Saturday 8 March 2014


“A woman is like a tea bag - you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

Happy International Women’s Day! March 8 is International Women's Day as commemorated by the United Nations and celebrated in many countries around the world. Women on all continents, who are often divided by nationality, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, come together to celebrate their Day, and they can look back to a tradition that represents at least nine decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development.

This commemorative day celebrates ordinary women as makers of history and as the foundation stone on which family is built. The idea of an International Women’s Day first arose at the turn of the 20th century, which in the then industrialised world was a period of expansion and turbulence, social and economic changes, booming population growth and radical ideologies.

For Music Saturday, music by an Australian woman, Peggy Winsome Glanville-Hicks (1912-1990). Glanville-Hicks was born in St Kilda, Melbourne in 1912. At age 15 she began studying composition with Fritz Hart in Melbourne. She also studied the piano under Waldemar Seidel. She spent the years from 1931 to 1936 as a student at the Royal College of Music in London, where she studied piano with Arthur Benjamin, conducting with Constant Lambert and Malcolm Sargent, and composition with Ralph Vaughan Williams (she later asserted that the idea that opens Vaughan Williams’ 4th Symphony was taken from her, and it reappears in her 1950s opera “The Transposed Heads”). Her teachers also included Egon Wellesz.

From 1949 to 1958 she served as a critic for the New York Herald Tribune and took out U.S. citizenship. After leaving America, she lived in Greece from 1957 to 1976. In the United States she asked George Antheil to revise his “Ballet Mécanique” for a modern percussion ensemble for a concert she helped to organise before returning to Australia in the late 1970s. She lost her sight in the last years of living in the U.S. as a result of a brain tumour. She had this tumour successfully removed in a marathon operation and regained her sight. However, a result of this operation was her loss of a sense of smell.

She died in Sydney in 1990. Her will established the Peggy Glanville-Hicks Composers’ House in her home in Paddington, Sydney, as a residency for Australian and overseas composers. Major works in her output include the “Sinfonia da Pacifica”, “Etruscan Concerto”, “Concerto Romantico”, and her “Harp Sonata” which was premiered by Nicanor Zabaleta in 1953, as well as several operas. Her best known operas are “The Transposed Heads” and “Nausicaa”. “The Transposed Heads” is in six scenes with a libretto by the composer after Thomas Mann and premiered in Louisville, Kentucky on 27 March 1954.

“Nausicaa” was composed in 1959-60 and premiered in Athens in 1961. The libretto was prepared together with Robert Graves in Majorca in 1956, based on his novel “Homer’s Daughter.” Her last opera, “Sappho”, was composed in 1963 for the San Francisco Opera, with hopes that Maria Callas would sing the title role. However, the company rejected the work and it has never been produced. This opera was recorded in 2012 by Jennifer Condon conducting the Orquestra Gulbenkian and Coro Gulbenkian with Deborah Polaski in the title role.

She was married to British composer Stanley Bate, who was gay, from 1938 to 1949, when they divorced. She married journalist Rafael da Costa in 1952; the couple divorced the following year. She was also involved with Mario Monteforte Toledo and Theodore Thomson Flynn. Like Bate, many of the men with whom Glanville-Hicks was close were gay; she had few intimate female friends, and often dressed in male attire. She was an intimate friend of the expatriate U.S. writer and composer Paul Bowles, and they remained very close all their lives.

Here is her “Etruscan Concerto” for Piano. Glanville-Hicks wrote the “Etruscan Concerto” in 1954 for the then 32-year-old Italian virtuoso pianist Carlo Bussotti. The Etruscan was the first of three concerto-like works composed by her in the mid 1950s, followed by the “Concertino Antico” (1955) for harp and string quartet, and the “Concerto Romantico” (1956) for viola and chamber orchestra. The commission forms part of a cluster of successful works written during this decade, which was to be the most productive period of her composing career. Lester Trimble said of this work: “[It is]...riotously rhythmic in its speedy movements ...all very delicately exotic, and yet quite clear and Anglo-Saxon in its means.”

Friday 7 March 2014


“Pasta doesn’t make you fat. How much pasta you eat makes you fat.” - Giada De Laurentiis

The basil in our back yard is in full growth spurt phase at the moment and the first few flowers have started appearing. What better to use it up gainfully than a classic Italian dish for Food Friday:

Pasta al Pesto
1 garlic clove, crushed
50 g chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoonfuls chopped pine nuts
2 teaspoonful salt
Freshly ground pepper
250 mL olive oil
50 g grated Parmesan cheese
2 servings of your favourite cooked pasta (we make it with spaghettini – it cooks in only 8 minutes, and that is a touch past al dente, as we favour our pasta softer!)

