Saturday 26 March 2016


“The symbolic language of the crucifixion is the death of the old paradigm; resurrection is a leap into a whole new way of thinking.” - Deepak Chopra

The Easter Oratorio (German: Oster-Oratorium), BWV 249, is an oratorio by Johann Sebastian Bach, beginning with Kommt, eilet und laufet (“Come, hasten and run”). Bach composed it in Leipzig and first performed it on 1 April 1725.

The first version of the work was completed as a cantata for Easter Sunday in Leipzig on 1 April 1725, then under the title Kommt, gehet und eilet. It was named “oratorio” and given the new title only in a version revised in 1735. In a later version in the 1740s the third movement was expanded from a duet to a four-part chorus. The work is based on a secular cantata, the so-called “Shepherd Cantata” Entfliehet, verschwindet, entweichet, ihr Sorgen, BWV 249a which is now lost, although the libretto survives. Its author is Picander who is also likely the author of the oratorio’s text. The work is opened by two instrumental movements that are probably taken from a concerto of the Köthen period. It seems possible that the third movement is based on the concerto’s finale.

Unlike the Christmas Oratorio, the Easter Oratorio has no narrator but has four characters assigned to the four voice parts: Simon Peter (tenor) and John the Apostle (bass), appearing in the first duet hurrying to Jesus’ grave and finding it empty, meeting there Mary Magdalene (alto) and “the other Mary”, Mary Jacobe (soprano). The choir was present only in the final movement until a later performance in the 1740s when the opening duet was set partly for four voices. The music is festively scored for three trumpets, timpani, two oboes, oboe d’amore, bassoon, two recorders, transverse flute, two violins, viola and continuo.

The oratorio opens with two contrasting instrumental movements, an Allegro concerto grosso of the full orchestra with solo sections for trumpets, violins and oboes, and an Adagio oboe melody over “Seufzer” motifs (sighs) in the strings. The first duet of the disciples was set for chorus in a later version, the middle section remaining a duet. Many runs illustrate the movement toward the grave. Saget, saget mir geschwinde, the aria of Mary Magdalene, is based on words from the Song of Songs, asking where to find the beloved, without whom she is “ganz verwaiset und betrübt” (completely orphaned and desolate), set in the middle section as Adagio, different from the original. The words are close to those opening Part Two of the St Matthew Passion. The final movement in two contrasting sections resembles the Sanctus composed for Christmas 1724 and later part of the Mass in B minor.

Here it is performed by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir, Lisa Larsson, Elisabeth von Magnus, Gerd Türk, Klaus Mertens, conductor Ton Koopman (Erato, 1998).


Friday 25 March 2016


“Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and new life.” - Janine di Giovanni

Pashka is a Russian Easter traditional dessert, a sort of custardy cheesecake without the biscuit base, traditionally shaped in a pyramid mould. Pashka means Easter and the dessert may be decorated with the letters XB, from “Christos Voskres”, the Russian for “Christ is Risen”.

3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup granulated sugar
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 cups small-curd cream-style cottage cheese
1⁄4 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup chopped mixed candied fruit
1⁄3 cup finely chopped blanched almonds

Mix egg yolks and whipping cream in a heavy saucepan. Stir in the sugar and salt. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture just coats a metal spoon (about 12 to 15 minutes).
Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Place saucepan in cold water until custard is cool. If custard curdles, beat with hand beater until smooth.
Place 3 cups of the cottage cheese and 2 tablespoons of the butter in blender container. Cover and blend on medium speed, stopping blender occasionally to scrape sides, until smooth. Repeat with remaining cottage cheese and butter.
Stir custard into cheese mixture until smooth. Stir in candied fruit and almonds.
Line a 2-litre non-clay flower pot (or any form dish with opening in the bottom, like a flower pot has; a colander works well!) with a double layer of dampened cheesecloth. Pour cheese mixture into pot; fold ends of cheesecloth over top. Place pot on cake rack in shallow pan; place weights on top. Refrigerate 12 to 24 hours, pouring off any liquid that accumulates in pan. To serve, unmould onto serving plate; remove cheesecloth. Garnish as desired with additional candied fruit and blanched almonds. Refrigerate any remaining dessert.

