Saturday 6 June 2015


“But when the wearied band swoons to a waltz, I take her hand, and there we sit in peaceful calm, quietly sweating palm to palm.” - Aldous Huxley

We are very lucky in Australia to have a national radio station devoted to playing classical music 24/7 without the interruptions of any commercial advertisements. This is the government-funded ABC Classic FM which is at 105.9 on the dial or alternatively available to listen to on the internet.

It has become an annual tradition on ABC Classic to organise a public poll of the “Classic 100” pieces nominated by and voted for by the public. Each year a different theme is chosen. For example, in 2014, the theme was “Baroque and Before”; in 2013 it was “Music in the Movies”; in 2012 it was “Music of France”; in 2011 it was “Music of the 20th Century”; and so on. This of course is quite a clever ploy as it engages listeners, boosts popularity of the station, and as the 100 most popular pieces are then marketed each year in boxed sets, it is a revenue source for the station. It is a win-win for both listeners and the radio station.

This year the theme for the “Classic 100” is “Swoon”! Twenty years ago a segment was born on ABC Classic FM’s “Classic Breakfast” program called “Swoon”. It was a momentary rest from the busy pace at the start of the day. Presenter Christopher Lawrence called it a “little parcel of rapture” and the popularity of the segment and subsequent CD sales saw it become the highest selling classical CD in Australia ever. It was therefore an easy choice for this year’s “Classic 100” theme.

I have been listening to the countdown, which began yesterday and I have been revelling in the music, most of which are favourites of mine. There are some exceptions, which I don't particularly like, but such is the case with any selection, which is nominated and voted for by a large number of people.

Inspired by this, I give you one of my all-time favourite “swoons”. It is Antonin Dvořák’s String Quartet No. 12 Op. 96 B. 179 in F, the so-called “American Quartet”, performed by the Emerson String Quartet. The second movement marked “Lento” is the especially “swoonworthy” part… Enjoy!
Movt 1 – Allegro ma non troppo: 0:00
Movt 2 – Lento: 9:03
Movt 3 – Molto Vivace: 16:50
Movt 4 – Vivace ma non troppo: 20:28

Friday 5 June 2015


“It’s the 21st century. It's healthier for us, better for the environment and certainly kinder to be a vegetarian.” - Ingrid Newkirk

News from Nepal several weeks after the deadly quake is not too good… For example, British donations for victims of the Nepal earthquakes are stuck at Catterick Garrison because of tax restrictions imposed by the country’s government. Ten tonnes of everyday items, from men’s shoes to sleeping bags and cooking utensils, is holed up at a church warehouse after Nepal put an income tax of up to 30 per cent on relief goods. Officials claim the tax is necessary so the government can co-ordinate relief efforts but critics say they are simply ‘cashing in’ on the crisis. One hopes that good sense will prevail and relief efforts will reach those most in need.
A delicious, vegetarian Nepalese recipe today:

Nepali Indian Curry
1 kg peeled and cubed potatoes (can substitute other cubed vegetables)
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 red onions, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2  teaspoon black pepper
2 green chillies (removing the seeds will remove some of the heat, if desired)
6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cm piece of ginger, finely chopped
2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
1/2  teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 spring onions, chopped
2 cups peas
6 tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves
1 cauliflower, broken into florets
1 can coconut milk (optional)

Peel and dice potatoes into small cubes. Heat oil and fry the onions until golden. Add bay leaf, pepper, chillies, garlic, ginger, ground coriander, cumin seeds, turmeric and salt. Stir in the potatoes and fry until browned. Add spring onions, peas, tomatoes and a cup of hot water. Cook gently for 5-8 minutes. Add cauliflower and cook further until all the vegetables are tender. If using, add the coconut milk and heat through. Serve with rice.

Add your own favourite recipe below:

Thursday 4 June 2015


“One ought, everyday, to hear a song, read a fine poem, and, if possible, to speak a few reasonable words.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Reginald Charles (Rex) Ingamells (19 January 1913 – 30 December 1955) was an Australian poet, generally credited with being the leading light of the Jindyworobak Movement.

Ingamells was born at Orroroo, South Australia. He was educated at State schools and at Prince Alfred College and graduated in Arts at Adelaide University. For many years he was a schoolteacher in Adelaide, but in 1946 he moved to Melbourne as educational representative of a publishing firm. He travelled widely throughout Australia, worked for four seasons as a fruit-picker along the Murray river, and made a journey in a schooner trading along the South Australian coast. He died near Dimboola, Victoria in a car-crash in 1955.

