Saturday 23 September 2017


“There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.” - Pythagoras 

Georg Muffat (1 June 1653 – 23 February 1704) was a Baroque composer and organist. He is most well known for the remarkably articulate and informative performance directions printed along with his collections of string pieces Florilegium Primum and Florilegium Secundum (First and Second Bouquets) in 1695 and 1698.

Georg Muffat was born in Megève, Duchy of Savoy (now in France), of André Muffat (of Scottish descent) and Marguerite Orsyand. He studied in Paris between 1663 and 1669, where his teacher is often assumed to have been Jean Baptiste Lully. This assumption is largely based on the statement “For six years ... I avidly pursued this style which was flowering in Paris at the time under the most famous Jean Baptiste Lully.” This is ambiguous (in all of the languages in which it was printed) as to whether the style was flourishing under Lully, or that Muffat studied under Lully. In any case, the style which the young Muffat learned was unequivocally Lullian and it remains likely that he had at least some contact with the man himself.

After leaving Paris, he became an organist in Molsheim and Sélestat. Later, he studied law in Ingolstadt, afterwards settling in Vienna. He could not get an official appointment, so he travelled to Prague in 1677, then to Salzburg, where he worked for the archbishop for some ten years. In about 1680, he travelled to Italy, there studying the organ with Bernardo Pasquini, a follower of the tradition of Girolamo Frescobaldi; he also met Arcangelo Corelli, whose works he admired very much. From 1690 to his death, he was Kapellmeister to the bishop of Passau. Georg Muffat should not be confused with his son Gottlieb Muffat, also a successful composer.

Muffat was, as Johann Jakob Froberger before him, and Handel after him, a cosmopolitan composer who played an important role in the exchanges between European musical traditions. The information contained within the Florilegium Primum and Florilegium Secundum is very important historically. The performance directions accompanying the pieces were intended to assist German string players with the idiom of the French dance style, and include detailed rules for the tempo and order of bow strokes in various types of movement, as well as more general strategies for good ensemble playing and musicianship. These texts remain extremely valuable for modern historically-interested musicians who strive for a genuine baroque sound.

Here is a collection of pieces known as Armonico Tributo (Sonate Di Camera Commodissime A Pocchi, Ò A Molti Stromenti -Salzburg 1682). They are played by Les Muffati under the direction of Peter Van Heyghen.
String Sonata in D major;
String Sonata in G minor;
String Sonata in A major;
String Sonata in E minor;
String Sonata in G major.

Friday 22 September 2017


“He that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the skills of the physician.” - Chinese proverb 

We love vegetables and as Chinese cuisine provides opportunity for using several bits and pieces that are in the fridge, a vegetarian stir-fry provides a nutritious, healthful and satisfying meal. 

Chinese Vegetarian Stir-Fry
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 and1⁄2 cups broccoli florets
1 Tbsp water
1 cup baby carrots, julienned
1 and 1⁄2 cups snow peas, ends trimmed
6 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1⁄2 cup sliced water chestnuts, drained
1⁄2 cup sliced capsicum
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Spring onions, chopped
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp vegetable stock
1 tsp corn flour
 2 cups hot cooked rice or vermicelli 

Cook the rice or vermicelli and keep warm. In small bowl, combine the soy sauce, broth and corn flour; mix well to dissolve, reserving till needed.
Heat the oils in the wok and add the broccoli, stirring to coat with oil. Add the water and stir-fry for 1 minute or until broccoli is bright green. Add carrots, snow peas, mushrooms, water chestnuts, garlic and spices; stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes or until tender crisp, the add the chpped Spring onions, stirring to mix through. Add the corn flour mixture to the wok and stir-fry for about 1 minute. Serve over rice or vermicelli immediately.

Thursday 21 September 2017


“Spices, of course, are essential…” - Marcus Samuelsson 

Five-spice powder is a spice mixture of five (or more) spices used primarily in Chinese cuisine or Desi Chinese cuisine but also used in other Asian and Arabic cookery. Five-spice powder is used for cocktails as well.

While there are many variants, a common mix is: Star anise (bajiao) Cloves (dingxiang) Chinese cinnamon (rougui) Sichuan pepper (huajiao) Fennel seeds (xiao huixiang) Other recipes may contain anise seed, ginger root, nutmeg, turmeric, Amomum villosum pods, Amomum cardamomum pods, licorice, Mandarin orange peel or galangal.

In Southern China, Cinnamomum loureiroi and Mandarin orange peel, are commonly used as substitutes for Cinnamomum cassia and cloves, respectively, producing a slightly different flavour profile for southern five-spice powders.

Five spice may be used with fatty meats such as pork, duck or goose. It is used as a spice rub for chicken, duck, pork and seafood, in red cooking recipes, or added to the breading for fried foods. Five spice is used in recipes for Cantonese roasted duck, as well as beef stew. It is used as a marinade for Vietnamese broiled chicken. The five-spice powder mixture has followed the Chinese diaspora and has been incorporated into other national cuisines throughout Asia.

Although this mixture is used in restaurant cooking, few Chinese households use it in day-to-day cooking. In Hawaii, some restaurants place a shaker of the spice on each patron’s table. A seasoned salt can be easily made by dry-roasting common salt with five-spice powder under low heat in a dry pan until the spice and salt are well mixed.

Here is a recipe I use at home: 

Chinese Spices Mix

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon fennel seed, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon ground star anise
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon dried ginger powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
pinch of ground cardamom
pinch of ground chili

It is best to toast the spices just as you are ready to compound the mixture. Ensure that all spices are ground well and mix thoroughly before use. You can upscale the recipe if you need more. Rather than store it, I prefer to make it as I need it from the raw spices.

Wednesday 20 September 2017


“Cherish all your happy moments; they make a fine cushion for old age.” - Booth Tarkington 

Granny’s Funeral (2012; “Adieu Berthe – L’enterrement de mémé”) Comedy/Drama, 100 minutes – Written and directed by Bruno Podalydès; starring Denis Podalydès, Valérie Lemercier, Isabelle Candelier. – 6.0/10

Last weekend we watched a low key, tragicomic, French film, which although agreeable didn’t really shine. It was time pleasantly spent and the film did broach some serious topics, but overall, the comic pace was jolting, the bumbling anti-hero was somewhat tiresome and the two women of his life a trifle annoying. The plot is as follows: Armand Lebrecq (Denis Podalydès) once dreamed of becoming a magician but he has become a pharmacist. He still loves his wife, Hélène (Isabelle Candelier) , but wouldn’t mind leaving her to live with Alix (Valérie Lemercier), a strong-minded woman. But should he?

One day, Armand learns that Berthe, his granny who lives in a nursing home, has just died. A little guilty of having neglected her lately, Armand finds himself busy with organising her funeral as well as having to deal with his complicated personal life. He does everything clumsily, as usual...

The basic flaw of the film is that the plot outline sounds more promising than the actual resulting film. The characters do not involve the viewer in their lives and predicaments successfully and the story with “granny’s youthful secret” is not as climactic as the writers believe it to be. Armand fails to growth and learn from his experiences and at the end of the film he is as bumbling and ineffectual (if not more so!) than at the beginning of the film.

Nevertheless the film is pleasant enough for a weekend afternoon, watching with a glass of iced tea (or perhaps something stronger, which may make the movie even more agreeable for you). Watch it if you chance upon it and you have an hour-and-a-half or so to kill, but don't go out of your way to search for it too assiduously…

Tuesday 19 September 2017


“Put a compass to paper and trace a circle. Then tell me which other country has such a concentration of places like Amalfi, Naples, Ischia, Procida, Sorrento, Positano, Pompeii, and Capri.” - Diego Della Valle 

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.
Naples (Italian: Napoli; Latin: Neapolis; Ancient Greek: Νεάπολις, meaning "new city") is the capital of the Italian region Campania and the third-largest municipality in Italy, after Rome and Milan. In 2015, around 975,260 people lived within the city's administrative limits. Naples is the 9th-most populous urban area in the European Union with a population of between 3 million and 3.7 million. About 4.4 million people live in the Naples metropolitan area, one of the largest metropolises on the Mediterranean Sea.

Naples is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Bronze Age Greek settlements were established in the Naples area in the second millennium BC. A larger colony – initially known as Parthenope, Παρθενόπη – developed on the Island of Megaride around the ninth century BC, at the end of the Greek Dark Ages. The city was refounded as Neápolis in the sixth century BC and became a lynchpin of Magna Graecia, playing a key role in the merging of Greek culture into Roman society and eventually becoming a cultural centre of the Roman Republic. Naples remained influential after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, serving as the capital city of the Kingdom of Naples between 1282 and 1816. Thereafter, in union with Sicily, it became the capital of the Two Sicilies until the unification of Italy in 1861.

Naples was the most-bombed Italian city during World War II. Much of the city's 20th-century periphery was constructed under Benito Mussolini's fascist government, and during reconstruction efforts after World War II. In recent decades, Naples has constructed a large business district, the Centro Direzionale, and has developed an advanced transport infrastructure, including an Alta Velocità high-speed rail link to Rome and Salerno, and an expanded subway network, which is planned to eventually cover half of the region. The city has experienced significant economic growth in recent decades, and unemployment levels in the city and surrounding Campania have decreased since 1999. However, Naples still suffers from political and economic corruption, and unemployment levels remain high.

Naples' historic city centre is the largest in Europe, covering 1,700 hectares (4,200 acres) and enclosing 27 centuries of history, and is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Naples has long been a major cultural centre with a global sphere of influence, particularly during the Renaissance and Enlightenment eras. In the immediate vicinity of Naples are numerous culturally and historically significant sites, including the Palace of Caserta and the Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Culinarily, Naples is synonymous with pizza, which originated in the city.

Neapolitan music has also been highly influential, credited with the invention of the romantic guitar and the mandolin, as well as notable contributions to opera and folk standards. Popular characters and historical figures who have come to symbolise the city include Januarius, the patron saint of Naples, the comic figure Pulcinella, and the Sirens from the Greek epic poem the Odyssey. According to CNN, the metro stop “Toledo” is the most beautiful in Europe and it won also the LEAF Award 2013 as “Public building of the year”. Naples is the Italian city with the highest number of accredited stars from the Michelin Guide. 

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

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Monday 18 September 2017


“I liked myths. They weren’t adult stories and they weren’t children’s stories. They were better than that. They just were.” ― Neil Gaiman 

Apedemak (or Apademak), was a lion-headed warrior god worshiped by the Meroitic peoples inhabiting Nubia. A number of Meroitic temples dedicated to this deity are known from the Butana region: Naqa, Meroë, and Musawwarat es-Sufra, which seems to be his chief cult place. Interestingly, inscriptions at Musawwarat al-Sufra are in hieroglyphs, not in Meroitic script, indicating a close link with Egyptian religion.

In the temple of Naqa built by the rulers of Meroe Apedemak was depicted as a three-headed leonine god with four arms, and as a snake with a lion head. At Naqa, walls are filled with reliefs of Apedemak together with Egyptian deities, forming a triad with Isis, with Horus as their son. Apedemak is also represented together with Hathor and Amon. The god is also depicted as a man with a lion head. Apedemak was a minor deity in the ancient Egyptian religion, being instead a product of the Meroitic culture.

Apedemak was called “The Lord of Royal Power”. In Nubia, with the kingdoms of Cush, the royal throne was always depicted as a lion. Temple reliefs could show kings subdued by lions, and even eaten. There are great similarities between Apedemak and the obscure Egyptian god, Maahes, who also represented a specific religious dimension in the oases of the Western Desert. Also, it is possible that the cult of Sekhmet, Egypt’s lion goddess, was introduced from Nubia, and related to that of Apedemak.

Sunday 17 September 2017


“An awareness of your mortality can lead you to wake up and live an authentic, meaningful life.” - Bernie Siegel 

Jan Autengruber (25 April 1887, Pacov - 15 July 1920, Prague) was a Czech Post-impressionist painter. After the early death of his father, his family moved to České Budějovice. After completing his primary education, he was accepted at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. After two years, he transferred to the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, where he was a two-time recipient of the annual award.

He achieved very little critical attention in his home country, so he exhibited widely throughout Germany, in Munich, Berlin, Dresden, Mannheim, Hannover, Cologne, Hamburg, and Frankfurt. In 1913, he was awarded a scholarship to study in Italy. During the First World War, he attempted to avoid being drafted by studying restorative art at the Munich Academy, but it was only a short reprieve and he was mustered into service at Jindřichův Hradec.

He managed to survive the war and settled in Prague, where he took courses in art history at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University. In 1919, he married the artist Hana Jedličková (1888-1970). The following year, he became a victim of the flu pandemic, dying from a combination of flu and pneumonia.

His wife spent her life promoting his works. A major retrospective was held in 2002 at the National Gallery in Prague, followed by another in 2009 at the West Bohemian Gallery in Plzeň.