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Thursday 24 March 2016


“Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme; Remember me to the one who lives there, For once she was a true love of mine.” – English Folk Song

Thyme is an evergreen herb with culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses. The most common variety is Thymus vulgaris. Thyme is of the genus Thymus of the mint family (Lamiaceae), and a relative of the oregano genus Origanum. It is a popular culinary herb and has also many other uses, including the extraction of an essential oil and various useful organic chemicals.

The Ancient Egyptians used thyme for embalming, the high thymol content having a pleasant aromatic odour and strong antiseptic properties. The ancient Greeks used thyme in their baths and burnt it as incense in their temples, believing it was a source of courage. The spread of thyme throughout Europe was thought to be due to the Romans, as they used it to purify their rooms and to give an aromatic flavour to cheese and liqueurs. In the European Middle Ages, the herb was placed beneath pillows to aid sleep and ward off nightmares. In this period, women also often gave knights and warriors gifts that included thyme leaves, as it was believed to bring courage to the bearer. Thyme was also used as incense and placed on coffins during funerals, as it was supposed to assure passage into the next life.

Thyme is best cultivated in a hot, sunny location with well-drained soil. It is generally planted in the spring, and thereafter grows as a perennial. It can be propagated by seed, cuttings, or dividing rooted sections of the plant. It tolerates drought well. The plants can take deep freezes and are found growing wild on mountain highlands. Along the Italian Riviera, it is found from sea level up to 800 m. In the mountains of Greece thyme is widespread and the honey that bees make by harvesting nectar from its flowers has an exceedingly pleasant aroma.

Thyme for culinary use is sold both fresh and dried. The fresh form is more flavourful, but also less convenient; storage life is rarely more than a week. Although the fresh form only lasts a week or two under refrigeration, it can last many months if carefully frozen. Thyme retains its flavour on drying better than many other herbs, so it commonly used dried. It is perfectly acceptable to substitute the dried leaves of the herb for whole fresh thyme. However, one should be careful with quantities, as dried thyme can pack quite a punch!

In some Middle Eastern countries, the condiment za’atar (Arabic for thyme) contains thyme as a vital ingredient, together with other herbs, salt and sesame seeds. Dried thyme is widely used in Armenia in tisanes (called urc). In French cuisine, thyme is a common component of the bouquet garni, and of herbes de Provence. Thyme is one of the herbs used in flavouring the liqueur Benedictine.

Oil of thyme, the essential oil of common thyme (Thymus vulgaris), contains 20–54% thymol. Thyme essential oil also contains a range of additional compounds, such as p-cymene, myrcene, borneol, and linalool. Thymol, is a clear crystalline solid and is an antiseptic. It is an active ingredient in various commercially produced mouthwashes such as Listerine. Before the advent of modern antibiotics, oil of thyme was used to medicate bandages. It has also been shown to be effective against various fungi that commonly infect toenails. Thymol can also be found as the active ingredient in some all-natural, alcohol-free hand sanitisers. A tisane made by infusing the herb in water can be used for coughs and bronchitis.

In the language of flowers, a sprig of thyme without flowers, signifies strength and courage. A sprig of flowering thyme means “rest well and sleep soundly”.

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

Wednesday 23 March 2016


“Climate change is happening, humans are causing it, and I think this is perhaps the most serious environmental issue facing us.” - Bill Nye

For its Midweek Motif, Poets United has set the theme of “Climate”. My poem below:


The Earth shakes, shudders, sick
Covered in dark pall of smoke
Lost in hopeless contemplation
Of an uncertain future.

The moon looks on
And mirrors her sister’s fate
As stars impassively
Witness the decadence.

The Earth dejected, weeps
Black tears; coughs up polluted phlegm
Regurgitates poisoned food
And dies an ever-quickening death.

