Saturday 31 August 2013


“Where words fail, music speaks.” - Hans Christian Andersen

For Music Saturday, dances from “Terpsichore” by Praetorius. The ancient Greeks believed that Terpsichore and her eight other sister muses were the tutelary deities of the arts and sciences. Terpsichore was the muse of the dance.

Michael Praetorius ([Schultze, in German] born probably February 15, 1571; died February 15, 1621) was a German composer, organist, and music theorist. He was one of the most versatile composers of his age, being particularly significant in the development of musical forms based on Protestant hymns, many of which reflect an effort to improve the relationship between Protestants and Catholics.

Praetorius was a prolific composer; his compositions show the influence of Italian composers and his younger contemporary Heinrich Schütz. His works include the nine volume “Musae Sioniae” (1605–10), a collection of more than twelve hundred (ca. 1244) chorale and song arrangements; many other works for the Lutheran church; and “Terpsichore” (1612), a compendium of more than 300 instrumental dances, which is both his most widely known work, and his sole surviving secular work.

Praetorius was the greatest musical academic of his day and the Germanic writer of music best known to other 17th-century musicians. Although his original theoretical contributions were relatively few, with nowhere near the long-range impact of other 17th-century German writers, like Johannes Lippius, Christoph Bernhard or Joachim Burmeister, he compiled an encyclopaedic record of contemporary musical practices.

While Praetorius made some refinements to figured-bass practice and to tuning practice, his importance to scholars of the 17th century derives from his discussions of the normal use of instruments and voices in ensembles, the standard pitch of the time, and the state of modal, metrical, and fugal theory. His meticulous documentation of 17th-century practice was of inestimable value to the early-music revival of the 20th century.

This recording of dances from “Terpsichore” are played by Ensemble La Fenice and the Ricercar Consort. It is a rather lush baroque orchestral version, using several old interesting instruments such as viols, theorbos, cornets and sackbuts together with the more recognisable flutes, bassoons, recorders, organ and harpsichord.

Friday 30 August 2013


“A healthy attitude is contagious but don't wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier.” - Tom Stoppard

This salad is a complete meal in itself, served with some crusty bread.

Mediterranean Salad


4 large ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 Lebanese cucumbers, washed, not peeled, chopped
1 large capsicum, cut into fine slices
5-6 sprigs of fresh purslane, roughly chopped (see photo above)
1 onion cut into rings and then halved
1 tablespoon capers
Salt to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Prepare and combine all the ingredients together just before serving. This is a salad packed with nutritional goodness:

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea): Common garden “weed”, containing omega-3 fatty acids (α-linolenic acid); Vitamin A (high!);  Vitamins C, B group; iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium & manganese; reddish beta-cyanins & yellow beta-xanthins (antioxidants).

Tomatoes: Lycopene, a flavonoid antioxidant; vitamin A, and flavonoid anti-oxidants such as α and β-carotenes, xanthins and lutein; Vitamins C, B group; Potassium, iron, calcium, manganese.

Cucumber: Anti-oxidants β-carotene and α-carotene, vitamin-C, vitamin-A, zea-xanthin and lutein; Vitamins K; Potassium.

Onion: Allyl disulphide – allicin has antimutagenic and antidiabetic properties in diabetics; Vitamins C and B group; Chromium; Manganese.

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

Thursday 29 August 2013


“Civil war? What does that mean? Is there any foreign war? Isn’t every war fought between men, between brothers?” - Victor Hugo
Remember the Arab Spring? Commentators are now bemoaning the fact that its positive activities and effects are rapidly withering into a cruel Arab Winter… As if the recent events in Egypt were not enough, the tragic situation in Syria has become a tinderbox set to explode any minute as the USA builds its presence in the Mediterranean. Other international players are becoming more or less involved, some threatening, some cautioning, and some keeping a respectful and neutral distance.
War is a horrible enough evil, but civil war is really the ultimate evil where former neighbours or even members of the same family suddenly find themselves on opposite sides of a dispute that demolishes every trace of humanity from the people engaged in the warfare. In these days of the 21st century, where we have ostensibly advanced to a highly civilised and technologically competent stage of development, it is disheartening to see that we still are plagued by wars of the type that is being played out in Syria currently.
Chemical weapons attacks are the latest offensive to deprive and destroy lives amongst the long-suffering civilian population in Syria. The collateral damage is immense in any war, but in a “dirty” war where chemical substances and terrorist tactics are used the huge number of civilian casualties becomes frightening. That we are still having to cope with issues of chemical warfare after the tragedies of the toxic gases used in World War I, is evidence enough that we are not advanced enough as a civilised species. That we have the spectre of nuclear warfare hovering over our heads after the atrocities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II, is shameful. That people are still prepared to kill others for simply having a different ideology, religion or ethnicity is completely repugnant and reprehensible.
How can we expect to survive as a species, as a civilisation as a planet if we develop better and more effective ways of destroying each other? How can we advance all of the ideals of humanity if we are divided by issues that ultimately are unimportant in terms of survival – both personal as well as on a planetary level? What can we do in our everyday life to further a spirit of goodness, peace, respect, tolerance and love for our neighbour? Perhaps this video has the answer…

Wednesday 28 August 2013


“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” - C. S. Lewis
Inundated with things to do at work again means that I have very little time to devote to other pursuits, even after I get home. It seems that there are some periods during the year (and they are getting more frequent and seem to last longer!) when everything seems to be happening at the same time. Time management skills, effective delegation and prioritisation of tasks are all very well, however, when one has several major projects with deadlines looming over the horizon regularly, something has to give.
Hence the brevity of today’s entry, with a couple of interesting links that are work related!
Now I’ll have to sign off as I have to go and take a dose of my own medicine!

