Saturday 22 June 2013


“As soon go kindle fire with snow, as seek to quench the fire of love with words.” - William Shakespeare
For Music Saturday, a blast from the past. A song by French singer Frida Boccara (29 October 1940 – 1 August 1996). Frida Boccara was born in Casablanca, Morocco. She submitted the song “Autrefois” to the French Eurovision Song Contest selection panel in 1964 but she was unsuccessful. At the Eurovision Song Contest held in Madrid, Spain in 1969 she represented France and performed “Un jour, un enfant” (One day a child) – music by Emile Stern and text by Eddy Marnay. Her song (along with the entries from Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Spain) shared first place. Boccara renewed her links with Eurovision by participating in the French national finals of 1980 and 1981. However, neither song won. She died in 1996 in Paris, aged 55, from a pulmonary infection.
Here is a lovely song of hers with an olden sound and feel, as delicate as porcelain and crystal. It considers the travails of love and the difficulty of choosing between one’s heart and one’s reason… The illustration above is Jean‑Honoré Fragonard’s (1732–1806) “The Shepherdess”, of 1750/52.

Il faut te décider
Il faut te décider, ma jolie bergère,
Je crois qu’ il faut te décider,
Roland veut t’ épouser et tu aimes Pierre,
Je crois qu’ il faut te décider.
Choisis l’ un ou l’ autre
Si tu n’ as pas envie de perdre par ta faute
Pierre et Roland, le dauphin du roi ou le berger.
Oui, il faut te décider.
Roland veut t’ épouser et tu aimes Pierre,
Je crois qu’ il faut te décider.
Roland est un berger et tu es bergère,
Un roi ne te voudra jamais.
Entre l’ un qui t’ aime et l’ autre
Qui ne t’ a pas vu, ni parlé même,
Pierre ou Roland, le rêve ou bien la réalité,
Tu ne dois pas hésiter.
Roland est un berger et tu es bergère,
Alors, il faut aller danser.
Quand vous aurez dansé une nuit entière,
Tu sauras bien te décider.
A travers la ronde, tu verras qu’ il vaut mieux
Que tous les rois du monde,
Celui qui a plutôt des royaumes à te donner
Une couronne à garder.
Il faut te décider, ma jolie bergère,
Je crois qu'il faut te décider.
Roland veut t’ épouser, tu oublieras Pierre,
L’ amour est là pour décider.
You Must Decide
You must decide, my pretty shepherdess,
I think you have to decide:
Roland wants to marry you and you love Pierre,
I think you should decide.
Choose one or the other
If you do not want to lose both through your fault;
Pierre or Roland, the prince or the shepherd.
Yes, you must decide.
Roland wants to marry you but you love Pierre,
I think you should decide.
Roland is a shepherd and you're a shepherdess,
A king will never want you.
Between the one who loves you,
And the one that you have not seen, or even spoken to,
Roland or Pierre, dream or reality,
You should not hesitate.
Roland is a shepherd and you are shepherdess…
Now you must go dancing,
And when you have danced all night,
You’ll know what you must decide.
When you consider all, you’ll see that
Rather than choosing any of the kings,
Rather than all the kingdoms of the world, it is better
To choose the one who gives you a wedding crown.
You should you decide, my pretty shepherdess,
I think you should decide.
Roland wants to marry you, you’ll forget Pierre,
Love is there to decide for you.

Friday 21 June 2013


“The wish for healing has always been half of health.” - Lucius Annaeus Seneca

It is the Winter Solstice today in the Southern Hemisphere and we have been having very cold nights but fine and mainly sunny days, with the temperature hovering around 14˚C maximum. The short days and long nights have meant going to work early in the morning in the darkness and coming back home in the dark also. Nothing like a satisfying and hearty meal to revive one’s body and spirits. These vegetarian lentil rissoles are just the thing for these winter nights.

Lentil Rissoles

4 slices wholegrain bread, crusts removed
100 g unsalted cashews
100 g walnuts
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped coriander
3 tablespoons tahini
Olive oil to fry
Salt and pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
Pinch of curry (optional, may add more if so desired)
400g brown lentils, soaked for several hours, boiled, rinsed and drained
100 g Greek-style yoghurt

Place the bread in a food processor and process until coarsely chopped. Add the cashews, walnuts, egg, coriander, 1 tablespoon tahini, salt and pepper, cumin, curry, and process until well combined. Add the lentils and process until well combined.

Place the lentil mixture in a bowl. With damp hands, divide the mixture into 8 portions. Roll and flatten each portion into a flat, round shape. Place on a tray lined with non-stick baking paper and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Heat a little olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Cook the rissoles in batches for 4 minutes each side or until golden. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

While the patties are cooking, combine 2 tablespoons of tahini and yoghurt.

Place the patties on serving plates. Serve with the sauce and a simple seasonal salad.
This post is part of the Food Friday meme,
and also part of the Food Trip Friday meme.

