Saturday 8 August 2015


“Music is well said to be the speech of angels.” - Thomas Carlyle

Attilio Malachia Ariosti (5 November 1666 – 1729) was a Servite Friar and Italian composer in the Baroque style, born in Bologna. He produced more than 30 operas and oratorios, numerous cantatas and instrumental works.

Ariosti was born into the middle class. He became a monk in 1688 at age 22, but he soon obtained permission to leave the order and become a composer in the court of the Duke of Mantua and Monferrato. He became a deacon in 1692, the same year he achieved the post of organist at Santa Maria dei Servi in Bologna.

In 1697, he went to Berlin at the request of Sophia Charlotte of Hanover, Queen of Prussia, a great-granddaughter of James I of England and daughter of the Electress Sophia of Hanover, an enlightened patroness of the arts with a keen interest in music. After enjoying the favour of the Queen, Ariosti wrote and collaborated in the writing of a number of stage works performed for the court in Berlin. He resided in Berlin as the court composer until 1703.

His first opera was performed in Venice in 1697. From 1703 to 1709 he was the General Austrian Agent for Italy, during the reign of Joseph I. After 1716 he achieved enormous success in Paris and London. In London, he shared with Georg Frideric Handel and Giovanni Bononcini the directorship of the Royal Academy of Music, and he played the viola d’amore in an entr’acte in Handel’s “Amadigi di Gaula”.

In 1724 he published a Collection of Cantatas, and Lessons for the Viola d’ Amore, which he sold by subscription. This publication may have been the most successful sale of music by subscription in the 18th century.

Although he could sing, write drama, play the violoncello and harpsichord; his favourite instrument was the viola d’ amore, for which he wrote 21 solo sonatas. These are usually called the Stockholm Sonatas, as the sole surviving source for most of them is in the Statens Musikbibliotek in Stockholm, Sweden. The Stockholm Sonatas display Ariosti’s liking for surprising harmonies, his inventive use of silence, and his wit.

Here are six lessons for viola d’ amore (London, 1724), played by Thomas Georgi (viola d’ amore), Joëlle Morton (viola da gamba & great bass viol) and Lucas Harris (theorbo, archlute, and baroque guitar).

Lezione prima in E-flat major
I. Allegro
II. Largo
III. Tempo giusto

Lezione seconda in A major
I. Cantabile: Grave
II. Vivace
III. Sarabande: Adagio
IV. Menuet

Lezione terza in E minor
I. Adagio
II. Allemanda
III. Adagio
IV. Giga [guitar]

Lezione quarta in F major
I. Adagio
II. Andante
III. Corrente
IV. Giga [guitar]

Lezione quinta in E minor
I. Vivace
II. Largo
III. [Giga] (guitar)

**Sonata No. 6 in D major
I. [Andante]
II. [Menuet]from LEZIONE VIIII.
Giga [guitar]
IV. Rondeau

**Sonata No. 7 in D major from LEZIONE VII.
A tempo giusto
III. [Agadio]
IV. [Giga] (guitar)

**[In Sonata n. 6 & 7, include all movements of Lezione sesta in D major.]

Friday 7 August 2015


“Going meat-free can make a huge difference. Studies show that vegetarians are, on average, 10 to 20 pounds lighter than meat-eaters and that a vegetarian diet reduces our risk of heart disease by 40 percent and adds seven or more years to our lifespan.” - Ingrid Newkirk

The following vegie goulash recipe can be adapted so that you use whatever seasonal vegetables are available. Feel free to experiment and modify it to your own tastes.

Vegetarian Goulash
1/2 cup red kidney beans
1/2 cup haricot beans
4 onions, finely chopped
4 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
3 zucchini, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 heaped teaspoon sweet paprika
pinch of nutmeg
a bunch of parsley finely chopped
a tin of tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes stewed)
140 mL of tomato juice

Soak beans overnight. Boil water in a saucepan and put in beans. Simmer for one to two hours or until tender. Fry onion in oil in a medium sized saucepan until translucent. Add garlic and fry for a few seconds more. Add carrots and continue frying for one minute. Add the zucchini, paprika, nutmeg, parsley and the crushed tomatoes. Add the beans and everything else and cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes. Serve with salad and crunchy bread, and topped with a little yoghurt.

