Saturday 22 February 2014


“Music fills the infinite between two souls.” - Rabindranath Tagore

Luigi Rodolfo Boccherini,  (born February 19, 1743, Lucca, Italy - died May 28, 1805, Madrid, Spain), was an Italian composer and cellist who influenced the development of the string quartet as a musical genre and who composed the first music for a quintet for strings, as well as a quintet for strings and piano. His approximately 500 works also include sacred music, symphonies, and concerti. Here are Boccherini’s String Quintets Op.10, played by La Magnifica Comunita.

String Quintet in A major, G. 265 (Op. 10/1)
1. Andantino 0:00-20:29
2. Largo
3. Minuetto Allegro, Trio
4. Allegro assai

String Quintet in E flat major, G. 266 (Op. 10/2)
5. Amoroso 20:29-41:37
6. Allegro non tanto
7. Minuetto, Trio
8. Presto

String Quintet in C minor, G. 267 (Op. 10/3)
9. Allegretto 41:37-1:04:59
10. Adagio non tanto
11. Minuetto, Trio
12. Presto

String Quintet in C major, G. 268 (Op. 10/4)
13. Adagio 1:04:59-1:24:27
14. Allegro e con forza
15. Adagio
16. Rondeau Allegro

String Quintet in E flat major, G. 269 (Op. 10/5)
17. Non tanto sostenuto 1:24:27-1:44:20
18. Allegro assai
19. Allegretto

String Quintet in D major, G. 270 (Op. 10/6)
20. Pastorale 1:44:20
21. Allegro Maestoso
22. Minuetto con variazioni

Friday 21 February 2014


“You ask ‘What is life?’ That is the same as asking, ‘What is a carrot?’ A carrot is a carrot and we know nothing more.” - Anton Pavlovich Chekhov
For Food Friday today, a rich cake full of the goodness of carrots, nuts and honey. Using wholemeal flour and vegetable oil reduces the guilt factor somewhat…
Carrot Cake 
4 eggs
150g brown sugar
300 mL vegetable oil
4 large carrots, finely grated
300g wholemeal flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup toasted and chopped walnuts
½ cup sultanas
1 tsp grated cinnamon, cloves and allspice
150g honey
For the icing
125g unsalted butter, softened
250g cream cheese, softened
Finely grated zest of 3 oranges
100g icing sugar, sieved
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 25 cm diameter, spring-form cake tin.
Put the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a mixer and beat for about 10 minutes, until foamy and slightly thickened. Add the oil and beat for a few minutes more.
Combine the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and sieve them into the cake mixture. Fold in lightly.
Fold in the grated carrot. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Scrape the honey into a saucepan and wash the container out with a couple of tablespoons of hot water, which you then add into the saucepan with the honey. Set over a low heat and heat gently until the honey is liquid and begins to foam.
Pierce the hot cake all over with a skewer. Carefully pour on the hot honey so it soaks into the cake. Leave in the tin to cool completely before turning out.
To ice it, beat the soft butter in a bowl until smooth and fluffy, then beat in the cream cheese and orange zest. Sweeten with sieved icing sugar. Spread over the cake when it’s cold. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts if desired.

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

Thursday 20 February 2014


“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” - William Shakespeare

Personal names of individuals to a certain extent reflect the concerns and values of a society. This is particularly true of the ancient Greeks who, in forming their names, exploited the richness and inventiveness of their language, adapting, combining and recombining nouns, adjectives and verbs to create new forms reflecting features of their landscape, and the values of their religious, cultural and political life. Throughout the ancient world, Greek-speaking communities retained their distinct local features and at the same time shared common pan-Greek values. Their personal names reflect, and play a vital part in measuring, these differences and similarities, and can therefore throw light on all aspects of their lives.

The purpose of naming is to identify (hopefully unambiguously), and for ancient Greeks there were three possible elements in that identification: The given name, the name of the parent, usually the father (patronymic), much more rarely the name of the mother (metronymic); and, in certain circumstances, an indication of origin (the ethnic) or membership of a civic subdivision (demotic).

Conforming to the Indo-European practice found throughout most of Europe, ancient Greeks were given one personal name only. This pattern is evident already in Mycenaean texts of the 13th century BC, and in the poems of Homer, dated to the 8th century BC but reflecting an earlier age. There is abundant evidence, especially from Asia Minor and from Egypt, of Greeks bearing two names, often linked by a formula such as ‘also known as’; and famous people, such as Kings and intellectual figures such as philosophers, often acquired nicknames (King Antigonos Monophthalmos, [i.e. the ‘One Eyed’], Dio Chrysostom, [i.e. the ‘golden mouthed’, eloquent]); but these cases do not undermine the fundamental principle that the norm was one name only. Among the 215,000 individuals published in the “Lexicon of Greek Personal Names” published by the University of Oxford, only a few hundred have double names.

