Saturday 1 February 2014


“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.” - George Eliot 
For Music Saturday, the renowned W. A. Mozart, “Requiem” KV 626 performed by the Vienna Philharmonic under the direction of Herbert von Karajan. Singers: Anna Tomowa-Sintow (Soprano); Helga Müller-Molinari (Alto); Vinson Cole (Tenor); Paata Burchuladze (Bass).
The Requiem Mass in D minor (K. 626) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was composed in Vienna in 1791 and left unfinished at the composer’s death on December 5. A completion by Franz Xaver Süssmayr was delivered to Count Franz von Walsegg, who had anonymously commissioned the piece for a requiem Mass to commemorate the February 14 anniversary of his wife’s death.
It is one of the most enigmatic pieces of music ever composed, mostly because of the myths and controversies surrounding it, especially around how much of the piece was completed by Mozart before his death. The autograph manuscript shows the finished and orchestrated introit in Mozart’s hand, as well as detailed drafts of the Kyrie and the sequence Dies Irae as far as the first nine bars of “Lacrimosa”, and the offertory.
It cannot be shown to what extent Süssmayr may have depended on now lost “scraps of paper” for the remainder; he later claimed the Sanctus and Agnus Dei as his own. Walsegg probably intended to pass the Requiem off as his own composition, as he is known to have done with other works. This plan was frustrated by a public benefit performance for Mozart’s widow Constanze. A modern contribution to the mythology is Peter Shaffer’s 1979 play Amadeus, in which the mysterious messenger with the commission is the masked Antonio Salieri who intends to claim authorship for himself.
The Requiem is scored for 2 basset horns in F, 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets in D, 3 trombones (alto, tenor & bass), timpani (2 drums), violins, viola and basso continuo (cello, double bass, and organ). The vocal forces include soprano, contralto, tenor, and bass soloists and a SATB mixed choir.

Friday 31 January 2014


“Life lesson: Don’t shake the bottle of salad dressing until you’ve made sure that the top is closed.” - Steve Carell
We are at the height of Summer now and we are experiencing some very hot days. While we enjoy eating salads year-round, in Summer they are an absolute necessity, making a full meal in themselves or accompanying something more substantial. While our garden is primarily a flower garden, there are many herbs and a few seasonal vegetables always growing here and there amongst the flowers. It is always a pleasure to be able to take a few fresh-picked vegetables and herbs and make a salad according to the bounty of the season.

4 small ripe tomatoes
2 Lebanese (small) cucumbers
A handful of tender New Zealand spinach tops
A bunch of tender purslane tops
3 small carrots
2 Spring onions, chopped
Some fresh thyme
A few sprigs of parsley
A few sprigs of dill
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
salt, pepper
1 lemon, juiced
olive oil
Dice the tomatoes, peel and slice the cucumbers and peel and grate the carrots finely. Mix all together in a salad bowl. Wash well the spinach, purslane and herbs. Chop the greens roughly and add to the salad. Chop finely the herbs, Spring onions and add to the salad. Mix together the mustard, seasonings, lemon juice a dash of vinegar and some olive oil. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well.

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

Thursday 30 January 2014


“If the English language made any sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers.” - Doug Larson

In English, poor spelling can confound meaning and perplex the reader. The reason for this is that so many words are the same or very similar in sound but spelt differently (=homophones: cf - “They’re to “their” to “there”).
Just to complicate matters slightly, there are also homonyms, which are spelt the same and pronounced the same, but have different meaning: “Pole” as in electric light pole cf to “Pole” – someone from Poland. Homographs are written the same way but pronounced differently – “Polish” as in “shine” cf to “Polish” as from Poland…

Other words for one or another reason are confused by users and they can make the reading of a document onerous or funny, or simply inelegant. As an example of some commonly misused words, consider:

