For Song Saturday today a beautiful Greek song sung by the seasoned performer, Vasilis Papakonstantinou.
Μάγοι λυγίσαν στο δρόμο Τ’ άστρο είχε χαθεί. Στο ταξίδι σου στο χρόνο Αλμυρό νησί. Πήρες γεύση από χώμα Γεύση από νερό, Χαμογέλασες στον κόσμο ένα πρωινό Πήρες γεύση από χώμα Γεύση από νερό.
Στη Φαιστό ο ήλιος, Στην Κνωσσό το χρώμα, Άκου οι σειρήνες τραγουδούν.
Χνούδεψε το πρόσωπο σου Στο μυαλό φυγή. Πέρα εκέι τα κέντρα γνώσης Χάσκουν σαν πληγή. Μια πληγή που στάζει αίμα Κι έχεις προδοθεί. Νεκροζώντανη εικόνα Που έχεις ξεχαστεί. Μια πληγή που στάζει αίμα Κι έχεις προδοθεί.
Στης ελπίδας το λιμάνι κάτι ναυαγοί Είναι οι γλάροι λερωμένοι Θάλασσα νεκρή Πόλη που σε καταπίνει Σαν παραδοθείς Μια σοφία θα σε σπρώχνει Να αντισταθείς. Μια σοφία που ουρλιάζει Να αντισταθείς, Και στη πόλη που βουλιάζει Μην παραδοθείς.
Στη Φαιστό ο ήλιος, Στην Κνωσσό το χρώμα, Άκου οι σειρήνες τραγουδούν.
Έρωτας θανάτου γνώση ήρθε με φιλί Το κορμί της το κορμί σου Κι έπειτα σιωπή. Μια σιωπή που λευτερώνει, Τέλος και αρχή, Σε διάσταση που λιώνει Τώρα επιστροφή. Σε διάσταση που λιώνει. Τέλος και αρχή, Μια σιγή που λευτερώνει, Τώρα επιστροφή.
Chrononaut (Time Traveller)
The wise men lost heart mid-travel The star was lost. In your time travels Only a salty island. You tasted earth You tasted water, As you smiled upon the world a morning. You tasted earth You tasted water.
In Phaestos the sun, In Knossos colour, Listen to the sirens singing.
Your face has become downy In your mind only flight. There, the centres of knowledge Gape open like a wound. A wound that drips blood – You have been betrayed. A living-dead picture You have been forgotten. A wound that drips blood – You have been betrayed.
In the harbour of hope some castaways; The gulls are sullied, The sea is dead. A city that swallows you up If you give up. A wisdom will push you to resist, A wisdom that screams at you to resist. And to the sinking city Do not give yourself up.
In Phaestos the sun, In Knossos colour, Listen to the sirens singing.
Love and death’s knowledge came with a kiss Her body, your body And then silence. A silence that liberates A beginning and an end. A return to a dimension that melts, A beginning and an end A silence that liberates, Now a return…
“There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.” - George Carlin
Halloween, celebrated today on the 31st of October, is often thought of as an American tradition, but it’s actually an ancient Celtic pagan celebration, called Samhain. This festival originated as a pagan ritual among the Celts in Ireland and Britain, who regarded 31st of October as the last day of summer, November being associated with the death and slaughter of animals that provided meat for winter. In the old Norse religion, sacrifices were made to the elves, and food was blessed and stored for winter. Establishment of the Christian religion syncretised some of the pagan tradition with the new religion’s heortology. The term Halloween comes from “All-hallow-even” or “All Hallows' Eve”: The evening before All Hallows' Day, or All Saints' Day on November 1st. Irish and Scottish immigrants carried Halloween festivities to America in the 19th century. As Halloween was all but forgotten in Europe, it developed into a very popular and widely celebrated festival in the USA, where it was adapted somewhat.
Traditionally Halloween was thought to be a day (and especially night!) on which boundaries between the dead and the living become blurred, and the world of magic and supernatural touches the ordinary world. As part of the tradition, the lighting of fires and discharge of fireworks were used to ward off evil spirits. Fire was regarded as a “living” thing and a great purifier with which ghoulies and ghosties could be exorcised.