The patronymic was crucial in identifying and legitimising the individual. Nonetheless, even with this fundamentally important element of nomenclature, documentary evidence has revealed great variation in its use, especially on tombstones. The patronymic generally took the form of the father’s name in the genitive case: Alexandros Philippou - 'Alexander son of Philip’; but in areas of the Aeolic dialect (the island of Lesbos and the facing coast of Asia Minor, and Thessaly and Boeotia on the mainland) the patronymic also took the form of an adjective derived from the father’s name, Alexandros Philippeios. This usage occurs in the poems of Homer: Aias Telamonios ‘Ajax the son of Telamon’. (A second form found in Homer, in which the father’s name is given a termination with patronymic force ‘-ides’ (Hector Priamidis - ‘Hector son of Priam’) survived in the historical period but as an independent name-form deprived of patronymic force).

Whether the name and patronymic was followed by an indication of origin depended entirely on context. Since at home there was no need to indicate origin, the city or regional ethnic was used only when abroad. On the other hand, in cities with an internal organisation of demes, notably Athens, Rhodes and Eretria, membership of a deme was indicated by the demotic; but the demotic was not used when abroad. So, for example, the famous Alcibiades would in Athens be Alkibiades Kleinios Skambonidis - ‘Alcibiades son of Kleinias, of the deme Scambonidai’, but abroad Alkibiades Kleinios Athinaios - ‘Alcibiades son of Kleinias, Athenian’.

In antiquity, as in Greece very commonly today, there was a tradition of naming the first-born son after the paternal grandfather, and the second after the maternal grandfather. In leading families, whose public offices and honours are on record, it is sometimes possible to trace the grandfather-grandson name-pattern over two or three hundred years. We know less about the naming of girls, since women feature in the documentary record much less than men, but there is evidence of this same pattern. The naming of children after a parent also occurred, and was particularly popular in the late Hellenistic and Roman periods.

This inherent conservatism in name-giving ensured the preservation of names even after the concepts embodied in them had lost contemporary relevance, and the continuation of name-forms after the local dialects had given way to the koine. In this way, names can reflect earlier linguistic developments, even for periods for which there is no written documentary evidence.

Wednesday 19 February 2014


“Gender is between your ears and not between your legs.” - Chaz Bono
Poetry Jam this week has invited participants in the creative writing challenge to write “an Olympian poem”. I have chosen the definition of “Olympian” that pertains to the ancient Greek deities that resided on Mount Olympus. The poem does have a twist, though…
Hubris, Apollo will most mercilessly punish,
And the wretch Marsyas was flayed for it.
The haughty Olympian would not stand
To hear another note of the accursed reed’s shrill melody,
Even if the playing were the most accomplished.
The sweet-tempered lyre was too feeble, too sedate,
To compete with the brilliance of the woodwind
And the angered god, slighted, skinned the better player.
My pale smooth skin is offensive to my soul,
A violation of my mind’s image of the body it should inhabit.
The hairless breasts, the rounded curves, the full red lips
Beautiful, yet unsuited to my mannish brain that would brawn.
Virile Apollo incarnated was in woman’s flesh
And lyre she plucks placidly with polished nails.
A brash Marsyas within the heart that aches to play,
And so as to right the centuries of wrong,
Compels the sharpened nails to flay herself
In order to reveal the true self that hides within:
A strident march more attuned to his shrill notes
Than the short-shrift notes of her gentler lyre.
I was an egg, so full of promise, that hatched into a vile larva;
The only remedy, a chrysalis carrying within it promise of butterfly.
In Greek mythology, the satyr Marsyas (Ancient Greek: Μαρσύας) picked up the double flute (aulos) that had been abandoned by Athena and played it. He became so adept at it that he challenged Apollo (the god of light, art and music and lyre player) to a contest of music. Marsyas lost the contest against the Olympian and Apollo flayed Marsyas alive. In Antiquity, literary sources often emphasise the hubris of Marsyas and the justice of his punishment.
Transgender is the state of one’s gender identity (self-identification as woman, man, neither or both) or gender expression not matching one’s assigned sex (identification by others as male, female or intersex based on physical/genetic sex). Transgender is independent of sexual orientation; transgender people may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, or asexual; some may consider conventional sexual orientation labels inadequate or inapplicable to them.
The painting above is Jusepe de Ribera’s (1591-1652) “Apollo Flaying Marsyas”.

