Saturday 19 April 2014


“It is wonderful how much time good people spend fighting the devil. If they would only expend the same amount of energy loving their fellow men, the devil would die in his own tracks of ennui.” - Helen Keller

The St John Passion (German: Johannes-Passion), BWV 245, is a sacred oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach. The original Latin title Passio secundum Johannem translates to “The Suffering According to John”. During the first winter that Bach was responsible for church music at the St. Thomas Church and the St. Nicholas Church in Leipzig, he composed the St John Passion for the Good Friday Vespers service of 1724.

The St John Passion is a dramatic representation of the Passion as told in the Gospel of John, constructed of dramatically presented recitatives and choruses, with commentary in reflective chorales, ariosos, and arias, framed by opening and final choruses, leading to a final chorale. Compared with the St Matthew Passion, the St John Passion has been described as more extravagant, with an expressive immediacy, at times more unbridled and less “finished”. The work is the oldest extant Passion by Bach, followed by the St Matthew Passion. A St Mark Passion has been reconstructed from parts recovered, but older Passions composed by Bach may have been lost.

Bach followed chapters 18 and 19 of the Gospel of John in the Luther Bible, and the tenor Evangelist follows exactly the words of that bible. The compiler of the additional poetry is unknown. Models are the Brockes Passion and a Johannes-Passion by Christian Heinrich Postel. The first scene is in the Kedron Valley, and the second in the palace of the high priest Caiaphas. Part Two shows three scenes, one with Pontius Pilate, one at Golgotha, and the third finally at the burial site. The dramatic argument between Pilate, Jesus, and the crowd is not interrupted by reflective elements but is a single central chorale.

The St John Passion is one of the crowning achievements of Western music and in terms of Bach’s oeuvre represents an intensely personal experience, bringing to life the humanity of the passion story. Combining raw viscerality with moments of exquisite intimacy, the music and text outline a deeply religious feeling without religiosity.

Here is the Johannes-Passion performed by Werner Güra, tenor; Layla Claire: soprano; Damien Guillon: countertenor; Emiliano Gonzalez-Toro: tenor; Konstantin Wolff: bass; Benoît Arnould: bass with the Ensemble et choeur Pygmalion, by Conducted by Raphaël Pichon.

Friday 18 April 2014


“It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” - Laura Ingalls Wilder

This being Lent, it is of special significance for those of the Orthodox faith, as dietary rules prevail during the 50 days or so of Lenten fast. Therefore it’s topical to have a Greek Lenten recipe, that is not only delicious, but adheres to the fasting rules that are prescribed (no eggs, no dairy products, no animal products). It is wickedly sweet and fruity with a spicy aroma. You needn’t eat much to satisfy your sweet tooth, and a small piece goes a long way!

For the dough:
250 g flour (half plain, half self-raising)
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoonfuls sugar
Pinch of salt
Cold water to mix
Zest of one lemon

For the filling:
1/3 cup of sultanas
1/3 cup of chopped, glace cherries
1/3 cup of chopped, dried figs
1/3 cup of chopped, dried apricots
1/3 cup of diced, mixed peel
1/3 cup of chopped, dried dates
1/3 cup of chopped walnuts
Ground cinnamon, cloves
Orange marmalade, apricot jam

Mix the flour, lemon zest and sugar thoroughly, making a well in the centre.  Pour the oil in the well and knead to form a crumbly mixture.  Add enough water to form a stiff dough.  Roll out to form a rectangle 30 cm by 20 cm. Leave dough to rest while making the filling. Mix together the fruit and nuts, and spices and bind together with the jam and marmalade.

Take a 30x15 cm slice tray and grease well. Line with baking paper. Roll half the dough into a thin sheet and line the bottom and sides of the pan. Spoon the filling mixture into the pastry shell. Roll the rest of the dough into a sheet and cover the filling. Press the edges of the dough together and prick the top of the dough several times with a fork. Glaze with apricot jam and dust with cinnamon.  Bake in a hot oven (230˚C) for about half an hour until golden brown. When cool, cut into small squares.

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

Thursday 17 April 2014


“Wise is the soul whose heart bestows the beauty of brotherly love especially - in times most cold. For the blessing of unity, evokes strong will, as the power of spirit, heals and fulfills.” - Crystal Harris

Today is is Maundy Thursday, which is so called because Christ gave his disciples a new commandment (mandatum in Latin) on this day: “Love one another as I have loved you”.  Following Christ’s example on this day, kings, bishops and other figures of great authority, humble themselves and wash the feet of as many paupers as they had years of age.

