Saturday 3 September 2016


“If you define eccentricity as creativity, then yes, creativity is eccentricity.” - Russell Smith

Erik Satie, original name in full Eric Alfred Leslie Satie (born May 17, 1866, Honfleur, Calvados, France—died July 1, 1925, Paris) French composer whose spare, unconventional, often witty style exerted a major influence on 20th-century music, particularly in France.

Satie studied at the Paris Conservatory, dropped out, and later worked as a café pianist. About 1890 he became associated with the Rosicrucian movement and wrote several works under its influence, notably the Messe des pauvres (composed 1895; Mass of the Poor). In 1893, when he was 27, Satie had a stormy affair with the painter Suzanne Valadon. From 1898 he lived alone in Arcueil, a Paris suburb, cultivating an eccentric mode of life and permitting no one to enter his apartment. Beginning in 1905, he studied at the Schola Cantorum under Vincent d’Indy and Albert Roussel for three years. About 1917 the group of young composers known as Les Six adopted him as their patron saint. Later the School of Arcueil, a group including Darius Milhaud, Henri Sauguet, and Roger Désormiere, was formed in his honour.

Satie’s music represents the first definite break with 19th-century French Romanticism; it also stands in opposition to the works of composer Claude Debussy. Closely allied to the Dada and Surrealist movements in art, it refuses to become involved with grandiose sentiment or transcendent significance, disregards traditional forms and tonal structures, and characteristically takes the form of parody, with flippant titles, such as “Trois morceaux en forme de poire” (1903; Three Pieces in the Shape of a Pear) and “Embryons Desséchés” (1913; Desiccated Embryos), and directions to the player such as “with much illness” or “light as an egg,” meant to mock works such as Debussy’s preludes. Satie’s flippancy and eccentricity, an intimate part of his musical aesthetic, epitomised the avant-garde ideal of a fusion of art and life into an often startling but unified personality.

He sought to strip pretentiousness and sentimentality from music and thereby reveal an austere essence. This desire is reflected in piano pieces such as “Trois Gnossiennes” (1890), notated without bar lines or key signatures. Other early piano pieces, such as “Trois Sarabandes” (1887) and “Trois Gymnopédies” (1888), use then-novel chords that reveal him as a pioneer in harmony. His ballet Parade (1917; choreographed by Léonide Massine, scenario by Jean Cocteau, stage design and costumes by Pablo Picasso) was scored for typewriters, sirens, airplane propellers, ticker tape, and a lottery wheel and anticipated the use of jazz materials by Igor Stravinsky and others. The word Surrealism was used for the first time in Guillaume Apollinaire’s program notes for Parade. Satie’s masterpiece, “Socrate” for four sopranos and chamber orchestra (1918), is based on the dialogues of Plato. His last, completely serious piano works are the “Five Nocturnes” (1919). Satie’s ballet “Relâche” (1924) contains a Surrealistic film sequence by René Clair; the film score “Entr’acte”, or “Cinéma”, serves as an example of his ideal background, or “furniture,” music.

Satie was dismissed as a charlatan by musicians who misunderstood his irreverence and wit. They also deplored the nonmusical influences in his life—during his last 10 years his best friends were painters, many of whom he had met while a café pianist. Satie was nonetheless deeply admired by composers of the rank of Darius Milhaud, Maurice Ravel, and, in particular, Claude Debussy—of whom he was an intimate friend for close to 30 years. His influence on French composers of the early 20th century and on the later school of Neoclassicism was profound.

The portrait of Erik Satie above (oil on canvas) by Suzanne Valadon, 1892; is in the National Museum of Modern Art, Paris.

Here are some of his most famous piano pieces played by Pascal Rogé:
Gymnopedies N°1; N°2; N°3;
Gnossiennes No°1-6

Friday 2 September 2016


“I want to have a good body, but not as much as I want dessert.” - Jason Love

We had some people around to lunch today and as time was short, we had to make a dessert very quickly. Thankfully all of the ingredients for this one were on hand, so dessert materialised almost immediately we thought of it this morning. It was all nice and chilled by lunchtime and everyone ate their fill and there was not a smidgeon left!

