Saturday, 30 January 2016


“Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.” - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791), baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart,[ was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. Born in Salzburg, Mozart showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty.

At 17, Mozart was engaged as a musician at the Salzburg court, but grew restless and travelled in search of a better position. While visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. He chose to stay in the capital, where he achieved fame but little financial security. During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and portions of the Requiem, which was largely unfinished at the time of his death. The circumstances of his early death have been much mythologised. He was survived by his wife Constanze and two sons.

He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers, and his influence on subsequent Western art music is profound. Ludwig van Beethoven composed his own early works in the shadow of Mozart, and Joseph Haydn wrote that “posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years”.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote at least five violin concertos between 1773 and 1776 in Salzburg, Austria, most likely for his own use as concertmaster of the Archbishop of Salzburg’s orchestra. The Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219, often referred to by the nickname The Turkish, was written in 1775, premiering during the holiday season that year in Salzburg. It follows the typical fast-slow-fast musical structure.

The concerto is scored for two oboes, two horns and strings. The movements are as follows:
Allegro aperto – Adagio – Allegro aperto
Rondeau – Tempo di minuetto

The rondo Finale is based on a Minuet theme, which recurs several times. In the middle of the movement the metre changes from 3/4 to 2/4 and a section of “Turkish music” is played. This is characterised by the shift to A minor (from the original A major), and by the use of grotesque elements, such as unison chromatic crescendos, repetition of very short musical elements and col legno playing in the cellos and double basses. This is the section that gave the concerto the nickname “The Turkish Concerto”. The famous Rondo alla Turca from Mozart's piano sonata in A major features the same key and similar elements.

Here is Anne Sophie-Mutter performing Mozart’s 5th violin concerto in A major, K.219, accompanied by the Camerata Salzburg.

Friday, 29 January 2016


“Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: For that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.” - Ecclesiastes 8:15

My grandmother used to say that some festive foods that were traditionally made only once a year were too good to save for only that one occasion. Consequently, she made those foods many times a year. The only thing she did was that she renamed them so that people would not argue with her on why she made those particular foods at “inappropriate” times. Here is her recipe for mincemeat pies, which she renamed “Festive Tartlets”…

Festive Tartlets
1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup icing sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup ice water
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup sugar for dusting
4 walnuts, roughly crushed
1 tbsp mixed candied peel
2 tbsp chopped glacé cherries
2 tbsp sultanas
1 tbsp chopped dried apricots
2 tbsp dates, chopped
2 tbsp apricot jam
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
A little brandy

Prepare the filling by mixing thoroughly all of the ingredients. Add a little brandy to ensure the filling is not too thick. Lay aside. You may like to prepare this a day or two before you make the tarts so as to allow the flavours to meld. Keep in a covered container in the fridge.
Preheat oven to 200˚C. Sift together the flour, 1/4 cup icing sugar, and cinnamon. Use a pastry cutter or two forks to mix in the butter until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the lemon zest. Sprinkle with ice water, and gather dough into a ball. Let the dough rest fro 30 minutes in the fridge.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/2 cm thick. Cut out approximately 18 (8 cm) diameter circles, and 18 (5 cm) circles, rerolling dough as needed. Line muffin cups or tart tins using the larger pastry circles. Fill each pastry cup with about 1 tablespoon of filling. Top with smaller pastry circles, pinching circles together to seal the edges. Brush the top of each pie with egg and dust with 1/4 cup sugar.
Bake pies in preheated oven until tops are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool slightly on wire racks.

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Thursday, 28 January 2016


“In your Curled petals what ghosts Of blue headlands and seas, What perfumed immortal breath sighing Of Greece.” AdelaideCrapsey

Hyacinthus is a small genus of bulbous flowering plants in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Scilloideae, that are commonly called hyacinths. The genus is native to the eastern Mediterranean (from south Turkey through Lebanon and Syria to northern Israel/Palestine), Iraq, north-east Iran, and Turkmenistan. Several species of Brodiea, Scilla, and other plants that were formerly classified in the lily family and have flower clusters borne along the stalk also have common names with the word “hyacinth” in them. True hyacinths should also not be confused with the genus Muscari, which are commonly known as “grape hyacinths”.

