Wednesday, 28 September 2016

POETS UNITED - TWO SOULS

“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” - Aristotle

In ancient Greek the word for butterfly is “psyché”, the same word for “soul”. Psyche was also the name of Eros’ human lover (see the myth here). The Koiné Greek word ψυχή (psychē), “life, spirit, consciousness”, is derived from a verb meaning “to cool, to blow”, and hence refers to the breath, as opposed to σῶμα (sóma), meaning “body”.

This week in Poets United, the theme for the Midweek Motif is “Two Souls: Caged and Free”. Here is my poem:

Liebe

Liebe (leeb-e, f): Love, affection, fondness.
First entry on page 162 of my “Deutsch-Englisches Wörtebuch”
Just as you left it open for me to discover...

“Liebe” is what you feel and you tremble in its grip,
Enjoying the sweet pain of its discovered existence,
Being tortured by the bitter pleasures of its awakening.

“Liebe” in the first sense is what you feel for me,
“Liebe” in the third sense is what I feel for you,
Our “Liebe” for one another so different...

“Liebe” you cry out to me silently and you hope for me to understand
Your insistent sweet melodies, the blooming gardens of your captive soul;
You hope to wake in me the same sweet “Liebe” that consumes you...

“Liebe” will bring us tears, so smile now while we still can,
Enjoy the bright sunshine of this southern Spring,
Banish the thoughts of approaching northern Winter.

Ach! Liebe! Die Liebe hat gelogen!*
Do not believe her secret, syrupy whisperings…
Your soul a prisoner of love’s enthralment;
My soul restless, free to roam – for fondness does not bind it.
Refrain, restrain yourself!
Don’t let your heart be broken!

(*Oh! Love! Love has lied)

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

TRAVEL TUESDAY #46 - VALLETTA, MALTA

“The world is nonsense: What looks beautiful in the morning looks ugly in the evening.” – Maltese Proverb

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.
Malta, officially known as the Republic of Malta (Maltese: Repubblika ta' Malta), is a Southern European island country consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies 80 km south of Italy, 284 km east of Tunisia, and 333 km north of Libya. The country covers just over 316 km2, with a population of just under 450,000 (despite an extensive emigration programme since the Second World War), making it one of the world’s smallest and most densely populated countries.

Malta has two official languages: Maltese and English. Malta’s location has historically given it great strategic importance as a naval base, and a succession of powers, including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French and British, have ruled the islands.

Valletta is the capital city of Malta, colloquially known as Il-Belt (“The City”) in Maltese. Geographically, it is located in the South Eastern Region, in the central-eastern portion of the main island of Malta having its western coast with access to the Marsamxett Harbour and its eastern coast in the Grand Harbour.

The historical city has a population of 6,444 as of March 2014, while the metropolitan area around it has a population of 393,938. Valletta is the southernmost capital of Europe and the second southernmost capital of the European Union after Nicosia. Valletta contains buildings from the 16th century onwards, built during the rule of the Order of St. John also known as Knights Hospitaller. The city is essentially Baroque in character, with elements of Mannerist, Neo-Classical and Modern architecture in selected areas, though the Second World War left major scars on the city, particularly the destruction of the Royal Opera House. The City of Valletta was officially recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980.

The official name given by the Order of Saint John was Humilissima Civitas Valletta—The Most Humble City of Valletta, or Città Umilissima in Italian. The city's fortifications, consisting of bastions, curtains and cavaliers, along with the beauty of its Baroque palaces, gardens and churches, led the ruling houses of Europe to give the city its nickname Superbissima—Most Proud.

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, 26 September 2016

MOVIE MONDAY - ACTION MOVIES

“The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.” - Oprah Winfrey

Most people tend to live quiet and routine-filled lives where one day pretty much blends into the next. The closest they have to excitement may be some incident in their community, on the road, or workplace that tends to disrupt the quietude. This may be the reason why action movies are quite popular as they provide another source of excitement and out-of-the- ordinary events that spice up people’s lives, even if it is a vicarious thrill.  The term ‘action movie’ is a rather broad one and it applies to a wide range of movies as can be seen below in the list of sub-genres. Action movies have a lot in common with the equally broad ‘adventure’ genre, with which they share some conventional story-telling techniques and plot outlines.