Crush the basil, garlic and pine nuts in a mortar until the mixture forms a smooth paste.  Add the salt and pepper.  Gradually pound in the oil, then the cheese until the sauce is smooth and thick. Pour over the spaghetti and toss until the pasta is thoroughly coated. Garnish with freshly grated cheese and basil or other herb leaves, and serve immediately.

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

Thursday 6 March 2014


“Do you have the right to be silent in the face of evil, do you have the right not to stand witness; do you the right to let your fear speak for you?” – Esad Kocan
March 6 is the European day of the Righteous, a celebration established in 2012 by the European Parliament to commemorate those who have stood up against crimes against humanity and totalitarianism with their own moral responsibility. By this celebration the concept of Righteous as worked out by Yad Vashem is broadened to all genocide cases and forms of totalitarianism thanks to the commitment of Moshe Bejski. The European day of the Righteous is celebrated every year on 6 March, the anniversary of Moshe Bejski’s death.
Moshe Bejski (Dzialoszyce, 29 December 1921 – Tel Aviv, 6 March 2007) was an Israeli judge, President of “Yad Vashem” Righteous Commission. Moshe Bejski’s quest for the Righteous demonstrates that it is possible to act against evil with a simple act of good, and not necessarily having to become a martyr. As long as one has the moral inclination to do so one may make a big difference. There are no barriers, neither ethnic, nor religious; neither ideological nor sociological, when one puts human beings at the centre of one’s world of values.
The call for the European Union and the Council of Europe to set up a European day in the memory of the Righteous came from a hundred prominent Italian and European personalities of the world of culture under the aegis of non-profit association Gariwo, the forest of the Righteous. It soon received the support of important institutions such as the Presidency of the Republic of Poland, the Václav Havel foundatioon, the association run by father Luigi Ciotti “Libera, numeri e nomi contro le mafie” and many other influent entities from all over Europe. The most famous signatories include Umberto Eco, Dario Fo, Daniel Goldhagen.
The educational charity Gariwo is part of the network Gardens of the Righteous Worldwide ( and was registered in Sarajevo in 2001. The organisation campaigns to develop civil courage among young people in the Balkans to stand up against ethnic and religious antagonism, bigotry, intolerance of diversity, all kinds of group prejudice, corruption, intimidation, bullying, physical abuse and violence.
Specific Aims of the Programme Education for Civil Courage are:
To raise public awareness of moral and social issues and their chief purpose
To encourage citizens to think in terms of their whole society rather than identify mainly with ethnic groups
To persuade citizens to take responsibility for changing their society
To inspire self-confidence that individual and collective action can succeed
To train particularly young people in the practical skills for constructive opposition.

Wednesday 5 March 2014


“Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains.” - Diane Ackerman
Poetry Jam this week bottles the good stuff with a challenge based on bottles of all kinds. “Whatever you decide, put bottle in your poetry this week”, was the suggestion. Here is my poem:
The Scent Bottle
A mislaid, forgotten bottle of your scent
I found today and opened to inhale;
A flood of memories spun a rich tale,
With costly perfumes from Tashkent,
Souvenirs of glances hidden by a veil.
Your pale demeanour, golden hair
Enveloped in a cloud of fragrance,
Enhancing so your silky elegance;
Reminding me, through scent so rare,
Our parting – making me despair.
The citrus, civet and the earthy musk
Are mixed with the delights of rose;
The smells waft, delicately to caress the nose.
The summery afternoon, the violet dusk
What marvels does a scent bottle enclose!
My wandering fingers on your skin
I recollect, absorbing with each touch
An aromatic kiss – in love so much!
Warm ambergris like sounds of violin,
Fading recall, as snowflake, to clutch.
A perfume bottle and your memory I seek,
In billows of vetiver, nard and myrrh.
My loss, the scent I smell, will now aver
Times past, of happiness gone, to speak,
As echoes of long-lost love I stir…

Tuesday 4 March 2014


“Everything being a constant carnival, there is no carnival left.” - Victor Hugo

Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday”, or “Pancake Tuesday” are alternative names for Shrove Tuesday, which this year falls on March 4. In most Western churches this is the last day of the pre-Lenten non-fasting period.  It was a day during which all remaining eggs, milk, butter and cheese in the house had to be consumed, hence the custom of making pancakes. It is also the last day before Lent for making merry, hence the Mardi Gras parades and fancy dress.