The oceans froth and spew up
Choking fish, dead algae,
Mercury-tainted jellyfish,
Suicidal whales by the score.

The Earth despairs, breeding
Sterile offspring, mutated monsters,
Dead plants, addled eggs,
Species driven to extinction.

The air is charred, ice melts,
Cyclones, bushfires, earthquakes
Vie with Tsunamis and errant climate
As to which will seal our fate.

The Earth remembers, wistful,
Past springs, all green and flowery;
Summers golden with ripening grain,
Autumns replete with bountiful harvest.
The Earth recalls, regretful,
A million birdsongs, playful fish,
Pure rain and limpid waters, 
With winters when snow was still white.

Tuesday 22 March 2016


“When he leaves (you) or attains authority, he rushes about the land to foment disorder and corruption therein and to ruin the sources of life and human generations. Surely God does not love disorder and corruption.” – The Noble Qur'an » SurahAl-Baqarah » Al-Baqarah-205, Surah The Cow Verse-205

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.
Brussels (French: Bruxelles, Dutch: Brussel), officially the Brussels-Capital Region, is a region of Belgium comprising 19 municipalities, including the City of Brussels which is the capital of Belgium, the French Community of Belgium, and the Flemish Community. The region has a population of 1.2 million and a metropolitan area with a population of over 1.8 million, the largest in Belgium. Since the end of the Second World War, Brussels has been a major centre for international politics and has become the polyglot home of numerous international organisations, politicians, diplomats and civil servants.

Brussels is the de facto capital (or one of three capitals including Luxembourg and Strasbourg) of the European Union as it hosts a number of principal EU institutions. The secretariat of the Benelux and the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are also located in Brussels.

Historically a Dutch-speaking city, it has seen a major shift to French from the late 19th century onwards. Today the majority language is French, and the Brussels-Capital Region is an officially bilingual enclave within the Flemish Region. All road signs, street names, and many advertisements and services are shown in both languages. Brussels is increasingly becoming multilingual with increasing numbers of migrants, expatriates and minority groups speaking their own languages.

The latest terrorist attacks in Europe have shaken Brussels. There were twin blasts hitting Zaventem airport at 07:00 GMT, killing 11 and injuring 81. Another explosion struck Maelbeek metro station an hour later, killing 20 people. Belgium has now raised its terrorism threat to its highest level. The attacks come four days after Salah Abdeslam, the main fugitive in the Paris attacks, was seized in Brussels.

We live in an increasingly more violent world where small numbers of radicalised individuals and groups are having major effects internationally on social, political, religious and ethnic levels. It is sad that at this stage of human civilisation we can be at the mercy of such barbarity. It is even sadder that religion is used to mask acts that have a clear economic and political agenda. When innocent people are killed to further this agenda, the whole of humanity sustains an injury. No God or religion can approve such slaughter of innocents. Whoever carries out such acts and perverts the meaning of holy writings to justify such acts is not a devout and godly person. They deserve the unyielding wrath of the God Whose Name they take in vain.

May the victims of acts of terrorism rest in peace. Lets us offer condolences to their families and friends and hope they find strength to persevere and carry on. To the refugee families who flee from violence, lets us offer safe havens. To all travellers, sincere wishes for safe travels.

Monday 21 March 2016


“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” - Jonathan Swift

Joseph Mallord William Turner, better known as J.M.W. Turner, was born on April 23, 1775, in Covent Garden, London, England. A sickly child, Turner was sent to live with his uncle in rural England, and it was during this period that he began his artistic career. As a landscape painter, Turner brought luminosity and Romantic imagery to his subjects. His work, although initially realistic, became more fluid and poetic, and is now regarded as a predecessor to Impressionism. Turner died on December 19, 1851, in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, London, England.

Mike Leigh the British film-maker has directed several movies about life in England, but also made the Gilbert and Sullivan biographical film "Topsy-Turvy" (1999), a film that we enjoyed. In 2014, Leigh turned his attention to Turner and made a film about the last few years of the artist’s life. The film "Mr Turner" (2014) stars Timothy Spall, Paul Jesson, Dorothy Atkinson, Marion Bailey and Karl Johnson.