Epic Movies: These films set their protagonist(s) going to extreme lengths and over a protracted period of time to achieve an objective that is of vital, “life or death” importance not only for the protagonists but also for their community. These films have plots that are based on ancient Greek storytelling conventions and they are plots that are one of the oldest type in literature. The tale usually involves the characters in adventures that allow them to change and develop in some way along their journeys. Typical in this genre is Timur Bekmambetov’s 2016 re-imagining of Ben Hur or the 1962 David Lean classic Lawrence of Arabia.

Spy Movies: This is an amazingly prolific sub-genre and there are a huge variety of secret agents that have sequel after sequel of film made. A characteristic feature of the sub-genre is that a spy or other undercover professional finds themselves on a secret mission, usually behind enemy lines, and armed with an array of special equipment and gadgets. The classic that immediately comes to mind of course is the James Bond series of films, begun by the inimitable Sean Connery. Terence Young’s 1962 Dr No still manages to push all the right buttons in this sub-genre. More recently, Phillip Noyce’s 2010 Salt with Angelina Jolie attempts to break down some stereotypes in the sub-genre, but the main plot devices and characters are identical to those in older films.

Disaster Movies: People love seeing scenes of destruction, devastation and havoc on a massive scale. Something about seeing the world destroyed from the comfort of your plush cinema chair or cosy armchair at home somehow makes the disaster more homely and easily digestible: Thrills without risk! These movies often cross over into the sci-fi and thriller genres, but the main concept is obviously a disaster, usually natural but it can be artificial. The disaster itself can be on a global level or extremely localised, imposing peril on only the central characters. Classic examples of the former are Michael Bay’s 1998 Armageddon and Roland Emmerich’s 2004 The Day After Tomorrow. If you prefer your disaster more localized, how about James Cameron’s 1997 Titanic, Perhaps made all the more appealing by the cross-over into the romance genre.

Martial Arts Movies: These are also called as ‘Kung Fu movies’. The focus of martial arts movies is the constant physical fight scenes that are shown throughout the film, the plot often taking secondary place. Actors typically come from a martial arts background, or are highly trained before production. Bruce Lee of course cannot be ignored in this sub-genre as he was enormously popular in both East and West. Robert Clouse’s 1973 film Enter the Dragon is a cult classic.

Superhero Movies: Tales of heroes with extraordinary strength, superhuman abilities and divine parentage are found in the mythology of nearly all cultures of the world. It is not surprising therefore that one of the highest grossing of any movie genre in current times, is this sub-genre. Superhero movies feature one or more characters who have supernatural abilities and do battle with similarly-powered antagonists. The majority of superhero movies are derived from comic book source material. Richard Donner’s 1978 movie Supermanis a classic in this sub-genre.

Video Game Movies: As video games got more interactive, branched and action-oriented their popularity with gamers ensured that a video game could quite easily hatch a movie. Screenplays which have been adapted from popular video games can fall into any genre depending on the source material, but for the most part they are typically action movies. A good example is Simon Croft’s 2001 Tomb Raider.

Oh, dear! Now that I have written this and have got my share of thrills, spills, action and adventure, I think I am quite ready to go and peel some potatoes and start cooking dinner.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

ART SUNDAY - HUGO VAN DER GOES

“Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.” - Gautama Buddha

Hugo van der Goes, (born c. 1440—died 1482, Roode Kloster, near Brussels [now in Belgium]) one of the greatest Flemish painters of the second half of the 15th century, whose strange, melancholy genius found expression in religious works of profound but often disturbing spirituality.