Tuesday 18 February 2014


“Happiness is good health and a bad memory.” - Ingrid Bergman
Today February 18, St Simeon’s Feast Day is celebrated by Roman Catholics. Greek Orthodox Christians celebrate St Leo the Pope’s and St Agapetus the Confessor’s Feast Day, as well as Meatfare Tuesday. It is also Gambia’s Independence (National) Day, commemorated since 1965.
It is the anniversary of the birth of:
Alessandro G. A. A. Volta, Italian inventor of the battery  (Voltaic cell -1745);
George Peabody, philanthropist (1795);
Ernst Mach, physicist (1838);
Louis Comfort Tiffany, US glassmaker (1848);
Charles M. Schwab, steelmaker (1862);
Andrés Segovia, Spanish guitarist (1894);
Phyllis Calvert (Phyllis Bickle), actress (1915);
Jack Palance (Vladimir Palahnuik), actor (1920);
Helen Gurley Brown, editor (1922);
Len Deighton, novelist (1929):
Toni Morrison, Nobel laureate (1993) writer (1931);
Milos Forman, director (1932);
Yoko Ono, famous wife (1933);
Cybill Shepherd, actress (1949);
John Travolta, US actor (1954);
Matt Dillon, actor (1964).
The yew tree, Taxus baccata, is the birthday plant for today.  The ancient Greeks thought that the yew tree was the nymph Smilax, beloved of a beautiful youth Crocus. As his sentiments were not returned, Crocus pined away and died, changing into the flower of the same name.  Smilax became the yew tree, presumably sorrowful for her hard-heartedness.  Unhappy lovers were remembered with wreaths of yew, willow and rosemary. Pliny wrote of the yew: “It is unpleasant and fearful to look upon, a cursed tree”.  The tree has stood for a symbol of death, sorrow, immortality, resurrection and faith since ancient times.  Many a cemetery has rows of yew trees planted along their borders.  The tree and its red berries are poisonous, a drug (taxol) being extracted from the plant and used in cancer chemotherapy treatments.
On this day in 1930, the planet Pluto was discovered by Clyde W. Tombaugh.
On this day, in 999, Gregory V, Pope of Rome died. Also on this day in 1455, Fra Angelico, the Italian artist died. Also dying on this day: In 1535, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, German occultist; in 1546, Martin Luther, the German leader of the Protestant Reformation; in 1564, Michelangelo, the Italian artist; in 1833 Richard Wagner, the German composer; in 1855, Nicholas I, tsar of Russia; in 1956, Gustave Charpentier, French opera composer died; in 1967, Robert Oppenheimer, US physicist, father of the atomic bomb (died with a bang not a whimper!).
Gambia is the smallest country in Africa, with an area of about 11,000 square km and a population of about a million people.  It is situated in Western Africa and is completely surrounded by Senegal, except for the small part of the coast that looks out onto the Atlantic Ocean. The Gambia River divides this thin strip of a country in half and its capital is Banjul, with Mansa-Konko and Georgetown further upstream. The economy depends on peanut cultivation and their products, but tourism is also beginning to become more important.

Monday 17 February 2014


“It was not until I attended a few post mortems that I realised that even the ugliest exteriors may contain the most beautiful viscera, and was able to console myself for the facial drabness of my neighbours in omnibuses by dissecting them in my imagination.” - J. B. S. Haldane
Last weekend we watched Pedro Almodóvar’s 2011 film “The Skin I Live In”, starring Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes and Jan Cornet. The screenplay by Agustín Almodóvar and Pedro Almodóvar was based on the novel “Mygale” (Tarantula) by Thierry Jonquet. As is typical of this director, the film was quite a confronting one, especially where matters of sex and gender are concerned. However, the themes explored were multiple and interrelated, and included rape and revenge, beauty and its perception of itself (as well as its perception by others), the ethics of medical research and the lengths to which we may go in order to defend those whom we love.
The film is structured in three sections, the middle part being an extended flashback that does much to explain what has transpired in the first part. The third part is the flash-forward to the present where the story is concluded and the film resolves itself. The plot centres on a highly successful plastic surgeon, Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) who also does medical research into skin transplantation. This research has been stimulated by the horrific and disfiguring burns that his wife sustained in a car accident before she died. His methods are highly unorthodox and his sense of bioethics completely warped.
The surgeon has a daughter, Norma (Blanca Suárez) who has been psychologically damaged by her mother’s death, and it is only slowly and painfully that she begins act normally again, under the guidance of a psychiatrist and her father’s care. At a party, Norma in all innocence receives the sexual attentions of a young man who nearly rapes her but manages to escape when she becomes hysterical and falls unconscious. This causes Norma to lapse back into her deeply disturbed state and is confined to the psychiatric clinic again, being unable to even meet her father, as the encounters with men disturb her. Her condition deteriorates and like her mother she throws herself out of a window and kills herself.
The surgeon renews his research enquiries and his obsessive need to find the perfect injury-resistant and blemishless skin seems to be crowned with success. The guinea pig he is using is a beautiful young woman, Vera Cruz (Elena Anaya) whom he keeps incarcerated in his house and with whom he has a complex relationship as she resembles very much his dead wife. Is this his wife, who did not die after all? What role does the mysterious housekeeper play? What were the circumstances behind Norma’s condition and death? Several mysterious incidents are presented and confound the viewer until the flashback fully explains what has really transpired.
While this movie was just over two hours long, we enjoyed it and were kept interested by the unconventional plot. It felt like a thriller/horror story for quite a lot of the time, especially as there were some graphic scenes of medical gore and violence. However, this resemblance to a horror movie is only superficial as the themes go deeper and relate to sexuality, identity gender and self-image. Revenge motivates more than one character in the film and the ambiguity of the morality of several characters makes the viewer vacillate between sympathy and antipathy on more than one occasion. It is quite a complex, rich story and one can read much into what occurs and why.
The acting is very good, the cinematography wonderful and there is no question about Almodóvar’s masterful direction. We recommend this film, although it will make a squeamish person’s stomach turn as there are challenging themes and gory images. The sexual themes, strong language and the graphic rape scenes may also prove to be too confronting for some viewers, so be warned.

