Saturday 19 March 2016


“If we were all determined to play the first violin we should never have an ensemble. therefore, respect every musician in his proper place.” - Robert Schumann

Evaristo Felice dall’Abaco (12 July 1675, Verona, Italy — 12 July 1742, Munich, Bavaria) was an Italian composer and cellist. Dall’Abaco was born in Verona, the son of renowned guitarist Damiano dall’Abaco. His father, after seeing his son’s musical talent in school, let him take on violin and cello lessons. He is thought to be Torelli’s pupil from whom he would have learned violin and cello.

He launched his musical career as a violinist with Tommaso Antonio Vitali in Modena, and in 1704 he joined the court of Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria as Kammermusiker. Dall’Abaco was only a few months in Munich, when he was forced to flee with the court to Brussels, following Maximilian’s defeat at the Battle of Blenheim. On Maximilian’s restoration and return to Munich, in 1715, dall’Abaco was appointed Concertmeister. He continued to compose chamber music at the French and Dutch courts until 1740 when he retired.

While in Brussels, dall’Abaco fathered a son named Joseph Abaco (1710–1805). Dall’Abaco’s music is especially indebted to Vivaldi and Corelli. However, when he went into exile with the Munich court, he spent time in France and absorbed some of the influences there.

Here are his 12 Concerti à più Istrumenti Opera Sesta, indirizzata all’Arcivescovo Ellettore di Colonia Clemente Augusto [Amsterdam, 1735]:
1. Concerto No.12 in D major [Allegro-Grave-Allegro ma non troppo] 0:09
2. Concerto No.4 in B minor [Allegro-Adagio-Allegro] 6:53
3. Concerto No.2 in E major [Allegro ma non troppo-Aria. Cantabile-Allegro assai] 14:33
4. Concerto No.3 in F major [Allegro-Largo sempre piano-Allegro e spirituoso] 22:26
5. Concerto No.1 in C major [Allegro-Largo-Presto e spiccato] 29:34
6. Concerto No.8 in D major [Allegro-Largo-Allegro] 36:48
7. Concerto No.7 in A major [Allegro-Grave-Presto] 41:58
8. Concerto No.11 in E major [Allegro-Aria. Cantabile-Allegro e spirituoso] 47:25
9. Concerto No.10 in C major [Allegro-LargoAllegro] 56:49
10 Concerto No.9 in B-flat major [Allegro ma non troppo-Largo assai-Allegro assai] 1:03:00
11. Concerto No.5 in G major [Allegro e vivace assai-Aria. Adagio cantabile-Allegro] 1:12:10
12. Concerto No.6 in F major [Allegro-Adagio-Allegro ma non troppo-Allegro assai] 1:19:39

They are performed by Il Tempio Armonico under the direction of Alberto Rasi, with solo violin played by David Monti.

Friday 18 March 2016


“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” - Martin Luther

Autumn is coming in the Southern Hemisphere and Melbourne has just experienced a few cool, grey days with lots of rain. The kitchen is becoming an attractive place to spend some time in and do some cooking. Meanwhile in the markets, new season apples, pears and nuts are making their appearance. This dessert recipe is just perfect for this kind of weather!

Apple Charlotte
500 g apples – half Granny Smith and half Jonathan
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Ground cinnamon and cloves
120 g butter
6-7 slices bread from a large loaf, cut about 5 mm thick, with crusts removed
2 egg yolks

Peel, core and thinly slice the apples. Rinse them in cold water and put them in a saucepan with the sugar and 25 g of the butter. Cook them over a low heat until they are soft enough to beat into a purée. Beat them and leave on one side to cool. Stir in the vanilla essence.
Meanwhile melt the remaining butter gently. Brush with butter the inside of a 600 mL ovenproof pudding basin.
Cut each slice of bread into rectangles. Brush each piece of bread with melted butter (both sides), being careful not to leave any unbuttered patches, then line the pudding basin with as much bread is needed. Don’t leave any gaps between the pieces, overlap them if need be and press firmly. Lightly dust the inside of the bread shell with ground cinnamon and cloves and also a little sugar.
When the apple purée has cooled, beat the egg yolks into it, mix well and fill the lined basin with the mixture. Finally seal the top with overlapping slices of the remaining bread. Place a suitably sized ovenproof plate on top of the pudding and weight it down with a heavy weight. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
After 30 minutes place the basin (with the weight still on it) in the oven to bake for 35 minutes. Then, with an oven cloth, remove the plate and weight, and bake the pudding for another 10 minutes to brown on top. Leave the pudding to settle in the basin for a minute after removing from the oven, then carefully invert it on to a warmed plate to serve.
Serve with clotted cream or ice cream.