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Thursday 6 August 2015


“Japan learned from the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that the tragedy wrought by nuclear weapons must never be repeated and that humanity and nuclear weapons cannot coexist.” - Daisaku Ikeda

In August 1945, during the final stage of the Second World War, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The two bombings, which killed at least 129,000 people, remain the only use of nuclear weapons for warfare in history. As the war entered its sixth and final year, the Allies had begun to prepare for what was anticipated to be a very costly invasion of the Japanese mainland. This was preceded by an immensely destructive firebombing campaign that obliterated many Japanese cities.

The war in Europe had concluded when Nazi Germany signed its instrument of surrender on May 8, 1945, but with the Japanese refusal to accept the Allies’ demands for unconditional surrender, the Pacific War dragged on. Together with the United Kingdom and China, the United States called for the unconditional surrender of the Japanese armed forces in the Potsdam Declaration on July 26, 1945; this was buttressed with the threat of “prompt and utter destruction”.

By August 1945, the Allied “Manhattan Project” had successfully detonated an atomic device in the New Mexico desert and subsequently produced atomic weapons based on two alternate designs. The 509th Composite Group of the U.S. Army Air Forces was equipped with the specialised Silverplate version of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, that could deliver them from Tinian in the Mariana Islands. A uranium gun-type atomic bomb (Little Boy) was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, followed by a plutonium implosion-type bomb (Fat Man) on the city of Nagasaki on August 9.

Little Boy exploded 2,000 feet above Hiroshima in a blast equal to 12-15,000 tons of TNT, destroying five square miles of the city. Within the first two to four months of the bombings, the acute effects of the atomic bombings killed 90,000–166,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000–80,000 in Nagasaki; roughly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day. During the following months, large numbers died from the effect of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness and malnutrition. In both cities, most of the dead were civilians, although Hiroshima had a sizable military garrison. On August 15, just days after the bombing of Nagasaki and the Soviet Union's declaration of war, Japan announced its surrender to the Allies. On September 2, it signed the instrument of surrender, effectively ending World War II. The role of the bombings in Japan’s surrender and their ethical justification are still debated.

In Japan, the survivors of the bombings are called hibakusha (“explosion-affected people”). The shock and great suffering in the wake of the bombings caused Japan to seek the abolition of nuclear weapons from the world ever since, putting in place one of the world’s most committed and extensive non-nuclear policies. More than 400,000 hibakusha (258,310 in Hiroshima and 145,984 in Nagasaki) are recorded in Japan.

This is a day to:
• Remember those who died and were wounded by the bombing of Hiroshima
• Remember all people of every nation who died and were wounded during World War II
• Assert the right of everyone on earth to live a life free from the fear of war
• Work for a world free from nuclear weapons
• Work to adopt peaceful use of nuclear power.

Wednesday 5 August 2015


“There’s something about the sound of a train that's very romantic and nostalgic and hopeful.” - Paul Simon

This week’s Poets United Mid-Week Motif is “Saying the Names With Love”, a thematic tribute to the names of the places we love. Let me take you with my poem on a great train journey across Australia.

The Indian Pacific is an Australian passenger rail service that operates between Sydney, on the Pacific Ocean, and Perth, on the Indian Ocean. It is one of the few truly transcontinental trains in the world. The train first ran in February 1970 after the completion of gauge conversion projects in South and Western Australia. The train’s route includes the world’s longest straight stretch of railway track, a 478-kilometre (297 mi) stretch of the Trans-Australian Railway over the Nullarbor Plain.

The service was originally operated jointly by the New South Wales Government Railways, South Australian Railways, Commonwealth Railways and Western Australian Government Railways, until February 1993 when Australian National took full ownership. In October 1997 the Indian Pacific was sold to Great Southern Rail. A one-way trip originally took 75 hours, but with line and efficiency improvements it now takes 65 hours. The train currently has four classes, branded as Platinum, Gold Service and Red Service Sleeper and Red Service Daynighter and also a motorail service to convey passengers’ motor vehicles.

Train Ticket

My birthday gift came in an envelope –
Thick, creamy paper, hand-addressed –
Stout enough to enclose sheaves of printed matter;
No sender’s name, a fascinating mystery…

Intrigued, I open carefully to find within:
A train ticket and an itinerary –
Sydney to Perth, transcontinental,
On the Indian Pacific…

The sender knows me well, I think,
And makes my fervent wish, reality –
A train journey of thousands of miles
Across this great wide land of ours.