Today is also the day the church commemorates the Last Supper. In the Christian faith, the Last Supper was the last meal Jesus shared with his apostles before his death. The meal is discussed at length in all four Gospels of the Bible. The meal is considered by most scholars likely to have been a Passover seder, celebrated on the Thursday night (Holy Thursday) before Jesus was crucified on Friday (Good Friday). This year, Jewish Passover is celebrated during the same time as the Western and Eastern Easter, so Happy Easter and Best Pesach Wishes! It is rarely that one gets agreement across all the major Judaeochristian faiths, so it is definitely something to note and celebrate…

The Greek Orthodox tradition dictates that Holy Thursday is the day that Easter eggs should be dyed red. The red colour symbolises joy, resurrection, hope, rebirth, but also has an apotropaic character. The shed blood of Christ is also another potent symbol associated with the red eggs. Concerning the colour red: When Christ was on the cross and His side was pierced by the soldier who wanted to confirm his death, drops of blood fell to the earth and all the flowers that were below became red. This is how tradition explains why Springtime poppies are red.

Legend says that one day, after the Resurrection of Christ, Mary Magdalene went to Tiberius Caesar to announce the Resurrection of the Lord. Next to them at that time there was a man carrying a basket of eggs. Tiberius showed puzzlement when he heard the news and said to Mary that if what she says is true, then the eggs in the man’s basket, which were white, should become red. So it happened, and Tiberius was persuaded.

The egg also symbolises the tomb of Christ, which was hermetically closed, like the shell of the egg, but concealed life within. The egg, as an ancient symbol of the genesis of the cosmos and the birth of life, is met with in many cults both primitive and more sophisticated around the world. In both folk-tale and mythological fantasy, the egg turns up as the symbol of life. It is associated with powerful animal magic and it was believed that this power could be transmitted to humans, animals and plants, hence its use in fertility rituals. Some theorise that the red dyed Easter eggs spread in Europe, Asia and China from an ancient calendrical custom while others consider their origin in ancient Egypt.

In Greek villages and towns, the first egg dyed red was taken and put next to an icon of the Virgin Mary. This protected the household and the egg could be used in a ritual to exorcise the evil eye from afflicted people. In some places in Greece, they put it in a box as many eggs as were members of the family, and when the family went to church in the evening, the eggs were put under the altar. The eggs were retrieved after the Resurrection liturgy and each member of the family took his own egg. These eggs were blessed and after the egg was consumed, its shell was buried in the gardens and near roots of trees to encourage growth and fertility. Eggs laid by chickens (especially a black hen) on Holy Thursday were considered especially powerful and had great apotropaic properties, ridding the household of any evil.

Wednesday 16 April 2014


“We all hope for breakthrough rebirth moments.” - Dane Cook

Rather apt for Northern Hemisphere, where Spring is approaching Poetry Jam this week has prompted readers with the following thought: “It is the season of birth and rebirth, so I am going to title this prompt ‘Bees, Bunnies, and Birds’…” Here is my poem:


I’ll be reborn,
Like a drooping snowdrop flower
Peeking from a cover of snow;
Like a pure white lamb in Spring;
Like an emerald blade of grass,
From dark, dank soil emergent.

I’ll be resurrected,
Like the swollen seed sprouting;
Like a gentle wave on quiet shore
When it’s stirred by the zephyr;
Like the first star, bright,
On velvet twilit sky of evening.

I’ll become free,
Like prisoner released from an unjust confinement;
Like the mist of the valley
When it’s caressed by rising sun;
Like the bird that soars so high
When first released from its cage.

I’ll be redeemed,
Like a promise finally fulfilled;
Like a sin confessed and forgiven;
Like the refined metal released from ore
Under the purifying flame of fire;
Like a dusty road washed clean by a rain shower.

I’ll be comforted,
Like a traveller who at last
Sees his welcoming home shore;
Like a desert wanderer, who sick of mirages
Finally arrives at the real oasis,
Like an orphan who can at last feel a mother’s love.

