Saturday 17 August 2013


“The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.” - Václav Havel
For Music Saturday, a piece of music by Antonio Vivaldi, the motet “Longe Mala Umbrae Terrores” in G minor, RV629. The motet speaks of the terrors of the world and asks for the Lord to appear with his glory in order to save believers in Him. It is a wonderful showpiece for a soprano, with great varieties in mood and character of the music, to reflect the lyrics. This recording is with Teresa Berganza and the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Antonio Ros-Marbá.
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (4 March 1678 - 28 July 1741), nicknamed il Prete Rosso (“The Red Priest”) because of his red hair, was an Italian Baroque composer, Catholic priest, and virtuoso violinist, born in Venice. Recognised as one of the greatest Baroque composers, his influence during his lifetime was widespread over Europe. Vivaldi is known mainly for composing instrumental concertos, especially for the violin, as well as sacred choral works and over forty operas. His best-known work is a series of violin concertos known as “The Four Seasons”.
Many of his compositions were written for the female music ensemble of the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for abandoned children where Vivaldi had been employed from 1703 to 1715 and from 1723 to 1740. Vivaldi also had some success with stagings of his operas in Venice, Mantua and Vienna. After meeting the Emperor Charles VI, Vivaldi moved to Vienna, hoping for preferment. The Emperor died soon after Vivaldi's arrival.
Though Vivaldi's music was well received during his lifetime, it later declined in popularity until its vigorous revival in the first half of the 20th century. Today, Vivaldi ranks among the most popular and widely recorded of Baroque composers.

The illustration above is Samuel Colman's “The Rock of Salvation”

Friday 16 August 2013


“Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.” - Dorothy Day

The chickpea (Cicer arietinum) is a legume of the family Fabaceae. Its seeds are high in protein. It is one of the earliest cultivated legumes: 7,500-year-old remains have been found in the Middle East. Other common names for the species include garbanzo bean, ceci bean, sanagalu, chana, hummus and Bengal gram.
Chickpeas are a source of zinc, folate and protein. Chickpeas are low in fat and most of this is polyunsaturated. Nutrient profile of desi chana (the smaller variety) is different, especially the fibre content which is much higher than the light-coloured variety. One hundred grams of mature boiled chickpeas contains 164 calories, 2.6 grams of fat (of which only 0.27 grams is saturated), 7.6 grams of dietary fiber and 8.9 grams of protein. Chickpeas also provide dietary phosphorus (168 mg/100 g), which is higher than the amount found in a 100-gram serving of whole milk. Recent studies have also shown that they can assist in lowering of cholesterol in the bloodstream.

Chick Peas


1 kg dried chick peas
2 onions
1 cup olive oil
1 shot glass full of white wine
salt and pepper
ground cumin

1.5 litres vegetable stock
4 tender stalks celery
1 + 1 tbsp baking soda


Dissolve the 1 tbsp baking soda in a bowl of water that will contain the chick peas and soak the chick peas for about 20-24 hours (or at least overnight). Drain the chick peas well the following day and put them in a big tea towel with the other 1 tbsp baking soda and rub them vigorously through the towel with circular movements so that the skin of the chick peas is removed – these skins are then discarded. Once the chick peas are cleaned, put them in a colander and wash well, allowing them to drain once again.

Chop the onion and celery stick finely. Put half a cup of olive oil in a big kettle and heat up, putting in the celery and onions and stirring until the onion is golden. Put in the white wine and stir through. Add the vegetable stock and allow to come to the boil. Put in the chick peas and stir through. Boil for about 70-90 minutes until the chick peas are very tender. While they are boiling, some remaining pieces of peel may come to the surface, so remove these and discard. Stir periodically to prevent the peas sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add enough water to maintain a thick consistency (not too watery). Taste and season with salt, pepper and cumin to taste.