In parts of Latin America (e.g. Mexico) and Asia (e.g. The Philippines) the Halloween traditions coincide with local “day of the dead” festivities. The festival was reintroduced worldwide in the 1980s, primarily due to the influence of American pop culture and the all-pervasive power of Hollywood. In the US, children dress up as ghosts, ghouls, witches, goblins and zombies on Halloween night and go from door to door crying 'trick or treat', collecting bags of sweets, fruits and nuts. One of the recurring Halloween motifs is the grinning carved pumpkins, lit with a candle from within and known as “jack-o'-lanterns”. In the US, these were symbolic of harvest festivities that pre-date Halloween, as were carved turnips and swedes in Ireland and Scotland, and carved beetroot in England.
Flesh from large carved pumpkins is not always eaten as it can be very insipid and watery, but smaller, sweeter varieties are used in cooking. Pumpkin of course, is particularly good for making soup, bread or pie and roasted pumpkin seeds are delicious. In Ireland, Halloween was in the past a day of fast when no meat was eaten. Dishes based on potatoes were eaten, such as colcannon (mash with milk or cream, kale, and leeks or spring onions), champ (mash with milk and onions or chives) and boxty pancakes - fried potato cakes that are sometimes served savoury, sometimes sprinkled with sugar. Other dishes include potato farls baked on a griddle; apple and potato “fadge” (= upside-down cake made by layering apples and potatoes inside pastry) and barm brack, a spiced bread made with dried fruit.
In England there was a tradition of eating “soul cakes” (which are flat round or oval cakes flavoured with saffron, mixed spices, and currants) as well as apple tarts. Many of these Irish and English dishes contained coins, rings and other items with symbolic meanings. They were left out for wandering spirits and fairies overnight. Toffee apples (called candy apples in the US) are enormously popular children's treats at this time of year. Variations include apples coated with caramel or chocolate. Roasted or barbecued corn-on-the-cob and popcorn are also eaten. In the US, candy corn (sweetcorn-shaped sweets made from honey, sugar fondant and corn syrup) is consumed in large quantities. Novelty confectionery, decorated in festive shapes and designs such as skulls and worms, is also popular with children.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, parties featuring “scary” foods coloured black, purple or red, have been a hit with the young and the young at heart. Dishes are often given names like “witches cauldron” (red pepper and tomato soup), and “fried imps’ brain” (walnut halves sautéed in paprika). Sandwiches are cut into spooky shapes like witches' hats and eyeballs, and drinks may contain “squashed bugs” (flattened raisins or grapes).
Here is a Halloween children's party menu:Hot blood soup (tomato and chilli soup) OK, go easy on the chilli, or try the next soup for the faint-hearted: Lantern soup (pumpkin and haricot bean soup) Served in a hollowed out pumpkin Pumpkin cauldron (chicken and pumpkin stew) Served in a hollowed out pumpkin Spooky spuds and scary toppings Cut the sliced potatoes with cutters in the shape of skulls, witches’ hats, etc Devilish red cabbage Shredded finely to resemble bloody tendrils Marshmallow brownies Well, use your imagination… Toffee apple ice scream For which, here is the recipe:
TOFFEE APPLE ICE CREAM Ingredients 290ml (/½ pint) full cream milk 300ml (10 fl oz) double cream 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways 6 medium free range egg yolks 175g (6 oz) caster sugar 450g (1 lb) dessert apples, peeled cored and chopped 2 tbsp lemon juice 1 tsp ground cinnamon and cloves (or mixed spice) 75g (3 oz) soft caramel toffees, cut into pieces Chopped walnuts, cinnamon sticks and brown sugar to garnish
Method 1. Put the milk, cream and vanilla pod in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave the flavours to infuse for 15 minutes. 2. Strain and discard the vanilla pod and seeds. 3. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Then whisk in the vanilla cream and pour the mixture into a clean saucepan. 4. Cook over a very low heat, stirring all the time, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. 5. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. 6. Place the prepared apples in a saucepan with the lemon juice and cook over a low heat until soft. Mash and leave to cool. Stir in the spices. 7. Stir the toffee pieces and apples into the custard and pour into a shallow polythene container. Freeze for 30 minutes, then beat with a fork. Repeat this process then freeze until hard. (Alternatively use an ice cream making machine, following the manufacturer's instructions). 8. Take out of the freezer for 30 minutes before serving. Scoop into sundae dishes and decorate with crushed nuts, cinnamon sticks and brown sugar.