1          pint (≈ 470 mL) cream
6          fresh eggs
        pound  (≈ 114 g) sugar
1          nutmeg, grated
            flour to make a thin batter 

            some butter for frying

Beat well the cream and eggs together and add the sugar and nutmeg.  Add as much flour as will make a thin pancake batter. Be careful as not to add much flour.  Grease the hot pan with a little butter and wipe lightly with a cloth.  Spoon the batter so that the bottom of the pan is covered evenly and thinly. Fry the pancake well on one side and then toss quickly so that the other side is also a golden brown colour.  Serve with savoury or sweet fillings.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of the Lenten fasting period in most Western churches, which this year falls on March 5. In the past, people who had sinned gravely were not allowed to take communion during Lent and had to prepare themselves all during Lent. They did this by wearing sackcloth and being sprinkled with ashes in the 40 days of Lent.  In the 9th century this practice began to die out, but priests retained the custom Ash Wednesday as a reminder of the need of penitence and repentance during Lent.  On Ash Wednesday, the priest takes some ashes and makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of the faithful.  The ashes are those of the palms that were used on Palm Sunday the previous year.  The ashes should remind the faithful that “they are but dust, and to dust they shall return.”

Beginning on Ash Wednesday and lasting until Easter, the atmosphere in churches is very subdued, with minimal lighting being used. The statues and ikons are draped in purple and the priests also wear purple vestments. This is a colour symbolising penitence and sorrow, thus being in keeping with the Lenten period which reminds people of Christ’s sacrifice for them.
            Is this a Fast, to keep
            The larder lean and clean
            From fat of veals and sheeps?

            Is it to quit the dish
            Of flesh, yet still to fill
            The platter high with fish?

            No; ‘tis a Fast to dole
            Thy sheaf of wheat and meat
            Unto the hungry soul.

            It is to fast from strife
            From old debate and hate 

            To circumcise thy life.

Noble Numbers (1647); Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

Monday 3 March 2014


“A wide screen just makes a bad film twice as bad.” - Samuel Goldwyn

Well, the 86th Academy Awards winners have been announced with:
Best Picture – “12 Years a Slave”
Best Actor in a Leading Role – Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club”)
Best Actress in a Leading Role – Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”)
Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Jared Leto (“Dallas Buyers Club”)
Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”)
Best Animated Feature – “Frozen” (Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Peter Del Vecho)
Best Cinematography – “Gravity” (Emmanuel Lubezki)
Best Costume Design – “The Great Gatsby” (Catherine Martin)
Best Directing – “Gravity” (Alfonso Cuarón)
Best Foreign Language Film – “The Great Beauty” (Italy)

I was rather glad to see that “The Wolf of Wall St” was shunned by the Academy, as was “American Hustle”. It was not unexpected that the Academy’s sympathies would lean towards “12 Years a Slave”, a non-fiction story, based on a memoir written in 1853, which was also the source for the 1984 made-for-TV movie, American Playhouse: “Solomon Northup’s Odyssey” (1984). I look forward to watching this movie, and in particular Lupita Nyong’o’s performance, which was Oscar material.

It seems that there were many things in common with the Golden Globe awards, which were handed out in mid-January earlier this year.

Our own Cate Blanchett won an Oscar under the direction of Woody Allen in “Blue Jasmine” and this another movie we would like to put on list of films to watch. It’s interesting that in an online interview, Woody Allen said that Cate Blanchett was his first choice for the actress he was considering to play Jasmine. He stated he’d first seen her in the movie “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and asked ‘who is this woman?’ He later said he’d heard her performances were like the hydrogen bomb. When the interviewer asked who he would have chosen if Cate Blanchett was not available, Allen said he had a couple of other actresses in mind but did not name them.

It’s interesting that “Philomena” did not pick up any awards, even though it was nominated for four: Aside from Best Picture, Dench was nominated for Best Actress, Alexandre Desplat was nominated for Best Original Score, while Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope earned a nod for Best Adapted Screenplay. This sounds like an interesting film and with wins in the Toronto and Venice film festivals, it is another movie that is on “to watch” list.

Ellen DeGeneres hosting the Oscars this year provided many opportunities for mayhem and lots of mildly amusing moments, taking the edge of many a disappointment, I think. Her wisecracks like: “Jonah Hill is nominated for ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’. Jonah, you showed us something in that film that I have not seen for a very, very long time… get it?”, were on the edge of good taste and the pizza ordering left something to be desired taste-wise too.