Once cooked, remove from the flame and cover the kettle with a tea towel and the kettle cover for about 5 minutes. Serve, drizzling each plate with a little olive oil, finely sliced onion (optional), paprika or parsley (optional).

Leftover chick peas can be blended to a pulp with crushed garlic, lemon juice and oil and some breadcrumbs to make hummus.

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

Thursday 15 August 2013


“By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day.” - Robert Frost

I have been extremely busy the past two days at work as I was attending some high level strategy meetings. These were very useful and interesting, however, they left very little for anything else. Hence this lapse from my daily routine of blogging and collecting a few thoughts together here…

I am certainly looking forward to the weekend where I plan to spend some time on myself –although there are also responsibilities and a long list of chores waiting to be done at home. It is very difficult to balance the demands of work, family and personal needs and wants at the moment. I await eagerly my retirement, where hopefully I will be able to spend more time on things that I have not had the ability to fit into my busy schedule at the moment.

Tuesday 13 August 2013


“Left-handers are wired into the artistic half of the brain, which makes them imaginative, creative, surprising, ambiguous, exasperating, stubborn, emotional, witty, obsessive, infuriating, delightful, original, but never, never, dull.” - James T deKay & Sandy Huffaker from “The World’s Greatest Left-Handers: Why Left-Handers are Just Plain Better than Everybody Else”

August 13 is International Left-Handers’ Day. It is on this day that left-handers everywhere can celebrate their sinistrality and increase public awareness of the advantages and disadvantages of being left-handed. This event is now celebrated worldwide, with activities such as left-vs-right sports matches, left-handed tea parties, pubs using left-handed corkscrews where patrons drink and play pub games with the left hand only, and “Lefty Zones” where left-handers’ creativity, adaptability and sporting prowess are celebrated, whilst right-handers are encouraged to try out everyday left-handed objects to see just how awkward it can feel using the wrong equipment! On the other hand (ahem!) Sinistrophobia is the fear of left-handedness or things on the left side and it is surprising that there is still some of this prejudice around.

Only about 10% of the population is left-handed. During the 1600’s people, thought left-handers were witches and warlocks. International Left Hander’s Day was first celebrated on August 13, 1976. It was started by Left-handers’ International. It is believed that all polar bears are left-handed. While many people are left-handed, very few are 100% left-handed. For example, many left-handers’ golf and bat right-handed (ambidextrous refers to being able to use both hands more less equally). Conversely, most of right handed are 100% right-handed. Lefties are also called “southpaws”. This term was coined in baseball to describe a left-handed pitcher.

Left- and right-handed people have different brain structures, particularly in relation to language processing. Research shows that poor infant health increases the likelihood of a child being left-handed. Compared to righties, lefties score lower on measures of cognitive skill and, contrary to popular belief, are not over-represented at the high end of the distribution. Lefties have more emotional and behavioural problems, have more learning disabilities such as dyslexia. Left-handed individuals complete less schooling, and work in less cognitively intensive occupations. Differences between left- and right-handed siblings show similar trends. Most strikingly, lefties have six percent lower annual earnings than righties, a gap that can largely be explained by these differences in cognitive skill, disabilities, schooling and occupational choice. Those likely be left-handed due to genetics show smaller or no deficits relative to righties, suggesting the importance of environmental shocks as the source of disadvantage.

To balance these ideas it is important to realise that there are a multitude of famous and very accomplished people in history who were left-handed. This particular very long list compiled at the University of Indiana is a case in point.

Thankfully we are more enlightened about left-handedness nowadays and we do not force left-handers to use their hand. Parents want what is best for their children, teachers strive to maximise all individuals’ potential to learn, employers strive to maximise their profit, and manufacturers want their products to sell. The hope is for parents, educators, employers, and manufacturers to understand that the best way to achieve their goals is by listening to left-handers and ambidextrals. By making the world a little more left-hand friendly, we are aiding everyone achieve their true potential whether they are right- or left-handed.