The film begins when Turner was already in middle-age, already a famous artist. Turner (Spall) is revealed as a man of many contradictions, sharing his later life mainly with two women. For sexual favours he often sought his housekeeper Sarah Danby (Atkinson) while preferring the company of the widow Mrs Booth (Bailey) with whom he lodged part of the year in Margate, (Danby never knew of Booth’s existence until just before Turner’s death). This seemingly complex life is compounded by the tortuous personality of the artist and his varied actions, which range from the sublime to the ridiculous.

The acting is excellent and Spall gives a magnificent performance, for which he was awarded the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival. He plays Turner with the complexity his genius demands. Both Atkinson and Baily play their roles with wonderful mastery and they support greatly Spall’s acting. The remaining ensemble of actors is equally well-chosen and deliver performances that complement the main actors’ wonderfully well.

The film’s cinematographer Dick Pope does a wonderful job and it seems that almost every shot looks like a painting in its own right. The feel and look of 19th century England is recreated well and although the film doesn’t recreate Turner’s paintings and their delightfully luminous colours, what we see on screen is a marvellous canvas on which Turner creates his masterpieces.

We quite enjoyed this long film (it goes for 150 minutes), and although I would not class it as a masterpiece, I would quite easily say that it is an excellent film. Some viewers used to special effects, car chases and convoluted plots full of improbable twists will no doubt view this film and be bored to death. So be warned: This is a slow, deliberate and beautiful movie, that deals with complicated people and sometimes confronting topics. Well worth seeing if you are a thinking adult.

Sunday 20 March 2016


“Just as pure abstract art is not dogmatic, neither is it decorative.” - Piet Mondrian

Willem de Kooning, (born April 24, 1904, Rotterdam, Netherlands—died March 19, 1997, East Hampton, New York, U.S.), Dutch-born American painter who was one of the leading exponents of Abstract Expressionism, particularly the form known as Action painting. During the 1930s and ’40s de Kooning worked simultaneously in figurative and abstract modes, but by about 1945 these two tendencies seemed to fuse. The series Woman I–VI caused a sensation with its violent imagery and impulsive, energetic technique. His later work showed an increasing preoccupation with landscape.

De Kooning’s parents, Leendert de Kooning and Cornelia Nobel, were divorced when he was about five years old, and he was raised by his mother and a stepfather. In 1916 he was apprenticed to a firm of commercial artists and decorators, and, about the same time, he enrolled in night classes at the Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts and Techniques, where he studied for eight years. In 1920 he went to work for the art director of a large department store. In 1926 de Kooning entered the United States as a stowaway and eventually settled in Hoboken, New Jersey, where he supported himself as a house painter.

In 1927 he moved to a studio in Manhattan and came under the influence of the artist, connoisseur, and art critic John Graham and the painter Arshile Gorky. Gorky became one of de Kooning’s closest friends. From about 1928 de Kooning began to paint still life and figure compositions reflecting school of Paris and Mexican influences. By the early 1930s he was exploring abstraction, using biomorphic shapes and simple geometric compositions (an opposition of disparate formal elements that prevails in his work throughout his career). These early works have strong affinities with those of his friends Graham and Gorky and reflect the impact on these young artists of Pablo Picasso and the Surrealist Joan Miró, both of whom achieved powerfully expressive compositions through biomorphic forms.

In October 1935 de Kooning began to work on the WPA (Works Progress Administration) Federal Art Project. He was employed by this work-relief program until July 1937, when he was forced to resign because of his alien status. This period of about two years provided the artist, who had been supporting himself during the early Depression by commercial jobs, with his first opportunity to devote full time to creative work. He worked on both the easel-painting and mural divisions of the project (the several murals he designed were never executed). In 1938, probably under the influence of Gorky, de Kooning embarked on a series of sad, staring male figures, including Two Men Standing, Man, and Seated Figure (Classic Male). Parallel with these works he also created lyrically coloured abstractions, such as Pink Landscape and Elegy.

