Saturday 24 August 2013


“Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.” - Rabindranath Tagore

Music from Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera in seven scenes, “Sadko” (Russian: Садко, the name of the main character). The libretto was written by the composer, with assistance from Vladimir Belsky, Vladimir Stasov, and others. Rimsky-Korsakov was first inspired by the bylina of Sadko in 1867, when he completed a tone poem on the subject, his Op. 5. After finishing his second revision of this work in 1892, he decided to turn it into a dramatic work. The musically unrelated opera was completed in 1896.  The music is highly evocative, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s famed powers of orchestration are abundantly in evidence throughout the score. According to the Soviet critic Boris Asafyev, writing in 1922, Sadko constitutes the summit of Rimsky-Korsakov’s craft.

Although the opera is not performed often nowadays, one of the arias is often played as an instrumental arrangement. This is the famed “Song of India” – which is one of the three arias that fit into the plot as replies by foreign merchants to questions about what their respective countries are like. Song of the Indian Guest (Песня Индийского гостя). Tommy Dorsey's 1938 instrumental arrangement of it is a jazz classic. Here are the classic arrangement and the jazz arrangement.

The illustration above is a detail from the 1876 painting by Ilya Repin of “Sadko in the Underwater Kingdom”.

Friday 23 August 2013


“Fifty thousand dollars’ worth of cabinets isn't going to make you a better cook; cooking is going to make you a better cook. At the end of the day, you can slice a mushroom in about three inches of space, and you can carve a chicken in a foot and a half. So it doesn't matter how big the kitchen is.” - Tyler Florence
We had this delicious bake yesterday and as the weather was cold and wet, it was delightful just out of the oven with some red wine, crusty bread and a green salad!
Leek & Mushroom Bake

20g unsalted butter
1 tbs olive oil
1 thinly sliced leek (white part only)
1 garlic clove, crushed
400g mixed, thinly sliced mushrooms (button, Swiss brown and oyster)
2 tbs plain flour
6 eggs
150ml thickened cream
40g grated parmesan
40 g grated tasty cheese
Thyme leaves
Preheat the oven to 180°C and lightly grease a 20cm cake pan.
Melt butter with oil in a large frying pan over medium-low heat. Add leek and cook for 5 minutes until soft but not browned. Add garlic, and then the mushrooms and stir until mushrooms are soft. Add the flour and stir thoroughly, mixing with mushrooms until flour is golden.
Whisk together eggs, cream and cheese in a jug. Season and add to the leek and mushrooms, stirring thoroughly. Fill the prepared pan with the mixture, sprinkle with thyme. Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned and set. Cool slightly, then turn out onto a board. Cut into slices and serve with a green salad.

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

Thursday 22 August 2013


“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul - and sings the tunes without the words - and never stops at all.” - Emily Dickinson

Friday August 23 is Daffodil Day in Australia. This corresponds with the flowering time of these beautiful Spring bulbs in southern Australia, and just as they are a symbol of hope of the Spring to follow Winter, they have been adopted as a powerful symbol of hope for cancer patients. Daffodil Day is one of Australia’s best-known and most popular charity events devoted to fundraising for research into cancer.

Each day more than 100 Australians will die of cancer. Daffodil Day raises funds for the Cancer Council to continue its work in cancer research, providing patient support programs and cancer prevention programs available to all Australians. Daffodil Day helps grow hope for better treatments, hope for more survivors, hope for a cure for all cancers.

To the Cancer Council, the daffodil represents hope for a cancer-free future. Everyone can help in the fight against cancer by participating in Daffodil Day. Daffodil Day merchandise is on sale throughout August, and people can donate to Daffodil Day at any time.

In Federation Square in Melbourne, the Cancer Council has constructed a daffodil garden of hope. People can write their messages of hope for cancer sufferers, be they friends, family members or even themselves, while the blooming daffodils provide a ray of sunshine in even the dullest of gray Winter days. I hope that I see a day where cancer is no longer a death sentence for many people, where treatments are effective and relatively free of side-effects, where people can take an active role in effectively preventing cancer…

Wednesday 21 August 2013


“Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.” - Mark Twain

On August 21 the Greek Orthodox faith celebrates the feast of St Thaddaeus the Apostle (St Jude). It is also the Independence Day of the three Baltic States, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania whose history shows many common features.

This day is the anniversary of the birth of:
Philippe II Augustus, king of France (1165);
Francis de Sales, Geneva Bishop (1567);
Hubert Gautier, bridge builder (1660);
Tobias Furneaux, explorer (1735);
William IV, king of England (1765);
Hugh Victor McKay, Australian 'Sunshine Harvester' inventor (1865);
Aubrey Beardsley, English artist (1872);
Christopher Milne, son of A.A. Milne (1920);
Margaret, princess of England (1930);
Mart Crowley, playwright (1936);
Kenny Rogers, singer (1938);
Matthew Broderick, actor (1962);

The cuckoo flower, Cardamine pratensis, is today’s birthday flower.  The language of flower ascribes the meaning “ardour” to this bloom.  Astrologically the flower is under the moon's dominion.