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Thursday 17 March 2016


“He is the very pine-apple of politeness.” - Richard Brinsley Sheridan

The pineapple (Ananas comosus) is in the Bromeliaceae family and is a herbaceous perennial, which grows to 1.0 to 1.5 meters tall, although sometimes it can be taller. In appearance, the plant itself has a short, stocky stem with tough, waxy leaves. When creating its fruit, it usually produces up to 200 flowers, although some large-fruited cultivars can exceed this. Once it flowers, the individual fruits of the flowers join together to create what is commonly referred to as a pineapple. After the first fruit is produced, side shoots (called 'suckers' by commercial growers) are produced in the leaf axils of the main stem. These may be removed for propagation, or left to produce additional fruits on the original plant. Commercially, suckers that appear around the base are cultivated.

The pineapple plant has 30 or more long, narrow, fleshy, trough-shaped leaves with sharp spines along the margins that are 30 to 100 centimetres long, surrounding a thick stem. In the first year of growth, the axis lengthens and thickens, bearing numerous leaves in close spirals. After 12 to 20 months, the stem grows into a spike-like inflorescence up to 15 cm long with over 100 spirally arranged, trimerous flowers, each subtended by a bract. Flower colours vary, depending on variety, from lavender, through light purple to red. The ovaries develop into berries, which coalesce into a large, compact, multiple accessory fruit. The fruit of a pineapple is arranged in two interlocking helices, eight in one direction, thirteen in the other, each being a Fibonacci number. The pineapple carries out CAM photosynthesis, fixing carbon dioxide at night and storing it as the acid malate, then releasing it during the day aiding photosynthesis.

The plant is indigenous to South America and is said to originate from the area between southern Brazil and Paraguay; however, little is known about the origin of the domesticated pineapple. The natives of southern Brazil and Paraguay spread the pineapple throughout South America, and it eventually reached the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico, where it was cultivated by the Mayas and the Aztecs. Columbus encountered the pineapple in 1493 on the leeward island of Guadeloupe. He called it piña de Indes, meaning “pine of the Indians”, and brought it back with him to Spain, thus making the pineapple the first bromeliad to be introduced by humans outside of the New World. The fruit is said to have been first introduced in Hawaii when a Spanish ship brought it there in the 1500s. The Portuguese took the fruit from Brazil and introduced it into India by 1550. The Spanish introduced the plant into the Philippines, Hawaii (introduced in the early 19th century, first commercial plantation 1886), Zimbabwe and Guam.

The pineapple was brought to northern Europe by the Dutch from their colony in Surinam. The first pineapple to be successfully cultivated in Europe, is said to have been grown by Pieter de la Court at Meerburg in 1658. In England, a huge “Pineapple stove” needed to grow the plants had been built at the Chelsea Physic Garden in 1723. In France, King Louis XV was presented with a pineapple that had been grown at Versailles in 1733. Catherine the Great ate pineapples grown on her own estates before her death in 1796.

Because of the expense of direct import and the enormous cost in equipment and labour required to grow them in a temperate climate, using hothouses called “pineries”, pineapples soon became a symbol of wealth. They were initially used mainly for display at dinner parties, rather than being eaten, and were used again and again until they began to rot. By the second half of the 18th century, the production of the fruit on British estates had become the subject of great rivalry between wealthy aristocrats. John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore built a hothouse on his estate surmounted by a huge stone cupola 14 metres tall in the shape of the fruit; it is known as the “Dunmore Pineapple”.

The flesh and juice of the pineapple are used in cuisines around the world. In many tropical countries, pineapple is prepared, and sold on roadsides as a snack. It is sold whole, or in halves with a stick inserted. Whole, cored slices with a cherry in the middle are a common garnish on hams in the West. Chunks of pineapple are used in desserts such as fruit salad, as well as in some savoury dishes, including pizza toppings and a grilled pineapple ring on a hamburger. Crushed pineapple is used in yogurt, jam, sweets, and ice cream. The juice of the pineapple is served as a beverage, and it is also the main ingredient in cocktails such as the piña colada and in the drink tepache. In a 100 gram serving, raw pineapple is an excellent source of manganese (44% Daily Value) and vitamin C (58% Daily Value), but otherwise contains no essential nutrients in significant content.