I’ll be reborn,
I’ll be resurrected,
I’ll become free,
I’ll be redeemed,
I’ll be comforted,
I’ll live my wasted life over,
Only when you come into it…

Tuesday 15 April 2014


“An economy genuinely local and neighborly offers to localities a measure of security that they cannot derive from a national or a global economy controlled by people who, by principle, have no local commitment.” - Wendell Berry

I do not pretend to understand the intricacies of economics (macro- or micro-). Nor do I think I am an expert in any high-flown financial matters. My budgeting sometimes probably leaves something to be desired, but at least, I do manage my personal finances more or less successfully so that I am comfortable, do not owe money to people and am able to put something aside, planning ahead for a rainy day in the future. So, you may say that unlike many other people I am managing to cope with matters fiscal…

But coping, only just! The vagaries of our economic system, capitalistic greed, our confounded politics, the insanity and unfairness of our taxation system, the escalating charges, costs and fees associated with a “user-pays” mentality are managing to erode our coping mechanisms. “User-pays” indeed! It would make sense in a system where personal taxation was more reasonable, but if you tax the average citizen highly and then expect him to pay for everything he uses as well, then the system becomes grossly unfair and is bound to fester discontent. And there is a lot of discontent around at the moment…

Speaking of fees, charges and escalating costs, the banks in Australia have it all wrapped up! This of course is in strict imitation of similar institutions in countries of the Western persuasion around the world. The charging of usurious interest rates, credit card rip-offs, the creation of ever-new fees and charges, “user-pays” costs and countless other ways of making money out of their increasingly poorer clientele is now a fact of life.

The defence for the shameless profiteering of banks is that their “shareholders must be kept satisfied”. And satisfied they are, as the banks’ profits escalate annually into the billions… One thing the banks forget, however, is that their ordinary customers far outnumber their shareholders. They cannot forever rob the numerous poor Peters to keep on making the few rich Pauls richer. This sort of thing led to several bloody revolutions in the past – France and Russia spring immediately to mind.

The soaring profits also keep the staff on the upper echelons of these august institutions in the lap of luxury as well. The lifestyle of the directors is imperial and commensurate with the salaries, which are truly obscene. The golden handshakes they receive upon termination of employment are offensive to the extreme, the bonuses that are habitually handed out to their ilk are an affront to the increasing poverty which is becoming widespread in the general population. The fee you paid yesterday and the new charge dreamed up today is keeping these people well supplied with champagne and caviar tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…

Increasing waves of privatisation of once government owned companies (e.g. electricity, gas) has led to a rise in prices as far as the consumer is concerned and a decrease in services and customer satisfaction. Widespread urbanisation is occurring and increased building activity (and profiteering) as houses are demolished to give place to apartment blocks is leading to over-crowding, poor infrastructure, increase of pollution, traffic, noise. A neglect of rural areas and a stifling of their development is the other side of the coin.

The solution? Reform! Reform on multiple levels. How to achieve this reform is a matter of contention and will require a great deal of effort and in many cases action that will be revolutionary. Revolution will need to be in the form of a radical change in the way that we interact with the state, large organisations, industries and companies – not revolution of the bloody kind. We are bled figuratively through our pockets, so our revolution must be a figurative one also. Resistance will need to be passive, and organised on a scale that makes a large dent in the profits of these companies. If the Peters fail to deliver the profit to the Pauls, then the Pauls will need to reconsider their stance, attitude and modus operandi.

(The image above is “Tomorrow the city. Vision overcrowded urban planning” Mixed media by Francine Magrou).

Monday 14 April 2014


"Drama is life with the dull bits cut out." - Alfred Hitchcock

I really like Bollywood movies and I have seen quite a few, both old and new. In these movies, there is an amazing variety of themes explored, with some rollicking good stories, as much melodrama as you can wish for, luscious sounds of exotic music and song  and some absolutely astounding cinematography and excellent examples of the director’s art.

For Movie Monday today, I am considering “Devdas” (2002). Devdas is a classic tragic love story, based on a novella written by the Bengali Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay in 1901 (published 1917). It has been filmed on many occasions by many Indian film-makers, eg: Naresh Mitra’s 1928 versionP.C Barua’s 1935 version; and his 1936 versionBimal Roy’s 1955 versionShakti Samanta’s 2002 version.