From Sydney, the Harbour City,
Westward through the green, fertile valleys
Of New South Wales, beyond the rolling hills
And distant mountains of Condobolin,

To the rugged Outback,
And the lavishly painted desert, red earth
And rich ore-hearted, rocky outcrops
Of silver encrusted, Broken Hill…

Then South, to the city of churches:
Adelaide, beside the River Torrens,
And close enough to the Barossa Valley
To grow tipsy on sunny Summer afternoons.

From Crystal Brook, going North,
To Port Augusta, a hub of industry and trade,
Close to the violet-tinged Flinders Ranges,
And the wild beauty of Arkaroola and Pichi Richi.

Then West, again through Cook,
And the straightest, longest stretch
Of railroad track, the world over,
Three hundred miles across the arid Nullarbor.

To Kalgoorlie, golden city of mines,
Elegant, stately and forlorn amongst the rocks –
The racecourse, grand old hotels and the Skimpies,
Recalling a rowdy past and miners’ boisterous antics.

And then on the last leg of the journey,
To cosmopolitan Perth, the jewel of the West,
A city of parks and rivers, sandy beaches, hills
And bustling city life and skyscrapers.

A journey, a gift, and an expectation,
Who else could have given me this, but you?
At end of the journey my greater gift awaits;
Taking the slow suburban train to Fremantle,
I know you will be there to greet me
At our old rendezvous point up on the Round House…

Tuesday 4 August 2015


“Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.” - Francis Bacon

Catholics celebrate the feast day of St Eleutherius today, while the Greek Orthodox faith commemorates The Feast of the Seven Ephesian Boys. These are also known as the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus (Arabic: اصحاب الکھف aṣḥāb al kahf, “companions of the cave”). It is a story of a group of youths who hid inside a cave outside the city of Ephesus around 250 AD, to escape a persecution. The king forced all his kingdom to worship idols and whoever didn’t would be killed. These young men escaped as their faith in God (their belief varies by regional origin) was strong and refused to worship idols. The story is one of the many examples of the legend about a man who falls asleep and years after wakes up to find the world changed.

It is also Independence (National) Day I in Burkina Faso (since 1960); and National Day in the Cook Islands; while El Salvador celebrates Summer Day II.

Burkina Faso is a land-locked country of Western Africa bordering with Mali, Niger, Benin, Togo, Ghana and the Ivory Coast. It is 274,000 square km in area and its population is 9 million people. The capital city is Ouangadougou while other towns are Tenkodogo, Bobo-Dioulasso, Ouahigouya and Banfora. The country was annexed by France in 1896 and became independent in 1960, its name changing to Burkina Faso from Upper Volta in 1984. The country has poor soils with frequent droughts in the North that threaten the savannah and seriously affect the struggling economy. There are virtually no industries most people relying on subsistence farming. Cattle and cotton are exported.

It is the anniversary of the birth of:
Urban VII (Giambattista Castagna), Pope of Rome (1521);
Nicolas Jacques Conté, inventor of the pencil (1755);
Edward Irving, founder of Catholic Apostolics (1792);
Percy Bysshe Shelley, poet (1792);
Knut Hamsun, Norwegian writer (1859);
Elizabeth, British queen mother (1900);
David Russell Lange, NZ prime minister (1942).

The morning glory, Ipomoea purpurea, is the flower for today’s birthdays.  It symbolises affectation and in the language of flowers means: “She loved you”.  In the 1960s the seeds of this flower were thought to contain a hallucinogenic drug, but investigations since then have disproved this belief.

In 1693 on this day, Dom Perignon discovered champagne and exclaimed, as the bubbly poured forth: “I see stars!”  Champagne is a lovely drink and there are so many occasions on which to enjoy it and so many ways to drink it!  The best may be to share a bottle with one’s partner on a special occasion, but I enjoyed it also one Winter’s day for brunch with some friends in a mixture known as Kir Royale.  A few drops of Crème de Cassis liqueur in a chilled champagne flute and then fill with ice-cold bubbly - very nice!

A Lament

O World! O Life! O Time!
On whose last steps I climb,
Trembling at that where I had stood before;
When will return the glory of your prime?
No more -Oh, never more!

Out of the day and night
A joy has taken flight:
Fresh spring, and summer, and winter hoar
Move my faint heart with grief, but with delight
No more -Oh, never more!