Rex Ingamells was best known as the founder of the Jindyworobak Club, a literary movement established in 1938, which for some years gathered around it and gave impetus to a number of Australian poets. The movement was aggressively and self-consciously Australian, placing a special emphasis on aboriginal culture (with which, in fact, the white man's culture has little in common).

Ingamells’s earlier books of verse were brought together in “Selected Poems” (1944), and a long ‘epic’ poem dealing with Australia’s discovery and development, “The Great South Land”, was published in 1951. His work has suffered, possibly, from an over-emphasis arising from his intensity of belief.

Much of his writing is propaganda for the Australian landscape, which even after five generations of British settlement, tends to seem alien to minds nurtured on English and European literatures. Ingamells consciously tried to create a body of Australian writing that would enable growing Australians to feel imaginatively at one with the dry sunburnt beauty that surrounds them.

In 1941-42 critics derided Ingamells and the ‘Jindys’ partly for their political ideology and largely for the pedestrian ‘Australian’ and ‘Aboriginal’ verse that the movement was producing. A. D. Hope called the Jindyworobaks the ‘Boy Scout School of Poetry’. From this point, the effect of Ingamells and his followers declined and their role in initiating an important discussion tended to be forgotten, despite the fact that the anthology appeared annually until 1953 and Ingamells continued to write prolifically.

Garchooka, the Cockatoo
By Rex Ingamells

Though the waters, wind-stirred and red-glowing,
shadowed by the evening gloom of gums,
bend in their banks the way the day is going,
while a dusk-gold haze of insects comes
over the ripples in their coloured flowing,
Garchooka, beating from high branches, screeches
discord up and down the river-reaches.

The painting of a flying Cockatoo is by Australian artist, Arthur Boyd.

Wednesday 3 June 2015


“We generate our own environment. We get exactly what we deserve. How can we resent a life we’ve created ourselves? Who’s to blame, who’s to credit but us? Who can change it, anytime we wish, but us?” - Richard Bach

Poets United has set a midweek motif that centres on “sustainability”. Is there a poet out there in this world who is not sensitive to this topic? I know that personally, it concerns me greatly. Here is my poem:

The Extraterrestrial

I come to you in peace,
My star so far away,
A pinpoint of light
In your night sky.
I come to your distant world
And find myself in paradise.

I’ve travelled long and far,
Away from the dry deserts
Of my homeland –
An arid planet, red and barren
Where water’s most precious
And wars are fought over a single well.

Your blue-green world
Hanging in space
Like a gemstone, beckoned,
And I came, succumbing
To its gentle insistence
Like a lover’s gaze.

I come to you in peace,
And seek only repose,
The luxury of drinking my fill,
Eating the lush vegetation
With my wide open eyes,
Never sated by the verdant green.

Your oceans brimming with life
Remind me of our distant past –
As our history writes –
When we too inhabited such a world:
Blue-green, drenched, bedewed,
Immersed in crystal waters.

Your forests, drinking the rain
That falls so regularly,
Are priceless beyond compare.
The flowers costlier than jewels bright –
What use to us are our diamonds,
Common as pebbles on my world?

And yet I see vast deserts, here,
I see the rainforests cut, extinction,
Your oceans polluted, animals dying.
The signs are here that you too
Have set a course that will make
Your earth a world like mine.

I come to you in peace,
And seek only a brief respite.
I bring a message from Hell
To your blue-green Eden:
Time runs short, destruction’s close
Unless you become wise, soon…

Tuesday 2 June 2015


“When music fails to agree to the ear, to soothe the ear and the heart and the senses, then it has missed the point.” - Maria Callas

Orpheus in Greek mythology was a legendary hero who had god-like musical skills. He was the son of a Muse (probably Calliope, the patron of epic poetry) and Oeagrus, a king of Thrace (or even the god Apollo). According to some legends, Apollo gave Orpheus his first lyre. Orpheus’ singing and playing were so beautiful that animals and even trees and rocks moved about him in dance.

Orpheus joined the expedition of Jason and the Argonauts, saving them from the music of the Sirens by playing his own, more powerful music. On his return, he married the nymph Eurydice, who soon after was killed by a snakebite. Overcome with grief, Orpheus went to the land of the dead to attempt to bring Eurydice back to life.

