Saturday 19 October 2013


“The only real elegance is in the mind; if you've got that, the rest really comes from it.” - Diana Vreeland

Rodolfo Luigi Boccherini (February 19, 1743 – May 28, 1805) was an Italian classical era composer and cellist whose music retained a courtly and galante style while he matured somewhat apart from the major European musical centres. Boccherini is most widely known for one particular minuet from his String Quintet in E, Op. 11, No. 5 (G 275), and the Cello Concerto in B flat major (G 482). The latter work was long known in the heavily altered version by German cellist and prolific arranger Friedrich Grützmacher, but has recently been restored to its original version.

Boccherini composed several guitar quintets including the “Fandango” which was influenced by Spanish music. His biographer Elisabeth Le Guin noted among Boccherini’s musical qualities “an astonishing repetitiveness, an affection for extended passages with fascinating textures but virtually no melodic line, an obsession with soft dynamics, a unique ear for sonority, and an unusually rich palette of introverted and mournful affects.”

Boccherini’s overriding concern was the production of smooth, elegant music; thus, his favourite expression marks were soave (soft), con grazia (with grace), and dolcissimo (very sweetly). It is in his gentle warmth and superlative elegance—often with a hint of melancholy just below the surface—that Boccherini's most characteristic contribution may be found. His treatment of instrumental texture is richly varied, emerging as one of the most characteristic features of his music, particularly in his concertante writing, in which he obtained a wide variety of tone colours by writing high viola or cello parts (he was clearly influenced here by his own instrumental facility).

Here are his String Quintets Op.10, played by “La Magnifica Comunita”.

Friday 18 October 2013


“In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.” - Mark Twain
We have had some wild Spring weather, one moment sun shining, the next hailing and raining. One moment warm and sticky, the next cool and wet. Nevertheless, the Spring flowers and vegetables are out and what is more suitable to the season than a wonderful Italian recipe, “Tagliatelle Primavera” (Springtime Noodles).
Tagliatelle Primavera
200 g trimmed asparagus
1/3 cup of shelled peas
1/3 cup chopped chives
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cups heavy cream
400 g fresh tagliatellespring
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (and some shaved for decoration)
¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Fine sea salt, ground pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, adding peas, boiling for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, cut 5 cm of asparagus tips from the stalks. Steam asparagus tips for 3 minutes, then cut in half lengthwise. Reserve asparagus and peas.
Cut asparagus stalks crosswise into 1 cm rounds. In a medium saucepan, combine asparagus rounds and shallot with butter; cook over medium heat until butter is melted and vegetables are beginning to wilt, then add 1/2 cup water, bring to a boil and cook for 4-5 minutes.
Add cream, bring to a simmer and cook for 4 minutes. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Transfer pan contents to a blender and purée until smooth.
Add pasta to the boiling water and cook (about 5-6 minutes for fresh pasta). Reserving 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid, drain pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Pour purée into a skillet; bring to a boil. Add asparagus tips, peas, grated cheese and parsley; return to a boil, then add to bowl with pasta and toss to combine. Add chopped chives and toss in. Adjust seasoning and moisten with a little pasta cooking liquid, if desired. Garnish with shaved parmesan and serve immediately.
This post is part of the Food Friday meme,
and also part of the Food Trip Friday meme.

Thursday 17 October 2013


“I don’t wait for the calendar to figure out when I should live life.” - Gene Simmons

Time has always fascinated human beings. The intangible and yet inexorable passage of the hours, the endless procession of the seasons, the death and regenerative cycles of crops and vegetation have necessitated the use of a calendar.  The farmer has to know when to sow his plants, the priest when to glorify his gods, the king when to lead his army to battle.  And so were born calendars, to keep time and to reckon the passage of the seasons and the years.  Each culture tried to solve the problem of time keeping and calendar construction in its own way and vestiges of these multiple calendars are still to be found around the world.  Currently, there are about 40 different calendrical systems in use worldwide, with about six widely used.  The Gregorian calendar is the most widespread, and by convention, used in most (if not all) secular activities around the world. This calendar is solar one and it is based on the ancient Roman calendar as modified by Pope Gregory XIII (7 January 1502 – 10 April 1585).

The solar year depends on the revolution of the Earth around the sun, each revolution taking 365.2422 days.  The tilt of the Earth’s axis is responsible for the seasons. At the same time, the moon has influenced the development of a calendar with each lunar cycle lasting for approximately 1/12 of the solar year. This has given rise to subdivision of the year into 12, sometimes 13 months.  The word month itself shows its close association with the word moon.  The ancient Greeks had a similar association: mén = “month”, méne = “moon”.

