Saturday 29 March 2014


“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ― Plato

For Music Saturday, some delicious music from the pen of the great Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). It is the complete Violin, Harpsichord and Cello sonatas BWV 1014 – 1023, with Arthur Grumiaux, violin, Christiane Jaccottet, harpsichord and Phillipe Mermoud, cello.

Bach probably wrote this collection of violin sonatas in 1723, when he worked for Leopold Anthalt-Köthen. In these works, Bach provides not only the violin significance but harpsichord and the structure might define the form that composers of violin would write their works e.g. Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn and Mendelssohn. Besides violin partitas, violin sonatas are fundamental in the long catalogue of Bach works.

Violin Sonata No. 1 in B minor BWV 1014. (00:00:11)
I. Adagio.
II. Allegro.
III. Andante.
IV. Finale: Allegro.

Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Major BWV 1015. (00:12:04)
I. Adagio.
II. Allegro assai.
III. Andante un poco.
IV. Presto.

Violin Sonata No. 3 in E Major BWV 1016. (00:24:01)
I. Adagio.
II. Allegro.
III. Adagio ma non tanto.
IV. Finale: Allegro.

Violin Sonata No. 4 in C minor BWV 1017. (00:40:05)
I. Sicialiano: Largo.
II. Allegro.
III. Adagio.
IV. Finale: Allegro.

Violin Sonata No. 5 in F minor BWV 1018. (00:54:16)
I. Largo.
II. Allegro.
III. Adagio.
IV. Vivace.

Violin Sonata No. 6 in G Major BWV 1019. (01:09:48)
I. Allegro.
II. Largo
III. Allegro.
IV. Adagio.
V. Finale: Allegro.

Violin Sonata No. 6 in G Major BWV 1019.
Alternative Movements. (01:24:59)
I. Cantabile ma un poco
II. Adagio.

Violin Sonata No. 7 in G minor BWV 1020. (01:32:03)
I. Allegro.
II. Adagio
III. Allegro.

Violin Sonata No. 8 in G Major BWV 1021. (01:42:01)
I. Adagio.
II. Vivace.
III. Largo.
IV. Presto.

Violin Sonata No. 9 in F Major BWV 1022. (01:50:04)
I. Adagio.
II. Allegro e Presto.
III. Adagio.
IV. Presto.

Violin Sonata No.10 in E minor BWV 1023. (01:58:48)
I. Adagio ma non tanto.
II. Allemande.
III. Gigue.

Friday 28 March 2014


“Autumn’s the mellow time.” - William Allingham

Autumn is making its presence felt slowly in Melbourne and in our garden our tomato plants are on the way out. What better way to use all the green tomatoes that will not ripen, by making some chutney!

6 mugs full of chopped green tomatoes (may use halved cherry tomatoes)
3 large cooking apples, peeled and chopped
3 large onions chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon grated root ginger
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1 tablespoon dry mustard powder
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons sugar
1 mug full of white vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon salt

Place all ingredients in a pot and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat and simmer for about one to one and a half hours, until thick. Pack into hot clean jars. Seal when cold.  Delicious with cold meats, on crackers with tasty cheese, or as an accompaniment to curries.

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

Wednesday 26 March 2014


“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” – Gautama Buddha

For this week’s prompt, Poetry Jam has chosen the topic of “Letting Go”, and whatever that may mean to hose who choose to rise to the challenge and write a poem on this topic. The illustration above is by Renu Sharma. Here is my offering:

Letting Go

The past can bind its faithful

With invisible shackles,
Stronger than steel,
Harder than diamond.

We build a temple to yesterday,
And we decorate its walls
With bright-coloured frescos
Of a fantasy world remembered.

The past can hold its disciples
With a ghostly vice,
More secure than iron,
Stronger than any metal.

We raise an altar to bygones,
And we lay upon it gold-coloured vessels,
Bright baubles and trinkets,
Whose worth is less than it appears.

The past can hurt its worshippers
With intangible blows,
Crueller than lashings,
More deadly than knife thrusts.

How hard it is to let go, forgive…
How much harder to forget,
How hard to jettison all that bind us
To things of old,
Both bad and good.

Letting go can seem to be betrayal,
But it is truly liberation –
Forgiveness can only happen
If we choose to forget
Those things that hurt us most.

Tuesday 25 March 2014


"Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens." - J. R. R. Tolkien

March 25 is Lady Day, the day when the church commemorates the feast of the Annunciation. It was on this day that the archangel Gabriel proclaimed to the Virgin that she would conceive and bear a son nine months later. His name would be Emmanuel. True to the prophecy, nine months later on December 25th this came to pass.

