Saturday 30 November 2013


“A composition is always more than the sum of its parts. In other words, a really good piece of music is more than itself. It's sort of like a prism, which you can see from each facet a single totality.” - Yo-Yo Ma
Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni (8 June 1671 - 17 January 1751) was a Venetian Baroque composer. While famous in his day as an opera composer, he is mainly remembered today for his instrumental music, such as the concertos, many of which are regularly recorded. Here are some of his oboe concertos, containing a wealth of wonderful music.
Albinoni was particularly fond of the oboe, a relatively new introduction in Italy, and is credited with being the first Italian to compose oboe concertos (Op. 7, 1715). Prior to Op.7, Albinoni had not published any compositions with parts for wind instruments. The concerto, in particular, had been regarded as the province of stringed instruments. It is likely that the first concertos featuring a solo oboe appeared from German composers such as Telemann or Handel. Nevertheless, the four concertos with one oboe (Nos. 3, 6, 9 and 12) and the four with two oboes (Nos. 2, 5, 8 and 11) in Albinoni’s Op.7 were the first of their kind to be published, and proved so successful that the composer repeated the formula in Op.9 (1722) – which are to be heard below.
The video accompanying the soundtracks contains some gorgeous video and photos from Venice, Murano and Burano, many sights of which would certainly have been familiar to Albinoni. The video has been uploaded by Hollandsk Gjestehus, a guesthouse in Vinstra, Norway, which looks absolutely delightful. No doubt the owners recorded their trip to Venice and what better music for a soundtrack than Albinoni’s?


“Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.” - Sophia Loren

It’s been a very busy time for me these past few days, so I am running behind in all things. Hence the belated Food Friday post. Nevertheless, having enjoyed this dish lately, here is the recipe:


150 g butter, tablespoon or two of olive oil
300 g of Swiss brown mushrooms
100 g champignons
1 coffee cup of cream (≈ 50 mL)
Tablespoon or two of sherry
100 g grated parmesan
Parsley, freshly ground nutmeg
Deep plate full of uncooked spaghettini (8 minute cook variety, snap pasta into two pieces to fit into plate before boiling, makes eating it easier too!)

Heat oil and butter in frying pan until hot.  Sauté the sliced mushrooms and champignons.  Add the cream and the sherry and simmer until mushrooms are cooked and the cream has been reduced.  Stir often to prevent nasty accidents involving burnt sauces.  Add the chopped truffle and stir well to flavour through.  Remove from heat and put aside.  Cook the spaghetti for the specified time plus one minute more.  Rinse with cold water and drain.  Reheat the mushroom cream sauce until it is boiling, stirring thoroughly all the while.  Add the drained spaghetti and mix well so that it is well wrapped in the sauce.  Remove from heat and add the grated cheese, seasoning with the nutmeg and parsley.  Serve immediately and drink with icy cold Chardonnay or white burgundy.  A fresh seasonal green salad complements this dish well.

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

Thursday 28 November 2013


“God enters by a private door into every individual.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Today, the Greek Orthodox faith celebrates the feast day of St Stephen the Latter, who was born on this day in Constantinople in 715 AD. He became an ascetic monk and during the reign of Constantine V (741-775), the iconoclast, he was apprehended and brought before the Emperor for worshipping icons of Christ and the Saints. Constantine condemned him to eleven months in bonds and imprisonment. As he failed to give up worshipping icons, he was dragged over the earth and was stoned, like Stephen the First Martyr; wherefore he is called Stephen the Latter. Finally, he was struck with a wooden club on the temple and his head was shattered, and thus he died in the year 767.
The Catholic faith celebrates today, St Catherine Laboure, virgin, who was born on May 2, 1806. At an early age she entered the community of the Daughters of Charity, in Paris, France. Three times in 1830 the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Catherine Laboure, who then was a twenty-four year old novice. Forty-five years later, St. Catherine spoke fully of the apparitions to one of her superiors. She died on December 31, 1876, and was canonised on July 27, 1947. Her feast day is November 28.
On this day, it is the anniversary of the birthdays of:
John Bunyan, writer (1628);
Jean Baptiste Lully, Italo-French composer (1632);
William Blake, writer/artist (1757);
Friedrich Engels, philosopher (1820);
Anton Rubinstein, composer (1829);
Stefan Zweig, Austrian writer (1881);
Claude Lévi-Strauss, Belgian social anthropologist (1908);
Hope Lange, actress (1933);
Randy Newman, musician (1943):
Rita Mae Brown, writer (1944);
Alexander Godunov, composer (1949);

The gorse bush, Ulex europaeus, is today’s birthday plant. It is symbolic of anger (probably in reference to the plant’s spines) and also of enduring affection and love for all seasons (due most likely to the plant’s habit of producing a few blooms almost throughout the whole year).  The astrologers assign the gorse to Mars.

Today is also Albania’s Independence Day; Burundi’s Republic Day; Chad’s Republic Day; Mauritania’s National Day (since 1960) and Panama’s Independence Day.