Early sources disagree about van der Goes’s birthplace, with Ghent, Antwerp, Bruges, and Leiden mentioned as potential candidates. Nothing is known of his life before 1467, when he was accepted as a master in the painters’ guild in Ghent. From then until 1475 he received many commissions from the town of Ghent and provided decorations (heraldic shields, processional banners, etc.) for such occasions as the marriage of Charles the Bold in Bruges (1468) and the transference of the remains of Philip the Good to Dijon (1473). In 1474 he was elected dean of the guild, but the following year (when he was at the climax of his career) he decided to enter Roode Kloster, a priory near Brussels, as a lay brother. There he continued to paint and received distinguished visitors; he also undertook journeys.

In 1481 a tendency to acute depression culminated in a mental breakdown during which he tried to kill himself. An account of the artist’s last years at Roode Kloster, written by a monk, Gaspar Ofhuys (who apparently resented some of van der Goes’s privileges), has survived. Van der Goes’s masterpiece, and his only securely documented work, is the large triptych usually known as the Portinari Altarpiece (c. 1474–76 - see illustration above) with a scene called The Adoration of the Shepherds on the centre panel. The work was commissioned by Tommaso Portinari, agent for the Medici in Bruges, who is portrayed with his family on the wings.

It is one of the greatest of the early examples of northern realism, yet it subordinates this quality to spiritual content, uses still-life detail with symbolic intent, and shows unprecedented psychological insight in portraiture, especially in the faces of the awe-struck shepherds and the Portinari children. It achieves an emotional intensity unprecedented in Flemish painting. Soon after its completion it was taken to Florence, where its rich colours and careful attention to detail impressed many Italian artists.

Van der Goes’s earlier and more tentative style shows that he had studied the leading Netherlandish masters of the first half of the 15th century. A diptych (begun about 1467) in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, reflected an awareness of the Ghent Altarpiece of Jan van Eyck in the Fall of Man, while the Lamentation is reminiscent of Rogier van der Weyden. A comparison between the large Adoration of the Magi and The Nativity reveals the direction in which van der Goes’s later works were to evolve. The Adoration is spatially rational, compositionally tranquil, and harmonious in colour. By contrast, the Nativity (also called Adoration of the Shepherds), a later work painted on a curiously elongated panel, is disturbing even in its format—an emotionally charged supernatural drama on an uncomfortably low stage revealed by the drawing of curtains.

This exploitation of space and colour for emotional potentiality rather than rational effect characterises van der Goes’s later works. It appears in the Holy Trinity Adored by Sir Edward Bonkil and The Royal Family of Scotland, panels that were probably designed as organ shutters (c. 1478–79), and culminates in the Death of the Virgin, executed not long before van der Goes’s death. The unearthly colours of this work are particularly disturbing, and its poignancy is intensified by the controlled grief seen in the faces of the Apostles, who are placed in irrationally conceived space. Van der Goes’s art, with its affinities to Mannerism, and his tortured personality have found a particularly sympathetic response in the 20th century.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

MUSIC SATURDAY - J.F. WALTHER

“To play only what is written is the domain of science. To realize what is not written is the domain of art.” - Jean Langlais

Johann Gottfried Walther (18 September 1684 – 23 March 1748) was a German music theorist, organist, composer, and lexicographer of the Baroque era. Walther was born at Erfurt. Not only was his life almost exactly contemporaneous to that of Johann Sebastian Bach, he was the famous composer’s cousin.

Walther was most well known as the compiler of the Musicalisches Lexicon (Leipzig, 1732), an enormous dictionary of music and musicians. Not only was it the first dictionary of musical terms written in the German language, it was the first to contain both terms and biographical information about composers and performers up to the early 18th century. In all, the Musicalisches Lexicon defines more than 3,000 musical terms; Walther evidently drew on more than 250 separate sources in compiling it, including theoretical treatises of the early Baroque and Renaissance. The single most important source for the work was the writings of Johann Mattheson, who is referenced more than 200 times.