The painting is a Neobyzantine depiction of the Annunciation. Although this is based on Byzantine models, it uses modern materials and techniques. Many modern icon painters use the traditional Byzantine composition and iconography, producing in faithful imitation these new icons. This occurs especially in many convents and monasteries where nuns and monks even today continue to paint in this traditional style. These are devotional representations that are used in churches and in private homes as focus for prayer and meditation.

Today is also the national day of Greece, which is a Southern European country surrounded by seas, the Aegean to the East, the Ionian to the West and the Cretan to the South.  It gained its independence after more than 400 years subjugation to the Ottoman Empire in 1821. Traditionally, this day is celebrated as the beginning of the struggle for freedom, not the least reason being the association with the religious feast day of the Annunciation (Evangelismos in Greek, meaning “Good news”). Since then, Greece has had a history of political upheavals.

It is a country of islands and mountains, hot dry summers and cool to mild winters.  The fertile plains are few, most of the land being poorly watered and drained, and too rocky or mountainous for farming.  Greece, nevertheless is one of the world’s largest producers of olives and olive oil with other agricultural produce also being exported to the rest of Europe.  It has an area of about 132,000 square km and a population of about 11 million.  Athens is the capital city with other major centres being Thessaloniki, Patras, Volos, Larissa, Iraklion and Kavalla.  Tourism is a major economic boost but the clothing and footwear industries also contribute.

Monday 24 March 2014


“Act well your part, there all the honour lies.” - Alexander Pope

We watched a very good 1999 film on DVD, SnowFalling on Cedars by Scott Hicks. It explores the theme of love and hate relationships, prejudice, the concept of honour and justice and how far we are prepared to go in order to possess what we want. The cast was excellent, with Ethan Hawke, Youki Kudoh, Max von Sydow, Rick Yune, James Rebhorn, James Cromwell, Richard Jenkins. The film may have been lacking in some aspects of character development and may have slipped into some clichés, but the cinematography was absolutely stunning. The images of the Washington state winter are magnificent and the scenes of sea and forest, town and country, past and present are juxtaposed beautifully, contributing much to the plot.

The film is set in a small town in the State of Washington. It is the ninth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and a young man named Kazuo Miyamoto (Rick Yune), a much decorated American soldier during the war, is on trial for the murder of local fisherman Carl Heine (Eric Thal). Covering the trial is reporter Ishmael Chambers (Ethan Hawke), whose father, Arthur (Sam Shepard), had been a respected newspaperman locally for many years, known as a man who was not afraid to speak from his conscience when writing an editorial, and who took a stand for the Japanese locals during the emotionally exasperating years encompassing World War II.

Ishmael is trying desperately to cover fairly Kazuo’s trial, but finds himself troubled by a conflict of interests; he has a history with Kazuo's wife, Hatsue (Youki Kudoh), a former relationship reaching back to their childhood, but which ended with the onset of the war. And Ishmael still is grappling with the bitterness he has felt since that time, born of his experiences in the military, as well as Hatsue’s rejection of him. He is now forced to objectively observe this pivotal point in her life, watching from the sidelines and seeing first hand the effects of the prejudice that is very much alive among the local citizens, and which threatens the assurance of an impartial judgment in Kazuo’s case; a judgment that will determine the future of not only Kazuo, but of Hatsue, the woman Ishmael once loved, and still does.

Seeing that I have mentioned the word, cinematography is the art and technology of motion-picture photography. It involves such techniques as the composition of a scene; lighting of the set or location; the choice of cameras, lenses, filters, and filmstock; the camera angle and movements; and the integration of any special effects. All these concerns may involve a sizeable crew on a feature film, headed by a person variously known as the cinematographer, first cameraman, lighting cameraman, or director of photography, whose responsibility is to achieve the photographic images and effects desired by the director.

Differences between photography and cinematography are many. A single photograph may be a complete work in itself, but a cinematographer deals with relations between shots and between groups of shots. A main character, for instance, may initially come on screen unrecognizable in shadows and near-darkness. This as a single shot, may be poor photography, but cinematographically it leads into other shots that reveal the man and give the movie style and integration. Cinematography is also far more collaborative than photography. The cinematographer must plan his work with the producer, the director, the designer, the sound technicians, and each of the actors.

The camera crew itself may be very complex, especially in a feature film with a big budget. The chief cinematographer supervises a second cameraman who handles the camera; an assistant operator whose main function is to adjust the focussing; an assistant known as the clapper-loader, or clapper boy, who holds up the slate at the beginning of the shot, loads the magazines with film, and keeps a record of the footage and other details; and the “grips,” who carry or push around equipment and lay tracks for the camera dolly. The cinematographer may also be in charge of the gaffer, or chief electrician (a lighting technician), who is assisted by one or more “best boys.” A big-budget film may also have additionally a special-effects crew and sometimes a whole second unit of cinematographer and assistants.