  • This drug will *effect* a quick cure, but will *affect* your liver adversely.
  • The *brake* fluid leaked out and caused the cable to *break*.
  • *By* the way, when you go to say *bye* to aunt Stella, stop *by*and *buy* some milk.
  • When you *allot* the paperwork, make sure that Barbara doesn’t have *a lot* to do, she is still recovering from her hand injury.
  • The grandest *capitol* is surely in the national *capital*.
  • He looked at the weather *vane* and saw the West wind had started to blow, but he could feel it too as the blood rushed in his *veins*. Now all was in *vain*, he had to stop working.
  • When you finally catch *sight* of the *site* that is being built illegally, don’t forget to ring me and *cite* the offenders.
  • Go *forth* and be the first! Not the second or the third or the *fourth*, the very first!
  • He made an *allusion* to artist’s fine technique that created an *illusion* of three-dimensional space on his canvas.
  • If you have *loose* knot on that anchor, you are likely to *lose* it in the bottom of the sea.
  • He had to *alter* the plans for the *altar* of the church as there was not enough space to build it.
  • *Two* of them had gone back *to* see the principal, *too*.
  • *Quite* a few people had *quit* their jobs at the office, which explained why it was so *quiet* that morning.
  • *Where* did you put those shoes that *were* on the chair, I wanted to *wear* them.
  • *They’re* here, in *their* place - I didn’t want them to be *there* in plain view.
  • The *plane* flew over the flood *plain* by the Mississippi river.
  • *Lie* here close to me and you can see the hen *lay* her eggs.
  • He is a habitual liar, so it’s no surprise he *lied* to you about the treacherous plans he *laid*.
  • Yesterday, I *lay* down a little in the afternoon as I was tired. I shall probably *lie* down again today.
  • The hen *laid* ten eggs, but he *lied* and said it laid five.
  • Other words for one or another reason are confused by users and they can make the reading of a document onerous or funny, or simply inelegant. As an example of some commonly misused words, consider:

Wednesday 29 January 2014


“Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat.” - Robert Frost
January 29 is for Roman Catholics St Francis de Sales’ Feast Day, while the Greek Orthodox faith celebrates the Removal of the Relics of Ignatius the God-bearer (Ignatius of Antioch).
It is the anniversary of the birth of:
Daniel Bernoulli, Swiss mathematician (1700);
Thomas Paine, writer (1737);
William McKinley, 25th president (1897-1901) of the USA (1843);
Anton Chekhov, writer (1860);
Frederick Delius, English composer (1862);
Romain Rolland, French writer (1866);
Vicente Blasco Ibàñez, Spanish novelist (1867);
W. C. Fields (William Claude Dukinfield), comedian (1879);
Ernst Lubitsch, film-maker (1892);
Victor Mature, US actor (1915);
Paddy (Sidney) Chayevsky, writer (1923);
Abdus Salam, Pakistani physicist (1926);
Leslie Bricuse, composer (1931);
Sacha Distel, French singer/songwriter (1933);
Germaine Greer, feminist (1939);
Katherine Ross, actress (1943);
Tom Selleck, actor (1945);
Greg E. Louganis, diver, Olympic medal winner (1960);
Athena Onassis, Greek heiress (1985).
Begonia, Begonia semperflorens, is the birthday flower for today.  The genus is named in honour of the 17th century Governor of French Canada, Michel Bégon.  Semperflorens means that it is ever flowering, a good description for these freely blooming perennials originally from Brazil.  The plant symbolises dark thoughts.
Francis de Sales (21 August 1567 – 28 December 1622) was a Bishop of Geneva and is honoured as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. He became noted for his deep faith and his gentle approach to the religious divisions in his land resulting from the Protestant Reformation. He is known also for his writings on the topic of spiritual direction and spiritual formation, particularly the Introduction to the Devout Life and the Treatise on the Love of God.
Ignatius of Antioch (Ancient Greek: Ἰγνάτιος Ἀντιοχείας, also known as Theophorus from Greek Θεοφόρος “God-bearer”) was born about 42 AD and died about 105 AD) was among the Apostolic Fathers. He was the third Bishop of Antioch, and was a student of John the Apostle. En route to Rome, where according to Christian tradition he met his martyrdom by being fed to wild beasts, he wrote a series of letters which have been preserved as an example of very early Christian theology. Important topics addressed in these letters include ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the role of bishops.
Frederick Delius (1862–1934) was an English composer of German parentage. He was influenced by Grieg and combined romanticism and impressionism in music characterized by a loose structure and richness in chromatic harmony. His best-known works include “Brigg Fair” (1907), “On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring” (1912), and “North Country Sketches” (1914). His operas include “A Village Romeo and Juliet” (1907). Here is "A Song of Summer":