This coincidence of figures and abstractions continued well into the 1940s with his representational but somewhat geometricised Woman and Standing Man, along with numerous untitled abstractions whose biomorphic forms increasingly suggest the presence of figures. By about 1945 the two tendencies seemed to fuse perfectly in Pink Angels. In 1946, too poor to buy artists’ pigments, he turned to black and white household enamels to paint a series of large abstractions; of these works, Light in August (c. 1946) and Black Friday (1948) are essentially black with white elements, whereas Zurich (1947) and Mailbox (1947–48) are white with black. Developing out of these works in the period after his first show were complex, agitated abstractions such as Asheville (1948–49), Attic (1949), and Excavation (1950; Art Institute, Chicago), which reintroduced colour and seem to sum up with taut decisiveness the problems of free-associative composition he had struggled with for many years.

In 1938 de Kooning met Elaine Fried, whom he married in 1943. She also became a significant artist. During the 1940s and thereafter he became increasingly identified with the Abstract Expressionist movement and was recognised as one of its leaders in the mid-1950s. He had his first one-man show, which consisted of his black-and-white enamel compositions, at the Charles Egan Gallery in New York in 1948 and taught at Black Mountain College in North Carolina in 1948 and at the Yale School of Art in 1950–51.

Whereas de Kooning had painted women regularly in the early 1940s and again from 1947 to 1949, and the biomorphic shapes of his early abstractions can be interpreted as female symbols, it was not until 1950 that he began to explore the subject of women exclusively. In the summer of that year he began Woman I (Museum of Modern Art, New York City), which went through innumerable metamorphoses before it was finished in 1952. During this period he also created other paintings of women. These works were shown at the Sidney Janis Gallery in 1953 and caused a sensation, chiefly because they were figurative when most of his fellow Abstract Expressionists were painting abstractly and because of their blatant technique and imagery. The savagely applied pigment and the use of colours that seem vomited on his canvas combine to reveal a woman all too congruent with some of modern man’s most widely held sexual fears. The toothy snarls, overripe, pendulous breasts, vacuous eyes, and blasted extremities imaged the darkest Freudian insights. The Woman paintings II through VI (1952–53) are all variants on this theme, as are Woman and Bicycle (1953; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York) and Two Women in the Country (1954).

The deliberate vulgarity of these paintings contrasts with the French painter Jean Dubuffet’s no less harsh Corps de dame series of 1950, in which the female, formed with a rich topography of earth colours, relates more directly to universal symbols. By 1955, however, de Kooning seems to have turned to this symbolic aspect of woman, as suggested by the title of his Woman as Landscape, in which the vertical figure seems almost absorbed into the abstract background. There followed a series of landscapes such as Police Gazette, Gotham News, Backyard on Tenth Street, Parc Rosenberg, Suburb in Havana, Door to the River, and Rosy-Fingered Dawn at Louse Point, which display an evolution from compositional and colouristic complexity to a broadly painted simplicity.

About 1963, the year he moved permanently to East Hampton, Long Island, de Kooning returned to depicting women in such paintings as Pastorale and Clam Diggers. He re-explored the theme in the mid-1960s in paintings that were as controversial as his earlier women. In these works, which have been read as satiric attacks on the female anatomy, de Kooning painted with a flamboyant lubricity in keeping with the uninhibited subject matter. His later works, such as …Whose Name Was Writ in Water and Untitled III, are lyrical, lush, and shimmering with light and reflections on water. He turned more and more during his late years to the production of clay sculpture. In the 1980s de Kooning was diagnosed with Alzheimer disease, and a court declared him unfit to manage his estate, which was turned over to conservators. As the quality of his later work declined, his vintage works drew increasing profits. At Sotheby’s auctions Pink Lady (1944) sold for $3.6 million in 1987 and Interchange (1955) brought $20.6 million in 1989.

The painting above is his “Abstraction” of 1950.