Hayakinthios, though the division of honours is a subject for scholarly controversy.

Hyacinthus is a plant that grows from bulbs, each producing around four to six linear leaves and one to three racemes (spikes) of flowers. In the wild species, the flowers are widely spaced with as few as two per raceme in H. litwinovii and typically six to eight in H. orientalis (the garden or Dutch hyacinth), which grows to a height of 15–20 cm. Cultivars of H. orientalis have much denser flower spikes and are generally more robust.

The Dutch, or common hyacinth of house and garden culture (H. orientalis, native to southwest Asia) was so popular in the 18th century that over 2,000 cultivars were grown in the Netherlands, its chief commercial producer. This hyacinth has a single dense spike of fragrant flowers in shades of red, blue, white, orange, pink, violet or yellow. A form of the common hyacinth is the less hardy and smaller blue- or white-petalled Roman hyacinth of florists. These flowers need indirect sunlight and should be watered moderately.

The colour of the blue-flowered hyacinth plant varies between ‘mid-blue’ = violet blue and bluish purple. Within this range, can be found, Persenche, which is an American colour name (probably from French), for a blue hyacinth hue. The colour analysis of Persenche is 73% ultramarine, 9% red and 18% white.  Tekhelet, meaning “turquoise” or “blue” in Hebrew was translated as hyakinthinos (Greek: ὑακίνθινος, “blue”).

In the language for flowers, a bunch of mixed hyacinths signifies “Games and Sports; Rashness”. A blue hyacinth stands for “Constancy”, while a purple one means: “I Am Sorry; Please Forgive Me; Sorrow”. A red or pink flowered one means “Play, Recreation”, while a white one means: “Loveliness; I’ll Pray for You” and a yellow hyacinth means “Jealousy”

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.