Saturday 9 March 2013


“What is classical music if not the epitome of sensuality, passion, and understated erotica that popular music, even with all of its energy and life, cannot even begin to touch?” - Lara St. John Read

Another hot day, the sixth in a row above 30˚C and the forecast says this will be maintained over the next few days. Quite unusual for Melbourne, where a few days of heat are succeeded by a pleasant cool change, even in Summer. Now with Autumn officially begun, it looks as though we may have quite a few weeks to wait for the cooler weather – at least that is what the long-range weather prediction says…

We had a pleasant Saturday, despite the heat, with breakfast in the garden, some music playing in the background and the smell of jasmine, roses and flowering herbs in the warm air. We then went out for some shopping and visited the library before returning to the coolness of the house (thank goodness for air conditioners!).

In the evening the return to pleasant routine… Here is the Mozart Clarinet concerto in A major, K622. This was written in 1791 for the clarinettist Anton Stadler. It consists of the usual three movements, in a fast-slow-fast form: 1. Allegro 2. Adagio, and, 3. Rondo: Allegro. It was also one of Mozart’s final completed works, and his final purely instrumental work (he died in the December following its completion). The concerto is notable for its delicate interplay between soloist and orchestra, and for the lack of overly extroverted display on the part of the soloist (no cadenzas are written out in the solo part). It is a great favourite of mine, but also it seems of many other Australians as it was voted the most enjoyable classical work of all some years ago in an ABC Classic FM radio survey.

Friday 8 March 2013


“Change in all things is sweet.” - Aristotle
Well, after some help of some competent computer geeks at the Apple Store, my computer problems were resolved and I am back on board with a fully functional laptop again. The weather has been unrelentingly hot in Melbourne these days and it doesn’t look as though relief is on the way in the near future…
What better than a recipe for a classic Italian dessert, the Tartufo, whose name is taken from the Italian word for “truffle”, which the dessert resembles in appearance. It is deliciously chocolaty and sweet, so enjoy on a special occasion, in small doses!
Tartufo Ice Cream

4 cups chocolate ice cream
1 cup glacé cherries, chopped
1 cup finely grated dark chocolate
20 choc ripple biscuits, finely crushed
1 and 1/2 cups dark chocolate
1/2 cup chopped milk chocolate
2 tsp oil
Cocoa powder
Let ice cream stand at room temperature 10 minutes to soften slightly. Mix chopped cherries and the grated chocolate into the ice cream. Scoop ice cream mixture into eight balls using an ice cream scoop. Roll in crushed biscuits to coat. Place on wax paper-lined biscuit try and freeze until firm, about 3 hours.
In microwave-safe glass bowl, combine dark chocolate with oil. Melt on 50% power for 3-4 minutes, stirring after every minute, until melted and smooth. Remove from microwave and stir in 1/2 cup chopped milk chocolate, stirring constantly until mixture is smooth again. Cool to lukewarm.
Place frozen ice cream balls on a wire rack. Spoon melted chocolate over each ball, coating the top and sides. Place the coated balls on waxed paper and freeze again until firm, at least 2 hours. Remove from freezer 10 minutes before serving and dust with cocoa powder if desired.

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

Thursday 7 March 2013


My computer has died and taken with it all of last week's photos and work... (Yes, I know, I should back up daily - my bad). Till the issue is fixed I'm afraid I won't post as regularly...

Wednesday 6 March 2013


“Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever.” - Aristophanes

Today is the first day of the Anthesteria (Flower Festival), one of the several Athenian festivals in honour of Dionysus, the wine god, held annually for three days in the month of Anthesterion (February–March) to celebrate the beginning of spring and the maturing of the wine stored at the previous vintage.

On the first day, the Pithoigia (“Jar Opening”) were celebrated and libations of the new wine were offered to Dionysus from the freshly opened casks. The rooms of each house were adorned with spring flowers, and the children over three years of age were bedecked with garlands. Drinking vessels were decorated with flowers, especially violets, which in any case were used to wine by steeping them in it.

The second day, Choes (“Wine Jugs”), was a time of popular merrymaking typified by wine-drinking contests in which even slaves and children participated. People dressed themselves gaily, some in the guise of the mythical personages in the suite of Dionysus, and paid a round of visits to their acquaintances. The primary activity of the day was a drinking competition, in which participants sat at separate tables and competed in silence at draining a chous (a five-litre container) of wine. Miniature choes were given to children as toys, and “first Choes” was a rite of passage.

Also on the second day, the state performed a secret ceremony in a sanctuary of Dionysus in the Lenaeum, in which the wife of the king archon went through a ceremony of marriage to Dionysus. The queen was assisted by 14 Athenian matrons, called geraerae, chosen by the archon and sworn to secrecy. The fullest description, which omits many details, is found in Apollodorus’s speech “Against Neaera.”