On this day, the following notables died:
In 1119, Gelasius II (John of Gaeta), Pope of Rome.  George III, king of England in 1820 in London on this day. At that time he was the longest reigning (59 years) and longest lived (81 years) English monarch. Edward Lear, British poet and illustrator in 1888. Alfred Sisley, French artist in 1899. H.L. Mencken, US man of letters in 1956. Fritz Kreisler, the Austrian violinist in 1962. Robert Frost, US poet in 1963. Jimmy Durante US actor in 1980.

Tuesday 28 January 2014


“What makes the desert beautiful,” said the little prince, “is that somewhere it hides a well…”
'The Little Prince'Antoine de St Exupéry

Poetry Jam this week has suggested that we write about where we live, where we are at, telling something that people may not know. I live in Australia, the Great Land Downunder, the island continent!

Occupying the entire continent of some 7.6 million square kilometres, Australia is the sixth largest country in the world. Its ocean territory is the world’s third largest, spanning three oceans and covering around 12 million square kilometres. Nearly seven million square kilometres, or 91 per cent of Australia, is covered by native vegetation. Although this figure may seem high, many of Australia’s desert landscapes are covered by native plants such as saltbush, albeit sparsely.

Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth, with the least amount of water in rivers, the lowest run-off and the smallest area of permanent wetlands of all the continents. One third of the continent produces almost no run-off at all and Australia’s rainfall and stream-flow are the most variable in the world.

Human activity continues to exert pressure on the environment, land as well as marine. Pollution is the most serious problem and the vast majority of marine pollution is caused by land based activities—soil erosion, fertiliser use, intensive animal production, sewage and other urban industrial discharges.

Here is my poem about one of Australia’s perennial enemies – drought. Especially relevant as we are in the midst of a hot and dry Summer.

The Iron Sunflower

The sun bakes the red earth
And sky above is blue as blue bottles can be
With light streaming through them.

Drought, and the only noise of midsummer noon,
Is the hum of the machine and the smell of diesel
As water is pumped from deep secret caverns, below.

The bluebottle fly buzzes lazily, imitating the pump,
Sated on her feast of rotten thirsty carcass,
With her eggs safely secreted therein.

The listless children drone in the schoolhouse,
Overcome by heat, repeating by rote the lesson in chorus
Reminiscent of a dirge of Greek tragedy.

The precious water, hard-won by efforts of man and machine
Is stored, as treasured things are, safely locked up,
In corrugated iron tank, not to be wasted on useless things – like flowers.

The head of one of past seasons’ large sunflowers
With a few black, shiny seeds hangs up deep in the dark recesses of the shed,
Strung up high, safe from rodents and birds, a sad souvenir of old times.

The sun bakes the earth and cracks it, breaks its spirit:
No touch of green, no sunflowers this year,
And the wind blows, only to lift great clouds of red dust.

Fallen by the wayside an old mill-head rusts away mirroring the dusty soil.
Its sails are petals of an iron sunflower – the only flower this year.
As the monotony of the pump numbs the ear,
And the stench of petrol deadens the nose,
The rusting iron flower is a reminder of gentler times,
When machines were driven by wind, and their creaks were musical
And the air carried only the faint smell of fresh sunflowers –
Water could be spared then for useless things…