In the Caribbean, Europe and North America, the pineapple became associated with the return of ships from extended voyages, and an emblem of welcome and hospitality that made its way into contemporary art. In the language of flowers, a pineapple flower means “welcome” and “you are perfect”. In the television series “Psych”, the writers have included a pineapple in every episode as a running joke, and there is a website dedicated to compiling a list of every pineapple shown. During the Chinese New Year, the pineapple represents wealth, luck, excellent fortune and gambling luck.

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.

Wednesday 16 March 2016


“We live in the age of the refugee, the age of the exile.” Ariel Dorfman

The Midweek Motif for Poets United this week is “Saints”. It seems that saints are distinctly lacking in our modern and increasingly secular society. But even those in the bosom of the Church seem to be more sinners than saints. My poem started going in one direction, but very quickly gravitated towards another. I threw it out and started again… Here is the final version:

The Saints and the Sinners

“I am no saint…”, he said,
And blocked his ears.
“My life is hard enough
Without self-sacrifice.”
He switched channels
Finding more pleasant things to watch
Than dire news from distant lands.

“I am no saint…”, she said,
And closed her eyes.
“The world has axes enough
To grind for my own neck.”
And she went away
To hide in her own dark place
Where none could find her.

“I am no saint…”, he said,
And smelt no more.
“The smoke is more acrid
When your own house is burning.”
And he lashed out and he burnt other houses,
And he maimed, and killed
Even the most innocent.

“I am no saint…”, she said,
And tasted no more.
“The kisses that they buy
Are bitter poison.”
But she took their money,
Giving them flesh and fake sighs
And hated them more than her sins.

“We are no saints,” we say,
And our souls become numb.
“It’s their fault for leaving home and country,
They are not martyrs, but opportunists…”
And we ignore their plight,
Shrug off their pain and sorrow,
Hear not their cries for help.

“We are no saints,” we maintain,
As we go to church and pray:
“From all evil, deliver us, O, Lord!
From all sin, deliver us, O, Lord!”
We are no saints, we know…
But we contest a place in Paradise,
Even though we are blind, and deaf,
Devoid of smell and taste, mute,
Uncaring, unfeeling, untouched
By the hell our fellow humans live in.

Syria’s civil war is the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. Half the country’s pre-war population (more than 11 million people) have been killed or forced to flee their homes. Families are struggling to survive inside Syria, or make a new home in neighbouring countries. Others are risking their lives on the way to Europe, hoping to find acceptance and opportunity. Harsh weather makes life as a refugee even more difficult. At times, the effects of the conflict can seem overwhelming.

Anti-government demonstrations in Syria began in March of 2011, part of the Arab Spring. But the peaceful protests quickly escalated after the government’s violent crackdown, and rebels began fighting back against the regime. By July, army defectors had loosely organised the Free Syrian Army and many civilian Syrians took up arms to join the opposition. Divisions between secular and Islamist fighters, and between ethnic groups, continue to complicate the politics of the conflict to this day.

Almost five years after it began, the full-blown civil war has killed over 220,000 people, half of whom are believed to be civilians. Bombings are destroying crowded cities and horrific human rights violations are widespread. Basic necessities like food and medical care are sparse. The U.N. estimates that 6.6 million people are internally displaced. When you also consider refugees, more than half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million is in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, whether they still remain in the country or have escaped across the borders.

The majority of Syrian refugees are living in Jordan and Lebanon, the two smallest countries in the region. Their weak infrastructure and limited resources are nearing a breaking point under the strain. In August 2013, more Syrians escaped into northern Iraq at a newly opened border crossing. Now they are trapped by that country’s own insurgent conflict, and Iraq is struggling to meet the needs of Syrian refugees on top of more than one million internally displaced Iraqis. An increasing number of Syrian refugees are fleeing across the border into Turkey, overwhelming urban host communities and creating new cultural tensions.

Yet, thousands of Syrians continue to flee their country every day. They often decide to finally escape after seeing their neighbourhoods bombed or family members killed. The risks on the journey to the border can be as high as staying: Families walk for miles through the night to avoid being shot at by snipers or being caught by soldiers who will kidnap young men to fight for the regime.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees are also attempting the dangerous trip across the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to Greece, hoping to find a better future in Europe. Not all of them make it across alive. Those who do make it to Greece still face steep challenges -resources are strained by the influx and services are minimal. Europe initially accepting of the refugee influx has closed its doors…

How you can help:

Please, help as much as you can, in every way you can, even if it is by talking to others and making them aware of the real issues and the enormity of the tragedy. We may be no saints but we are capable of doing great things and good deeds. 