The Western calendar developed from the ancient Greek and Roman calendars.  The term calendar itself is derived from the Latin calenda meaning the first day of the month.  The ancient Roman calendar is the one that corresponds most closely to our own and was called the Julian Calendar as it was standardised by Julius Caesar in 46 BC. His Greek astronomer Sosigenes devised a 12-month calendar of 365 days, with a leap year of 366 days every four years. Each month had 30 or 31 days except for February, which was considered unlucky and hence had 29 days except every leap year when it had 30.  This was until Augustus Caesar renamed the old Roman month Sextilus after himself, in the process robbing February of a day in order to increase August’s 30 days to 31.

The Julian calendar assumed that the year lasted for exactly 365.24 days.  The real year was about 11 minutes and 14 seconds shorter than the Julian year and over the decades, the seconds and minutes added up to hours and days, making the real seasons drift away from the calendrical seasons.  After a few centuries, the Church began to find it difficult to set the moveable Church feasts such as Easter, which depend on the Vernal equinox.

Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 decided to remedy the situation, which by that time had led to a calendrical discrepancy a few days ahead of the seasonal calendar.  The Pope decreed that February would have 29 days in century years that could be divided evenly by 400 (e.g. 1600, 2000), but only 28 days in century years that could not be divided evenly by 400 (e.g. 1700, 1800, 1900).  Commencing in October 1582, ten days were dropped from the calendar in order to correct the discrepancy. The resulting calendar is the Western Gregorian Calendar in use throughout most countries around the world today.

Most Catholic countries adopted the Gregorian calendrical reformations immediately after Pope Gregory’s modifications, and other Western nations followed suit soon after (e.g. France, Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg 1582).  As the Pope had no authority over the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Julian calendar persisted in its use in the countries where the Orthodox faith was the official state religion (e.g. Russia [adopting the Gregorian calendar in 1918], Rumania [1919], Bulgaria [1915], Greece [1923]).

Even when for practical reasons the Gregorian calendar was adopted by the laity, the religious feast days continued to be calculated according to the Julian Calendar.  This situation persists in some countries to this day.  Some of the Eastern Churches calculate all of their feast days according to the Julian Calendar (which is now 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar!).  For example, the Ukrainian Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on the 7th of January.

Some other Orthodox Churches have adopted a more illogical practice.  They have embraced the Gregorian calendar for all “fixed festivals” (e.g. Christmas and the commemorative Feast Days of Saints) that recur on the same date every year.  However, when it comes to calculating the “moveable festivals” (e.g. Easter and all of the associated feasts such as Ash Wednesday, Ascension, Pentecost, etc), such Orthodox Churches use the Julian Calendar.  This leads to the curious situation of the Greek Orthodox and Catholic devotees celebrating Christmas together on the same date and Easter at different times.

Easter is an interesting example as the Paschal dates are calculated on the seasonal calendar, re-enforcing the fact that Easter is an old Spring fertility festival (Eostra was the name of the Celtic Spring goddess).  Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring Equinox on the 21st of March.  The dates of all other moveable feasts are calculated in connection with the date set for Easter in that year.  If there is no full moon between the Spring equinox calculated according to the Gregorian calendar and the Spring Equinox according to the Julian calendar, then Catholic and Orthodox Easter occur at the same time.  This happened in 1977, 1987, 1991, and will periodically recur until reason prevails and the Gregorian calendar is adopted universally.  An even more logical approach would be to specify Easter as always being celebrated on the third Sunday in April, for example. What a boon for time-tablers, schedulers and forward planners that would be!

Wednesday 16 October 2013


“So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being.” - Franz Kafka

World Food Day is celebrated every year around the world on 16 October in honour of the date of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations in 1945. The day is celebrated widely by many other organisations concerned with food security, including the World Food Programme. The World Food Day theme for 2013 is “Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition”.

It is a day when countries around the world, take tally of achievements made toward food security and work on the inventory of the work that must continue to finally end world hunger. It is a day devoted to raising awareness of the unequal access to food and production resources that exist across current world food systems. Above all else, one needs to highlight the reality of working collaboratively to create and spread the political will that promises nutritious food for everyone, everywhere.