Some further information on Walther can be found in the book Musica Poetica by Dietrich Bartel. On page 22, Bartel quotes Walther’s definition of musica poetica, or musical rhetoric, as:
Musica Poetica or musical composition is a mathematical science through which an agreeable and correct harmony of the notes is brought to paper in order that it might later be sung or played, thereby appropriately moving the listeners to Godly devotion as well as to please and delight both mind and soul…. It is so called because the composer must not only understand language as does the poet in order not to violate the meter of the text but because he also writes poetry, namely a melody, thus deserving the title Melopoeta or Melopoeus."

Walther was the music teacher of Prince Johann Ernst von Sachsen-Weimar. He wrote a handbook for the young prince with the title Praecepta der musicalischen Composition, 1708. It remained handwritten until Peter Benary’s edition (Leipzig, 1955). As an organ composer, Walther became famous for his organ transcriptions of orchestral concertos by contemporary Italian and German masters. He made 14 transcriptions of concertos by Albinoni, Gentili, Taglietti, Giuseppe Torelli, Vivaldi and Telemann. These works were the models for Bach to write his famous transcriptions of concertos by Vivaldi and others. On the other hand, Walther as a city organist of Weimar wrote exactly 132 organ preludes based on Lutheran chorale melodies. Some free keyboard music also belongs to his legacy.

Here are the complete organ works of Walther if you have a spare two-and-a-half hours to listen to them.

Friday, 23 September 2016

FOOD FRIDAY - CRANBERRY CAKE

“If baking is any labour at all, it’s a labour of love. A love that gets passed from generation to generation.” - Regina Brett

We bought some delicious dried cranberries a couple of weeks ago and have been using them in cooking and baking. Their tart favour adds zing to a lot of rather ordinary recipes. Here is a rather easy cake using these berries. If you don’t particularly like them you can substitute other berries or glacé cherries.

Cranberry Cake
Ingredients
200 g butter, softened
200 g caster sugar
4 eggs
½ tsp almond extract
175 g self-raising flour
85 g ground blanched almonds
½ tsp baking powder
250 g dried cranberries
100 mL milk

Method
Heat oven to 150˚C. Grease well a 20cm deep bundt cake tin.
Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs, one by one.
Fold in the almond extract, flour, ground almonds and baking powder, followed by the cranberries and milk. Scrape into the prepared tin and then bake for 1 hr to 1 hr 15 minutes, testing with skewer to see if its done. Cool the cake in its tin before serving.

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Thursday, 22 September 2016

ALL ABOUT CHERVIL

“If you’ve broken the eggs, you should make the omelette.” - Anthony Eden

Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium), sometimes called garden chervil to distinguish it from similar plants also called chervil, or French parsley, is a delicate annual herb related to parsley. It is commonly used to season mild-flavoured dishes and is a constituent of the French herb mixture fines herbes.

A member of the Apiaceae family, chervil is native to the Caucasus but was spread by the Romans through most of Europe, where it is now naturalised. The plants grow to 40–70 cm, with tripinnate leaves that may be curly. The small white flowers form small umbels, 2.54–5 cm across. The fruit is about 1 cm long, oblong-ovoid with a slender, ridged beak.

Chervil is used, particularly in France, to season poultry, seafood, young spring vegetables (such as carrots), soups, and sauces. More delicate than parsley, it has a faint taste of liquorice or aniseed. Chervil is one of the four traditional French fines herbes, along with tarragon, chives, and parsley, which are essential to French cooking. Unlike the more pungent, robust herbs, thyme, rosemary, etc., which can take prolonged cooking, the fines herbes are added at the last minute, to salads, omelettes, and soups.

Chervil has had various uses in folk medicine. It was claimed to be useful as a digestive aid, for lowering high blood pressure, and, infused with vinegar, for curing hiccups. Besides its digestive properties, it is used as a mild stimulant. Chervil has also been implicated in “strimmer dermatitis”, or phytophotodermatitis, due to spray from weed trimmers and other forms of contact. Other plants in the family Apiaceae can have similar effects.