Monday 27 January 2014


“Surely the hypocrites strive to deceive Allah. He shall retaliate by deceiving them.” – Qur’an 4:142
We watched quite an interesting Turkish film at the weekend. It was the 2008 Talip Karamahmutoglu movie “Girdap”(meaning “Whirlpool”), starring Rahman Altin, Ufuk Bayraktar and Ozan Bilen. The film was essentially a morality tale highlighting some of the problems arising out of religious fundamentalism in secular political systems. It may be worthwhile to put the action of the film in perspective by considering firstly, the politics and religion of Turkey.
The political system of Turkey is a strictly secular parliamentary representative sytem operating in a democratic republic. The Prime Minister of Turkey is the head of government, and the head of the ruling party in a multi-party system. The President of Turkey is the head of state who holds a largely ceremonial role but with substantial reserve powers. Turkey’s political system is based on a separation of powers. Executive power is exercised by the Council of Ministers. Legislative power is vested in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.
As a secular state, Turkey has no official state religion with the Turkish Constitution providing for freedom of religion and conscience. Nevertheless, Islam is the dominant religion of Turkey, exceeding 99% if secular people of Muslim background are included. The most popular sect is the Hanafite school of Sunni Islam. The highest Islamic religious authority is the Presidency of Religious Affairs (Turkish: Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı), it interprets the Hanafi school of law, and is responsible for regulating the operation of the country's 80,000 registered mosques and employing local and provincial imams. Academics suggest the Alevi population may be from 15 to 20 million. According to Aksiyon magazine, the number of Shiite Twelvers (excluding Alevis) is 3 million (4.2%). There are also some Sufi practitioners.
According to the KONDA Research and Consultancy survey carried out throughout Turkey in 2007: 9.7% defined themselves as “a fully devout person fulfilling all religious obligations” (fully devout); 52.8% defined themselves as “a religious person who strives to fulfil religious obligations” (religious); 34.3% defined themselves as “a believer who does not fulfil religious obligations” (believer); 2.3% defined themselves as “someone who does not believe in religious obligations” (non-believer/agnostic); and 0.9% defined themselves as “someone with no religious conviction” (atheist).
The plot of the film centres on Umut (Ozan Bilen), a young man in his twenties, who is accepted to study economics in Istanbul University. When he moves to Istanbul he needs to find accommodation and through a billboard at his University’s café finds two flatmates and a flat. Umut is the son of a middle class Turkish family from a provincial city, who at the very beginning of his university days has an apolitical view of the world and is relatively non-religious. The film traces his transformation to a staunch believer and his increasing politicisation.
Umut and his other two flatmates experience some supernatural events in the flat that they live in. Ideed, initially one may be misled into thinking that this is going to be a supernatural horror story. These supernatural experiences cause Umut to be drawn towards Islam and the neighbourhood Hodja (spiritual leader) as a way of finding answers. Umut discovers religion and enjoys this new life style of Islam, joining Friday prayers in the mosque and discussing religion with his fellows and spiritual leaders. Everything goes well for him, but stress develops in his relationship with a fellow student who finds it difficult to accept Umut’s change and the new way he wants structure their relationship.
His new life brings new friends and a completely new environment, which push him towards a more political religious view of the world; as a result of this, Umut’s religious life is not just limited by the Qu’ran or pure religious requirements, but rather he becomes politicised and changes to an Islamic fundamentalist. This transformation into a fanatic forces Umut to extreme behaviour and a causes a complete upheaval in his life with tragic consequences.
The film is a well-made cautionary tale, albeit of a moralistic tone, which nevertheless manages to drive home the point of the dangers naïve young men face when proselytised by fanatics of any sort. The story is well constructed and all events are explained in the end, even the seemingly irrelevant ones. We enjoyed watching this movie and we were interested in the way that it portrayed the relationship between religion and politics in Turkey.

Sunday 26 January 2014


“Australia is a nation of compassion. Courage and compassion. And the third of these great values: resilience.” - Kevin Rudd

As it is Australia Day today, Art Sunday is devoted to an Australian artist. Arthur Streeton was born on the 8th April 1867, at Mt Duneed, Victoria, Australia. Streeton is one of Australia’s best known landscape painters and member of the ‘Heidelberg school’. He studied at the National Gallery School from 1884 to 1887. He was apprenticed as a lithographer with Troedel and Cooper, Melbourne, until 1888 when he left to take up painting full-time.

During the 1880s Streeton was one of a group of young Australian artists who took up the French tradition of painting outdoors. He produced direct works that were believed to capture the distinctive qualities of the Australian sunlight. Later paintings created images of Australia that were widely regarded as embodying the essence of national character.