“I would not exchange my leisure hours for all the wealth in the world.” - Comte de Mirabeau
One of the universal characteristics of the human race everywhere on the planet is its need to be entertained. We seek diversion in order to take a break from our daily work, a respite from our struggle to survive in an inimical world. Wherever we may care to look, from downtown Manhattan, to the remote mountain tribes of New Guinea, there is entertainment to be found. It varies of course, according to the culture under consideration, the nationality, the climate, the available time, the disposable income, and more importantly, what is on offer.
In ancient Greece, it was said: “Ο άνθρωπος ουκ επ’ άρτω μόνο ζήσεται”, that is, “man does not live by bread alone”. Athenians, in particular where rather spoilt and demanded “άρτον και θεάματα” (“bread and circuses”) from their politicians, and this led to the development of lyric poetry, theatre, sporting contests, amongst other things. The Romans went even further and in imperial times the entertainment was disproportionately more in its extent than the work that was carried out by the Roman citizens. Slaves and taxes from the provinces paid the piper.
With the advent of the Dark Ages, Western Europe descended into a rather drab existence, with most of the population subsisting on a hand-to-mouth existence with sparse and rather simple entertainments. The pageantry of church holy days and feasts, nevertheless provided for that human need for diversion. The rich could afford more sumptuous entertainments including mumming, fêtes, masques, jousts, fools to laugh at, minstrels, music and dances. The Byzantine Empire in the East was another matter and the lavish public entertainments that continued the Graeco-Roman tradition supplemented the pageantry of the church and kept the population well-entertained until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 AD.
From the Renaissance onwards until our days, entertainment has been developing and becoming more varied and rich in its diversity, until nowadays, there seems to be an infinite variety of entertainments and too little time to enjoy them all! We have a plethora of amusements for every age, every taste and every budget. Pubs, taverns, restaurants, cafés, bars, discos, function halls, exhibition halls, concert halls, opera houses, circuses, museums, galleries, libraries, theatres, cinemas, television, internet, stadiums, sportsgrounds, picnic grounds, parks, etc, etc, all attract their adherents and the multiplicity of diversions that one may enjoy therein.
We are entertained for our pleasure, we divert ourselves in order to relax, to enjoy our spare time, to fill our leisure hours with fun, to pursue our interests, hobbies and to amuse ourselves. Often, entertainment provides an outlet for our creativity and if one considers the related term “recreation”, the entertainment may have an important active component that goes beyond mere leisure.
It seems that more and more of our time is being devoted to recreation and more of our money is being spent on entertainment. Once upon a time, entertainment often was home-grown and cost little, if anything at all. One would amuse oneself or members of one’s family and friends. Gatherings of family and friends, singing around the piano, the playing of games, charades, cards, chess, reading, corresponding with pen-friends, drawing… Nowadays, simple pleasures are harder to come across and entertainment is a billion dollar industry worldwide. Talk of a recession, economic downturn, loss of jobs and scarcity of money does not seem to deter the pleasure seekers and restaurants are still full, bars congested, movie houses, sportsgrounds and arenas filled to capacity. We may be going down fast, but we shall have a good time of it! Aptly, the word of the day for Word thursday is:
entertain |ˌentərˈtān| verb [ trans. ] 1 Provide (someone) with amusement or enjoyment: A tremendous game that thoroughly entertained the crowd. • Receive (someone) as a guest and provide them with food and drink: A private dining room where members could entertain groups of friends. 2 Give attention or consideration to (an idea, suggestion, or feeling): Washington entertained little hope of an early improvement in relations. ORIGIN late Middle English: from French entretenir, based on Latin inter ‘among’ + tenere ‘to hold.’ The word originally meant [maintain, continue,] later [maintain in a certain condition, treat in a certain way,] also [show hospitality] (late 15th cent.).
entertainment |ˌentərˈtānmənt| noun The action of providing or being provided with amusement or enjoyment: Everyone just sits in front of the TV for entertainment. • An event, performance, or activity designed to entertain others: A theatrical entertainment. • The action of receiving a guest or guests and providing them with food and drink.