Monday 26 August 2013


“Vanitas vanitatum, dixit Ecclesiastes; vanitas vanitatum, et omnia vanitas” – Ecclesiastes 1:2

“Passing Place” by photographer Steven Kelly is this week’s visual stimulus for Magpie Tales' followers who take the challenge to verbally create a suitable response. Here is my offering:

This, Too, Shall Pass…

This fleeting moment
Of our time in the sun,
This, too, shall pass –
Remember; for the happy man shall be made sad,
And the sad man made happy.

This mortal coil,
All of our suffering,
This, too, shall pass –
Remember; for the pain shall be made joy,
And the joyful made melancholy.

This grand love,
Our all-consuming passion,
This, too, shall pass –
Remember; for the flame shall be made ash,
And the dust made into fire.

This glorious fame,
The greatness, this prestige,
This, too, shall pass –
Remember; for the renowned shall be made unknown,
And the obscure will be celebrated.

All is fleeting, all is vain;
Life, youth, love, beauty,
Riches, luxury, your bed of roses;
These, too, shall all pass –
Remember; for the last will be first,
And the first will be last…


“We aren’t in an information age, we are in an entertainment age.” - Tony Robbins
Last Sunday we watched the 2012 James McTeigue film “The Raven” starring John Cusack, Alice Eve, and Luke Evans. This is another of these films that have proliferated in the last few years, where fact and fiction are blended into an unrecognisable glop. It is the sticky mess of a parallel universe where President Lincoln becomes a vampire hunter and where Edgar Allan Poe becomes an assistant to a police inspector who tries to catch a mass murderer. The film is theoretically a murder-mystery story inspired by the writings and life of Edgar Allan Poe. The screenwriters Hannah Shakespeare and Ben Livingston really go to town with this simple premise and construct a whimsy of a tale that brings in bits and pieces (including a ripped out tongue – sorry, bad pun) of some tales of Poe.
The plot is set in the mid-1800s and centres on Edgar Allan Poe (Cusack). A serial killer is on the loose, murdering people using Poe’s descriptions from his published stories and poems. Poe teams up with Detective Fields, a Baltimore policeman (Evans), to try and catch the killer by using his knowledge of the stories – he wrote them after all. Even though the stories are fictional, they start to become reality and the killer is always a step ahead of them. The events take on a personal note as Poe’s lover (Eve) becomes a target of the murderer. The plot attempts to demonstrate how Poe met his unexplained death.
On October 3, 1849, Poe was found on the streets of Baltimore delirious, “in great distress, and... in need of immediate assistance”, according to the man who found him, Joseph W. Walker. He was taken to the Washington Medical College, where he died on Sunday, October 7, 1849, at 5:00 in the morning. Poe was never coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his dire condition, and, oddly, was wearing clothes that were not his own. Poe is said to have repeatedly called out the name “Reynolds” on the night before his death, though it is unclear to whom he was referring. All medical records, including his death certificate, have been lost. Newspapers at the time reported Poe’s death as “congestion of the brain” or “cerebral inflammation”, common euphemisms for deaths from disreputable causes such as alcoholism. The actual cause of death remains a mystery. Speculation has included delirium tremens, heart disease, epilepsy, syphilis, meningeal inflammation, cholera and rabies. One theory, dating from 1872, indicates that cooping – in which unwilling citizens who were forced to vote for a particular candidate were occasionally killed – was the cause of Poe’s death.
The movie was average and trod on territory that was already much trodden on. It was quite uninspiring really, and the innovation was clumsily balanced on the Edgar Allan Poe connection. The Poe stories are used as a bit of pepper to season the unpalatable fare and it seems that the emphasis that the director wants to place on the genre of movie he is making is quite unclear. Is it a murder mystery? Is it a horror movie? Is it a comedy/horror one? The viewer is a little confused and the basic premise begins to grate by about 30 minutes into the movie.
There are some suitably atmospheric shots and passable cinematography overall. The film was shot in Novi Sad and Belgrade in Serbia, and in Budapest, Hungary. The well-preserved old buildings in these locations give the film an “authentic feel”, but one only has to listen to the dialogue and quite a lot of the modern-day expressions and slang the actors use, and the feeling is lost. The actors play passably, but somehow they don’t seem too engaged. It’s an average performance all round and Cusack did not convince me as the troubled, driven and passionate Poe. Alice Eve who played Poe’s girlfriend was a little bit of a cut-out and the role of romantic heroine did not fit in too well into the plot. Luke Evans as Detective Fields was a little to earnest and poker-faced, trying to act in a “heroic” way, but he fumbled and stumbled and was a little ineffectual.
This was a very strange movie all told. We had to concentrate quite a bit watching it, trying to keep ourselves involved, but we went off on tangential conversations 2-3 times during its course. For a Sunday matinee at home, “it’s OK” – watch it with a few others and tell a few jokes over the popcorn while watching it and then it may be an enjoyable experience…