Thursday 20 June 2013


“I was born with music inside me. Music was one of my parts. Like my ribs, my kidneys, my liver, my heart. Like my blood. It was a force already within me when I arrived on the scene. It was a necessity for me-like food or water.” - Ray Charles

A bit of a heads for tomorrow! June 21 has been designated as World Music Day, an occasion when the whole world can celebrate the wondrous gift of music. The commemorative day originated in France when, in 1976, American musician Joel Cohen, proposed an all-night music celebration to mark the beginning of the summer solstice and since then, it has become a worldwide phenomenon with over 32 countries worldwide joining in with their own celebrations regardless of the season.

It is a day of free music, where musicians - local and amateur - are allowed and encouraged to perform their music in public spaces without any restriction. It is an important opportunity to actively celebrate the spirit of music in all its forms.

Music is the art concerned with combining vocal or instrumental sounds for beauty of form or emotional expression, usually according to cultural standards of rhythm, melody, and, in most Western music, harmony. Something like the simple folk song or the highly complex electronic composition belong to the same activity, and can be classified as music. Both are humanly engineered; both are conceptual and auditory, and these factors have been present in music of all styles and in all periods of history, Eastern and Western.

Music in one form or another, is part of every human society and one could argue that it is satisfies an innate human need. Modern music is heard in a bewildering array of styles, many of them contemporary, others engendered in past eras. Music is a protean art, lending itself easily to alliances with words, as in song, and with physical movement, as in dance. Throughout history, music has been an important adjunct to ritual and drama and has been credited with the capacity to reflect and influence human emotion.

Popular culture has consistently exploited the inherent possibilities of music, most conspicuously today by means of radio, film, television, and the musical theatre. The implications of the uses of music in psychotherapy, geriatrics, and advertising testify to a faith in its power to affect human behaviour. Publications and recordings have effectively internationalised music in its most significant, as well as its most trivial, manifestations. Beyond all this, the teaching of music in primary and secondary schools has now attained virtually worldwide acceptance.

Celebrate World Music Day tomorrow by listening to, playing, performing or composing some music! Here is Franz Schubert’s (1797-1828) Unfinished Symphony in B minor, No.8, D.759, performed by the Staatskapelle Dresden, conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch (conductor) in 1967

Wednesday 19 June 2013


“For every disability you have, you are blessed with more than enough abilities to overcome your challenges.” - Nick Vujicic

I came across a mention of Nick Vujicic today and I remembered having read about this extraordinary person some time ago. Presently 30 years old Vujicic was born limbless in Australia in a Serbian immigrant family. He is now renowned for his work as an evangelist and motivational speaker. He also holds a degree in Financial Planning and Real Estate from Griffith University. He and his wife Kanae married in 2012 and have just shared the news of the birth of their son, Kiyoshi James.

Nick, who is mainly torso, still manages to play football and golf, he swims, and surfs, and has a normal life, enjoying what many of us have no inclination or willingness to try. He has a small foot on his left hip, which helps him balance and with which he can kick. He uses his one foot to type, write with a pen and pick things up between his toes. His father was a computer programmer and accountant and he taught his son how to type with his toe at just 6 years old. His mother invented a plastic device that enabled him to hold a pen and pencil.

Nevertheless it wasn’t easy. When he was born, his shocked father left the hospital room to vomit, while his distraught mother (herself a nurse) couldn’t get herself to hold him until he was four months old. Although his disability was a sporadic occurrence, an unexplained congenital malformation, due to unknown causes, his mother still blamed herself for it.  Despite the risk of bullying, his parents insisted Nick attend mainstream school. Nick, was teased and bullied, had an electric wheelchair for mobility, and a team of carers to help him. But understandably, he was deeply depressed and when he was eight years old he went to his mother crying and told her he wanted to kill himself. At ten he tried to drown himself, but fortunately, he did not succeed. Growing up, with the help of his family, friends and his faith, Nick managed to pull through to become an international symbol of triumph over adversity.

Some time ago I overheard a conversation on the train where two “normal” people were discussing someone with a “disability” and I was rather appalled by their assessment of his predicament. His physical “disability” was equated with a “mental deficiency” and his company was shunned because of this perceived physical and mental handicap. I was appalled by the insensitive, crass, prejudiced and short-sighted attitude that was based on ignorance.

The International Classification of Functioning (ICF) defines disability as “the outcome of the interaction between a person with an impairment and the environmental and attitudinal barriers he/she may face.” Personally I have always regarded someone with a disability as a “differently-abled” person. We all know the stories of blind people having much more acute senses of hearing and touch, we all know of people who have lost their arms or hands making a wonderful career as artists, handling the brush most ably with mouth or foot and producing stunning artworks.

I am humbled by people like Nick Vujicic. When I realise what can be achieved by people with severe physical handicaps, my own feeble efforts pale into insignificance although I am fit, able-bodied and healthy. The achievements of Helen Keller, Stephen Hawking, Christy Brown, John Nash, Jean-Dominique Bauby, Sudha Chandran and Nick Vujicic are towering monuments to enormous reserves of inner strength that resides in each and every one of us. How much we are capable of is revealed by these people who are differently abled, who have been empowered by their disability to achieve so much.