"We rely on technology and we end up thinking as human beings that we're totally safe, and we're not, ... The bottom line is we have a very unsafe planet." - Dennis S. Miletti
“QUETTA, Pakistan – A strong earthquake struck before dawn Wednesday in southwestern Pakistan, killing at least 150 people, injuring scores more and leaving an estimated 15,000 homeless, officials said. The death toll was expected to rise as reports arrived from remote areas of Baluchistan, the impoverished province bordering Afghanistan where the magnitude 6.4 quake struck. The worst-hit area appeared to be Ziarat, where hundreds of mostly mud and timber houses had been destroyed in five villages, Mayor Dilawar Kakar said. Some homes were buried in a landslide triggered by the quake, he said. "There is great destruction. Not a single house is intact," Kakar told Express News television. Maulana Abdul Samad, the minister for forests in Baluchistan, said at least 150 people were confirmed to have died. Kakar said hundreds of people have been injured and some 15,000 were homeless. "I would like to appeal to the whole world for help. We need food, we need medicine. People need warm clothes, blankets because it is cold here," Kakar said. In the village of Sohi, a reporter for AP Television News saw the bodies of 17 people killed in one collapsed house and 12 from another. Distraught residents were digging a mass grave in which to bury them. "We can't dig separate graves for each of them, as the number of deaths is high and still people are searching in the rubble" of many other homes, said Shamsullah Khan, a village elder. Other survivors sat stunned in the open, with little more than the clothes in which they had been sleeping…” By SATTAR KAKAR, Associated Press
Yet another natural disaster claiming lives, spreading destruction and distress in an area ill affording it. My mind goes back to the terror of earthquakes experienced as a child and the mythology of my ancestors generates this poem:
Enceladus’ sleep is sound – His usual slumber underground Untroubled by dark horses, His languor soothing mighty forces.
The frightful giant sleeps And his vengeful, hand he keeps Relaxed, at ease, unmoving; His mother, Earth, looks on approving.
His eye starts to move and roll; A muscle twitches, then his body whole. He turns, he tosses – quite disturbed A nightmare gallops in, fury uncurbed.
The titan wakes, his tail uncurls His mane of wild hair shakes and swirls. He roars, and arms he stretches The rocks above him crack, ground retches.
The earth is split Ground quakes. A deep dark pit Opens, soil shakes.
The houses crumble, Walls are rent and break – His roar a mighty rumble, Destruction in its wake.
His sleep disturbed, his pain Anew awakened, goads him And his rage in frustrated strain He exhausts. His injured limb He extends, and Gaia above Him shudders; her mother’s love In sympathy making her shudder Like ship without a rudder.
Up, down and side to side The ground is turned to jelly; As Enceladus tries to hide Deeper in his mother’s belly.