The third day, Chytroi (“Pots”) was a festival of the dead, for which, apparently, pots of seed or bran were offered to the dead. None of the Olympian gods were included in the prayers and no one tasted the pottage, which was food of the dead. Although no performances were allowed at the theatre, a type of rehearsal took place, at which the players for the ensuing dramatic festival were selected (remembering that Dionysus was also the patron god of the theatre). On these days, it was believed, the souls of the dead came up from the underworld and walked abroad; people chewed leaves of whitethorn and smeared their doors with tar to protect themselves from evil. A common invocation was: “Away with you, Keres (evil spirits), it is no longer the Anthesteria”.

Tuesday 5 March 2013


“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it’s for or against.” Malcolm X

This week, Magpie Tales has selected a photo by the FoxandTheRaven as a springboard from which to launch our creative efforts. All I shall say about my offering is: ὁ νοῶν νοείτω

This Magdalene

This Magdalene
Brings no myrrh,
To shed over your feet,
No sweet-smelling balm
To anoint you.

This Magdalene
Brings rancour,
Bile and poison
That she spits out
With every accusation uttered.

This Magdalene
Will not loosen her hair
To wipe your feet,
She will not shed
A single tear for you.

This Magdalene
Brings you
Bitter malice,
As she demands her dues
From miscarried justice.

This Magdalene,
Croons no sweet word,
She’ll not relax you
With her music,
Nor her honeyed voice.

This Magdalene
Transforms herself
Into a raging Fury,
Ready to drain your blood
Until her loss of innocence
Is acknowledged,
And the crimes committed
Are punished…

Monday 4 March 2013


“As much horror as we have always created, we are a species that keeps moving forward, seeing new sights in new ways, and enjoying the journey.” - Martha Beck

We watched Bradley Parker’s 2012 film “Chernobyl Diaries” starring Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski and Olivia Dudley at the weekend. This is a standard Hollywood, B-grade, horror potboiler, but it’s done fairly well and thus it is enjoyable in its own manner. It has one suitably interested, tense and anxious, pleasantly horrified with the film until its gory dénouement. One should not expect much, it is twaddle after all, so if the expectations are low, it can provide some mindless entertainment for an afternoon matinée viewing.

The young cast is tolerable and does an acceptable job of being stupid and bringing upon themselves the horrible fate that no amount of forewarning could prevent. True to genre, the heroes and/or heroines will do what no sane person would do, against all sober advice and against all wise warning. Nevertheless, this provides the basis for the movie’s plot to the titillation of the audience’s baser instincts. There is certainly gore enough in this film, although not excessive by the genre’s standards.

The plot is thin, but adequate for what the movie. Three Americans, Chris, his girlfriend Natalie, and their friend, Amanda leave the USA for a holiday in Europe. They go to Kiev, in the Ukraine to meet Chris’ brother Paul who lives there. Chris and Natalie are on their to Moscow, where Chris plans to propose Natalie. Paul proposes instead an “extreme tourism” adventure, convincing the girls to visit Chernobyl instead. Chris grudgingly accepts the majority vote. Extreme tourism agency is run by ex-soldier, now turned tourist guide, Uri. He tells them that they can go to Pripyat, the derelict city near the Chernobyl nuclear station, due to the level of radiation being acceptable for short periods at that distance. Zoe and Michael join the group and they travel in Uri’s van to Pripyat. On arrival, they find the road blocked by the military and they are forbidden entry. Uri uses a back way through the forest to reach the town. The tourist group spends the day visiting the area and the abandoned buildings. An encounter with a wild bear worries Uri and he decides to return to the van. The van does not start and Uri realises that the wires were chewed. Soon they discover that they are stranded in the town and that they are not alone...

Horror movies, the gorier the better, are a well-recognised and popular genre that repels and fascinates the viewer. Humans are fascinated by evil and horror, as long as they’re not personally involved. In the comfort of the cinema or in our own living-room in front of the TV we love to see monsters, ghosts and ghouls threaten people like us and we cringe as the inevitable gruesome plot develops and the forces of evil claim more and more victims.

People respond to the viewing of such films with similar physical and psychological symptoms to actually experiencing a genuine stressful situation: Increase in heartbeat, rapid breathing, and tensing of the muscles. The viewer is experiencing fear and their body is releasing adrenaline. Despite the unpleasantness they cause on viewing, the continued popularity enjoyed by the horror genre, both in literature and in the movie industry, tells us that we like these experiences of fear and distress.

A fascination with horror and evil has a long history. In all cultures there tales of the supernatural. Myths and legends based on the places of the damned and the restless dead, like graveyards and cemeteries have been told by people for centuries, robbing them of sleep and causing reactions of fear and disgust. At the same time, however, many of these stories have a triumphant conclusion, where good defeats evil and the forces of darkness are overcome by light and righteousness. A mirror of the world, perhaps, where we wish (and expect) favourable outcomes in situations that may well be out of our control.