Billowy white clouds that look tall and mountainous  in the morning, suggest afternoon rain according to this couplet:
            Mountains in the morning,
            Fountains in the evening.
Also sign of an approaching downpour is a heatwave:
            Heatwaves end in thunderstorms.

Rainbows do not always mean the end of rainy weather! Compare:
            Rainbow at morn, good weather has gone.
            Rainbow after noon, good weather comes soon.
And also:
            Rainbow to windward, foul falls the day;
            Rainbow to leeward, rain runs away.

Whenever a rainbow is seen you should bow to it and remember that it is God's promise to mankind that He will never again cause a flood of the type that Noah survived.  To point to a rainbow is always unlucky.

In ancient Rome, today was XII Kalends September, on which was celebrated the Feast of Hercules. Hercules was the roman equivalent of the Greek mythic hero Herakles. The son of Zeus and the mortal Alkmene, Herakles had superhuman strength and had to perform immense tasks in order to appease Hera, Zeus's much betrayed wife. When he died he was deified and became the protector of ancient Roman businessmen. All year long, Roman businessmen set aside a tenth of their profits for the god's benefit. On this day a solemn sacrifice to the god was offered, followed by an enormous banquet and much carousing. So much food was prepared that often mountains of leftovers had to be thrown into the Tiber the next few days.

The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were incorporated into the USSR in 1940 and gained their independence in 1991. They are situated on the shores of the Baltic Sea across them to the West being Finland and Sweden. Their areas and populations are 45,000 square km and 2 million for Estonia; 64,000 square km and 3 million for Latvia and 65,000 square km and 4 million for Lithuania. Temperate climate supports farming and agriculture. However, limited resources and damaged environment with many economic problems mean that these countries will have to struggle in this new millenium in order to recover fully and become prosperous and financially secure.

Tuesday 20 August 2013


“Heaven is comfort, but it's still not living.” - Alice Sebold, ‘The Lovely Bones’

An Elena Kalis photograph has been provided by Magpie Tales to function as inspiration for all who will take up her creative writing challenge. Here is my offering:

Mad Kate

‘Mad Kate’, they called her
When she walked the fields alone,
Her hair undone and flowing,
Her dress windblown
And her hands full of the wild heather she had plucked.

Mad Kate, they said, was wayward,
A maid with a savage nature and a wild streak
Defiant of every rule and convention;
She lived alone, after all,
And did what she wanted – just to please herself…

Mad Kate, with windswept hair,
And freckled face, and sunny smile
Ready to turn to mirthful laughter;
With breath as sweet as the wild honey she ate,
And a bosom that smelt of lily and lavender.

Mad Kate, they said, would come to no good –
And even the village idiot was wise
Compared to her, so headstrong was she;
The woods more home to her
Than any confining village cottage that would cage her.

And when a village lad,
Resentful of her firm refusals, lay in wait,
And forced himself upon her in the green wood,
Mad Kate’s futile wails only echoed pointlessly,
As he ran away, his guilt assuaged easily enough, for she was mad.

Mad Kate, they said would come to no good –
And when her lifeless body was found in deep water,

They shook their heads, so satisfied they were proven right:
The girl was looking for trouble, she was daft,
And all her gallivanting did do her in at last.