Ruin complete and utter devastation Above him death and trepidation – (Athena victory forswore) All this, revenge enough for Enceladus…
In Greek mythology, Enceladus (or Enkelados, Ἐγκέλαδος/"Trumpeter to Arms") was one of the Gigantes, the enormous children of Gaia (Earth) fertilized by the blood of castrated Ouranos. With the other Gigantes, Enceladus appeared in one particular region—either Phlegra, the "burning plain" in Thrace, or Pallene. Like the other Gigantes, Enceladus had serpent-like lower limbs, "with the scales of dragons for feet" as Bibliotheke states, though this convention was not invariably followed in pictorial representations. During the battle between the Gigantes and the Olympian gods, Enceladus was disabled by a spear thrown by the goddess Athena. He was buried on the island of Sicily, under Mount Etna. The volcanic fires of Etna were said to be the breath of Enceladus, and its tremors to be caused by him rolling his injured side beneath the mountain (similar myths are told about Typhon and Vulcan). In Greece, an earthquake is still often called a "strike of Enceladus". At Versailles, Louis XIV's consistent iconographic theme of the triumphs of Apollo and the Olympians against all adversaries included the fountain of Enceladus in its own cabinet de verdure, which was cut into the surrounding woodland and outlined by trelliswork,; the ensemble has recently been restored (illustration). According to an engraving of the fountain by Le Pautre (1677), the sculptor of the gilt-bronze Enceladus was Gaspar Mercy of Cambrai.
“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” – Confucius
The Seville bergamot orange, Citrus aurantia bergamia, is the birthday plant for the 28th of October. Bergamot oil is extracted from the peel of these inedible oranges. The precious oil is used in perfumery and in cooking. Perhaps the most familiar use of the oil is in flavouring Earl Grey tea. The bergamot orange signifies nobility and self-sacrifice.
Famous birthday boys and girls for today include: Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor (1017); Cornelius Otto Jansen, religious reformer (1585); Harvard College - now University (1636); Auguste Escoffier, French chef (1846); Elsa Lanchester, actress (1902); Evelyn Waugh, writer (1903); Edith Head, fashion designer (1907); Jonas Salk, virologist (1914); Joan Plowright, actress (1929); Charlie Daniels, singer (1936); Jane Alexander, actress (1939); Gennadi M. Strekalov, Russian cosmonaut (1940); Coluche, French comedian (1944); Thelma Hopkins, singer (1948); Bruce Jenner, athlete (1949).
It is Sts Simon and Jude’s Feast Day today. Sts Simon and Jude were two of Christ’s apostles. In some traditional accounts, they were two of the shepherds who first heard the Angels’ announcement of Christ’s nativity. St Simon was martyred by being sawn in half whilst alive. He is therefore the patron saint of millers, woodcutters and woodworkers. St Jude is invoked by those in dire straits to intercede on behalf of their lost cause. The reason why this particular saint was singled out for this is unclear, but it is suspected it is because his New Testament letter stresses that the faithful should persevere in the environment of harsh, difficult circumstances, just as their forefathers had done before them. Chestnuts were traditionally eaten on this day. Also, tradition says it is almost certain that it will be raining on this day.
A love oracle used to be performed on this day with an apple. A young, unmarried woman carefully peeled an apple so that the peel was obtained in one, continuous, unbroken thin strip. The peel was taken in the right hand, turned thrice while reciting: St Simon and Jude, on you I intrude By this paring I hold to discover Without any delay, to tell me this day The first letter of my own true lover.
The peel was then dropped over her left shoulder and when she turned she would find that the peel had formed the shape of the initial letter of her future husband. If the peel broke into many pieces, it was a sign that the woman would remain a spinster.
In Greece, today is “Okhi” Day (“No” Day). It commemorates the anniversary of the day in 1940 when Italy, backed by Hitler, sought to occupy Greece. This ultimatum, which was presented to dictator Ioannis Metaxas by the Italian ambassador in Greece, Emanuele Grazzi, on October 28, 1940, at dawn (04:00 a.m.), after a party in the German embassy in Athens, demanded that Greece allow Axis forces to enter Greek territory and occupy certain unspecified “strategic locations” or otherwise face war. The ultimatum was allegedly answered with a single word: “Okhi” or no. Most scholars dismiss the use of the word “Okhi” as an urban legend, claiming that the actual reply was the French phrase “Alors, c’est la guerre” (Then it is war). In response to Metaxas’s refusal, Italian troops stationed in Albania, then an Italian protectorate, attacked the Greek border at 05:30 a.m. Metaxas's reply marked the beginning of Greece’s participation in World War II. Those of you who have read “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” by Luis de Bernières will recognize this historical event by the author’s account of the meeting between Metaxas and Grazzi, written from Grazzi's point of view.
