Saturday 2 February 2013


“Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.” Martin Luther
A restful Saturday, much needed even after the four-day work week, which was quite exhausting.
A lovely piece of music by Johann Sebastian Bach tonight. It is the Trio Sonata No.3 in D minor, BWV527. I. Andante & II. Allegro played by London Baroque: Ingrid Seifert~Violin, Richard Gwilt~Violin, Charles Medlam~Cello, Terence Charlston~Harpsichord.

Friday 1 February 2013


“Go vegetable heavy. Reverse the psychology of your plate by making meat the side dish and vegetables the main course.” - Bobby Flay

Baba ghanoush is a Middle Eastern dish of eggplant (aubergine) mashed and mixed with virgin olive oil and various seasonings. The Arabic term means “father of coquetry”, which has been interpreted to suggest that it was invented by a member of a harem. It is eaten as a dip with khubz or pita bread, and is sometimes added to other dishes. It is usually of an earthy light-brown color. It is popular in the Levant (area covering Lebanon, Syria, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Kurdistan, Egypt, and Israel), as well Turkey, Greece and other Mediterranean countries.

Baba Ghanoush


1 large eggplant
1/4 to 1/3 cup tahini, as needed
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 to 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, as needed
1 pinch ground cumin
1 tsp sumac powder
salt, to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


Prepare a medium-hot fire in a grill.
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Prick the eggplant with a fork in several places and place on the grill rack 12-15 cm from the fire.
Grill, turning frequently, until the skin blackens and blisters and the flesh just begins to feel soft, 10 to 15 minutes.
Transfer the eggplant to a baking sheet and bake until very soft, 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, and peel off and discard the skin.
Place the eggplant flesh in a bowl and using a fork, mash the eggplant to a paste.
Add the 1/4 cup tahini, the garlic, the 1/4 cup lemon juice and the cumin and mix well.
Season with salt, add the spices and then taste and add more tahini and/or lemon juice, if needed.
Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and spread with the back of a spoon to form a shallow well.
Drizzle the olive oil over the top and sprinkle with the parsley.
Serve with toasted pita bread triangles and vegetable crudités.

This post is part of the Food Friday meme,
and also part of the Food Trip Friday meme.

Thursday 31 January 2013


“Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.” - Robert Frost

Today is the anniversary of the birth of:
Lachlan Macquarie
, Governor of NSW (1762);
Franz (Peter) Schubert
, composer (1797);
Zane Grey
, writer (1875);
Irving Langmuir
, scientist (1881);
Anna Pavlova
, ballerina (1882);
Eddie Cantor
(Edward Israel Iskowitz), Broadway entertainer (1892);
Freya Stark
, traveller/writer (1893);
Tallulah Bankhead
, actress (1903);
Lord (Donald) Soper
, Methodist minister/pacifist (1903);
John Henry O’ Hara
, writer (1905);
(Elaine) Carol channing
, actress (1921);
Mario Lanza
(Alfredo Arnold Cocozza), singer (1921);
Norman Mailer
, US writer (1923);
Jean Simmons
, actress (1929);
Christopher Chataway
, athlete (1931);
Philip Glass
, US composer (1937);
Suzanne Pleshette
, actress (1937);
Dutch queen (1938);
Phil Collins
, singer (1951).

Catharanthus roseus (Vinca major), the white periwinkle is the birthday flower for today. It symbolises tender recollections and pleasant memories. Astrologically, the plant is ruled by Venus.  The vinca has yielded two important cancer-fighting drugs, vincristine and vinblastine, that are useful in many forms of cancer chemotherapy.

St John Bosco (1815-1888) is the patron saint of young boys, apprentices and editors. St John  Bosco was only two years old when his father died. His early life was full of poverty and it was at the age of 16 when he was able to enter the seminary in Turin to become a priest. Early in his career he established a boarding house for 40 neglected boys in Turin, with workshops in tailoring and shoemaking. In 1859 he established the Salesian Order which specialised in education and pastoral work.

Franz Peter Schubert (1797–1828) was an Austrian romantic composer. German lieder reached their greatest expression in his beautiful lyrical songs, especially in the great cycles Die Schöne Müllerin [Fair Maid of the Mill] (1823) and Die Winterreise [The Winter’s Journey] (1827). His symphonies are the final flowering of the classical sonata forms, and the Fifth (1816), Eighth (the Unfinished, 1822), and Ninth (1828) rank with the best orchestral music. His chamber works include the well-loved Quartet in D Minor (Death and the Maiden, 1824) and the Quintet in A Major (The Trout, 1819). Schubert also wrote stage music, choral music, Masses, and much piano music.

Here is Franz Schubert’s “Der Hirt auf dem Falsen”, D965 (The Shepherd On The Rock) with Helen Donath, soprano, Dieter Kloecker, clarinet and Klaus Donath, piano.