What better example of a different sort of ability than Stephen Hawking, who says: “It is a waste of time to be angry about my disability. One has to get on with life and I haven’t done badly. People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining.” And this is how most people with a disability that I have met (and I have met with quite a few!) live with that disability. They get on with their lives and make the most of it, using their other (often super-abundant) abilities.

Whenever I discuss “therapeutic” abortions with people, a lively argument ensues. Most people find themselves in a bind when they consider the ethics of considering what constitutes an “acceptable” child and an “unacceptable” one. And yet, with some people the choice is easy: Any potential child will be accepted and given the ideal of unconditional love, whatever the disability or handicap it may carry. For these people, an abortion is simply not an option. Most others would prefer not to have that unconditional-love relationship with a certain subset of children. True enough, every person would prefer health over sickness, fully abled over partially abled, but the situation becomes extremely complex with what our definitions of “healthy” and “desirable” and “fully able” are.

Our world is enriched by people like Nick Vujicic and through his contribution to society, through his interaction with others, he makes the world a better place. La Rochefoucauld remarks that “It is a great ability to be able to conceal one’s ability.” I think that many “disabled” people do precisely that and live a balanced life. We the fully abled ones wish to flaunt our own ability so much, that instead we exhibit glaringly our own disabilities…

Monday 17 June 2013


“There is no remedy for love but to love more.” - Henry David Thoreau
A Marc Chagall painting, “The Promenade” (La promenade), of 1917-18 (Oil on canvas. 169.6 x 163.4 cm. State Russian Museum, St.Petersburg, Russia) has been provided by Magpie Tales to function as the creative spark for all who will take up her challenge. Here is my offering, with a slightly modified image (with apologies to Mr Chagall!).
The Flight of Love
When first we touched,
My heart sang and my spirit rose;
Pink madder tinting my dreams,
And colouring my reality crimson.
When first we touched,
Our thoughts coalesced;
Droplets of water fusing,
Our emotions merging seamlessly.
When first we touched,
You flew up high, soaring;
A bird with wings spread wide,
Carrying me with you, effortlessly.
When first we touched,
Our flesh melded, amalgamated;
As gold dissolves in mercury,
A precious blend of our uniquenesses combined.
When first we touched,
It was but our fingers, intertwining;
And yet our souls commingled too,
And our hearts beat to the same rhythm,
And our bodies could hardly wait
To become one flesh.

Sunday 16 June 2013


“My advice to the women of America is to raise more hell and fewer dahlias.” - William Allen White
Georgia O’Keeffe was born on a farm near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin on November 15, 1887. Between 1905 and 1916 she studied art at the Art Institute of Chicago, Art Students League of New York, University of Virginia, and Teachers College of Columbia University. Her intention was to become an art teacher, and between 1908 and 1917 she taught studio classes at schools in Virginia, Texas, and South Carolina. In 1916, O’Keeffe’s drawings first came to the attention of Alfred Stieglitz (the important photographer and influential promoter of modern art), whom she married in 1924. Until his death in 1946, he regularly exhibited O’Keeffe’s paintings and drawings at his New York galleries, which helped establish her reputation as a leading American artist.
For more than seventy years O’Keeffe painted prolifically, and almost exclusively, images from nature distilled to their essential colours, shapes, and designs. Prior to 1929 she derived her subjects from her life in New York City (buildings and city views) and from long summers in the country at Lake George, in upstate New York (flowers and landscapes). After 1929, when she made the first of many extended trips to New Mexico, her interest shifted to objects and scenery that characterised the American Southwest (bones and mountains). In 1949 the artist moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she resided until her death at age ninety-eight on March 6, 1986.
O’Keeffe’s early pictures were basically imitative, but by the early 1920s her own highly individualistic style of painting had emerged. Frequently her subjects were enlarged views of skulls and other animal bones, flowers and plant organs, shells, rocks, mountains, and other natural forms. O’Keeffe delineated these forms with probing and subtly rhythmic outlines and delicately modulated washes of clear colour. Her mysteriously suggestive images of bones and flowers set against a perspectiveless space inspired a variety of erotic, psychologic, and symbolic interpretations.
“Ram’s Head, White Hollyhock-Hills” (1935), exhibited in the Brooklyn Museum, is a typical painting of O’Keeffe’s highly personal style. This painting features an enlarged ram’s skull and antlers hovering emblematically over landscape and sky; the flower is an addendum that contrasts life with death, softness with sharp hardness. The organic lines and complex orifices of these nearly abstract forms conjure associations both phallic and feminine. Sexuality was a complicated issue for O’Keeffe. She famously denied that her landscapes or flower paintings were allegories of the female form, yet their lineage is obviously physical. In both cases, she asserted her own vision of the female body, camouflaged with protective layers of meaning.
In the 1930s, when this painting was executed, artists, musicians, and writers were interested in developing an indigenous American art form. It was an idea strongly supported by Stieglitz and his circle of artists, who sought to develop an American style of painting, rather than depictions of American subjects as produced by the Regionalists and the Social Realists. The painting is symbolic of America as O’Keeffe saw it, represented by the New Mexico desert and its relics.