The Greeks put up a valiant fight in the snow-covered mountains of northern Epirus and Albania and managed to drive back the Italian forces. The Greek victory over the initial Italian offensive of October 1940 was the first Allied land victory of the Second World War, and helped raise morale in occupied Europe. Some historians argue that it may have influenced the course of the entire war by forcing Germany to postpone the invasion of the Soviet Union in order to assist Italy against Greece. This led to a delayed attack and subjected the German forces to the conditions of the harsh Russian winter, leading to their defeat at the Battle of Moscow.
The day is a public holiday in Greece and many celebrations and parades are organized. Shops, offices, schools etc are closed, and all major towns will have a military parade. Television is dominated by coverage of the parades, special programs on the history of the Greco-Italian war and screening of Greek war movies, commemorating heroic acts during the wartime years.
“Force is all-conquering, but its victories are short-lived.” - Abraham Lincoln
At the weekend we saw a film on DVD that I had not heard about, but which we found very good. It was another of these films that was relegated to the bargain bin of our local video shop, but which I picked out as I admire the work of Tommy Lee Jones. It was the 2005 “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” (or simply “Three Burials”). Jones directs and stars in this film, both very ably done.
The film is set in Texas near the border of Mexico and concerns several people, all somehow connected with the USA Border Patrol. Mike Norton (played very well by Barry Pepper) is an arrogant border patrolman who comes to town with his young wife. Norton mistakenly kills the Mexican cowboy Melquiades Estrada and buries him in a shallow grave in the desert. When Melquiades’s body is accidentally found, a hasty and perfunctory autopsy is carried out and the body is buried in a pauper’s grave. His best friend, the ranch foreman Pete Perkins (Tommy Lee Jones) discovers his friend has been killed and buried and recovers the body unlawfully to fulfill his promise and bury Melquiades in his hometown, Jimenez, in Mexico. Perkins kidnaps Norton and forces him to come to terms with his actions.
The film is powerful and gut-wrenching, as it explores themes of social injustice, the plight of the Mexican border runners, prejudice, friendship, love, marriage, adultery, crime and punishment, redemption. It is a road movie with a difference and builds to an awesome climax as Perkins and Norton end up in Mexico, looking for Jimenez. It is a moving film and one with several puzzling features that become resolved if one thinks about the film after its end. There are certainly many obscure elements that will appear crystal clear on second viewing.
As is the case with many films nowadays, the editing is haphazard, interrupting the linearity of the story with many flashbacks and flash-forwards, especially at the beginning of the film. In the second half of the movie, the story assumes a linearity that leads inexorably to the climax. Estrada’s character (played by Julio Cedillo) is the most puzzling, but the key to his secret is the photograph that he holds so dear and which Perkins keeps till the end.
The cinematography is excellent and all of the performances very good. The music understated and appropriate and the whole film wonderfully put together. It won two prizes at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival (Best Actor – Tommy Lee Jones, and Best Screenplay – Guillermo Arriaga) and the Grand Prix at the Flanders International Film Festival in 2005. It also won the 2006 Bronze Wrangler award in the Western Heritage Awards.
Have a look around for it and watch it, well worth it!
“The richness I achieve comes from Nature, the source of my inspiration.” – Claude Monet
For Art Sunday today a vase full of Spring irises as painted by the incomparable Vincent van Gogh. We have had Spring weather today, showers and sunshine, some wind and some calm. We walked to the Darebin Parklands in the morning and enjoyed the flowers on show everywhere. Irises certainly are at their best now, with roses and jasmine, azaleas and rhododendrons, bottlebrushes and lilies putting on a good show.
I have been blogging daily on this platform for several years now. It is surprising that I have persisted as the world is changing and "microblogging" is now the norm. I blog to amuse myself, make comment on current affairs, externalise some of my creativity, keep notes on things that interest me, learn something new and to surprise myself with things that I discover about this wonderful, and sometimes crazy, world we live in.
I sometimes get the impression that I am on a soapbox delivering a monologue, so your comments are welcome.