The generic name is derived from Greek mythology: Hyacinthus (in Greek, Ὑάκινθος, Hyakinthos) was a beautiful youth and lover of the god Apollo, though he was also admired by the gentle West Wind, Zephyr. Apollo and Hyacinth took turns throwing the discus. Hyacinth ran to catch it to impress Apollo, but was struck by the discus as it fell to the ground, and he died. A twist in the tale makes the wind god Zephyrus responsible for the death of Hyacinth. The beauty of the youth caused a feud between Zephyrus and Apollo. Jealous that Hyacinth preferred the radiant archery god Apollo, Zephyrus blew Apollo’s discus off course, so as to injure and kill Hyacinthus.

When the youth died, Apollo did not allow Hades to claim him; rather, he made a flower, (the hyacinth), to sprout from his spilled blood. According to Ovid’s account, the tears of Apollo stained the newly formed flower's petals with the sign of his grief. The flower of the mythological Hyacinth has been identified with a number of plants other than the true hyacinth, such as the iris.

Hyacinthus was the tutelary deity of one of the principal Spartan festivals, the Hyacinthia, held every summer. The festival lasted three days, one day of mourning for the death of the divine hero Hyacinth, and the last two celebrating his rebirth as Apollo Hayakinthios, though the division of honours is a subject for scholarly controversy.

Hyacinthus is a plant that grows from bulbs, each producing around four to six linear leaves and one to three racemes (spikes) of flowers. In the wild species, the flowers are widely spaced with as few as two per raceme in H. litwinovii and typically six to eight in H. orientalis (the garden or Dutch hyacinth), which grows to a height of 15–20 cm. Cultivars of H. orientalis have much denser flower spikes and are generally more robust.

The Dutch, or common hyacinth of house and garden culture (H. orientalis, native to southwest Asia) was so popular in the 18th century that over 2,000 cultivars were grown in the Netherlands, its chief commercial producer. This hyacinth has a single dense spike of fragrant flowers in shades of red, blue, white, orange, pink, violet or yellow. A form of the common hyacinth is the less hardy and smaller blue- or white-petalled Roman hyacinth of florists. These flowers need indirect sunlight and should be watered moderately.

The colour of the blue-flowered hyacinth plant varies between ‘mid-blue’ = violet blue and bluish purple. Within this range, can be found, Persenche, which is an American colour name (probably from French), for a blue hyacinth hue. The colour analysis of Persenche is 73% ultramarine, 9% red and 18% white.  Tekhelet, meaning “turquoise” or “blue” in Hebrew was translated as hyakinthinos (Greek: ὑακίνθινος, “blue”).

In the language for flowers, a bunch of mixed hyacinths signifies “Games and Sports; Rashness”. A blue hyacinth stands for “Constancy”, while a purple one means: “I Am Sorry; Please Forgive Me; Sorrow”. A red or pink flowered one means “Play, Recreation”, while a white one means: “Loveliness; I’ll Pray for You” and a yellow hyacinth means “Jealousy”

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016


“The opposite for courage is not cowardice, it is conformity. Even a dead fish can go with the flow.” - Jim Hightower

The theme for this week at Poets United poetry challenge is “Courage”. Here is my contribution:


How I should love, if love I did;
With tooth and nail most terribly,
With heart and soul
All fibres of my being attuned
To a single note of ecstasy.
How I would love you, if love did I;
With awful earnestness and wild abandon,
My love an overwhelming onslaught
Incapable of pity, torrentially uprooting
Every shred of reason, prudence, caution.