To live in a world free of hunger, nations must create food systems that ensure a plentiful supply of nutritious food with minimal impact on the environment. Food systems must take into account sustainability in every step of the supply chain: From production to processing, transportation to retail, and consumption to post-consumption waste. Without a focus on sustainability, food systems may not produce the healthy, nutritious food that we all deserve.

The world’s population is growing by 80 million people each year. This means that there will be 219,000 people at the dinner table tonight who were not there last night. Many of these people will have nothing to eat. In Nigeria, 27 percent of families experience foodless days. In India it is 24 percent, in Peru 14 percent. Not eating at all on some days is how the world’s poorest are coping with the doubling of world grain prices since 2006. The world is in transition from an era dominated by surpluses to one defined by scarcity.

The response to this looming crisis needs to be global, collaborative and immediate. Initiatives surrounding sustainable food production are tied up with climate change and environmental issues, which if ignored can lead not only to depredation of ecosystems planet-wide, but massive famines that will claim the lives of millions upon millions of people worldwide.

Tuesday 15 October 2013


“A University should be a place of light, of liberty, and of learning.” - Benjamin Disraeli
Although Wollongong is New South Wales’ third-largest city, Wollongong has more of a large country-town feel. It’s essentially a working-class industrial centre (Australia’s largest steelworks at nearby Port Kembla looms unattractively over Wollongong City Beach) but the Illawarra Escarpment, rising dramatically beyond the city, provides a lush backdrop. The students of Wollongong University certainly give it extra life in term time and the city also enjoys a big dose of surf culture as the city centre is set right on the ocean.
The University of Wollongong, abbreviated as UOW, is a public research university located in the coastal city of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia, approximately 80 kilometres south of Sydney. As of 2012, the University had a total of 30,516 students enrolled, included 11,440 international students from more than 140 countries. The University ranked 276th in the 2013 QS World University Rankings, 276-300th in the 2013-2014 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and 301-400th (352nd) in the 2013 Academic Ranking of World Universities.
The University of Wollongong has fundamentally developed into a multi-campus institution, three of which are in Wollongong (Wollongong, Shoalhaven and Innovation), one in Sydney and one in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The Wollongong Campus, the University’s Main Campus, is on the original site five kilometres north-west of the city centre, and covers an area of 82.4 hectares with 94 permanent buildings including six student residences. In addition, there are University Education Centres in Bega, Batemans Bay, Moss Vale and Loftus as well as the Sydney Business School in the City of Sydney. The University also offers courses equally based on the main Wollongong Campus in collaboration with partner institutions in a number of offshore locations including Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
The University of Wollongong traces its origins to 1951. The University was founded in 1951 when a division of The New South Wales University of Technology (currently known as The University of New South Wales, UNSW) was established in Wollongong. In 1962, the Division subsequently became the Wollongong College of The University of New South Wales.
On the 1st January 1975, the New South Wales Parliament incorporated the University of Wollongong as an independent institution of higher learning consisting of five faculties (Engineering, Humanities, Mathematics, Sciences and Social Sciences) with Professor Michael Birt as its inaugural Vice Chancellor. In 1976, Justice Robert Marsden Hope was installed as Chancellor of the University.
The University in Wollongong is on a delightful, well-treed and gardenesque campus, whose serenity is conducive to study and enquiry. One of the most enjoyable aspects of my visit there was the beautiful smell from the gum trees and native flora around the university buildings. The rustle of the leaves and the birdsong was a wonderful backdrop to the chatter of students socialising on the campus grounds. The facilities are world class and the academics passionate and dedicated. The Campus offers a comprehensive range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses. The Courses are offered across nine faculties including Arts, Commerce, Creative Arts, Education, Engineering, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Informatics, Law and Science. All together, nearly 30,000 students attend classes on the Wollongong Campus.