Wednesday 30 January 2013


“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” - Marcus Garvey

Shades of Indiana Jones! The news item yesterday regarding the discovery of a secret underground burial chamber of many rooms in Machu Picchu certainly fired up my imagination. This discovery was made possible thanks to a French engineer, David Crespy, who in 2010 noticed the presence of a strange “shelter” located in the heart of the city, at the bottom of one of the main buildings. For him, there was no doubt about it, he was looking at a “door”, an entrance sealed by the Incas.

Thierry Jamin, a French archaeologist, who has investigated several burial sites in the North of Cusco, listened carefully to the story of David Crespy. He was keen to confirm the facts behind the story. Accompanied by archaeologists of the Regional Office of the Culture in Cusco, he was able to visit the site several times. His preliminary findings were unequivocal: There is indeed an entrance, blocked by the Incas at an undetermined moment of history.

The site is strangely similar to burial sites, such as the ones Thierry Jamin and his companions often find in the valleys of Lacco and Chunchusmayo. In order to confirm the existence of cavities in the basement of the building, in December 2011 Thierry and his team submitted and official request to the Ministry of Culture in Lima, to perform a geophysical survey with the help of electromagnetic conductivity instruments. This license was granted a few months later. Realised between April 9th and April 12th 2012, the electromagnetic survey not only confirmed the presence of an underground room, but several.

Just behind the entrance, a staircase was discovered. The two main paths seem to lead to specific chambers, including to the main square one. Different techniques (such as the Molecular Frequencies Discriminator), used by the French researchers allowed them to highlight the presence of important archaeological material, including deposits of metal and a large quantity of gold and silver. Thierry Jamin is now preparing the next step: The opening of the entrance sealed by the Incas more than five centuries ago. On May 22nd 2012, he officially submitted a request for authorisation to the Peruvian authorities, which would allow his team to proceed with the opening of the burial chambers.

Various Peruvian archaeologists specialising in the study of metals and burial places will join the group on site, but also anthropologists, geologists, petrologists, curators, surveyors, civil engineers, etc. It is also worth mentioning all Thierry Jamin’s partners are based in France and work with him on his usual research as well as this special operation in Machu Picchu. It will be very interesting to hear more about this story, and I am sure that most people would be fascinated by the discoveries, whether treasure is involved or not!

Tuesday 29 January 2013


“It is cruel, you know, that music should be so beautiful. It has the beauty of loneliness of pain: of strength and freedom. The beauty of disappointment and never-satisfied love. The cruel beauty of nature and everlasting beauty of monotony.” - Benjamin Britten

A Charlotte Gainsbourg image is what Magpie Tales has selected for us this week in order to inspire us and get the creative juices flowing. The connection with music is inescapable. Here is what I came up with:
Echoes of Soundless Musics

When you left, you know,
You took the record player with you
But left me all the records;
They silently proclaim
Words and music
That used to be the food of love.

In the long stilnesses of empty rooms
I can still hear clearly each track,
Complete with crackles,
Each scratch remembered
Amidst the echoes of our laughter
And the basset tones of your voice.

I touch the record covers,
Caressing the smoothness
Of the multicoloured glazed card;
A memory of your skin perhaps,
Cool, smooth and promising much,
Just as any cover should do.

When you left, you know,
You took all with you
That was easily portable;
The record player useless
Without the records,
While they still play for me:

Each image a trigger,
Each touch a memory
Each silent playback,
A sumptuous dish –
Sustaining my love,
For music is its food…

Monday 28 January 2013


“Faced with crisis, the man of character falls back on himself. He imposes his own stamp of action, takes responsibility for it, makes it his own.” - Charles de Gaulle

Every now and then we like watching a good action/thriller, especially the believable kind where the situations depicted are not too far-fetched but still make for engaging, nail-biting viewing. The bonus is when such movies are based on or have been inspired by true stories. Such was the case with a film we watched yesterday. It was Tony Scott’s 2010 movie, “Unstoppable” starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pine and Rosario Dawson. It is a solid, action/thriller that is inspired by true events, the real-life CSX8888 incident in which a runaway train travelled for 66 miles on a track through northwest Ohio with nobody at the controls. The screenplay for “Unstoppable” was written by American screenwriter Mark Bomback.

The movie centres on a runaway freight train loaded with thousands of gallons of diesel fuel, eight carriages of molten phenol, a highly toxic and explosive chemical, and way ahead it, in the midst of a city, a curvy track that requires all trains to slow down to 15 mph to negotiate it safely. The train travels at 70 mph and the track ahead it must be cleared to avert disaster, while everything must be done to stop the train before it gets to the curved track. Two train operatives, a veteran (Washington) and a rookie (Pine), attempt to stop the train armed with little in the way of stopping impending disaster except a one-car locomotive and their wits.

The movie does have its faults, however, it is a quickly moving (pun intended!), solidly entertaining thriller from beginning to end. Although there are two minor subplots involving the family situation of the two leads, the director cannot afford to spend too much time on characterisation or back story, launching straight into the story with two incompetent railyard employees who are responsible for setting the disaster in train (pun intended again ;-).