Oh were it that we loved, we two!
How sweet our sighs would echo;
How perfect our harmonious dissonance
Created by our parallel singularities…
Oh, were it possible that I loved you!
What storm and calm, what pain and pleasure
How bitter-sweet, rough-smooth it would be
A paroxysm of desires sated, thrills enjoyed,
Each wound of mine dealt, each lesion
Would be healed and my pain assuaged.

What courage need I muster just to dare to love you,
How bold and mettlesome I must be.
One needs audacity, strength, wilfulness,
Brazen effrontery
To swim against the current and survive
To reach a goal that has been set upstream.

The image above is Pablo Picasso's  "L' Aubade" of  1942

Tuesday, 26 January 2016


“There is no place in the world like Australia. Not even its beautiful neighbour New Zealand.” - Henry Rollins

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 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 Great Ocean Road is an Australian National Heritage listed 243-kilometre stretch of road along the south-eastern coast of Australia between the Victorian cities of Torquay and Warrnambool. The road was built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932, and is the world's largest war memorial; dedicated to casualties of World War I. It is an important tourist attraction in the region, which winds through varying terrain alongside the coast, and provides access to several prominent landmarks; including the nationally significant Twelve Apostles rock formations.

The Twelve Apostles is a collection of miocene limestone rock stacks jutting from the water in Port Campbell National Park, between Princetown and Peterborough on the Great Ocean Road. The apostles were formed by erosion: The harsh weather conditions from the Southern Ocean gradually eroded the soft limestone to form caves in the cliffs, which then became arches, which in turn collapsed; leaving rock stacks up to 45 metres high. The site was known as the Sow and Piglets until 1922 (Muttonbird Island, near Loch Ard Gorge, was the Sow, and the smaller rock stacks the Piglets); after which it was renamed to The Apostles for tourism purposes. The formation eventually became known as the Twelve Apostles, despite only ever having nine stacks.

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

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Monday, 25 January 2016


“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” ― Mark Twain

With Australia Day being celebrated tomorrow, I thought it’s a good idea to review an Australian film that we saw recently. It is  Jeremy Sims’ 2015 movie “Last Cab to Darwin”, starring Michael Caton, Ningali Lawford, Mark Coles Smith. The story is based on Reg Cribb’s play and it was adapted for the screen by the playwright himself and the director of the movie.

Superficially, this is a road trip movie whose main theme is death, dying but also what it means to live and live well. Cab driver Rex (Caton), is a loner and when he learns he has stomach cancer and doesn’t have long to live, he embarks on an epic journey through the Australian outback from Broken Hill to Darwin to die on his own terms. His objective is to commit euthanasia, but on the way he learns several things about himself and his life that will prove to be valuable to him, even in the very short time he has left to live.

The film was successful at the box office in Australia in 2015, with over 7 million dollars in local box office receipts, as well as gathering an equal share of critical and audience appreciation that will translate into good sales and rentals of the DVD in the years ahead. The success of the film while surely depends a great deal on the script, direction and production, largely has to thank the winning performance by Michael Caton, who possibly has delivered the best role of his career thus far.

Caton becomes Rex and sympathises with his predicament, allowing the audience to sympathise with the character and the actor. This is a great winning point in any movie, the rapport that an audience feels with the characters. Caton’s long acting career in Australia and his wide experience with both comedy and drama roles serve him well in this film as he treads a fine line between humour and pathos. As the film is 123 minutes long, the viewer’s interest is sustained, the supporting actors also creating the right ambience for Rex’s journeys, the physical one as well as the psychological/emotional one.

Ningali Lawford-Wolf plays Rex’s neighbour, Polly, and is excellent in her role. Their relationship could have been worked on a little more as Rex’s character and the way that it develops does depend a lot on their interaction. Emma Hamilton plays a backpacker from London working at a pub and she makes the most of her role, shining with intelligent and subtle support of plot and the main characters. Mark Coles Smith plays Tilly, a young indigenous man and Rex’s fellow traveller. This was a little unconvincing and relatively weak plot-wise as some clichés were unavoidable, however, the interaction between Tilly and Rex provided lots of opportunities for humour and release of dramatic tension. The other legendary Australian actor in the film was Jackie Weaver playing the unconventional GP, Dr Nicole Farmer (loosely based on real life Dr Philip Nitshke). She played well but perhaps was not the best choice for the role.