Transplanting chervil can be difficult, due to the long taproot. It prefers a cool and moist location; otherwise, it rapidly goes to seed (also known as bolting). It is usually grown as a cool-season crop, like lettuce, and should be planted in early spring and late fall or in a winter greenhouse. Regular harvesting of leaves also helps to prevent bolting. If plants bolt despite precautions, the plant can be periodically re-sown throughout the growing season, thus producing fresh plants as older plants bolt and go out of production. According to some, slugs are attracted to chervil and the plant is sometimes used to bait them.

In the language of flowers, chervil sprigs mean “sincerity; fine feelings”, while a flowerhead means “I appreciate your fine character”.

Omelette Aux Fines Herbes
Ingredients
10 large free-range eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ cup loosely packed chopped fresh herbs (1/4 cup parsley, and 1/4 cup combined tarragon, chives and chervil)
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Method
Using a fork, beat the eggs, salt and pepper in a bowl until thoroughly mixed. Stir in the herbs. Heat half the oil and butter in a 25 cm nonstick skillet over high heat. When the oil and butter are hot, add half the egg mixture.
Stir continuously with a fork, shaking the pan, for about 2 minutes to create the smallest-possible curds. When most of the egg is solid, cook it without stirring for 10 seconds to create a thin skin on the underside. Roll the omelet by folding over one side and then the opposite site, and invert it onto a plate. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make a second omelet. Cut each omelet in half.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

POETS UNITED - EQUINOX

“Life stands before me like an eternal spring with new and brilliant clothes.” - Carl Friedrich Gauss

For this midweek challenge, Poets United has as its theme “Equinox”. Here is my contribution:

Equinox

With equanimity, Spring knocks
The door of vernal equinox,
And stops to listen and consider,
Lest hoary Winter entry forbid her.

The skies are still a sullen gray
But burgeoning buds are led astray,
Blooming in cold and rainy weather
Hoping sun ill winds will tether.

The sun relentless follows his course
And closer, warmer and with force
Drives Winter into banishment,
Snow, frost, no more a punishment.

The air is redolent with perfume,
As hyacinth and jonquil bloom;
The iris blue, the freesia yellow,
Embittered hearts to softly mellow.

September cries, September smiles,
Spring comes with all her wiles –
Drive out all coldness and despair
Wounds heal, damage repair.

With firm resolve, Spring knocks
The door of vernal equinox;
She enters boldly and she brings
Light, hope and colour on her angel wings.


Tuesday, 20 September 2016

TRAVEL TUESDAY #45 - THESSALONIKI, GREECE

“In Greece wise men speak and fools decide.” - GeorgeSantayana

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.
Thessaloniki (Greek: Θεσσαλονίκη) is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of Greek Macedonia, the administrative region of Central Macedonia and the Decentralised Administration of Macedonia and Thrace. Its nickname is “η Συμπρωτεύουσα” (Symprotévousa), literally “the co-capital”, a reference to its historical status as the Συμβασιλεύουσα (Symvasilévousa) or “co-reigning” city of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, alongside Constantinople.

The municipality of Thessaloniki, the historical centre, had a population of 385,406 in 2007, while the Thessaloniki Urban Area had a population of 800,764. and the Thessaloniki Metropolitan Area had 1,104,460 inhabitants in 2011. Thessaloniki is Greece’s second major economic, industrial, commercial and political centre, and a major transportation hub for the rest of southeastern Europe; its commercial port is also of great importance for Greece and the southeastern European hinterland.

The city is renowned for its festivals, events and vibrant cultural life in general, and is considered to be Greece’s cultural capital. Events such as the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair and the Thessaloniki International Film Festival are held annually, while the city also hosts the largest bi-annual meeting of the Greek diaspora. Thessaloniki was the 2014 European Youth Capital.