Monday 12 August 2013


“Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.” - Mark Twain
Today I will review the film you will probably never see… It is the 1972 Jerry Lewis movie “The Day the Clown Cried” , starring Jerry Lewis, Peter Ahlm, Lars Amble. Let me make it perfectly clear that neither I have seen this movie. However, I became aware of it several years ago and the whole matter of its non-release fascinated me. Quite coincidentally I heard about it again a few days ago.

The plot is set at the time of WWII and concerns Helmut Doork who is a once great clown, but who is dismissed from the circus. Quite depressed, he goes to a local bar and he pokes fun at Hitler in front of some Gestapo officers, who arrest and send him to a political prisoner camp. Helmut angers his fellow prisoners by refusing to perform for them, wanting to preserve his legend. As times passes, Jews are brought into the camp, and they are sequestered away, not being allowed to interact with other prisoners. Helmut is forced by the other prisoners to perform or be beaten. His act is terrible and he leaves the building depressed, trying the routine out again alone in the prison yard. He hears laughter and sees a group of Jewish children watching him through a fence. Happy to be appreciated again, he makes a makeshift clown suit and begins to regularly perform to growing audiences of Jewish youngsters. The new prison Commandant orders Helmut to stop but he refuses, and continues to perform. He is beaten up and locked in solitary confinement. But the Nazis soon come up with a use for Helmut, which is a terribly vengeful one and demoralising for both his ego and his new-found sensitivities – He is forced to march the children into the gas chambers...
The movie is based on a story by Joan O’Brien and Charles Denton. Producer Nathan Wachsberger, offered Lewis the chance to star in and direct the film with complete financial backing from his production company and Europa Studios. In February 1972, Lewis toured the remains of Auschwitz and Dachau concentration camps and shot some exterior shots of buildings in Paris for the film; all the while reworking the script. He reportedly lost forty pounds for the concentration camp scenes. Principal photography began in Sweden on the film in April 1972, but the shoot was beset by numerous problems.
Wachsberger not only ran out of money before completing the film, but his option to produce the film expired before filming began. He had paid O’Brien the initial $5,000 fee, but failed to send her the additional $50,000 due to her prior to production. Lewis eventually ended up paying production costs with his own money to finish shooting the film, but the parties involved in its production were never able to come to terms, which would allow the film to be released. After shooting wrapped, Lewis announced to the press that Wachsberger had failed to make good on his financial obligations or even commit to producing. Wachsberger retaliated by threatening to file a lawsuit of breach of contract and stated that he had enough to finish and release the film without Lewis. Wanting to ensure the film would not be lost, Lewis took a rough cut of the film, while the studio retained the entire film negative.
On January 12, 2013, Lewis appeared at a Cinefamily Q&A event at the Los Angeles Silent Movie Theatre. He was asked by actor Bill Allen: “Are we going to ever gonna get to see ‘The Day the Clown Cried’?” Lewis replied in the negative, and explained the reason the movie would never be released was because: “ terms of that film I was embarrassed. I was ashamed of the work, and I was grateful that I had the power to contain it all, and never let anyone see it. It was bad, bad, bad.” Later that year at Cannes while promoting Max Rose, Lewis was asked about ‘The Day the Clown Cried’ and said: “It was bad work. You’ll never see it and neither will anyone else.”
The film is dealing with a sensitive issue and despite Lewis’ talent, his brand of broad, slapstick comedy would not seem to be suited for such a film. Nevertheless, even in his most zany films he does have scenes full of pathos and poignancy that show his talent at making the viewers drop a tear in between the laughs. However, to deal with such a horrific topic at the time the film was made, while he was beset by all sorts of problems – psychological, financial, existential, was perhaps not wise… In later years, Roberto Benigni showed that a similar idea could work extremely well, although even Benigni’s 1997 “Life is Beautiful” has its critics.
The Holocaust is one of the darkest moments of human history. The tragedy and horror of the systematic extermination of millions people by a totalitarian regime has no humorous side. However, humans have always turned to humour as coping mechanism in even the direst circumstances, or perhaps these circumstances are the ones that need humour the most. The question of taste of course is a personal matter and whether the humour is appropriate or not is often debatable. Lewis’ efforts in dealing with this painful and very sensitive topic cannot be judged objectively in the absence of a final, complete, released version of the movie. It would be wise to refrain from making any judgment when one has not seen the movie. Perhaps today in capable hands, the film could be remade and its message – a humanistic one would be evident.
I have reviewed another film about the Holocaust and children. It is the excellent “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” . We have to acknowledge even the most painful of topics, we have to remember even the most brutal of atrocities, and we have to have the strength to never allow them to be repeated. Jerry Lewis probably had the right intention when he set out to make “The Day the Clown Cried” – if the film turned out to be “…bad, bad, bad.” (by his own admission) is something that we may never be able to judge for ourselves.