With his singing and playing he charmed the ferryman of the dead, Charon, and the three-headed watchdog of the underworld, Cerberus. Orpheus’ music and grief so moved Hades, king of the underworld, that Orpheus was allowed to take Eurydice with him back to the world of life and light. Hades set one condition, however: On leaving the land of death, both Orpheus and Eurydice were forbidden to look back. The couple climbed up toward the opening into the land of the living, and Orpheus, seeing the Sun again, turned back to share his delight with Eurydice. At that moment, she disappeared, lost to him forever.

Orpheus himself was later killed by the women of Thrace. Aeschylus, says that they were Maenads urged by Dionysus to tear him to pieces in a Bacchic orgy because he preferred the worship of the rival god Apollo. The dismembered limbs of Orpheus were gathered up and buried by the Muses. His lyre they had placed in the heavens as a constellation. The story of Orpheus was transformed and provided with a happy ending in the medieval English romance of Sir Orfeo. The character of Orpheus appears in Monteverdi's 'Orfeo' in the 16th century, Christoph Gluck’s opera 'Orfeo ed Euridice' in the 18th century,  in Jean Cocteau’s drama and film “Orphée” and the Brazilian film “Black Orpheus”  in the 20th century.

The painting above is Peter Paul Rubens’ “Orpheus and Eurydice”, painted between 1636 and 1638. It is a large work 194 × 245 cm, and is now housed in the Kunsthaus Zürich, Switzerland.

Here is the theme song from “Black Orpheus” sung by Astrud Gilberto. “Manhã de Carnaval” (“Morning of Carnival”), is the title to the most popular song by Brazilian composers, Luiz Bonfá and Antonio Maria. The song appeared in the 1959 Portuguese-language film Orfeu Negro (English titled: Black Orpheus), by French director Marcel Camus based on a play by Vinícius de Moraes. Specially in the USA, the song is considered to be one of the most important Brazilian Jazz/Bossa songs that helped establish the Bossa Nova movement in the late 1950s. Manhã de Carnaval has become a jazz standard in the USA, while it is still performed regularly by a wide variety of musicians around the world in its vocal version or just as an instrumental one.

Sunday 31 May 2015


“Unhappy the land that needs heroes.” – Bertold Brecht

As a child I always used to love adventure stories and read books with great heroic tales told in a wonderfully engaging way. I read not only the mythology of the past, but modern mythology too. I mean tales with heroes like “Tarzan”, “Robin Hood”, “Ivanhoe”, “Zorro”, and the like. I had the chance a couple of days ago to view the old classic of 1940, “The Mark of Zorro” directed by the great Reuben Mamoulian, one of the legendary directors of Hollywood. Tyrone Power cast as the swashbuckling hero was a great choice, as was Basil Rathbone having great fun playing the villainous captain Esteban Pasquale. Linda Darnell quite aptly was the romantic interest, Lolita, and the rest of the cast was well chosen and all played well.

The DVD I watched had a couple of versions on it. The original black white restored film, which was a pleasure to watch, but also a colourised version, which I had a brief skim through afterwards. This was interesting as the colours were muted and were quite well matched to the classic feel of the story. It reminded of early 20th century copies of National Geographic, with that “hand-coloured” look of the colour plates. I must admit that I am not a fan of these colourised versions – there is something phony about putting colour on what is in most cases a wonderfully composed and perfect looking black and white film. However, in this case the effect was rather quaint and not at all garish and grating. Nevertheless, I did watch the BW version!

The film is based on the story of Johnston McCulley “The Curse of Capistrano” (1919), which introduced the masked hero, Zorro. The plot is set in Southern California during the early 19th century and concerns Don Diego, the foppish son of a wealthy caballero who returns to California after a sojourn at school in Spain, only to be horrified at the way the common people are being mistreated by the tyrannical Governor Quintero. Don Diego disguises himself as Zorro (“the Fox”), who becomes a defender of the people. In the meanwhile, he romances the governor’s beautiful niece, Lolita, and fends off the adulterous advances of the governor’s wife while doing battle with the governor’s ablest henchman, the evil Captain Pasquale. Sounds an awful lot like Robin Hood, doesn’t it? The version I watched is a remake of the 1920 silent version, “The Mark of Zorro, which starred Douglas Fairbanks.

Numerous other versions of “Zorro” have been made in various countries around the world, as well as in Hollywood. Most lately, Hollywood has spawned several offshoots including the 1998 “Mask of Zorro” where an elderly Zorro comes out of retirement to train a new Zorro to fight a new threat to the community. In 2005 the story continues in a sequel “The Legend of Zorro”. I must admit that these later versions did not capture my imagination in the way that the 1940 original version did. I think I must be getting older…