Sunday 25 August 2013


“Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is.” - Jackson Pollock

Ilya Efimovich Repin was born in 1844 in the small Ukrainian town of Tchuguev to the family of a military settler. As a boy he was trained as a traditional religious icon painter. At the age of 19 he entered the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts. His arrival in the capital coincided with an important event in artistic life of the 1860s, the so-called “Rebellion of the Fourteen”, when 14 young artists left the Academy after refusing to use mythological subjects for their diploma works. They insisted that art should be close to real life and formed the Society of the Peredvizhniki to promote their own aesthetic ideals. Later, Repin would be become a close friend and associate of some of them.

For his diploma work “Raising of Jairus’ Daughter” (1871) Repin was awarded the Major Gold Medal and received a scholarship for studies abroad. “Barge Haulers on the Volga” (1870-1873) was the first major work painted by Repin after graduation. It was well-accepted and immediately ensured the artist gained recognition. In 1873, Repin went abroad, travelling through Italy for some months, and then settling and working in Paris until 1876. It was in Paris that he attended the first exhibition of the Impressionists, but, judging by the works he painted during the period and by his letters home, he was not enthused by this new Paris school of painting, though he didn't share the opinion of some of his countrymen who saw a dangerous departure from “the truth of life” in Impressionism.

After returning to Russia, Repin settled in Moscow. He was a frequent visitor to Abramtsevo, the country estate of Savva Mamontov, one of the most famous Russian patrons of the arts of the late 19th Century. It was a very fruitful period in his creative career. Over the next 10-12 years Repin created the majority of his famous paintings. In 1877, he started to paint religious processions , for example his monumental “Krestny Khod (Religious Procession) in Kursk Gubernia” (1880-1883). The composition was based on the dramatic effect of the different social statuses and attitudes of the participants of the procession, all united by the miracle-working icon carried at the head. Repin painted two different versions of the same picture. The second one, completed in 1883, became the more popular.

A series of paintings devoted to revolutionary and social themes deserves special attention. The artist was no doubt interested in exploring social justice movements and how the individual confronted the machinery of the state. The range of social, spiritual and psychological problems that attracted Repin is revealed in his works “Unexpected Return” (1884), which depicts the father of a household returning from prison, and “Refusal of Confession” (1879-1885), which shows a dying man refusing a deacon’s offer of last rites.

Repin painted many portraits, which are an essential part of his artistic legacy. He never painted just faces, as many portraitists of the period tended to; he painted people fully, managing to show his models in their natural environment, revealing their personality and way of communicating with the world. “Portrait of the Composer Modest Musorgsky” (1881), “Portrait of the Surgeon Nikolay Pirogov” (1881), “Portrait of the Author Alexey Pisemsky” (1880), “Portrait of the Poet Afanasy Fet” (1882), “Portrait of the Art Critic Vladimir Stasov” (1883), and “Portrait of Leo Tolstoy” (1887) and many others are distinguished by their power as well as the economy and sharpness of execution.

Repin rarely painted historical paintings. The most popular in this genre is “Ivan the Terrible and his son Ivan” (1895). The expressive, intense composition and psychological insight in rendering the characters produced an unforgettable impression on the spectators. Another popular work of the genre is “The Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mahmoud IV” (1880-1891). The faithfully rendered spirit of the Zaporozhian freemen, who, according to the artist, had a particularly strong sense of “liberty, equality and fraternity” undoubtedly gives the picture its power. The contemporaries saw it as a symbol of the Russian people throwing off their chains.

The last quarter of the 19th century is the most notable period in Repin’s work, though he continued to work well into the 20th century (the artist died in 1930). He did not paint any masterpieces in the latter years of his life. After the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, he lived and worked in his estate Penates in Finland, where there is a Repin museum today.

The “Song of the Volga Boatmen” (known in Russian as Эй, ухнем! [Ey, ukhnem!, “Yo, heave-ho!"], after the refrain) is a well-known traditional Russian song collected by Mily Balakirev, and published in his book of folk songs in 1866. It is a genuine shanty sung by burlaks, or barge-haulers, on the Volga River. Balakirev published it with only one verse (the first). The other two verses were added at a later date (the song is below, sung by famed Russian bass singer Leonid Kharitinov and the Red Army Choir). Ilya Repin’s famous painting, above “Barge Haulers on the Volga”, depicts such burlaks in Tsarist Russia toiling along the Volga. It is an early painting which already shows the artist’s mastery of drawing and colour, perspective and composition, as well as the capturing the essence of light that characterizes many of Repin’s works. It also suggests the sense of social justice that the artist would champion in his paintings later in his career.