The city of Thessaloniki was founded in 315 BC by Cassander of Macedon. An important metropolis by the Roman period, Thessaloniki was the second largest and wealthiest city of the Byzantine Empire. It was conquered by the Ottomans in 1430, and passed from the Ottoman Empire to modern Greece on 8 November 1912. Thessaloniki is home to numerous notable Byzantine monuments, including the Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as several Roman, Ottoman and Sephardic Jewish structures.

The city’s main university, Aristotle University, is the largest in Greece and the Balkans. Thessaloniki is a popular tourist destination in Greece. For 2013, National Geographic Magazine included Thessaloniki in its top tourist destinations worldwide, while in 2014 Financial Times FDI magazine (Foreign Direct Investments) declared Thessaloniki as the best mid-sized European city of the future for human capital and lifestyle. Among street photographers, the centre of Thessaloniki is also considered the most popular destination for street photography in Greece.

The Church of Agios Pavlos (St. Paul), is located in the municipality of Agios Pavlos. The church stands next to the old historic chapel of St. Paul. The new church, consecrated in honour of the apostle of the same name, was built in 1997. It stands on a small hill, so it can be seen from afar. The church houses holy relics of the saint, which are stored in a silver chest. A cluster of historic churches dedicated to the Apostle Paul can be found in this region. This is not surprising, since it is from Thessaloniki that Christianity spread northward to the rest of Europe.

More photos of Thessaloniki can be found here and here.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Ruby 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, 19 September 2016

MOVIE MONDAY - CRIME FILMS

“He who does not prevent a crime when he can, encourages it.” - Lucius Annaeus Seneca

We live in a society where crime is becoming increasingly common and more widespread. It seems that this is the lot of people living in Western countries where affluence is highly visible and very desirable, as it is equated with “success”. No wonder that there is a huge proliferation of films about crime, criminals and the way “justice” is administered and meted out. A crime story is about a crime that is being committed or was committed. It can also be an account of a criminal’s life. It often falls into the action or adventure genres. It can be crafted in a way that is sympathetic to the law enforcement side and where “crime does not pay”, or increasingly there are films where criminals not only commit the crime, but also get away with it. The various sub-genres are:

Courtroom drama: This subgenre presents fictional drama about law. Law enforcement, crime, detective-based mystery solving, lawyer work, civil litigation, etc., are all possible focuses of legal dramas. Common subgenres of legal dramas include detective dramas, police dramas, courtroom dramas, legal thrillers, etc. Legal dramas come in all shapes and sizes and may also span into other forms of media, including novels, plays, television shows, and even radio programs. A classic example of this sub-genre is Sidney Lumet’s 1957 film 12 Angry Men.

Detective story: A story about a detective or person, either professional or amateur, who has to solve a crime that was committed. They must figure out who committed the crime and why. Sometimes, the detective must figure out how the criminal committed the crime if it seems impossible. Related to the “Whodunnit” variant below. A classic French film of this sub-genre is Jean Delannoy’s 1958 movie Inspector Maigret (Maigret tend un piège), based on Georges Simenon’s detective stories.

Whodunnit: This is a complex, plot-driven variety of the detective story in which the audience is given the opportunity to engage in the same process of deduction as the protagonist throughout the investigation of a crime. The reader or viewer is provided with the clues from which the identity of the perpetrator may be deduced before the story provides the revelation itself at its climax. The investigation is usually conducted by an eccentric amateur or semi-professional detective. The classic Agatha Christie novel Murder on the Orient Express is a typical example and it has been committed to film many times, for example the 1974 Sidney Lumet version with Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot.

Gangster: Sub-genre that focuses on gangs, criminal organisations, which provide a level of organisation and resources that support much larger and more complex criminal transactions than an individual criminal could achieve. Gangsters are the subject of many movies, particularly from the period between 1930 and 1960. A revival of gangster type movies took place since the 1990s with the explosion of hip-hop culture. Unlike the earlier gangster films, the newer films share similar elements to the older films but is more in a hip-hop urban setting. William A. Wellman’s 1931 A Public Enemy starring the classic gangster actor James Cagney is a good example. One cannot fail to mention Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 The Godfather (and its many sequels!) in this sub-genre.

