Saturday 1 March 2014


“Nothing’s so dainty sweet as lovely melancholy.” - Francis Beaumont
Marin Marais (31 May 1656, Paris – 15 August 1728, Paris) was a French composer and viol player. He studied composition with Jean-Baptiste Lully, often conducting his operas, and with master of the bass viol Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe for six months. He was hired as a musician in 1676 to the royal court of Versailles. He did quite well as court musician, and in 1679 was appointed ordinaire de la chambre du roy pour la viole, a title he kept until 1725.
He was a master of the basse de viol, and the leading French composer of music for the instrument. He wrote five books of “Pièces de Viole” (1686–1725) for the instrument, generally suites with basso continuo. These were quite popular in the court, and for these he was remembered in later years as he who “founded and firmly established the empire of the viol” (Hubert Le Blanc, 1740). His other works include a book of “Pièces en Trio” (1692 – herewith presented) and four operas (1693–1709), “Alcyone” (1706) being noted for its tempest scene.
Here are Marin Marais’ “Pièces en Trio”, peformed by Musica Pacifica.

Friday 28 February 2014


“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.” - Lewis Grizzard

For Food Friday a traditional vegetarian Summer dish from Greece. This is a delicious and filling meal, best served with some crusty bread, a full bodied, hard, yellow cheese and some red wine.

Domátes Yemistés (Stuffed Tomatoes) 
8-10 very ripe, round tomatoes (garden grown if possible)
10 tablespoons calrose rice
2 medium onions, finely grated
½ cup fresh, chopped parsley
½ cup fresh, chopped spearmint
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted in olive oil
1 cup olive oil
½ cup breadcrumbs
½ cup grated parmesan
2 potatoes, peeled and cut in small scalloped pieces
½ cup butter

1 glassful of vegetable stock
Salt, pepper
Pinch of cinnamon and pinch of cumin 

Wash and dry the tomatoes. Cut the tops off, about 0.5 cm down and retain the tops. Empty the flesh of the tomato out with a teaspoon, taking care not to damage the skin, so that you have an empty tomato shell, about 0.5 cm thick all around. Retain the tomato flesh in a bowl. Dust the inside of each tomato with salt and pepper. Put the flesh of the tomato in a food processor and process until reduced to a pulp.
In a frying pan, put half a cup of olive oil and brown the grated onion, adding the rice, once onion is golden. Stir through and add the pine nuts, followed by the spices. Add the tomato pulp and chopped herbs and stir through. Remove from the fire.
Fill the tomato shells with the rice mixture until they are ¾ full. Put the tops of the tomatoes on the stuffed tomatoes and place carefully in a deep baking pan, side by side. Place the potato pieces in between the tomatoes and dot with dobs of butter. Add the stock and pour a little olive oil on top of each tomato. Sprinkle with the breadcrumb/parmesan mixture.
Bake for about 70-75 minutes at 180˚C, until the tomatoes are very tender and the rice is cooked.

This post is part of the Food Friday meme,

and also part of the Food Trip Friday meme.