Monday 14 October 2013


“You get educated by travelling.” - Solange Knowles
I am travelling for work again and visiting the seaside city of Wollongong,  located in the Illawarra region of New South Wales, Australia. Wollongong lies on the narrow coastal strip between the Illawarra Escarpment and the Pacific Ocean, 82 kilometres south of Sydney. Wollongong’s Statistical District has a population of 292,190, making Wollongong the third largest city in New South Wales after Sydney and Newcastle, and the ninth largest city in Australia.
The Wollongong metropolitan area extends from Helensburgh in the north to Shellharbour in the south. It sits within the Wollongong Statistical District, which covers the local authority areas of Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama, extending from the town of Helensburgh in the north to Gerroa in the south. Geologically, the city is located in the south-eastern part of the Sydney basin, which extends from Newcastle to Nowra.
Wollongong is noted for its heavy industry and its port activity, having a long history of coalmining and manufacturing. The quality of its physical setting is unique, occupying a narrow coastal plain between an almost continuous chain of surf beaches and the cliffline of the rainforest-covered Illawarra escarpment. It has two cathedrals, churches of many denominations and the Nan Tien Temple, one of the largest Buddhist temples in the southern hemisphere.
The city attracts many tourists each year, and is a regional centre for the South Coast fishing industry. The University of Wollongong has around 22,000 students and is internationally recognised. Although other explanations have been offered, such as “great feast of fish”, “hard ground near water”, “song of the sea”, “sound of the waves”, “many snakes” and “five islands”, the name Wollongong is believed to mean “seas of the South” in the local Aboriginal language, referring to NSW's Southern Coast.

Sunday 13 October 2013


“Painting is the grandchild of nature. It is related to God.” – Rembrandt

Giorgio Giulio Clovio or Juraj Julije Klović (1498 – January 5, 1578) was an illuminator, miniaturist, and painter born in Kingdom of Croatia, who was mostly active in Renaissance Italy. He is considered the greatest illuminator of the Italian High Renaissance, and arguably the last very notable artist in the long tradition of the illuminated manuscript, before some modern revivals.

Giulio Clovio was born in Grižane, a village near the town of Modruš in Kingdom of Croatia. He came from a Croatian family and while it is not known where he had his early training, he probably studied art with monks at Fiume of Novi Bazar when he was young. He moved to Italy at the age of 18 years and entered the household of Cardinal Marino Grimani where he trained as a painter. Between 1516 and about 1523 Clovio may have lived with Marino in the residence of the latter’s uncle Cardinal Domenico Grimani in Rome.

Clovio studied under Giulio Romano during this early period. He also studied under Girolamo dai Libri. While a protégé of Cardinal Domenico Grimani, Clovio engraved medals and seals for him, as well as executing the Grimani Commentary manuscript, an important early illuminated book (now Sir John Soane’s Museum, London).

By 1524 Clovio was at Buda, at the Hungarian court of King Louis II, for whom he painted the “Judgment of Paris” and “Lucretia”. After Louis’ death in the Battle of Mohács, Clovio returned to Rome where he continued his career. After 1527 he visited several monasteries of the Canons Regular of St. Augustine. In 1534 Clovio returned to the household of Cardinal Marino Grimani. A year later Clovio may have followed Marino when the latter was appointed as a papal legate to Perugia, where Clovio is thought to have worked on illustrations for the Soane Manuscript written by Marino Grimani around that time.

Clovio went back to Rome by the end of 1538 when he is known to have met with the writer Francisco de Hollanda. Clovio later became a member of the household of Alessandro Farnese with whom he would be associated until his death. It was during his time with Farnese that Clovio created one of his masterpieces, the “Farnese Hours”. Other well-known works from this period include the illustrations for the Towneley Lectionary.

From 1551 to 1553 Clovio is known to have worked in Florence. During this time he painted a miniature of Eleanor of Toledo (England, Walbeck Abbey, Private Collection). Clovio was a friend of the much younger El Greco, the celebrated Greek artist from Crete, who later worked in Spain, during El Greco’s early years in Rome. Greco painted two portraits of Clovio; one shows the four painters whom he considered as his masters; in this Clovio is side by side with Michelangelo, Titian and Raphael. Clovio was also known as the “Michelangelo of the Miniature”. Books with Clovio’s miniatures became famous primarily due to his skilled illustrations. He was persuasive in transferring the style of Italian high Renaissance painting into the miniature format.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder was a personal friend of Giulio Clovio, and stayed with Clovio in Rome during his Italian trip of 1553. Breugel executed a small medallion depicting ships in a storm on a Clovio miniature of the Last Judgment (New York Public Library) but the six Bruegels, mentioned in Clovio’s will, unfortunately have all disappeared.

The Farnese Hours is an illuminated manuscript created by Giulio Clovio for cardinal Alessandro Farnese in 1546. Considered the masterpiece of Clovio, the book of hours is now in the possession of the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City. It contains religious stories (both Biblical and apocryphal), and illustrations with architectural borders and classical nudes. Clovio sometimes exceeded the limitations of his medium in attempts to sustain the art of illumination. His approach ends to the monumental, despite the small scale of the works he was executing.