Wednesday 27 November 2013


“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” - John F. Kennedy

For Poetry Jam this week, Laurie would like participants to make a gratitude list with at least 12 items. Then the list should be used to create a poem. The catch is that any form of the words “grateful, gratitude, thankful or thankfulness” cannot be used in the piece composed.

I have recently have had to be especially grateful to all my family for their support and love – especially so to my mother, who has always been my rock and my support in all of the vicissitudes of my life. My list of twelve things to be grateful for are:
1)    Mother
2)    Partner
3)    Family
4)    Home
5)    Work
6)    Country
7)    Education
8)    Affluence
9)    Friends
10) Music
11) Books
12) Nature

My Mother


My mother is what I am made of –
Her blood has nourished me,
Her breath awakened mine.
My mother is the soil I have sprung from –
Her flesh begat my own,
Her heart still beats in syntony with mine.

Mother, I speak your tongue,
I think in ways that you have taught me,
I love as you have loved,
I speak with words I’ve heard you using.

My mother wanes that I may wax,
Her gentle quietude, my own advantage;
Her touch forever light, caressing.
My mother loves, most constantly
Her thoughts to me ever running,
Her words a song, a sweet consoling.

Mother, I take all you give,
I cherish all your caring,
I accept your nurture kindly,
I rejoice in your constant presence.

The painting above, 'Hawaiian Mother and Child' 1920, is by Charles W. Bartlett, (watercolour and pastel on art board).

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it!

Tuesday 26 November 2013


“Autumn wins you best by this its mute appeal to sympathy for its decay.” - Robert Browning
An 1889 painting, “Autumn on the river “by John Singer Sargent is this week’s stimulus for the weekly creative writing challenge organised by Magpie Tales. Here is my contribution, with apologies to the artist for the creative cropping and other image manipulations:
Autumn Evening
As evening falls so softly, cold
Memory’s scent I follow,
And life grows dark and old.
Leaves die, as they turn to gold
The sound of voices hollow.
As evening falls so softly, cold
I try to break its stranglehold;
My spirits fall and ebb, so low –
And life grows dark and old.
I try to be so resolute and bold
To make my song again to flow
As evening falls so softly, cold…
The wood attacked, consumed by mould
Decay eats into it so slow,
And life grows dark and old.
My dreams to highest bidder sold
Love’s ghosts in sadness wallow:
As evening falls so softly, cold
And life grows dark and old.

Monday 25 November 2013


“There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.” - Jane Austen

We watched a chick flick at the weekend, which I was dragged in front of the TV to see, but in the end it wasn’t too bad considering it was an Angeleno adaptation of a Jane Austen novel – Beverley Hills style. It was the 2011 Angel Gracia film “From Prada to Nada”, starring Camilla Belle, Alexa Vega, Kuno Becker, Adriana Barraza and Nicholas D’Agosto. Fina Torres, Luis Alfaro and Craig Fernandez wrote the screenplay based on Jane Austen’s novel “Sense and Sensibility”.

Two wealthy Beverley Hills sisters, Mary (Vega) and Nora (Belle) not only have to cope with their father’s death on his 55th birthday, but also must survive when they find themselves destitute, seeing their father was bankrupt. They discover they have a half-brother (Pablo Cruz) and are forced by a grasping sister-in-law to move in with their aunt Aurelia (Barrazza) in East L.A.

Mary, the younger sister, is the most spoiled, she speaks no Spanish, and is scared of the vatos. Nora, her sister convinces her to finish college, while she goes off to work in a law firm. Mary decides that one of her wealthy and good-looking teachers will be her ticket back to Beverley Hills. Nora discovers that in her job as a legal intern, Edward (D’Agosto), her supervisor, is the brother of the grasping sister-in-law. Nora and Edward fall in love but Nora wishes to finish her education and progress her career rather than concentrate on matters of the heart. While they live in the barrio, they discover the true meaning of love, family and priorities in life. Needless to say a happy end is in store for all concerned.

This was a lightweight romantic comedy with no pretensions whatsoever, treading solid familiar ground, which perhaps made me more kindly disposed to it. Jane Austen doesn’t always translate well to modern times, but the Latino twist on this adaptation worked. The concept of marriage and its importance may have been paramount to Jane Austen and her contemporaries, but no as much today. However, the Latino expectations regarding marriage and family suit the Austen premise well and the screenplay has been well-adapted to a contemporary Mexican/American reality.

The acting is good enough for the subject matter – this is no Shakespeare play. The director handles the material well and manages most of the time to control the actors tendency to overact. Some of the best acting comes from the supporting roles, Barrazza doing a splendid job as Aunt Aurelia, even though hers is a minor role. The others in the Barrio also provide some enjoyable moments. There is a tendency to typecast in the movie and the grasping sister-in-law is almost pantomime material. Wilmer Valderrama as Bruno, the love interest in the Barrio does a good enough job as the strong silent type.