Tiramisù Cups
1 shot of espresso coffee
3 tbsp coffee liqueur
75 mL cold milk
250g mascarpone cheese
100g condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
6 sponge fingers
1 tbsp cocoa powder

Mix the coffee, the coffee liqueur and 75mL milk in a shallow dish and set aside.
Make the cream layer by beating the softened mascarpone, condensed milk and vanilla extract with an electric whisk until thick and smooth.
Break the sponge fingers into two or three pieces and soak in the coffee mixture for a few seconds (don’t overdo it as they will disintegrate).
Put a few bits of the sponge in the bottom of sundae glasses and top with the cream. Sift over the cocoa and chill for at least 1 hr before serving.

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Thursday 1 September 2016


“True love is not a strong, fiery, impetuous passion. It is, on the contrary, an element calm and deep. It looks beyond mere externals, and is attracted by qualities alone. It is wise and discriminating, and its devotion is real and abiding.” - Ellen G. White

Passiflora, known also as the passionflowers or passion vines, is a genus of about 500 species of flowering plants, the type genus of the family Passifloraceae. They are mostly vines, with some being shrubs, and a few species being herbaceous. The monotypic genus Hollrungia seems to be inseparable from Passiflora, but further study is needed.

Passiflora edulis is a vine species of passionflower that is native to Brazil, Paraguay and northern Argentina. Its common names include passion fruit or passionfruit (English), granadilla (Spanish), granadille (French), maracujá (Portuguese) and lilikoʻi (Hawaiian). It is cultivated commercially in tropical and subtropical areas for its sweet, seedy fruit. The passionfruit is a pepo, a type of berry, round to oval, either yellow or dark purple at maturity, with a soft to firm, juicy interior filled with numerous seeds. The fruit is both eaten and juiced; passionfruit juice is often added to other fruit juices to enhance aroma.

Passionfruit is widely grown in several countries of South America, Central America, the Caribbean, Africa, Southern Asia, Vietnam, Israel, Australia, South Korea, Hawaii and mainland United States in Florida and California. Certain cultivars are resilient against light frosts, and thus can survive perennially, even in more temperate climates such as that of Great Britain.

Several distinct varieties of passionfruit with clearly differing exterior appearances exist. The bright yellow flavicarpa variety, also known as the Golden Passionfruit, can grow up to the size of a grapefruit, has a smooth, glossy, light and airy rind, and has been used as a rootstock for the Purple Passionfruit in Australia. The dark purple edulis variety is smaller than a lemon, though it is less acidic than the yellow passionfruit, and has a richer aroma and flavour. Several varieties of passionfruit are rich in polyphenol content, and yellow varieties of the fruit were found to contain prunasin and other cyanogenic glycosides in the peel and juice.

In Australia and New Zealand, passionfruit is available commercially both fresh and tinned. It is added to fruit salads, and fresh fruit pulp or passionfruit sauce is commonly used in desserts, including as a topping for pavlova and ice cream, a flavouring for cheesecake, and in the icing of vanilla slices. A passionfruit-flavoured soft drink called ‘Passiona’ has also been manufactured in Australia since the 1920s. The juice of the passionfruit is also used in some alcoholic cocktails.

The flower of the passionfruit is the national flower of Paraguay. The flower symbolises faith and religious fervour and was in the past used by missionaries in South America to teach the natives the gospel. If a purple passionflower is included in a bouquet, it signifies “I am still faithful to the lover I have lost and I am mourning”. A pink passionflower means “my ardour is tempered by my faith”. A white passionflower indicates: “I am chaste and celibate.”

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

Wednesday 31 August 2016


“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” - Edmund Hillary

This week, the Mid-Week Motif in Poets United is “Conquest”. My contribution below:

My memory of the climb is dominated by the bitter cold – more intense and harsh than the inhospitable terrain and the ache in each of my muscle fibres. The tracks narrow, the ice and snow treacherous, each step calculated and deliberate. My breath laboured and each time I raised my eyes to look at the peak beckoning through breaks in the clouds, I wondered whether I would be able to reach that shimmering, bright mountain top high above me or whether I would collapse in a lifeless heap.

Each new mountain that we climb is a new challenge, each new peak that rises up in front of us is a new invitation to conquer its heights. The path to the summit is difficult, the climb is dangerous, the reward seemingly unattainable. And yet we accept the challenge and we choose to climb; why? Because it is there? Because of the hope of fame and glory? Because of the expectations of our peers and friends? No, the need is deeper and more personal. We climb because we must, we climb to conquer our own limitations and to vanquish our own internal demons.