Although not a masterpiece, “Last Cab to Darwin” was enjoyable to watch, had a good mixture of strong emotion and humour, was well acted and produced and generally directed well. It covered some important topics and had its heart in the right place. The ending was perhaps weaker than the beginning and there was lapse into the clichés of similar films. Nevertheless, a good film that we recommend without reservation.

Sunday, 24 January 2016


“While I recognise the necessity for a basis of observed reality... true art lies in a reality that is felt.” - Odilon Redon

Johannes Theodorus ‘Jan’ Toorop (20 December 1858 – 3 March 1928) was a Dutch-Indonesian painter, who worked in various styles, including Symbolism, Art Nouveau, and Pointilism. His early work was influenced by the Amsterdam Impressionism movement.

Jan Toorop was born in Purworejo on the island of Java in the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia). His father was Christoffel Theodorus Toorop, a civil servant, and his mother was Maria Magdalena Cooke. He was the third of five children and lived on the island of Bangka near Sumatra until he was nine years old. He was then sent to school in Batavia on Java.

In 1869 he left Indonesia for the Netherlands, where he studied in Delft and Amsterdam. In 1880 he became a student at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. From 1882 to 1886 he lived in Brussels where he joined Les XX (Les Vingts), a group of artists centred on James Ensor. Toorop worked in various styles during these years, such as Realism, Impressionism Neo-Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.

After his marriage to an Annie Hall, a British woman, in 1886, Toorop alternated his time between The Hague, England and Brussels, and after 1890 also the Dutch seaside town of Katwijk aan Zee. During this period he developed his unique Symbolist style, with dynamic, unpredictable lines based on Javanese motifs, highly stylised willowy figures, and curvilinear designs.

In the late 19th century (in 1897) Toorop lived for 20 years in a small house on the market in the seaside town Domburg, Walcheren, Zeeland. He worked with a group of fellow artists, including Marinus Zwart and Piet Mondrian. There was no joint endeavour or common style among them. Each followed his individual personality, but they sought their inspiration in “the Zeeland light”, in the dunes, forests, beaches and the characteristic Zeeland population. Toorop was the centre of this group.

Thereafter he turned to Art Nouveau styles, in which a similar play of lines is used for decorative purposes, without any apparent symbolic meaning. In 1905, he converted to Catholicism and began producing religious works. He also created book illustrations, posters, and stained glass designs. Throughout his life Toorop also produced portraits, in sketch format and as paintings, which range in style from highly realistic to impressionistic. Toorop died on 3 March 1928 in The Hague in the Netherlands. His daughter Charley Toorop (1891–1955) was also a painter, as was his grandson Edgar Fernhout.

The image shown above is “The Vagabonds”, of 1891. It is executed in pencil, crayons and ink on cardboard, 65 x 76 cm and exhibited in the Kröller-Müller museum, Otterlo. There is a strong graphic, illustrative element in the work, and one can easily imagine it as a book illustration. The brilliant colours – particularly the blues and greens – draw the viewer’s eyes into the work and one is mesmerised by the syncopated rhythm of the lines, before one registers the faces of the two women and the ‘vagabonds’ of the title.

The lugubrious graveyard setting and the menacing faces of the men contrast with the dead (sleeping?) woman and the anxious mourning woman in black on the right. This is a fascinating work and it seems that it could have quite a story attached to it. The death of the artist’s first daughter shortly after her birth may have influenced his vision, perhaps, but also the artist’s contraction of venereal disease and his temporary blindness in 1887 could have left him with some psychological baggage that may be seen in his work.