Thursday 27 February 2014


“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” - Martin Luther King, Jr
When it came to populate the earth, ancient Greek mythology relates, Zeus the king of the gods entrusted Prometheus the Titan and his brother Epimetheus, with the task of making man and all other animals, and of endowing them with all needful faculties. This Epimetheus did, and his brother overlooked the work. Epimetheus then gave to the different animals their several gifts of courage, strength, swiftness and wisdom. He gave wings to one, claws to another, a shelly covering to the third.
Man, superior to all other animals, came last. But for man Epimetheus had nothing left to give, as he had bestowed all his gifts elsewhere.  He came to his brother for help, and Prometheus, with the aid of Athena, went up to heaven, lit his torch at the chariot of the sun, and brought down fire to man. With this gift of fire, man was more than equal to all other animals. Fire enabled him to make weapons to subdue wild beasts, tools with which to till the earth.  With fire he warmed his dwelling and defeated the cold.
Woman was not yet made. The story is, that Zeus made her, and sent her to Epimetheus and his brother, to punish them for their presumption in stealing fire from heaven; and man, for accepting the gift.  The first woman was named Pandora (meaning ‘gifted with all things’).  She was made in heaven, every god contributing something to perfect her. Aphrodite gave her beauty, Hermes persuasion, Apollo music. Thus equipped, she was conveyed to earth, and presented to Epimetheus, who gladly accepted her, though cautioned by his brother to beware of Zeus and his gifts.
Epimetheus had in his house a jar, in which were kept all manner of noxious things, for which, in fitting man for his new abode, Epimetheus had contained there to make life easier for man. Pandora was extremely curious to know what this jar contained, although she had been warned not to touch it. Unable to contain her boundless curiosity, one day Pandora slipped off the cover of the jar and looked in. Immediately, a multitude of plagues for hapless man escaped from the jar:  All manner of diseases for his body, and envy, spite, and revenge for his mind. These ills scattered themselves far and wide and from then on plague the world of men.
Pandora hastened to replace the lid, but unfortunately the whole contents of the jar had escaped with the exception of one thing only, which lay at the bottom. When Pandora listened carefully a musical, soft voice from within the jar asked her to let it out. She was now cautious and was reluctant to let this last thing out of the jar. However, the insistence and musicality of the voice, as well as insatiable curiosity finally persuaded her to open the jar once again. And it was then that the last occupant of the jar arrived into our world, and that was Hope.  So we see at this day, whatever evils are abroad, hope never entirely leaves us; and while we have that, no amount of other ills can make us completely wretched.
Prometheus was known for his intelligence and was honoured as a champion of mankind. The punishment of Prometheus as a consequence of the theft is a major theme of his mythology, and is a popular subject of both ancient and modern art. Zeus, king of the Olympian gods, sentenced the Titan to eternal torment for his transgression. The immortal Prometheus was bound to a rock, where each day an eagle, the emblem of Zeus, was sent to feed on his liver, which would then grow back to be eaten again the next day. (In ancient Greece, the liver was thought to be the seat of human emotions). In some stories, Prometheus is freed at last by the hero Herakles (Hercules).

Wednesday 26 February 2014


“The past is a foreign country: They do things differently there.” – L.P. Hartley

Poetry Jam this week is celebrating trains and train journeys and has invited participants to write about something including trains. I opted for the figurative rather than the literal journey in this instance. Here is my offering:

Pages from the Past

A notebook by pure chance discovered,
Brings back old pages from the past;
As my experiences lie bare, uncovered
My feelings backwards are cast.

The even script, my younger self belies
My thoughts of yore, there manifest.
Old tears, laughter, truths and even lies
Appear on pages, like flowers pressed.

My heart’s first stirrings faithfully recorded
The bitter disappointments, and the sheer joy;
I read, and on the train of the past boarded,
Travel to foreign parts of me, as then, a boy.

My inner being revels and I resonate
With my younger self, my innocence engaged;
I look at my wrinkled face, surprised that fate
Has willed a youth, in body so much aged.

My pages from the past, the yellowed paper,
The mind’s awakening and my soul’s flight,
Captured forever and their evanescent vapour
Wafts in, a sweet aroma, a bright light…

Tuesday 25 February 2014


“It is the destiny of mint to be crushed.” Waverley Lewis Root
Spearmint, Mentha spicata, is the birthday plant for this day.  The generic name is derived from Minthe, a nymph of ancient Greek legend. She was the beautiful daughter of the river god Cocytus. Pluto, the god of Hades fell in love with her and this being discovered, his wife Persephone, turned Minthe into the herb.  The ancient Greeks used to perfume different parts of the body with different scents, the arms being scented with mint.  The herb symbolises burning love and in the language of flowers means: “Let's be friends again”.