Sunday 11 August 2013


“The earth is the earth as a peasant sees it, the world is the world as a duchess sees it, and anyway a duchess would be nothing if the earth was not there as the peasant sees it.” - Gertrude Stein
Julien Dupré (1851-1910) was a French realist painter in the academic tradition. He was born in Paris on March 18, 1851 to Jean Dupré (a jeweller) and Pauline Bouillié and began his adult life working in a lace shop in anticipation of entering his family's jewellery business. The war of 1870 and the siege of Paris forced the closure of the shop and Julien began taking evening courses at the École des Arts Décoratifs and it was through these classes that he gained admission to the École des Beaux-Arts.

At l' École he studied with Isidore Pils (1813-1875) and Henri Lehmann (1814-1882). In the mid-1870s he traveled to Picardy and became a student of the rural genre painter Désiré François Laugée (1823-1896), whose daughter Marie Eléonore Françoise he would marry in 1876; the year he exhibited his first painting at the Paris Salon. Throughout his career Dupré championed the life of the peasant and continued painting scenes in the areas of Normandy and Brittany until his death on April 16, 1910.
Till now, very little has been compiled about the life of this important Realist artist who was described in an article in the Magazine of Art (1891) as: “ of the most rising artists of the French School.” Dupré exhibited works at every Salon exhibition from 1876 until his death in 1910 and earned critical acclaim for his depictions of peasant life. He was awarded medals at several Salon Exhibitions and received a Gold Medal at the Exposition Universelle in 1889 for his pictorial representations of the life of the farm worker.
Dupré was very successful during his lifetime both in Europe and the United States. Wealthy American patrons travelled to Paris to acquire his works, which became part of the great collections of the 19th century. Many of these collections, in turn, would become the cornerstones of great American museums. His painting 'Au pâturage' (exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1882) is now in the collection of the Washington University Gallery of Art, St. Louis, Mo. and 'Milking Time', a monumental work, is in the collection of The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Other important works by the artist can be found in the collections of the St. Louis Art Museum; Worcester Art Museum; Joslyn Art Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and The Reading Public Museum and Art Gallery to name a few.
Dupré's art is typical of the academic tradition, his realism well suited to the genre paintings he executed. His paintings exhibit excellent technique, well-controlled drawing with handling of colour and space, his composition always well-considered and pleasing to the eye. The realist technique and his depiction of the life of the French peasants is well suited to his style, especially given the rather glamourised treatment he gives his milkmaids and farmworkers. When one compares Dupré's peasants with those of Van Gogh, one can immediately see which of the two is more “real”. Nevertheless, Dupré's popularity was assured by his almost Arcadian bucolic visions and the beauty of his models, which idealised farm life and prettified it the way that rich patrons wanted it, so that they were suitable for hanging in their parlours. After all, Marie Antoinette's shenanigans in Versailles did involve dressing up as a milkmaid cavorting in fields with manicured lawns and frolicking with well bathed and coiffured cows!