Sunday 16 February 2014


“Letters are things, not pictures of things.” – Eric Gill
Known for the commercially successful and classic typefaces, “Gill Sans” and “Perpetua”, Eric Arthur Rowton Gill was also a successful sculptor, engraver, illustrator, and essayist. Gill was born Februrary 22, 1882 in Brighton, Sussex. He died November 17, 1940.
Gill spent two years in an art school in Chichester and in 1899 was articled to a London architect; in 1902 he turned to letter carving after studying in his spare time at the new Central School of Arts and Crafts with Edward Johnston, a pioneer in the revival of lettering. From then until 1910, he worked as a carver of tombstones, although by 1909 he had turned to figure sculpture. “Mother and Child” (1912) brought him public notice. Sometime after his marriage to Ethel Moore, Gill and his family moved to an artist’s community in Ditchling, Sussex where he continued to expand his artistic endeavours to include sculpture, printing, and typography.
After 1912 his success as a sculptor was established, and he inspired an English revival of direct carving in stone rather than using preparatory clay models. He carved the “Stations of the Cross” for Westminster Cathedral (1914–18), London; these bas-reliefs and his famous torso “Mankind” (1928) were cut in Hoptonwood stone, which he helped make fashionable in the 1920s and ‘30s. Other major commissions included the relief “Prospero and Ariel” over the main entrance of Broadcasting House, London (1931), and the three bas-reliefs entitled “The Creation of Adam” (1935–38) in the lobby of the council hall of the Palace of Nations at Geneva. The illustration above is at the BBC London Broadcasting House, depicting “Ariel between Wisdom and Gaiety” (1932); Ariel listening to voice and music, and seemingly broadcasting the music to the world through his outstretched arms.
In 1914 he met typographer Stanley Morison. He and Douglas Pepler founded St. Dominic’s Press in 1915. Gill contributed wood engravings and lettering for the press and also began his provocative writings on the relationship of religion to the workman and to art. By 1924 Gill was in Wales where he soon produced the Perpetua font for Morison and the Monotype Corporation, based on the classic Roman lettering of the Trajan column. Gill Sans followed in 1928. It was based on lettering by Edward Johnston who designed signage for the London Underground. Soon after he moved once again, this time to Pigotts outside London where in the early 1930s he set up a private printing press ‘Hague and Gill’ in his home, with his son-in-law René Hague.
Published in his own press in 1931, Gill’s controversial “An Essay on Typography” combined views on typography with his personal view of morality, industrialism, creativity, and craftsmanship. In Gill’s mind there was a distinct line between the work of the individual (fine craftsmanship) and the mechanised, assembly line work of the industrial age, which mass-produces objects for widespread consumption. The book is also of interest for the quirkiness of its typesetting, with this feature noted by many reviewers.
Among Gill’s views on typography was his objection to fully-justified text. He felt that the even line lengths weren’t enough to make up for the uneven word and character spacing necessary to create those matched up line lengths. Other typefaces by Eric Gill are, Golden Cockerel Roman (1929), Perpetua Greek (1929) Solus (1929), Joanna (1930), Aries (1932), Gill Floriated Capitals (1932), Bunyan (1934), Jubilee (= Cunard 1934), Pilgrim (1953).
In addition to his type designs and sculptures, Gill is known for his contributions to book design and illustration, most notably “The Four Gospels”, which he illustrated beautifully. A deeply religious man, Gill nevertheless led a somewhat unconventional and alternative, often monastic lifestyle, including taking on many lovers and producing erotic engravings. However, he is still best remembered for his contributions to the arts and design. Gill was made an associate of the Royal Academy in 1937 and of the Royal Society of British Sculptors in 1938. His books include “Christianity and Art” (1927), “Work and Property” (1937), and “Autobiography” (1940).