Today is the anniversary of the birth of:
Georg Friderich Händel, German composer (1685);
Carlo Goldoni, playwright (1707);
José de San Martin, Argentine revolutionary (1778);
Pierre Auguste Renoir, French impressionist artist (1841);
George Reid, Australian PM (1845);
Frederick McCubbin, Australian artist (1855);
Benedetto Croce, philosopher (1866);
Enrico Caruso, Italian tenor (1873);
Myra Hess, pianist (1890);
Zeppo (Herbert) Marx, comedian (1901);
(Karl-Gerhard) Gert Frobe, actor (1913);
Anthony Burgess (John Burgess Wilson), writer (1917);
Tom Courtenay, actor (1937);
Herb Elliott, Australian runner (1938);
David Puttnam, director/producer (1941);
George Harrison, of Beatles fame (1943).
Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759) was a German-English baroque composer. His music is powerful, melodic, ebullient and deeply moving at times.  By 1705 he had produced two operas in Hamburg; he spent the next four years in Italy, where he absorbed Italian style. Moving to England in 1712, he wrote music, including the famous “Water Music” (1717), for George I.
He presented operas in London until 1741. Among his 46 operas are “Julius Caesar” (1724), “Atalanta” (1736), and “Serse” (1738), with its tenor aria now known as the Largo. His masterpiece is the sacred oratorio, “The Messiah”. This is a setting of verses from the Old and New Testaments as arranged by Charles Jennens. Händel composed it between August 22 and September 14, in 1741 in his London Home in Brook Street.
His other 32 oratorios include “Acis and Galatea” (1720), “Esther” (1732), “Saul” (1739), and “Judas Maccabeus” (1747). He also composed ≈100 Italian solo cantatas; many orchestral works, among them the Twelve Concerti Grossi (1739); harpsichord suites; organ concertos; and the anthem “Zadok, the Priest” (1727), used at all British coronations since that of George II.

On this day in 1723, Sir Christopher Wren, English architect of St Paul's in London died. In 1899, Paul Julius von Reuter, German founder of Reuter's News Agency died; in 1906, Anton Arensky, Russian composer, pianist and conductor died. In 1914, Sir John Tenniel, English illustrator of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland died. In 1983, Tennessee Williams, US playwright of "A Streetcar Named Desire", "A Hard Day's Journey into Night", "Mourning Becomes Electra", died.

Today is also Kuwait's Independence Day. Kuwait has been a UK protectorate since 1899, but gained its independence in 1961. It is one of the Persian Gulf states wedged between Iraq and Saudi Arabia.  Most of the country is a low desert, its area about 24,300 square km, the population about 2,5 million people.  The discovery of rich oil deposits made Kuwait one of the richest countries in the world, sparking off Iraq's attempted annexation a few years ago.

Monday 24 February 2014


“The only medicine for suffering, crime, and all other woes of mankind, is wisdom. Teach a man to read and write, and you have put into his hands the great keys of the wisdom box. But it is quite another thing to open the box.” - Thomas Huxley
Last weekend we watched the 2012 Baltasar Kormákur film, “Contraband” starring  Mark Wahlberg, Giovanni Ribisi, Kate Beckinsale, Caleb Landry Jones and Ben Foster. This was a typical “dick-flick”, which nevertheless kept us engaged despite its rather predictable plot. This was largely due to the well-paced direction, good acting and a good mix of action and character interaction.
The plot centres on Chris Faraday (Wahlberg), who was once a smuggler, bringing in illegal items or contraband into the USA on freighters. Realising the great risk this lifestyle placed on his new family, he leaves that life behind and goes legit, setting up his own security business. Andy (Landry Jones), his young brother-in-law gets involved with Briggs (Ribisi), a drug dealer, blowing a deal. Briggs demands restitution, which can’t be delivered by Andy. So it’s up to Chris to find a way to pay him as Briggs threatens Andy and Chris’ family if he doesn’t deliver.
Chris and Andy board a freighter destined for Panama, the plan being to bring back some counterfeit currency. Briggs threatens Chris’ family in his absence, terrorising his wife (Beckinsale) and child. When Chris learns of this, he asks his friend Sebastian (Foster) to take care of them, which he does. Sebastian advises Chris that it would be better to bring drugs instead of the cash, something that Chris doesn’t want to do. When in Panama, however, thing go seriously wrong for Chris and Andy…
The film is well-made and delivers what one expects from an action film. There is strong acting, good directing, and great cinematography that takes you to New Orleans, Panama, and the freight ship. Mark Walberg is excellent as the lead character, and is believable as the man pulled back into his smuggling past to right the wrongs of his naive brother-in-law and protect his family. The director does well in building intensity throughout the film, working up to a good climax.
For what is, the film is good and there are no pretensions to being what it isn’t – if you want Shakespeare, go see a stage play. One has to be forgiving of the standard plot (after all the screenwriter, Aaron Guzikowski, is a rookie) and some lapses of reality. But that said, one enjoy intense action, strong acting, and great settings.