Gentleman thief: Centres around particularly well-behaved and apparently well-bred thieves. They rarely bother with anonymity or force, preferring to rely on their charisma, physical attractiveness, and clever misdirection to steal the most unobtainable objects — sometimes for their own support, but mostly for the thrill of the act itself. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1955 film To Catch A Thief starring the ultimate gentleman, Cary Grant, is such a movie. 

Hardboiled: This is a genre sharing the setting with crime fiction (especially detective stories). Although deriving from romantic tradition, which emphasised the emotions of apprehension, horror and terror, and awe, the hardboiled fiction deviates from the tradition in the detective’s cynical attitude towards those emotions. The attitude is conveyed through the detective’s self-talk describing to the reader (or - in the film - to the viewer) what he is doing and feeling. Robert Aldrich’s 1955 film Kiss Me Deadly based on a Mickey Spillane novel is a good example.

Legal thriller: A subgenre of thriller and crime fiction in which the major characters are lawyers and their employees. The system of justice itself is always a major part of these works, at times almost functioning as one of the characters. In this way, the legal system provides the framework for the legal thriller much as the system of modern police work does for the police procedural. Usually, crusading lawyers become involved in proving their cases (usually their client’s innocence of the crime of which he is accused, or the culpability of a corrupt corporation which has covered up its malfeasance until this point) to such an extent that they imperil their own interpersonal relationships and frequently, their own lives. Tony Gilroy’s 2007 Michael Clayton is such a movie.

Murder mystery: A mystery story focussing on one type of criminal case: Homicide. Usually, there are one or more murder victims, and the detective must figure out who killed them, the same way he or she solves other crimes. They may or may not find themselves or loved ones in danger because of this investigation; the genre often includes elements of the suspense story genre, or of the action and adventure genres. Andrew Grieve’s 2000 movie The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is based on the Agatha Christie novel of the same name.

The Crime genre can become extremely boring and there is only so much crime, detective and lawyers that a poor viewer can take. I find myself tiring of this genre extremely quickly and in order for me to be kept interested there must be seriously good writing, excellent acting and faultless direction, as well as many (entertaining but plausible) plot twists.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

ART SUNDAY - JEAN HEY

“Painting and sculpture are very archaic forms. It's the only thing left in our industrial society where an individual alone can make something with not just his own hands, but brains, imagination, heart maybe.” - Philip Guston

Jean Hey (or Jean Hay) (flourished ca. 1475 – ca. 1505), now generally identified with the artist formerly known as the Master of Moulins, was an Early Netherlandish painter working in France and the Duchy of Burgundy, and associated with the court of the Dukes of Bourbon.

Little is known about Hey, whose style has led to speculation that he may have studied under Hugo van der Goes. It is possible that he spent his last years in Paris. Hey’s most well-known work, the triptych in Moulins Cathedral (see above), dates from the end of 15th century. The central panel shows the Madonna and Child adored by angels, and is flanked by portraits of the duke Pierre II and the duchess Anne de Beaujeu with their daughter Suzanne. The triptych’s state of preservation is generally excellent, although at some time before the 1830s the top and bottom of the wings were trimmed (the left wing more at the bottom and the right wing more at the top).

Until the late 20th century, the name of the painter of the Moulins Triptych was unknown, although art historians identified a number of other works that were evidently by the same hand. The first monograph on the Master of Moulins, written in 1961 by Madeleine Huillet d’Istria, argued that this artist did not actually exist, and that more than 12 different artists were responsible for the corpus of works traditionally ascribed to him.

The Master’s identity was established after an inscription was found on the reverse of a damaged painting, “Christ with Crown of Thorns” (1494) in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels, identifying the artist as Jean Hey, Teutonicus (“German”, which at that date included Flemings) and pictor egregius (“the famous painter”), and identifying the patron as Jean Cueillette, who was secretary to the King and an associate of the Bourbon family.