Tuesday 15 March 2016


“Rome - the city of visible history, where the past of a whole hemisphere seems moving in funeral procession with strange ancestral images and trophies gathered from afar.” - George Eliot

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel!
There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us!
Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only. Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers will be removed immediately.
The Colosseum or Coliseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre (Latin: Amphitheatrum Flavium), is an oval amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy. Built of concrete and sand, it is the largest amphitheatre ever built. The Colosseum is situated just east of the Roman Forum. Construction began under the emperor Vespasian in 72 AD, and was completed in 80 AD under his successor and heir Titus. Further modifications were made during the reign of Domitian (81–96). These three emperors are known as the Flavian dynasty, and the amphitheatre was named in Latin for its association with their family name (Flavius).

The Colosseum could hold, it is estimated, between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators, having an average audience of some 65,000 it was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. The building ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era. It was later reused for such purposes as housing, workshops, quarters for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry, and a Christian shrine.

Although partially ruined because of damage caused by earthquakes and stone-robbers, the Colosseum is still an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome. It is one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions and has also links to the Roman Catholic Church, as each Good Friday the Pope leads a torchlit “Way of the Cross” procession that starts in the area around the Colosseum. The Colosseum is also depicted on the Italian version of the five-cent euro coin.

In antiquity, Romans may have referred to the Colosseum by the unofficial name Amphitheatrum Caesareum (with Caesareum an adjective pertaining to the title Caesar), but this name may have been strictly poetic as it was not exclusive to the Colosseum; Vespasian and Titus, builders of the Colosseum, also constructed an amphitheater of the same name in Puteoli (modern Pozzuoli).

The name Colosseum has long been believed to be derived from a colossal statue of Nero nearby (the statue of Nero was named after the Colossus of Rhodes). This statue was later remodelled by Nero’s successors into the likeness of Helios (Sol) or Apollo, the sun god, by adding the appropriate solar crown. Nero’s head was also replaced several times with the heads of succeeding emperors. Despite its pagan links, the statue remained standing well into the medieval era and was credited with magical powers. It came to be seen as an iconic symbol of the permanence of Rome.

In the 8th century, a famous epigram attributed to the Venerable Bede celebrated the symbolic significance of the statue in a prophecy that is variously quoted: Quamdiu stat Colisæus, stat et Roma; quando cadet colisæus, cadet et Roma; quando cadet Roma, cadet et mundus (“as long as the Colossus stands, so shall Rome; when the Colossus falls, Rome shall fall; when Rome falls, so falls the world”). This is often mistranslated to refer to the Colosseum rather than the Colossus (as in, for instance, Byron’s poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage). However, at the time that the Pseudo-Bede wrote, the masculine noun colisaeus was applied to the statue rather than to what was still known as the Flavian amphitheatre.

The Colossus did eventually fall, possibly being pulled down to reuse its bronze. By the year 1000 the name “Colosseum” had been coined to refer to the amphitheatre. The statue itself was largely forgotten and only its base survives, situated between the Colosseum and the nearby Temple of Venus and Roma.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.

Monday 14 March 2016


“Until lions write their own history, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” – African Proverb

We watched the 2014 Robert Stromberg movie “Maleficent” at the weekend. It starred Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley and Imelda Staunton. This movie was based on the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty, especially so the 1959 Disney animated version. However, the movie is different from many other such Disney movies: It not animated (although there are quite spectacular special effects and computer generated imaging); it is not a musical (thankfully!) and it takes a slightly different tack to the conventional fairy tale in that there is a bit of grey in the tale, rather than the stark black and white of most fairy tales.

The Maleficent of the title is of course the “evil” witch of the classic Sleeping Beauty tale and Angelina Jolie makes this her movie while playing this role. However, is Maleficent really evil? Or rather, if she is, what turned her evil? We get to see the whole story and the classic tale has a new feminist twist.

The movie starts with Maleficent as a beautiful, pure-hearted young woman having an idyllic life growing up in a peaceful forest kingdom. One day an invading army threatens the harmony of her land. Maleficent rises to be the land’s fiercest protector, but she suffers a ruthless betrayal and her heart turns to stone. What transpires is a tale of vengeance. The way that Maleficent interacts with the young princess Aurora makes this movie one of redemption.

The movie is difficult to classify. It isn’t really for the younger children as it is quite dark and has some disturbing images and complex themes. Yet, it really is not one that will satisfy many of the “grown-ups”. Perhaps it is a film for the adults with a young heart. The CGIs are quite spectacular and Jolie pulls all stops out to play her role with a great deal of gusto. There is quite a lot of good chemistry between Maleficent and her familiar man/crow “Diaval” (played by Sam Riley). Elle Fanning as Aurora is satisfactory, but she still has to earn some acting stars to play against the top brass of the acting world.