The soundtrack was very well suited to the action, with well-accented contrasts between Beverley Hills pop and traditional Mexican sounds in the Barrio (music by Heitor Pereira). The soundtrack contains one of the best renditions of “Cielito Lindo” I have ever heard – it’s quite magical and it's a pity I couldn't track who the female singer was.

This is a very light and frothy romantic comedy and although very L.A. in terms of cultural references, we as Australians enjoyed it and understood the point of all references. It’s one of the advantages of living in a multicultural city like Melbourne. The film was savaged by the critics, but was much better received by the viewing public. If you set your expectation a notch or two down you will certainly enjoy the film for what it is – as I said, it’s not self-important, nor pretentious (which is always a good thing).

Sunday 24 November 2013


“I recall my thrilled first exposure, as a teenager, to one of his [Modigliani’s] long-necked women, with their piquantly tipped heads and mask-like faces. The rakish stylisation and the succulent color were easy to enjoy, and the payoff was sanguinely erotic in a way that endorsed my personal wishes to be bold and tender and noble, overcoming the wimp that I was. In that moment, I used up Modigliani’s value for my life. But in museums ever since I have been happy to salute his pictures with residually grateful, quick looks.” - Peter Schjeldahl
Amedeo Modigliani was born on July 12, 1884 to a Sephardic Jewish family living in reduced circumstances in Livorno, Italy. He began his formal art training in 1898, and in 1902 and 1903 he studied in Florence and Venice. In 1906 he moved to Paris, with the help of a small allowance from his mother.
He first settled in Montmarte along with his closest friends Soutine and Lipchitz, who were also expatriate artists. He immersed himself in café and nightlife, developing a dissolute life-style that enhanced his reputation as a bohemian but eventually ruined his life.  Modigliani worked as wildly as he had lived. Alcohol and hashish never diminished his great desire to work. Neither did the numerous affairs with all kinds of women. It seems his whole life was a series of protests: Against the bourgeois smugness of his family of businessmen, against all that his art teacher Micheli represented, and against a society that failed to recognize and reward his talent.
Desperately poor, he scavenged stone from building sites around Paris. His sculpture, like his paintings emphasised elongated, simplified forms. He lost many of his works because he could not pay his rent and had to move a lot. He also never kept a record of his works. As his health began to fail around 1914 he turned to painting almost exclusively. Leopold Zborowski became his exclusive representative and moved Modigliani to the south of France in early 1918. Paris had become too unstable because of the fighting during World War I. It was here that he met Jeanne Hebuterne who became his mistress. By spring, they were back in Paris.
Jeanne gave birth to a daughter in the Autumn and his works were beginning to sell. But, his health took a turn for the worse. He died on January 24, 1920, of tubercular meningitis. The following day Jeanne, nine months pregnant with her second child, threw herself from a window of her parents’ home and died instantly.
Had the artist lived a few more years, he would have witnessed a growing interest in his work. In 1921 there was a memorial exhibition organized by Zborowski that received great acclaim. A foreign collector named Dr. Albert Barnes, in 1922 bought a large number of his works. Modigliani’s work still has to be studied thoroughly, but he is certainly one of the most recognised and well-known modern artists today.
More than anything, Modigliani was a portraitist and if one examines his work, one can see much that was assimilated by Picasso to develop his own style. Picasso’s style is a synthesis of many of the important styles in modern art, in which he took from many of his contemporaries, and in Modigliani’s case Picasso was borrowing from a man who had initially borrowed from him.
The art of Amedeo Modigliani cannot be classified as a specific “-ism.” His work is a part of “The School of Paris”, which refers to a group of international artists that lived and worked in France during the pre-WWII period. Because a definition of the School of Paris is rather vague, it is difficult to give an exact number of how many artists belonged to it, but it probably is close to one hundred.
The core of the School of Paris was formed by Jewish artists from Central and Eastern Europe who had left their native countries, sometimes due to ethnic persecution, but also because of artistic reasons: The Jewish Faith didn’t tolerate figurative images, so Jewish abstract artists were forced to look for an environment that tolerated figurative art. Their relationship with France is interesting. On the one hand they admired the French culture, on the other hand the French restraint was at odds with their Jewish and Slav temperament.
Although Paris is the cradle of expressionism (Van Gogh), the mentality of expressionism goes against the French sense of restraint, and there are few, if any, true French expressionists. However, the School of Paris lived and breathed expressionism, partly because of the influence of Van Gogh, as well as the German expressionists, but first and foremost because of the Jewish background of many artists of the School of Paris.
The “Reclining Nude” of 1917 above is characteristic of the artist’s work. He frequently painted nudes, which in some cases got him trouble with the authorities, especially given his licentiousness and rather dissolute lifestyle. The sleek, limber elongated figures and faces lend an air of grace to his subjects, but at the same time, the eyes without pupils lend a certain classicism to his work, reminiscent of ancient sculptures. The figure, which is cropped lies in a tense, uncomfortable pose lending the work a dynamism and tension which is attractive to the viewer.