Once at the top, there is the heady feeling of success as one views the earth below as if it were a prize offered on a tray. The mountain has been conquered, the fires within have been extinguished and the yearning quelled.

The road to your heart
Is steep, icy, dangerous;
But bliss its conquest…

Tuesday 30 August 2016


“Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.” - Franz Kafka

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.
Prague (Czech: Praha) is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. It is the 15th largest city in the European Union. It is also the historical capital of Bohemia. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava River, the city is home to about 1.26 million people, while its larger urban zone is estimated to have a population of nearly 2 million. The city has a temperate climate, with warm summers and chilly winters. Prague has the lowest unemployment rate in the European Union.

Prague has been a political, cultural, and economic centre of central Europe with waxing and waning fortunes during its 1,100-year existence. Founded during the Romanesque and flourishing by the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque eras, Prague was not only the capital of the Czech state, but also the seat of two Holy Roman Emperors and thus also the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. It was an important city to the Habsburg Monarchy and its Austro-Hungarian Empire and after World War I became the capital of Czechoslovakia. The city played major roles in the Bohemian and Protestant Reformation, the Thirty Years' War, and in 20th-century history, during both World Wars and the post-war Communist era.

Prague is home to a number of famous cultural attractions, many of which survived the violence and destruction of 20th-century Europe. Main attractions include the Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge, the Old Town Square with the Prague astronomical clock, the Jewish Quarter, Petřín hill and Vyšehrad. Since 1992, the extensive historic centre of Prague has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. The city boasts more than ten major museums, along with numerous theatres, galleries, cinemas, and other historical exhibits. An extensive modern public transportation system connects the city. Also, it is home to a wide range of public and private schools, including Charles University in Prague, the oldest university in Central Europe.

Prague is classified as an “Alpha” Global City according to GaWC studies, comparable to Vienna, Seoul and Washington, D.C. Prague ranked sixth in the Tripadvisor world list of best destinations in 2016. Its rich history makes it a popular tourist destination, and the city receives more than 6.4 million international visitors annually, as of 2014. Prague is the fifth most visited European city after London, Paris, Istanbul and Rome. Prague’s low cost of living makes it a popular destination for expats relocating to Europe.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,

and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.

Add your own travel posts using the Linky tool below,and don't forget to be nice and leave a comment here, and link back to this page from your own post:

Monday 29 August 2016


“Change is the principal feature of our age and literature should explore how people deal with it. The best science fiction does that, head-on.” - David Brin

Science fiction is a genre of speculative fiction dealing with imaginative concepts such as futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life. Science fiction often explores the potential consequences of scientific and other innovations, and has been called a “literature of ideas.” It usually avoids dealing with the supernatural, and unlike the related genre of fantasy, science fiction stories historically were intended to have at least a faint grounding in science-based fact or theory at the time the story was created, but this connection has become tenuous or non-existent in much of science fiction nowadays.

Science fiction is not new. “True Stories” (Ancient Greek: Ἀληθῆ διηγήματα, Alēthē diēgēmata; Latin: Vera Historia) is a parody of travel tales, by the Greek-speaking Assyrian author Lucian of Samosata, the earliest known fiction about travelling to outer space, alien life-forms and interplanetary warfare. Written in the 2nd century, the novel has been referred to as the first known text that could be called science fiction. The work was intended by Lucian as a satire against contemporary and ancient sources, which quote fantastic and mythical events as truth.

Since that time, authors have been writing science fiction, with examples in the “Arabian Nights”, Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels”, Shelley’s “Frankestein” and many others. The genre fired the public imagination with the novels of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne who created a body of work that became popular across broad cross-sections of society. Since then, it has become broader and even more popular, with several sub-genres now included under the umbrella of “science fiction”.