Both Washingtom and Pine give great performances with some depth added to the heroics, mainly through glimpses of their private lives interspersed within the action sequences. There is a lot of coverage of the trains as they move backwards and forward on the tracks, and the runaway train 777 assumes an active antagonistic role, almost an animated incarnation of evil as it hurtles down the track. There is good supporting work from Dawson who plays a rail traffic control officer who tracks the progress of the rescue operation. Minor supporting roles also add a little depth to the movie and provide relief from the constant background action.

We enjoyed the movie and recommend it as a bit of mindless entertainment, which is quite well done. It is a typical “dick-flick” so be prepared for lots of heroics, action and tough man stunts exploring the (basically shallow, but quite straightforward) male psyche. This is a “we have a problem – lets solve it” movie with little emotional depth, yet quite engaging.

Sunday 27 January 2013


“No one can be a painter unless he cares for painting above all else.” - Édouard Manet

Édouard Manet was born in Paris, France, on January 23, 1832, to Auguste Édouard Manet and Eugénie Désirée Manet. Manet’s mother was an artistic woman who made sure that Édouard and his two brothers took piano lessons. His father, an official at the Ministry of Justice, expected his son to study law and was opposed to the idea of him becoming a painter. It was decided that Édouard would join the navy, and at the age of sixteen he sailed to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on a training vessel. Upon his return he failed to pass the navy’s entrance examination. His father finally gave in, and in 1850 Manet began studying figure painting in the studio of Thomas Couture, where he remained until 1856. Manet travelled abroad and made many copies of classic paintings for both foreign and French public collections.

Manet’s entry for the Salon of 1859, “The Absinthe Drinker”, a romantic but daring work, was rejected. At the Salon of 1861, his “Spanish Singer”, one of a number of works of Spanish character painted in this period, not only was admitted to the Salon but won an honourable mention and the praise of the poet Théophile Gautier. This was to be Manet’s last success for many years.

In 1863 Manet married Suzanne Leenhoff, his piano teacher. That year he showed fourteen paintings at the Martinet Gallery; one of them, “Music in the Tuileries”, caused a hostile reaction. Also in 1863 the Salon rejected Manet’s large painting “Luncheon on the Grass”; its combination of clothed men and a nude woman was considered offensive. Manet elected to have it shown at the now famous Salon des Refusés, created by the Emperor to quiet complaints from the large number of painters whose work had been turned away by the official Salon. In 1865 Manet’s “Olympia” produced an even more violent reaction at the official Salon, and his reputation as a rebel became widespread.

In 1866, after the Salon jury had rejected two of Manet’s works, novelist Émile Zola (1840–1902) came to his defence with a series of articles filled with strongly expressed praise. In 1867 Zola published a book that predicted, “Manet’s place is destined to be in the Louvre”. In May 1868 Manet, at his own expense, exhibited fifty of his works at the Paris World’s Fair; he felt that his paintings had to be seen together in order to be fully understood. Although the painters of the impressionist movement were influenced by Manet during the 1860s, later it appeared that he had also learned from them. His colours became lighter, and his strokes became shorter and quicker. Still, Manet remained mainly a figure and studio painter and refused to show his works with the impressionists at their private exhibitions.

Toward the end of the 1870s Manet returned to the figures of the early years. Perhaps his greatest work was his last major one, “A Bar at the Folies-Bergère”. In 1881 Manet was admitted to membership in the Legion of Honour, an award he had long dreamed of. By then he was seriously ill, his constitution weakened by advancing syphilis, and walking became increasingly difficult for him. In his weakened condition he found it easier to handle pastels than oils, and he produced a great many flower pieces and portraits in that medium. In early 1883 his left leg was amputated, but this did not prolong his life. He died peacefully in Paris on April 30, 1883.

Manet was short, quite handsome, and witty. He was remembered as kind and generous toward his friends. Still, many elements of his personality were in conflict. Although he was a revolutionary artist, he craved official honours; while he dressed fashionably, he spoke a type of slang that was at odds with his appearance and manners; and although his style of life was that of a member of the conservative classes, his political beliefs were liberal.

“The Old Musician” of 1862 is characteristic of Manet’s early “finished” style. The three portraits in the centre of the painting are expressive and beautifully modeled, however, the two people on the extreme right are quickly executed and almost caricatured. The little girl on the left is flat, almost a cut-out. The stiff formality of the poses and the ill-defined background could mislead the viewer to think that this is an assembly of people in front of the backdrop of a photographer’s studio. Yet, Manet’s work is vivid and full of energy, the colours although muted, very agreeable and the composition, based on intersecting triangles, brings the viewer’s eyes back to the three faces in the centre. It is quite an intriguing work and one that could be interpreted allegorically. Time, art, music, gender, and death can all be seen here. The old man with the turban on the extreme right is especially enigmatic.