Monday 19 August 2013


“Murder is unique in that it abolishes the party it injures, so that society has to take the place of the victim and on his behalf demand atonement or grant forgiveness; it is the one crime in which society has a direct interest.” – W.H. Auden
We are currently watching a very good TV series on DVD, hence we haven’t watched any movies lately. We are in the midst of viewing the first season of the 2011 series “The Killing” starring Mireille Enos, Joel Kinnaman and Billy Campbell. This is an American remake of the original 2007–2012 Danish TV series “Forbrydelsen”, which received rave reviews and had a tremendous following around the world. If you have been reading my movie reviews on this blog, you know that I like subtitles so the reason we are watching the American version is because we were unable to get original Danish version. All that said, we are enjoying this version and it is this one that I shall briefly review here.
The events surrounding the brutal murder of Rosie Larsen, a teenager living in Seattle, are examined in great detail in this series, with each episode setting out to explore the discoveries, relationships and events that take place on a single day of the investigation. The first season comprises 16 episodes, 45 minutes each. Central to the investigation is Detective Sarah Linden who at the commencement is on what supposedly is her last day on the job. She and her son Jack are booked to leave that evening to join her fiancé in Sonoma, California Her replacement, Detective Stephen Holder, is ready to take over but they answer a call from a patrol car who have found a bloodied pullover in a field. When the missing girl, is found in the boot of a car at the bottom of a lake it turns out the car is registered to the campaign committee of councilman Darren Richmond, who is running for mayor. Linden delays her departure for what she hopes will be only a few days. This causes many complications, not only in her professional life, but also her personal life.
The series is extremely well made and the acting is very good. Although Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman playing the two detectives are the stars of the show, all other actors involved in larger or smaller roles play convincingly and contribute to the success of the series. Although this is a police drama, there are quite a few subplots and we get an intriguing insight into the lives of the people involved in the crime, with several guilty secrets being gradually revealed as the show progresses. It seems there are no “good” and “bad” guys, no white or black behaviours, only shades of grey. As more is revealed about each character, our suspicions shift and different motives for the murder are explored, suspects parade in front of us and are absolved of suspicion as we learn more about them…
The series has gone into a second and third season, so one presumes that there many more twists and turn in the plot and one wonders how the writers kept the viewing public engaged. However, if the first season is any indication, the following seasons’ episodes do keep the interest up and the viewers have stayed glued to the TV set. We are enjoying the show and the lives, motives, past actions and hidden lives of the characters is what is interesting and engaging. We are still hoping to get to see the Danish series and compare it to the American one. If you have watched both, I would appreciate your evaluation and comparison.
One has to mention in the same breath the 2011 American remake of the original 2009 Swedish film “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, which I have reviewed here on this blog. The original film was so good that I am reluctant to watch the American version – at least not in the immediate future. Of course one has to make allowance for the tastes and inclinations of the general English-speaking viewing public who are loath to read subtitles in foreign language films, hence one can understand the remake. However, this reluctance to watch films with subtitles severely limits the viewing pleasure of the English speaker, as many excellent foreign language films do not get remade for English speakers. In any case, I often find that I switch on subtitles in even English speaking films as the accents, background noise, music soudtrack and sound recording are so bad or intrusive, that understanding everything that is said is very hard…

Sunday 18 August 2013


“Everybody is so talented nowadays that the only people I care to honor as deserving real distinction are those who remain in obscurity.” - Thomas Hardy

Gustave Caillebotte was born on August 19, 1848, Paris, France and died February 21, 1894, Gennevilliers. He was a French painter, art collector, and impresario who combined aspects of the academic and Impressionist styles in a unique synthesis. Born into a wealthy family, Caillebotte trained to be an engineer but became interested in painting and studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He met Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet in 1874, and showed his works at the Impressionist exhibition of 1876 and its successors. Caillebotte became the chief organiser, promoter, and financial backer of the Impressionist exhibitions for the next six years, and he used his wealth to purchase works by other Impressionists, notably Monet, Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Alfred Sisley, and Berthe Morisot.

Caillebotte was an artist of remarkable abilities, but his posthumous reputation languished because most of his paintings remained in the hands of his family and were neither exhibited nor reproduced until the second half of the 20th century. His early paintings feature the broad new boulevards and modern apartment blocks created by Baron Haussmann for Paris in the 1850s and ‘60s. The iron bridge depicted in “Le Pont de l’ Europe” (1876) typifies this interest in the modern urban environment, while “The Parquet Floor Polishers” (1875) is a realistic scene of urban craftsmen busily at work. Caillebotte’s masterpiece, “Paris Street; Rainy Day” (1877 – shown here), uses bold perspective to create a monumental portrait of a Paris intersection on a rainy day.

Caillebotte also painted portraits and figure studies, boating scenes and rural landscapes, and decorative studies of flowers. He tended to use brighter colours and heavier brushwork in his later works.  Caillebotte’s originality lay in his attempt to combine the careful drawing and modelling and exact tonal values advocated by the Académie with the vivid colours, bold perspectives, keen sense of natural light, and modern subject matter of the Impressionists.

Caillebotte’s posthumous bequest of his art collection to the French government was accepted only reluctantly by the state. When the Caillebotte Room opened at the Luxembourg Palace in 1897, it was the first exhibition of Impressionist paintings ever to be displayed in a French museum.

The painting above, “Rising Road” of 1881 is a wonderful, impressionistic work, typical of Caillebotte’s later period. The brilliant colours and bold brushstrokes that the old régime abhorred are evident here and could not be any further from the careful drawing, precise modelling, subdued colours and smoothly worked surface of the academic works of the time. The artist’s mastery of perspective is clearly visible in this work and even though the painting looks fresh and spontaneous, it is also carefully balanced, well-drawn and executed. This artist’s works deserve to be more widely recognised and appreciated.