Tension and excitement are often seen by people as positive, and in this context we talk of the ‘suspense effect.’ Besides this tension people experience when they come into contact with horror stories, however, there is another factor at work: The fear that is kindled in us by coming face to face with the supernatural. Human beings show an affinity with the ‘spirit world’, and even in these times of high technology, hard science and debunking of myths, millions upon millions of people still believe in ghosts, evil spirits and the supernatural.
People first encounter ‘spirits’ in their dreams, when they dream of someone who has died for example. This can cause absolute terror if the ‘vision’ is in the horrifying context of a nightmare. We wake up in a cold sweat with the events we have ‘experienced’ in our nightmare fresh in our mind and quite believable. It is a trick played by our brain as it discharges and processes information and data during our sleep. As human beings, we process knowledge and experiences on a metaphorical basis in our dreams. This is a culturally independent process. Furthermore, it is well documented that if people believe a curse has been placed upon them this can result in major physical consequences ranging all the way through to heart failure and death. Witchdoctors pointing the “bone of death” at susceptible individuals who believe in it wield enormous power.

As with everything that preoccupies people, these kinds of dramatic occurrences have become established in literature. There are any number of folktales in which the rogues and villains die from sheer terror when they see the ghosts who are out for revenge. When the movie was invented later on, horror then took up residence in the cinema. It serves a cathartic purpose and everyone of us can have safe cheap thrills in our own lounge room!

Sunday 3 March 2013


“The mind of the Renaissance was not a pilgrim mind, but a sedentary city mind, like that of the ancients.” - George Santayana

Botticelli (Sandro Filipepi) ca. 1445 – 1510 was an Italian Renaissance painter whose large canvases idealise female youth and beauty. Sandro Botticelli was born Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi in Florence around 1445. “Botticelli” was a nickname applied to his corpulent brother who was nicknamed “il botticello” - the small barrel. Even though Sandro was not fat, the nickname seem to have stuck for all family members...

Boitticelli  worked in Florence all his life and today, many of his works are on display in the amazing Uffizi museum. The only interruption from his life in Florence was his short stay in Rome, where he produced three frescoes for the Sistine Chapel. After his training with Frà Filippo Lippi, father of Filippino Lippi, Botticelli fell in with the Florentine rulers of the day - the De’ Medici family. Through circles surrounding the artistic Lorenzo “il Magnifico” he received commissions for classical works, including the “Birth of Venus” and “Primavera” (Spring). At the same time he worked on a religious body of works.

When Lorenzo’s died (1492) and the De’ Medici family declined, Botticelli all but stopped producing classical works. Botticelli became a follower of the monk Savonarola who was a prominent civic leader in Florence, advocating a puritan and spiritual life. Savonarola renounced the luxurious and “ungodly” lifestyle of Florence’s rulers and stressed giving up all worldly things. He was very charismatic and often spoke of death and God’s wrath upon the people.

Many of Botticelli’s previous paintings were considered ungodly and were burned along with objectionable books and playing cards. When Savonarola’s popularity declined, he himself was burnt at the stake in the centre of Florence. Many followers fled the city, but Botticelli stayed and continued to paint. Most of his works now had a religious theme. Religious symbolism in his paintings was widespread, just as allegorical and mythological allusion was in his previous thematic period.

Botticelli became known as an altarpiece painter and earned large amounts of money through church commissions. However, his later years seemed to be a disturbing and unsettling time for him. As times changed in Florence, Botticelli tried to keep up. He often took on difficult commissions that other painters turned down. His changing style reflected that Botticelli was struggling to keep up with the changing tastes of a fickle public. His paintings were full of emotion raging from violence to grace and compassion.

Botticelli died at the age of 65. There are reports of him beings poor and unaccomplished at his death. This could be attributed to the rising popularity of new and contemporary artists such as Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo Da Vinci. Even though his work is now thought to be among the most masterful of his time, his work lay forgotten for over 400 years after his death. Looking back at history, he now has the respect he earned through a lifetime of achievement.

The painting above is from a series of paintings that Botticelli executed to illustrate the picaresque stories of Boccaccio’s “Decameron” It is the “The Story of Nastagio degli Onesti (I)” of 1487. It is a modest work, 83 × 138 cm, tempera on wood, currently exhibited in the Prado Museum in Madrid. It is an illustrative work of one the climactic moments of the story. Botticelli’s work displays unequalled skill at rendering narrative texts, whether biographies of saints or stories from Boccaccio's Decameron or Dante's Divine Comedy, into a pictorial form that is at once exact, economical, and eloquent.

Botticelli revels here in the savage violence of the scene where the naked female figure is beset upon by dog and hunters alike in a brutal rendition of what seems to be punishment of a heinous crime. The viewer cannot be helped to be moved to pity for this woman, whose crime, however extreme does not seem to merit this savage and vicious punishment. The serenity of the setting and the soft tones of twilight Botticelli has used is a stark contrast to the scene played out in the foreground. The painting is as much an illustration of Boccaccio’s tale as it is  social commentary on the fate of women as second class citizens in Botticelli’s time.