Every time an actor is interviewed about the Oscars, they always say that: “It’s an honour just to be nominated…” Surely it must be, but the $50,000 worth of goodies they get in a luxury swag bag is quite a consolation prize. The most prolific nominees (i.e. the actors and directors - writers, producers and technicians are ruled out) each receive a bag of treats for showing up to the awards ceremony. The appropriately titled “Distinctive Assets Everybody Wins” goodie bag’s contents change evey year, but the theme is usually around luxury pampering gifts and charitable items. What was in the 2014 Oscars goodie bag? Here are some of the items in the packages that 25 nominees received:

Polar Loop Activity Tracker ($109.95)
Narrative Clip Camera ($279)
Jitseu Handbags ($279)
Jan Lewis Designs Bracelet ($400)
Max Martin Shoes ($750)
Huntley Drive Fitness Training Sessions ($850)
Gizara Arts Print ($1,000)
Epic Pet Health Therapy ($1,571.98)
Koala Landing Resort Stay in Kauai ($2,000)
Steamist Home Spa System ($2,560)
Imanta Mexico Resort Stay ($3,300)
Rocky Mountaineer Train Trip ($4,078)
Halo Natural Pet Food ($6,142.89)
Best of Vegas Tour Package ($9,000)
Walk Japan Tour of Japan ($15,000)…


“The pain passes, but the beauty remains.” - Auguste Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (born February 25, 1841, Limoges, France—died December 3, 1919, Cagnes) was a French painter originally associated with the Impressionist movement. His early works were typically Impressionist snapshots of real life, full of sparkling colour and light. By the mid-1880s, however, he had broken with the movement to apply a more disciplined, formal technique to portraits and figure paintings, particularly of women.

Renoir’s father was a tailor, and the young man took up an apprenticeship with a porcelain painter, as his artistic talent was obvious. He then had the opportunity to study at the École des Beaux Arts. It was here that he joined Charles Gleyre’s studio and met many other young French impressionist artists. His art was noted for its vibrant combination of colours. In classic impressionist style, he avoided rigid lines, and merged objects giving a sense of dream-like consciousness. He also painted many portraits of women - often in the nude. However, they focus not on the sexual aspect but often on everyday experiences, femininity and grace taking precedence over overt sexuality.

Initially, the art establishment was unimpressed by the new breed of painters and the impressionists struggled to have any exhibitions. Renoir, supplemented his income with his commissions for more conventional portraits. In 1881 he visited Algeria and then Italy. In Italy, he was deeply impressed by the Italian masters. After meeting Cezanne near Marseilles, Renoir sought to break away from Impressionism by developing a new structural style of his own.

Yet, he never abandoned his techniques of colour that he learnt during his impressionist period and he developed a combination of classical styles of applying paint with an impressionist perspective of colour. Towards the end of the nineteenth century he gained increasing fame and respect. In 1892, the French state bought one of his paintings “At the Piano”.

As ill-fortune would have it, his fame and greater renown also coincided with the onset of arthritis which made painting difficult and painful. But, he struggled on and continued to paint some great masterpieces.

Acknowledging modern criticism of Renoir’s sensuality, Lawrence Gowing wrote: “Is there another respected modern painter whose work is so full of charming people and attractive sentiment? Yet what lingers is not cloying sweetness but a freshness that is not entirely explicable... One feels the surface of his paint itself as living skin: Renoir’s aesthetic was wholly physical and sensuous, and it was unclouded...These interactions of real people fulfilling natural drives with well-adjusted enjoyment remain the popular masterpieces of modern art (as it used to be called), and the fact that they are not fraught and tragic, without the slightest social unrest in view, or even much sign of the spatial and communal disjunction which some persist in seeking, is far from removing their interests.”

Albert Aurier, an art critic and early essayist on the impressionists, wrote in 1892: “With such ideas, with such a vision of the world and of femininity, one might have feared that Renoir would create a work which was merely pretty and merely superficial. Superficial it was not; in fact it was profound, for if, indeed, the artist has almost completely done away with the intellectuality of his models in his paintings, he has, in compensation, been prodigal with his own. As to the pretty, it is undeniable in his work, but how different from the intolerable prettiness of fashionable painters.”

In a preview to the exhibition ‘Renoir Landscapes 1865-1883’ at the National Gallery, London in spring 2007, The Guardian wrote that: “Even Degas laughed at his friend's style, calling it as puffy as cotton wool,” but that “if we’re going to love him, we need to love his chocolate box qualities, too.”

Here is his “By the Water (Near the Lake)”, completed in 1880 (oil on canvas; 46.2 x 55.4 cm; Gallery: Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA) and illustrating his wispy, colourful style full of light and lightness of touch.