Sunday 23 February 2014


“The dawn is not distant, nor is the night starless; love is eternal.” - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Jean-Honoré Fragonard (born 1732 Grasse, France, died 1806 Paris) was a French draughtsman and painter. Born in the small city of Grasse, Jean-Honoré Fragonard moved to Paris with his family in 1738. While still in his teens, he became apprenticed to Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin for just six months and then worked in François Boucher’s studio. He won the Prix de Rome in 1752, then spent three preparatory years under Carle Vanloo before studying at the Académie de France in Rome from 1756 to 1761.
Fragonard also drew landscapes with Hubert Robert and traveled to southern Italy and Venice. Fragonard’s submission to the Salon of 1765 earned him associate academy membership, yet he opted out of an official career of history painting. Preferring to make lighthearted, erotic pictures for private clients, he only exhibited at the Salon twice.
He married Marie-Anne Gerard, herself a painter of miniatures in 1769 and they had a daughter, Rosalie, who became one of his favourite models, until her death at about aged 19. Later he had a son who also became an artist. His portraits made him the admired favourite of modern Impressionists, and it is interesting that the impressionist painter Berthe Morisot was either his grand-daughter or great-niece (depending on which historian you read).
Life and paint seen through his lightning brush were delicious; his cheerful canvases reinvigorated the Rococo style. He painted mythology, gallantry, landscape, and portraiture and drew voraciously in wide-ranging media, often signing his works “Frago”. The French Revolution ended Fragonard's career and made him a pauper. Admiring his work, the Neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David attempted to assist by making him curator of the future Musée du Louvre. Unable to adapt to the new style of painting, however, Fragonard died forgotten in Napoleon’s France. For half a century or more he was largely forgotten, but collectors and critics discovered him again in the early 1900s.
The paintings of Watteau and Fragonard, more than any others, represent the sparkling frou-frou of the Rococo. Looking at an exhibit of Fragonard, one would come away with a colourful collection of frivolity, of hoop-skirts, silken trimmings and short petticoats, swings revealing interesting grey stockings, rosy cheeks and shoulders, of cupid’s kisses and love-play. The Advisory chose Fragonard’s works with care, because most of his subjects are not suitable for children. We would not call him a moral artist, but he is among the masters, and all of his paintings show sparkling verve, spirit and dash. It is astonishing with what fine feeling he arranges his colours and by what simple means he expresses life and movement. He generally used water-colours, not oil, and never painted upon a large scale, and this contributes to the air of fantasy, if not the fantastic, of most of his works.
The painting above is “The Goddess Aurora Triumphing Over Night” (oil on 95.2 by 131.5 cm). This was sold to a private buyer by Sotheby’s last year for $3,834,500 USD (Hammer Price with Buyer’s Premium). This early painting clearly demonstrates that Fragonard had fully absorbed the lessons both of his early masters, François Boucher and Carle van Loo, and was beginning to create his own interpretation of the Rococo style. The pendant of this painting, Diana and Endymion, is now at the National Gallery of Art, Washington. The two paintings, both grand in scale and composition, make a perfect pendant pair; they were originally on shaped canvases for placement within a boiserie surrounding. The compositions are flawlessly balanced, with symmetrically positioned sleeping figures arranged across the bottom of each canvas underneath corresponding female deities positioned above.