The plot is highly convoluted and brings to the fore the wonderful skills that Indian storytellers and novelists have in the telling of epic love stories. Childhood sweethearts, Devdas and Parvati (affectionately called, Paro) grow up in a small village, spending their childhood years playing together and quarrelling, growing up and experiencing many joyous and sad occasions together. It is fated that when they grow up, they fall in love. Devdas comes from a very rich and wealthy family, while Paro’s family is not rich, and socially inferior to Devdas’. His father does not approve of marriage or even any friendship with Paro, and sends him away to Calcutta.

Disheartened, Devdas gives up on his love, and Paro gets married to a much older man, who has a grown-up son and daughter. When Devdas realises he is unable to give up his love for Paro and returns to the village, he finds out that she is married. He returns to Calcutta and falls into bad company and alcohol. He is introduced to a dancer, Chandramukhi, who adores him and falls hopelessly in love with him... The story continues on screen and I am not going to spoil it for those of you who wish to see this film!

The version of Devdas I am showcasing today, is directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Devdas is played by Bollywood heartthrob Shahrukh Khan. Parvati is played by green-eyed beauty, Aishwarya Rai. Ms Rai was crowned Miss India 1994 runner-up, and she was a hot favorite in the run for the Miss World title, which she won, her beauty and charm making her India’s darling. Another Indian beauty, Madhuri Dixit, plays the temptress Chandramukhi and they are all supported by an able cast. The film has gorgeous costumes, exotic locales, sparkling sets, lush panning cinematography, wonderful music and an exotic feel that encapsulates the concept of “India” in most Westerners’ minds.

Here is a YouTube video of Chandramukhi’s song Maar Daala from the Movie:

Another YouTube video of the song Dola re Dola:

The movie is worth seeing as it is one of the big productions of recent Indian film-making, with a timeless tragic story and a good introduction to Bollywood if you have never had a chance to see such a film.

Sunday 13 April 2014


“Painting is by its nature a luminous language.” - Robert Delaunay

Robert Delaunay (12 April 1885 – 25 October 1941) was a French artist who, with his wife Sonia Delaunay and others, co-founded the Orphism art movement, noted for its use of strong colours and geometric shapes. His later works were more abstract, reminiscent of Paul Klee. His key influence related to bold use of colour, and a clear love of experimentation of both depth and tone. Delaunay was hugely influential on the Expressionist movement, and he had initially been invited to participate in the first Blaue Reiter exhibition in 1913. Yet his work was also an inspiration for the Futurists in Italy and the American Synchronizers, and he took part in the Art Deco Exhibition in the 1920’s.

Robert Delaunay was born in 1885 in Paris to an upper class family. He started painting when he was young and served an apprenticeship with a theatrical designer from 1902 to 1904. Otherwise he had no formal training. He first exhibited in 1904 at the Salon des Independents (he was the youngest exhibitor ever) and his work was clearly influenced by the Impressionists. He began to experiment soon after, however, taking pointillist ideas and stretching them to incorporate colour and movement.

By 1908 he was playing an active role in the development of Cubism. His painting ‘The Eiffel Tower’ (1910) was received with great acclaim, and two years later his ‘City of Paris’ caused a sensation at the Salon des Independents. Delaunay’s abstract works proved revolutionary in the development of French art. Apollinaire christened his style Orphism in the way the art had similarities with the abstract in music. By 1914 Delaunay was experimenting with wax. With the outbreak of the First World War he moved first to Portugal then to Spain where he worked briefly with Diaghilev. Relocating to Paris in the Twenties he collaborated with Leger in the Art Deco Exhibition and worked in set design on a number of films.

His reputation declined somewhat in the latter part of his career but he continued to experiment with materials such as sand, mosaics and lacquered stone to be used in his acclaimed ‘Reliefs’ series. He had always had grand ambitions for his art and these were fulfilled with his commissions for the International Exposition in 1937. The following year with the help of his wife Sonia and others he decorated the Tuileries Salon where he created three enormous ‘Rhythms’.

Delaunay stated: “As an artist, as a manual craftsman, I wage my revolution on walls. I have now discovered new materials that can transform a wall, not only externally but in its very substance. Separate man from art? Never. I cannot separate man from art because I build houses for him! Even when fashion dictated easel art, I was already envisaging great murals.”.

In his ‘Air, Iron, Water’ of 1937 (Israel Museum, Jerusalem), Delaunay combines the abstract concentric circles with cubist inspired renditions of the Eiffel Tower and a locomotive, as well as the figures of the Three Graces to compose a pleasing, highly decorative painting that harmonises the representational with the abstract.