It is not surprising that this genre of fiction was very quickly translated to the silver screen almost as soon as movies were invented. It seems the medium lent itself to the genre, even in the early days of pioneer film-making. Georges Melies’ 1902 “A Trip to the Moon” employed trick photography effects and looked at a typical space travel scenario. The next major example in the genre was Fritz Lang’s 1927 “Metropolis”, being the first feature length science fiction movie. From the 1930s to the 1950s, the genre consisted mainly of low-budget B movies. After Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 landmark “2001: A Space Odyssey”, the science fiction film genre was taken more seriously. In the late 1970s, big-budget science fiction films filled with special effects became popular with audiences after the success of George Lucas’s 1977 “Star Wars” and paved the way for the blockbuster hits of subsequent decades.

Similar to the literary genre, science fiction film (aka Sci-Fi movie) is a film genre that uses speculative, fictional science-based depictions of phenomena that are not fully accepted by mainstream science, such as extraterrestrial life-forms, alien worlds, extrasensory perception and time travel, along with futuristic elements such as spacecraft, robots, cyborgs, interstellar travel or other technologies. Science fiction films have often been used to focus on political or social issues, and to explore philosophical issues like the human condition. In many cases, tropes derived from written science fiction may be used by film-makers ignorant of or at best indifferent to the standards of scientific plausibility and plot logic to which written science fiction is traditionally held.

I like a good science fiction movie, especially one where the viewer is immersed in a plot where the genre is free to examine philosophical or social issues that have a relevance to our society today. Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1971 movie “A Clockwork Orange” is a good example of this type. It is dystopian crime film adapted, produced, and directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel. It employs disturbing, violent images to comment on psychiatry, juvenile delinquency, youth gangs, and other social, political, and economic subjects in a dystopian near-future Britain.

But having said that, I am also partial to well-made escapist science fiction that is simply a rollicking good tale. A typical example of this is the 2012 Andrew Stanton film “John Carter” based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’s “A Princess of Mars” (the first in a series of 11 novels by this author).

We humans thrive on tall tales. Since ancient times people have crowded together and have amused one another by relating stories that are speculative, imaginative, invented. Whether they are myths and fables, fairy tales or horror stories, tales of distant imagined places on earth or other planets, these tales amuse and satisfy our sense of wonder and answer that magical question, “what if…?” Science fiction novels and films will keep on being written and we shall keep on reading and watching them. But please, authors and film-makers, make them good ones!

Sunday 28 August 2016


“I’m a Baroque person. More than Baroque, I’m a Rococo person. I don’t draw straight lines.” Nuno Roque

François Boucher (born Sept. 29, 1703, Paris, France—died May 30, 1770, Paris) was a painter, engraver, and designer whose works are regarded as the perfect expression of French taste in the Rococo period.

Trained by his father, a lace designer, Boucher won the Prix de Rome in 1723. He was influenced by the works of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Peter Paul Rubens, and his teacher François Le Moyne. Boucher’s first major commission was for engravings of 125 drawings by Antoine Watteau. After illustrating an edition of Molière’s works, he drew cartoons of farmyard scenes and chinoiserie for the Beauvais tapestry factory.

Boucher first won fame with his sensuous and light-hearted mythological paintings and pastoral landscapes. He executed important decorative commissions for the queen at Versailles and for his friend and patron, Mme de Pompadour, at Versailles, Marly, and Bellevue. He became a member of the Royal Academy in 1734 and then became the principal producer of designs for the royal porcelain factories, as well as director of the Gobelins tapestry factory.

During the 1740s and ’50s Boucher’s elegant and refined but playful style became the hallmark of the court of Louis XV. His work was characterised by the use of delicate colours, gently modelled forms, facile technique, and light-hearted subject matter. Boucher is generally acclaimed as one of the great draughtsmen of the 18th century, particularly in his handling of the female nude.

Although immensely successful, Boucher lost his artistic preeminence toward the end of his life; overproduction, poor translations of his paintings into tapestries, the growing sterility of his own work, and the emergence of Neoclassicism caused him to lose favour, both with the public and with such leading art critics as Denis Diderot.

Yet Boucher, in defiance of an increasing demand from theorists, critics, and public agitators, continued to exhibit his cheerful and sugary visions of pastoral bliss and mythological trysts at the biennial Salons. Indeed, his social connections and efficient careerism resulted in his appointment in 1765 as First Painter to the King and his election as director of the Académie Royale. This final triumph was short lived, however, as Boucher died in Paris in 1770.

The painting above is "Spring" of 1755, one painting of a set of four depicting the Seasons. This is typical of Boucher's style and subject matter.