Sunday 23 March 2014


“Killing is not nearly as easy as the innocent believe.” - JK Rowling
Jakub (or Jakob) Schikaneder (February 27, 1855, Prague – November 15, 1924, Prague) was a Bohemian painter who was born into a German family. He was the second son of Karel and Leokadie Schikaneder. His father Karel Fridrich (1811–1871) worked as a military clerk. He received a military discharge for disability in 1836 and then worked as a customs office clerk and was later promoted to the post of deputy at the Imperial and Royal Customs Office headquarters in Prague. His mother Leokadie (1819–1881), née Běhavá, came from the family of a teacher at the St Giles’ Church school. Despite the family’s poor background, Jakub was able to pursue his studies, thanks in part to his family’s love of art; an ancestor was Urban Schikaneder, the elder brother of the impresario and librettist Emanuel Schikaneder (the librettist of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute”).

After having completed his studies in Prague and Munich (1871–1879), Schikaneder, alongside Emanuel Krescenc Liška, was involved in the furnishing of the royal box in the National Theatre in Prague; however, this work was lost in a fire in 1881. On July 5, 1884, Schikaneder married Emilie Nevolová (1859–1931), daughter of Josef Nevole, a railway clerk in Prague, in the St Nicholas Church in Prague’s Vršovice quarter. The newlyweds moved into the wife’s apartment in house No. 640 at the corner of Rubešova and Jungmannova (today’s Vinohradská) streets in Prague-Vinohrady, where Schikaneder lived until his death (the house was torn down in the 1980s). The Schikaneders’ son Lev Jan was born in May 1885, but died several days later of congenital weakness.

In 1885, Schikaneder was named assistant to František Ženíšek at the School of Decorative Arts in Prague. Later, he became director of a special school of flower painting, and when Ženíšek left the school for the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague in 1896, Schikaneder took over his decorative painting studio. The professorship enabled him to undertake several study trips in Europe in the 1890s. He repeatedly visited Paris and went as far as Sicily. He travelled across England and Scotland with Josef Thomayer in 1895. Interestingly, Schikaneder spoke English. He also participated in decorating the exhibitions of the School of Decorative Arts at the World Fair in Paris in 1900 and St. Louis, Missouri in 1904.

Schikaneder withdrew from public life at the end of the first decade of the 20th century and no longer exhibited his paintings. He continued teaching at the School of Decorative Arts, even during World War I. His studio was only open to a small group of friends and collectors, such as physician and author Josef Thomayer, lawyer Leopold Katz, pharmacist Karel Vostřebal, Prague mayor Josef Rotnágl and lawyer Josef Šafařík. Schikaneder died suddenly on November 15, 1924, aged 69. He is buried in Vinohrady Cemetery in Prague.

Schikaneder is known for his muted paintings of the outdoors, often melancholy and lonely in mood. His paintings often feature poor and outcast figures, these genre paintings making some social or emotional comment. Other motifs favoured by this artist were autumn and winter, corners and alleyways in the city of Prague and the banks of the Vltava – often in the early evening light, or cloaked in mist. His first well-known work was the monumental painting “Repentance of the Lollards” (2.5m × 4m), now lost. The National Gallery in Prague held an exhibition of his paintings from May 1998 until January 1999.

The painting above, “Murder in the House” Národní Galerie v Praze (1890; Oil on canvas, 203 × 321 cm) is typical of Schikaneder’s oeuvre. Dark, muted tones, a lugubrious subject and an image that tells a tragic story. There is an air of mystery and intrigue in the painting, amplified by the young woman’s bloody corpse on one side, counterbalanced by the group of people on the left. Each figure standing is displaying a different emotion and different depth of involvement with the crime and dead woman. There is tension and apprehension in the piece, amplified by the composition and the realist manner in which the artist has portrayed the event.

Schikaneder presented this work in 1890 at the international exhibition in Berlin, Germany. The painting was a sensation in Prague one year later at the Jubilee Exhibition’s Czech art display. Reportedly, however, the crowds of visitors mostly wondered if the painting depicted the young girl’s murder or suicide.

Recent research identified the specific place that inspired Schikaneder. The dark courtyard was actually the opening of the dead-end Špitálská street leading from Rabínská street in the Jewish Quarter. Schikaneder was very familiar with the Prague Ghetto before its clearance, as he had lived in house No. 186 at the corner of Dušní and Masařská streets in Josefov at the ghetto’s periphery since 1872. In the late 19th century, the Jewish Ghetto was a social ghetto, too, where the poorest of Prague’s inhabitants lived. In this context, Schikaneder’s painting can be seen as social criticism.

In Schikaneder’s oeuvre, “Murder in the House” closes a continuous series of artworks with the theme of the tragic fate of women. In Czech art of the last third of the 19th century, it represents a rare attempt to express both realist and naturalist tendencies in painting.