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Monday 3 August 2015


“A conservative is someone who makes no changes and consults his grandmother when in doubt.” - Woodrow Wilson

We watched an old Swedish film last weekend, the 1992, Colin Nutley movie, “Änglagård” (“House of Angels”), starring Helena Bergström, Rikard Wolff, Sven Wollter, Reine Brynolfsson and Ernst Günther. This was a pleasant, entertaining and bittersweet movie that concerned itself with prejudice, small town mentality and conformity vs individuality. The film is very Swedish, even though it is directed by an Englishman and takes place in a lovely part of the Swedish countryside.

A small, conservative village in Västergötland, Sweden is turned upside-down when an elderly, lonely old man dies and his mansion with surrounding land and woods, called “House of Angels”, is inherited by his grand-daughter, Fanny, whom he had never met. Fanny a vivacious and free-spirited young woman comes to the village riding on a big black motorcycle with her best friend Zac, wearing black leather and spikes.

The village people do not welcome this unorthodox city girl, although she manages to win some over with her open, sunny nature. The local well-to-do entrepreneur and village kingpin, Axel Flogfält had expected that he would be able to buy the mansion for a good price, but now it seems that Fanny and Zac have come to stay there. The village is divided into two camps, one for and one against them…

The film is quite a lot of fun, and while the story does not break any new ground, it is a study of human nature. As Fanny gathers information provided by the townspeople about her dead mother and her grandfather, she learns more about herself. The prejudice, fear of the unknown and the different, and the small-mindedness of the Swedish village people is captured well by Nutley. Small communities the world over have similar attitudes and similar characters. The themes of forgiveness and self-knowledge subtly unfold as Fanny interacts with the people of the village, but also as she re-evaluates her relationship with Zac.

The acting is good, the direction light as befits the movie and the music well-suited to the action. The cinematography is beautiful and highlights some of the summery countryside of a lovely part of Sweden. We enjoyed seeing this light and fluffy sleeper of a movie, on a DVD which sort of fell in our lap. It is the first of a trilogy of films, the second being “Änglagård - Andra sommaren” (1994) and the third, “Änglagård - Tredje gången gillt” (2010). I can’t say we’ll actively look for the sequels, but if we come across the DVDs, no doubt we’ll watch them sometime…

Sunday 2 August 2015


“I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.” - Vincent VanGogh

Vincent Willem van Gogh (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) was a Post-Impressionist painter. He was a Dutch artist whose work had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art. His output includes portraits, self-portraits, landscapes and still lifes. His iconic renderings of cypresses, wheat fields, sunflowers and starry skies have made him a popular and well-known artist.

He drew as a child but did not paint until his late twenties; he completed many of his best-known works during the last two years of his life. In just over a decade, he produced more than 2,100 artworks, including 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolours, drawings, sketches and prints.

Van Gogh was born to upper middle class parents and spent his early adulthood working for a firm of art dealers. He travelled between The Hague, London and Paris, after which he taught in England at Isleworth and Ramsgate. He was deeply religious as a younger man and aspired to be a pastor. From 1879 he worked as a missionary in a mining region in Belgium, where he began to sketch people from the local community. In 1885 he painted “The Potato Eaters”, considered his first major work. His palette then consisted mainly of sombre earth tones and showed no sign of the vivid coloration that distinguished his later paintings.

In March 1886, he moved to Paris and discovered the French Impressionists. Later, he moved to the south of France and was influenced by the strong sunlight he found there. His paintings grew brighter in colour, and he developed the unique and highly recognisable style that became fully realised during his stay in Arles in 1888. After years of anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness, he died aged 37 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The extent to which his mental health affected his painting has been widely debated by art historians. Despite a widespread tendency to romanticise his ill health, modern critics see an artist deeply frustrated by the inactivity and incoherence wrought through illness. His late paintings show an artist at the height of his abilities, completely in control, and according to art critic Robert Hughes, “longing for concision and grace”.

“The Starry Night”, above, painted in Saint Rémy, in June 1889 (oil on canvas, 73.7 x 92.1 cm and exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art, New York) is one of Van Gogh’s most well-known paintings. The artist reveals this about the painting: “This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big.” Van Gogh wrote this to his brother Theo, from France, and it is these many letters to his brother that tells us much about his art and the artist.

Rooted in imagination and memory, “The Starry Night” embodies an inner, subjective expression of van Gogh's response to nature. In thick, sweeping brushstrokes, a flame-like cypress unites the churning sky and the quiet village below. The village was partly invented, and the church spire evokes van Gogh’s native land, the Netherlands.

Here is Don McLean singing his beautiful “Vincent” – a fitting tribute, on the 125th anniversary of van Gogh’s death: