Saturday, 21 March 2015


“The strangeness will wear off and I think we will discover the deeper meanings in modern art.” - Jackson Pollock

German-born American painter and educator Hans Hofmann (1880–1966) was an influential 20th century artist whose work paved the way for abstract expressionism. Hofmann was born in Weißenburg, Bavaria on March 21, 1880, the son of Theodor and Franziska Hofmann. When he was six he moved with his family to Munich. Here his father took a job with the government. Starting at a young age, Hofmann gravitated towards science and mathematics.

At age sixteen, he started work with the Bavarian government as assistant to the director of Public Works where he was able to increase his knowledge of mathematics. He went on to develop and patent such devices as the electromagnetic comptometer, a radar device for ships at sea, a sensitised light bulb, and a portable freezer unit for military use. Even with such great abilities in science and mathematics, Hofmann became interested in creative studies, beginning educational art training after the death of his father. In 1932 he emigrated to the United States, where he resided until the end of his life.

Hofmann moved to Paris in 1904 with the help of an art patron. There, he studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and the Académie Colarossi. Hofmann immersed himself in Paris’s thriving art scene, meeting such artists as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Georges Braque. He also became friends with Robert Delaunay. During this period, the work Hofmann created followed the leading avant-garde movement of the time, cubism. In 1910, Hofmann had his first solo show in Berlin.

Living back in Germany at the start of World War I, Hofmann was excused from military service because of an earlier respiratory condition. Unable to return to France during the war, he opened an art school in Munich in 1915. Over the years, Hofmann earned a stellar reputation as an instructor of art. Worth Ryder, a former student, invited Hofmann to teach in the United States for the summer of 1930. Germany’s changing political climate made Hofmann decide to permanently settle in the United States in 1932.

Hofmann based himself in New York City, where he worked as an instructor at the Art Students League before establishing his own school in the city. In 1934, Hofmann began a summer program in Provincetown, Massachusetts. In addition to teaching, Hofmann also continued to make his own art, producing in 1940 “Spring”, a notable work that was created by dripping and splashing paint onto a canvas. Becoming known for his abstract paintings, Hofmann landed a solo exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century gallery in 1944.

In 1957, his work was the subject of a retrospective showing at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art. The next year, Hofmann retired from teaching in order to focus on creating art. Hofmann was selected to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale in 1960, alongside Philip Guston, Franz Kline and Theodore Roszak. By then, he was considered a leading abstract expressionist who created vivid and inventive paintings. In 1963, the Museum of Modern Art mounted a major exhibition of his work.

Hofmann became an American citizen in 1941. His first wife, Maria “Miz” Wolfegg, whom he had married in 1924, passed away in 1963. Two years later, Hofmann married Renate Schmitz, who served as a muse for many of his final works. At the age of 85, Hofmann died on February 17, 1966, at his New York City home.

The painting above is Hofmann’s “Composition” painted in 1942. The medium is oil on board and the size is 90 by 105 cm. This piece is part of a private collection and shows the artist’s love of colour and strong geometrical features that add up to a well-harmonised means of expression. There is both tension and rest in the work, expressed by both form and colour. Straight and curved lines, areas of bold colour, energetic brushstrokes coexisting with flat expanses. A highly satisfying work that captivates the viewer’s eye and imagination.

Friday, 20 March 2015


“When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.” - Tecumseh

Luigi Cherubini (1760 - 1842) was born in Florence, the tenth of the twelve children of the theatre harpsichordist at the Teatro della Pergola. His father was his first teacher. As a child he had further instruction from leading Florentine composers and had an early composition, a Mass, performed in 1773. He continued in adolescence to write further church music and a smaller number of secular dramatic works.

In 1778, after the performance of his cantata “La pubblica felicità” (Public Happiness) in honour of the Grand Duke Leopold of Tuscany, the future Emperor Leopold II, he was awarded by the Grand Duke the means of further study with the well known opera composer Giuseppe Sarti, a former pupil of Padre Martini. Cherubini’s period from 1778 to 1781 with Sarti in Bologna and from 1779 in Milan, where his teacher was maestro di cappella at the Cathedral and distinguished at the Teatro della Scala, brought the chance to compose operas for Florence and other Italian cities.

In 1784 and 1785 he was in London, where he won success in the theatre, and from there he travelled to Paris. It was through the violinist and impresario Viotti, established in that city, that Cherubini was presented to Queen Marie Antoinette, and in 1786 he settled in France, collaborating with Viotti under the patronage of the King’s brother at the Théâtre de Monsieur at the Tuileries, before his great success with the opera “Lodoïska” at Viotti’s new Théâtre Feydeau, a venture curtailed by the Revolution, when Viotti took refuge in London and the wine-trade.

After a period of retirement to the countryside, Cherubini returned to Paris in 1793, eventually finding employment as an inspector at the new Institut National de Musique, the future Conservatoire. The decade brought settings of texts approved by the new, secular régime and operatic success with what remains his best known opera, “Médée” (Medea), and with “Les deux journées” (The Two Days), an opera that had its effect on Beethoven’s own later Fidelio, the first performance of which Cherubini attended in 1805 during a successful visit to Vienna at the invitation of the director of the court opera, Baron Peter von Braun in 1805. Here he met Haydn, Beethoven and others and saw to the staging of his opera “Lodoïska” and of a new opera, “Faniska”.

Napoleon’s occupation of the city in that year brought Cherubini unexpected if perhaps grudging favour, and Napoleon took advantage of Cherubini’s presence in Vienna to make him his director of music in Vienna late in 1805 until early in 1806, responsible for concerts at Schönbrunn, where Napoleon had taken up residence. After this Cherubini returned to Paris, where he retained his position as inspector at the Conservatoire but now wrote relatively little, finding occupation in the study of botany and in painting.

As time went on he was able to return to composition, with the one-act opera “Pimmalione” (Pygmalion) staged at the Tuileries in 1809 and with an “Ode à l’Hymen” the following year for Napoleon’s second marriage. The restoration of the monarchy after Napoleon’s defeat brought him appointment in 1816 as a superintendent of the King’s music under his former patron, now Louis XVIII. Further official honours followed, with significant appointment in 1822 as director of the Conservatoire, a position he held with distinction until a few weeks before his death in 1842.

The Requiem in C minor for mixed chorus was written by Luigi Cherubini in 1815 and premiered 21 January 1816 at a commemoration service for Louis XVI of France on the twenty-third anniversary of his beheading during the French Revolution. The work was greatly admired by Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms. Here it is performed by Boston Baroque on period instruments and directed by Martin Pearlman.

This particular setting of the requiem Mass consists of seven movements:
I. Introitus et Kyrie [0:00]
II. Graduale [7:35]
III. Sequentia: Dies irae [8:52]
IV. Domine Jesu Christe [16:46]- Hostias [22:40]
V. Sanctus et Benedictus [29:27]
VI. Pie Jesu [30:41]
VII. Agnus Dei [34:08]

In 1820 a funeral march and a motet “In Paradisum” were added. In 1834 the work was prohibited by the archbishop of Paris because of its use of women’s voices, and in 1836 Cherubini wrote a second Requiem in D minor for men’s chorus. The “Requiem” is orchestrated for SATB-choir, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets, 2 horns, 3 trombones, timpani, gong and strings. Note the absence of flutes and SATB-soloists, and the presence of a gong, notably in the “Dies Irae” section.


“I’m strong to the finich, ‘cause I eats me Spinach, I’m Popeye the sailor man! (toot, toot).” ― Popeye

Eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables is essential for good health, maintaining good gastrointestinal function and taking into the body many essential nutrients and dietary fibre. An easy way to consume these (especially for children who often cannot be cajoled into eating enough fruit and vegies) is by making smoothies. Here are a few healthful recipes:

Green Fruity 1
1 ripe banana, cut in chunks
1 cup grapes
1 small tub vanilla yogurt
1/2 apple, cored and chopped
1 and 1/2 cups fresh spinach leaves
1 tbsp honey
1 kiwi fruit (optional)

Place all ingredients into a blender. Cover, and blend until smooth, stopping frequently to push down anything stuck to the sides. Pour into glasses and serve.

Green Fruity 2
2 kiwi fruit
1 ripe banana, cut in chunks
1 ripe pear, cut in chunks
2 scoops low fat vanilla ice cream
2 tsp malt powder

Place all ingredients into a blender. Cover, and blend until smooth, stopping frequently to push down anything stuck to the sides. Pour into glasses and serve

Green Savoury
1 cup iced water
1 tomato, chopped
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
1 cup chopped kale
2 radishes, roughly chopped
1 tsp French mustard
Salt & pepper to taste
1 teaspoon spirulina powder

Place all ingredients into a blender. Cover, and blend until smooth, stopping frequently to push down anything stuck to the sides. Pour into glasses and serve.

Green Power
2 cups fresh spinach
1 leaf kale (can substitute with more spinach if not available)
1 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional)
1 sliced frozen banana

Place all ingredients except banana into a blender. Cover, and blend until smooth, stopping frequently to push down anything stuck to the sides. Add banana and blend smooth. Pour into glasses and serve.

Please add your own favourite recipes below using the Linky tool:

Thursday, 19 March 2015


“Love is so short, forgetting is so long.” ― Pablo Neruda

If You Forget Me

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.
Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda was born on July 12, 1904, in Parral, Chile and died on September 23, 1973, in Santiago. His real name was Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto and he was a Chilean poet, diplomat, and politician who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. He was perhaps the most important Latin American poet of the 20th century.

Neruda's body of poetry is rich and varied, but has developed along four main directions,. His love poetry, such as the youthful Twenty Love Poems and the mature Los versos del Capitán (1952; The Captain's Verses), is tender, melancholy, sensuous, and passionate. In “material” poetry, such as Residencia en la tierra, loneliness and depression immerse the author in a subterranean world of dark, demonic forces. His epic poetry is best represented by Canto general, which is an attempt in the style of Whitman at reinterpreting the past and present of Latin America and the struggle for freedom. And finally there is Neruda's poetry of common, everyday objects, animals, and plants, as in Odas elementales.

Pablo Neruda continued to write prodigiously almost until his death (the collection of his complete works, which is continually being republished, filled 459 pages in 1951; by 1968 it amounted to 3,237 pages, in two volumes), rising in the ranks of 20th century poets. He also received numerous prestigious awards, including the International Peace Prize in 1950, the Lenin Peace Prize and the Stalin Peace Prize in 1953, and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. Neruda died just two years after receiving his Nobel Prize on September 23, 1973, in Santiago, Chile.

I Will Return

Some time, man or woman, traveller,
Afterwards, when I no longer live,
Look here, look for me here,
Between stone and ocean,
In the light storming
In the foam.
Look here, look for me here,
For here is where I’ll come, saying nothing,
With no voice, no mouth, pure,
Here I will return to be the movement
Of the water,
Of its wild heart,
Here I will be both lost and found:
Here I will be perhaps, both stone and silence.

                                                Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

Tuesday, 17 March 2015


“Doubt thou the stars are fire, Doubt that the sun doth move. Doubt truth to be a liar, But never doubt I love.” - William Shakespeare

This week Poetry Jam sets as a challenge the following theme: “This week go back to a year in the past and write a poem about your life or life in general at that time.”

Halley’s Comet is a short-period comet visible from Earth every 75–76 years. Halley is the only short-period comet that is clearly visible to the naked eye from Earth, and the only naked-eye comet that might appear twice in a human lifetime. Halley last appeared in the inner Solar System in 1986 and will next appear in mid-2061. Halley’s returns to the inner Solar System have been observed and recorded by astronomers since at least 240 BC. Clear records of the comet’s appearances were made by Chinese, Babylonian, and medieval European chroniclers, but were not recognised as reappearances of the same object at the time.

Here is my poem duet:

1986: Night of the Comet, I

And then tonight
Was the night of the comet.
Clear sky spattered with stars
And in the midst of astral dust
Of star-strewn chaotic order,
A faint, fuzzy, ill-defined light
Lost in all the others.

“Search and ye shall find!”
The night crisp, cold, pungent
And beside me...
“Ask and ye shall receive...”

Have I found you?
Faint, pale and ill-defined
A light amidst a billion others,
Yet only that one mattering;
Like that once in a lifetime glimpsed at,
Faint, pale and ill-defined,

1986: Night of the Comet, II

Billions upon billions of suns
Strewn through the endless emptiness
Of the cosmos,
I look at them and yet remain indifferent
To the immensity that stares at me,
Being able to contain it all
Within the low walls and ceiling
Holding my brain.

I love...
I love you and that is more important
Than the speed of light within a vacuum.
What should it matter if now a million suns
Should suddenly decide to supernova?
What if I am but a mite on a speck of dust?
It is enough that I have loved,
Nothing can take that from me.

I feel, I love, I understand,
I am small, insignificant, an atom only
In the endlessness of eternity
And yet I love and I can pinpoint my existence
In unfaltering co-ordinates.

What if the earth should suddenly expire?
What if Death around each corner lies in wait?
My only fear now is that we two are on a parallel course
And that the threads of our two lives will never cross...

That which I feel
Is infinitely more important
Than all the vastness looming above,
Below, on all sides of me.
The space within me
Annuls the space without.

Monday, 16 March 2015


“May the saddest day of your future be no worse
 than the happiest day of your past.” – Irish blessing

Saint Patrick’s Day, celebrated today, is a predominantly Irish holiday honouring the missionary credited with converting the Irish to Christianity in the 5th century AD. He was born around 373 AD in either Scotland (near the town of Dumbarton) or in Roman Britain (the Romans left Britain in 410 AD). His real name is believed to be Maewyn Succat.  He was kidnapped at the age of 16 by pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. During his six-year captivity, while he worked as a shepherd, he began to have religious visions, and found strength in his faith. He finally escaped, going to France, where he became a priest, taking on the name of Patrick.

When he was about 60 years old, St. Patrick travelled to Ireland to spread the Christian word. Reputedly, Patrick had a winning personality, which helped him to convert the fun-loving Irish to Christianity. He used the shamrock, which resembles a three-leafed clover, as a metaphor to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity. Saint Patrick allegedly drove all snakes out of Ireland.  This may be an allegory, as the snake was one of the revered pagan symbols.

Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated all around the world in countries with a large Irish migrant population (e.g. Australia and the USA). In these countries people of Irish sympathy wear green and have parties. Green is associated with Saint Patrick’s Day because it is the colour of spring, Ireland, and the shamrock. Leprechauns are also associated with this holiday, because they figure so prominently in Irish folklore. Leprechauns look like small, old men (about 60 cm tall), often dressed like a shoemaker, with a cocked hat and a leather apron. According to legend, leprechauns are aloof and unfriendly, live alone, and pass the time making shoes... They also possess a hidden pot of gold. Treasure hunters can often track down a leprechaun by the sound of his shoemaker’s hammer. If caught, a leprechaun can be forced (with the threat of bodily violence) to reveal the whereabouts of his treasure, but the captors must keep their eyes on him every second. If the captor’s eyes leave the leprechaun (and he often tricks them into looking away), he vanishes and all hopes of finding the treasure are lost.

What’s good luck on Saint Patrick’s Day? Finding a four-leaf clover (that’s double the good luck it usually is)! Wearing green: School children have started a little tradition of their own - they pinch classmates who don’t wear green on this holiday. Kissing the Blarney Stone: The Blarney Stone is a stone set in the wall of the Blarney Castle tower in the Irish village of Blarney. Kissing the stone is supposed to bring the kisser the gift of persuasive eloquence (“blarney”). The castle was built in 1446 by Cormac Laidhiv McCarthy (Lord of Muskerry) - its walls are 18 feet thick (necessary to thwart attacks by Cromwellians and William III's troops). Thousands of tourists each year still visit the castle. The origins of the Blarney Stone’s magical properties are not clear, but one legend says that an old woman cast a spell on the stone to reward a king who had saved her from drowning. Kissing the stone while under the spell gave the king the ability to speak sweetly and convincingly. It is difficult to reach the stone as it is between the main castle wall and the parapet. Kissers have to lie on their back and bend backward (and downward), holding iron bars for support.

An Irish blessing to take with you today:
            May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow
            And may trouble avoid you wherever you go.

Ireland became independent in 1921 after a series of fierce struggles.  Dublin is the capital city and other cities include Limerick, Cork, Galway, Waterford and Sligo. The cool wet climate ensures that this is truly an “emerald island” of rich pastures with much livestock, meat and dairy products being produced in abundance.  Lead, zinc, peat, oil and natural gas reserves are also being exploited.  The population is about 4 million and the area is about 69,000 square km.

Here is the Irish ballad “Danny Boy” sung by Michael Londra to a backdrop of a video of Ireland

Sunday, 15 March 2015


“True love is like ghosts, which everybody talks about and few have seen.” 
- François de La Rochefoucauld

“And how will I know if it is really true love?” I asked, when my grandfather told me about getting married to someone I loved, but only if it was true love…
I recall that conversation, I in my green years, hardly knowing anything about men, women, relationships, commitment, marriage, and my grandfather – mature, worldly and wise. And yet, that conversation stuck in my mind, and even more so his answer…

We watched the 2002 movie “The Sea is Watching” this weekend. It is a film with a screenplay by Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998) from a novel by Shugoro Yamamoto (1903-1967). It was the screenplay Kurosawa was working on when he died and was subsequently directed by one of his disciples, Kei Kumai. The film is not an epic on the scale of Kurosawa’s “The Seven Samurai” or “Ran”, nor is it grand or even momentous in its theme. It is a nostalgic look at life in the past and deals with complex topic that my grandfather and I were discussing so long ago when I was a child:
“And how will I know if it is really true love…”

The story is set in Edo of the 19th century, in a red light district next to the sea. Oshin is a young prostitute who lives in a brothel and works with several other girls under the watchful eye of a kindly madam. One evening, a disgraced samurai, Fusanosuke, comes into the brothel seeking refuge, as he has wounded another samurai in a scuffle. Oshin hides him from the authorities and falls in love with him, against the advice of her friends, especially that of Kikuno, an older prostitute.

From there the plot twists through the relationships of several of the customers with some of the girls and we look at several aspects of love as it develops in the hearts of some of the main characters. Caste and social conventions are shown in a historical context and unlike many of other Kurosawa films where the emphasis is on men, here it is the women who are shown to be strong, honourable and maintainers of society’s fabric.

This movie should be contrasted with “Memoirs of a Geisha” (my review of it). The girls depicted here are not geishas, but rather prostitutes and the difference is a very big one. The emphasis is on another level and the look of the two movies quite distinctly different. The author, screenwriter and the director of “The Sea is Watching” have captured the essence of the atmosphere of the red light district at that time and I was constantly being reminded of Japanese woodcuts by Hiroshige and Utamaro. The cinematography, settings and costumes are superb, the direction wonderful and the sense of historical accuracy excellent. The psychology of the characters is explored in a subtle way and the final scene elevates the movie to the realm of the heroic.

So in case you’re wondering what my grandfather’s answer was to my question:
“And how will I know if it is really true love?”, here it is:
“You will know because of what she does when you tell her you love her…”