Overall, we enjoyed the movie and recommend it to the young at heart who enjoy a bit of stuff and nonsense and fantasy. There is a bit of a sub-text of feminism and the reclaiming of the old fairy tale for the new-age 21st century woman, but it is kept under control and doesn’t interfere with the story too much.

Sunday 13 March 2016


“I look my best when I’m totally free, on holiday, walking on the beach.” – Rosamund Pike

William James Glackens was an American painter who was born on March 13, 1870 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and died on May 22, 1938 Westport, Connecticut. His paintings of street scenes and middle-class urban life rejected the dictates of 19th-century academic art and introduced a matter-of-fact realism into the art of the United States.

Glackens studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and at the same time worked as an illustrator for the Philadelphia Record, the Public Ledger, and The Philadelphia Press. In 1895 he spent a year in Paris and then settled in New York City, where he worked as an illustrator for The New York Herald and the New York World. He went to Cuba in 1898 to cover the Spanish-American War for McClure’s Magazine. While establishing his reputation as a graphic artist, Glackens also began to paint in oils and was a regular participant in the Pennsylvania Academy’s annual exhibitions. “Hammerstein’s Roof Garden” (1901), a cabaret scene, was his first important oil painting and was exhibited at the Allen Gallery in New York.

Glackens joined a group of artists who were also interested in depicting contemporary life. Robert Henri, with whom Glackens had travelled to Paris in 1895, was the leader of this group, which included John Sloan, George Luks, and Everett Shinn, as well as the more romantic painters Ernest Lawson, Maurice Prendergast, and Arthur B. Davies. Known as The Eight, they held one memorable exhibition in 1908, but, because of diversity of viewpoints, they disbanded.

Among Glackens’s major early paintings, “At Mouquin’s” (1905) shows a lively New York restaurant in a vivid and robust manner. Later, he became interested in Impressionism and was particularly influenced by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. During the last two decades of his life, Glackens became a regular traveller to Europe, spending much of his time in Paris and the south of France. His extensive knowledge of European art trends made him an especially valuable adviser to the American collector Albert C. Barnes.

In 1916, Glackens served as the president of the newly founded Society of Independent Artists, whose mission was to provide broader exhibition opportunities for lesser-known artists. He continued to travel to France between 1925 and 1935 to study the work of the Impressionists and the Post-Impressionists. His paintings received gold medals from annual exhibitions at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1933 and again in 1936. In contrast to many of his friends among The Eight, such as Sloan and Luks, whose personal lives were turbulent and whose finances were uncertain, Glackens enjoyed a happy marriage, a contented home life, and a steady career, though by the 1930s he was seen by a younger generation interested in abstraction, surrealism, and political art as an old-fashioned artist.

Glackens died suddenly while vacationing in Westport, Connecticut on May 22, 1938. His posthumous retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art several months later, also shown at the Carnegie Institute at Pittsburgh, was well received. His legacy is linked to that of the Ashcan school and The Eight. Although he distanced himself from some of their ideals, William Glackens continued to be considered an integral part of the realist movement in American art.

The painting above is “Summer”, painted in 1914. Glackens painted many similar such scenes of the beach and bathers and in it one can see the similarities of style, subject matter and colours with works of the French impressionists. However, Glackens’ subject matter and style did change throughout his life. Influenced by the work he saw during his time in Europe, from Hals and Manet to Frank Duveneck and the Impressionists, Glackens’ early work uses dark, dramatic colours and slashing, overlapping brushstrokes. He depicted scenes of urban life in Paris and its suburbs and painted the theatres and parks of Manhattan. He continued this style and subject matter for some time until he began to break away from The Eight. At that point, his most common subject matter was landscapes, especially beach scenes.

Later Glackens became best known for his portraits, and late in his life he focussed on still lifes. Despite the changing subject matter, Glackens’ work was clearly the product of a man who loved the fluid, unrestrained quality of oil on canvas. Forbes Watson asserted that Glackens focussed on strong colour effects, above all else, because “...the colour of the world makes him thoroughly happy and to express that happiness in colour has become his first and most natural impulse.” His paintings are, paradoxically, “haunted by the spectre of happiness, obsessed with the contemplation of joy.” In many ways, he was always the gentlest, least radical of the Ashcan artists.