Anxious for success overseas, Streeton left Australia for Europe in 1897. When the First World War broke out he was living in London. Since he was too old for military service he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and worked as an orderly at the 3rd London General Hospital, Wandsworth, alongside other Australian artists, including Tom Roberts, A. Henry Fullwood and George Coates.

After his discharge as medically unfit, Streeton lobbied for the establishment of an Australian war art scheme. He was offered a commission by the Canadian government but declined, preferring to work for Australia. He was appointed an official war artist in May 1918, sent to France and attached to the 2nd Division AIF.

Streeton worked mostly around the Somme battlefields until mid-August 1918, when he returned to London. His drawings, watercolours and paintings show the AIF headquarters at St Gratien, Glisy and Heilly, the dressing stations at Villers-Bretonneaux, landscape studies and scenes of wrecked machinery. In October and November Streeton returned to France, again with the 2nd Division. This time his works concentrated on the destruction around Peronne.

Back in London, Streeton completed his contract as an official war artist with The Somme valley near Corbie, a large landscape showing the opening stages of the third battle of the Somme. With a peaceful rural landscape dominating the foreground and an artillery barrage set in the far distance, the painting embodies Streeton’s observation, (in a letter to Sir Baldwin Spencer) that: “True pictures of Battlefields are very quiet looking things. There's nothing much to be seen - everybody & thing is hidden & camouflaged - it is only in the Illustrated papers one gets a real idea of Battle as it occurs in the mind of the man whose never been there”.

Streeton returned to Australia in 1920, a famous and popular artist. He made painting trips to many Australian sites and in 1928 was awarded the Wynne prize for landscape for “Afternoon Light: the Goulburn Valley”. In his later years Streeton became a national institution. He continued to paint sunny, pastoral landscapes, but many were mannered, fluent and facile, and devoid of the inspiration of his radical early work. Leading critics, particularly J. S. MacDonald and Lionel Lindsay, extolled his art which (with that of Roberts and McCubbin) was to some extent appropriated by the art establishment in the cause of a conservative, isolationist nationalism. Most responded to the optimism of Streeton’s romantic blue and gold vision of a pastoral Australia. He was knighted for his services to art in 1937 and died at Olinda, Victoria, on September 1st, 1943.

The painting above, painted in 1895, is: “Sunlight (Cutting on a hot road)” - oil on canvas (Height: 305 mm; Width: 458 mm; National Gallery of Australia.

Australia Day is the official national day of Australia. Celebrated annually on 26 January, it marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships at Sydney Cove, New South Wales, and raising of the Flag of Great Britain at that site by Governor Arthur Phillip. In contemporary Australia, celebrations reflect the diverse society and landscape of the nation, and are marked by community and family events, reflections on Australian history, official community awards, and citizenship ceremonies welcoming new immigrants into the Australian community.

The meaning and significance of Australia Day have evolved over time. Unofficially, or historically, the date has also been variously named “Anniversary Day”, “Invasion Day”, “Foundation Day”, and “ANA Day”. 26 January 1788 marked the proclamation of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia (then known as New Holland). Although it was not known as Australia Day until over a century later, records of celebrations on 26 January date back to 1808, with the first official celebration of the formation of New South Wales held in 1818.
On New Years Day 1901, the British colonies of Australia formed a Federation, marking the birth of modern Australia. A national day of unity and celebration was looked for. It was not until 1935 that all Australian states and territories had adopted use of the term "Australia Day" to mark the date, and not until 1994 that the date was consistently marked by a public holiday on that day by all states and territories.
In contemporary Australia, the holiday is marked by the presentation of the Australian of the Year Awards on Australia Day Eve, announcement of the Australia Day Honours list and addresses from the Governor-General and Prime Minister. It is an official public holiday in every state and territory of Australia, unless it falls on a weekend in which case the following Monday is a public holiday instead. With community festivals, concerts and citizenship ceremonies, the day is celebrated in large and small communities and cities around the nation. Australia Day has become the biggest annual civic event in Australia.