Stylistic similarities link this painting to the works attributed to the Master of Moulins. The Master of Moulins appears to have been the court painter for the Bourbons, and from a surviving account for 1502-03, it is clear that the court painter’s name was Jean; other candidates once considered plausible, such as Jean Perréal and Jean Prévost (an artist from Lyon who worked in stained glass, have proven untenable in the light of subsequent research.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

MUSIC SATURDAY - IGNAZIO ALBERTINI

“The violin sings.” - Joshua Bell

Ignazio Albertini was born, probably in Milan, around 1644. The first preserved document that mentions him is a letter from composer Johann Schmelzer to the Prince-Bishop Olmuca where it is mentioned that Albertini was prized as a violinist, although prone to “bad behaviour”. Albertini was supposedly murdered in Vienna in 1685, at the time he was a musician in the court of the Empress-mother Eleonore Gonzaga, who was a great patron of musicians. In the Austrian capital Albertini belonged to a circle of selected soloists who have been linked to the Habsburg court, and we can we conclude this from his close relationship with Schmelzer, the leading composer in Vienna at that time.

To date, the only known works by Albertini are violin sonatas, which have come down to us in  the collection printed in 1686 in Frankfurt, seven years after the composer’s death. The only remaining copy is now kept in the National Library of France in Paris. Belonging to a long line of violin sonatas published in the second half of the seventeenth century, Albertini’s compositions have some original characteristics, but in terms of musical language, the composer shows a clear blend of Italian style and violin virtuosity characteristic of the German cultural space.

Albertini’s sonatas are multi-sectional pieces, quite varied in content and structure, and all of the highest quality. Some idea of the rich variety of forms found in the “Sonatinae” may be gleaned from the following examples: Sonata IX is a passacaglia in which the main theme is presented as a canon at the fifth in the first and the last sections; and statements of the ostinato sometimes overlap with formal sections of the sonata. Sonata XII, the last in the cycle, consists entirely of imitative movements, unlike other sonatas, in which imitative movements are either absent or are surrounded by free sections, such as slow lyrical arias, toccata-like movements with rapid passagework over sustained bass notes, etc. Albertini’s sonatas are very demanding technically, with frequent instances of difficult fast passages, leaps, sudden changes of register and, particularly in the last sonata, double stopping.

The sonatas are also somewhat reminiscent of Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (12 August 1644 (baptised) – 3 May 1704) who was a Bohemian-Austrian composer and violinist. No doubt, these two composers knew of each other’s work (if not personally acquainted with one another).

Little else is known of Albertini’s life (and quite tantalisingly little of his murder by stabbing). One can still enjoy listening to his violin sonatas, here performed by Hélène Schmitt with Jörg-Andreas Bötticher, Karl-Ernst Schröder and David Sinclair on various continuo instruments. There’s poise and grace in Schmitt’s performances, as well elevated lyricism. But most of all there’s passion: A passionate intensity of line, a passionate concentration of tone, a passionate brilliance of color, a passionate love of this fiercely expressive and violently beautiful music. Schmitt’s trio of continuo players are sympathetic players and each gets his/her own sweet solo Prelude or Toccatina interspersed with Schmitt’s Sonatas.

1 Sonata for violin & continuo No. 1 in D minor (8:06)
2 Sonata for violin & continuo No. 2 in F major (5:50)
3 Sonata for violin & continuo No. 3 in B minor (5:56)
4 Prelude (3:56)
5 Sonata for violin & continuo No. 4 in C minor (6:35)
6 Sonata for violin & continuo No. 5 in A major (6:51)
7 Sonata for violin & continuo No. 7 in A minor (6:52)
8 Toccata (4:28)
9 Sonata for violin & continuo No. 8 in D minor (7:04)
10 Prelude (0:54)
11 Sonata for violin & continuo No. 10 in E minor (8:16)
12 Toccata No 5 for keyboard (2:49)
13 Sonata for violin & continuo No. 11 in G minor (5:20)
14 Sonata for violin & continuo No. 12 in A minor (4:46)