Saturday, 10 August 2013


“Who hears music, feels his solitude peopled at once.” - Robert Browning
Georg Philipp Telemann (14 March 1681 – 25 June 1767) was a German Baroque composer and multi-instrumentalist. Almost completely self-taught in music, he became a composer against his family’s wishes. After studying in Magdeburg, Zellerfeld, and Hildesheim, Telemann entered the University of Leipzig to study law, but eventually settled on a career in music. He held important positions in Leipzig, Sorau, Eisenach, and Frankfurt before settling in Hamburg in 1721, where he became musical director of the city’s five main churches. While Telemann’s career prospered, his personal life was always troubled: His first wife died only a few months after their marriage, and his second wife had extramarital affairs and accumulated a large gambling debt before leaving Telemann.
He was a remarkably prolific, skillful, and forward-thinking, one of the foremost musicians of his day, who wrote a great many sacred and secular vocal works as well as orchestral, chamber, and keyboard music. A contemporary of Bach and Handel, Telemann shared many of their musical techniques and wrote for many of the same genres; and though his music is overshadowed by theirs, it has many charms, perhaps more evident in Telemann’s modest instrumental works (of which the Suite for Flute & Strings in A is a good choice) than in his 40 operas, 600 overtures, 44 liturgical passions, and other large works. Handel said Telemann could write an eight-part motet with the ease that someone else would write a letter.
Here is some of his wonderful music for viola da gamba, played by Hille Perl (viola da gamba) accompanied by the Freiburger Barockorchester and directed by Petra Müllejans. The viola da gamba is a bowed, stringed musical instrument used principally in chamber music of the 16th to the 18th century. The viol shares with the Renaissance lute the tuning of its six strings (two fourths, a major third, two fourths) and the gut frets on its neck. It was made in three sizes: Treble, tenor, and bass, with the bottom string tuned, respectively, to D, G (or A), and D. To these sizes was later added the violone, a double bass viol often tuned an octave below the bass.

Thursday, 8 August 2013


“A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.” - Omar Khayyam

It has been a cold, wet and dark Winter’s day today. Nothing to cheer one up like a warm, glowing home to come to with the smell of fresh bread baking in the oven! That and some olive oil and balsamic vinegar spread generously on thick slices and a nice glass of red wine…

Herb Bread


550 g flour (can use white, wholemeal or half-and-half)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm milk
1/3 cup warm water
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 packet instant yeast (7g)
Dried herbs, chopped (rosemary, thyme, dill, oregano, sage, etc to taste)
Spices, ground (dried mustard, cardamom, paprika, onion powder, etc to taste)
Poppy seeds and white sesame (optional)

Turn the oven on and with oven rack in the lowest position and warm to 80˚C. Turn oven off after 10 minutes and keep door closed.

Mix 3_ cups of the flour, sugar and the salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix the milk, water, oil, herbs, spices, and yeast in a 4-cup liquid measuring cup. Turn the mixer to very low speed and slowly add the liquid. When the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough is smooth and shiny, stopping the mixer two or three times to scrape dough from hook, if necessary, for about 10 minutes. (After 5 minutes of kneading, if the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl, add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time and up to _ cup total, until the dough is no longer sticky.) Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface; knead to form a smooth, round ball, for about 20 seconds.

Place the dough in a very lightly oiled large bowl, rubbing the dough around the bowl to coat lightly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the warmed oven until the dough doubles in size, for 40 to 50 minutes. Take the dough out and punch down, kneading a little.

Roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Place the dough in an oiled 25x10 cm loaf pan and press it gently so it touches all four sides of the pan. Paint the loaf top with milk and sprinkle some poppy seeds and white sesame on the top, if using. Cover with plastic wrap; set aside in a warm spot until the dough almost doubles in size, for 20 to 30 minutes.

Keep one oven rack at the lowest position and place the other at the middle position and heat the oven to 175˚C. Place an empty baking pan on the bottom rack. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the boiling water into the empty pan on the bottom rack at set the loaf onto the middle rack. Bake for about 40 to 50 minutes until golden brown. Remove the bread from the pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve.

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

Wednesday, 7 August 2013


“It’s a strange world of language in which skating on thin ice can get you into hot water.” - Franklin P. Jones
A living language is a dynamic, vibrant system, which breathes the same air as its speakers do and undergoes similar transformations in its character as the people who speak it. Its changing face relies very much on shifts in word meaning and the generation of new words or phrases to convey new meanings as new situations or new discoveries require. Novelty thrives not only on demands of society for advances in technology and changes in lifestyle that require neologisms, but also the insatiable search of people for saying old things in a fresh way. Idioms are very much a part of this process, and together with age-old clichés, that can be demonstrated (in some languages, at least) to be thousands of years old, the new slang of today becoming the idiom or cliché of tomorrow, sometimes progressing to a well-entrenched part of formal language a few decades later.
The word idiom comes from the Greek “idivwma” and means “one’s own thing” or “peculiarity”. Idiom can also mean to a certain extent “dialect” as frequently in dialects, words in common with the parent language can acquire new meanings or be used in unconventional ways. More often than not, however, an idiom is an expression in a mainstream language, which, typically cannot be explained in a straightforward way – grammatically or semantically. It is in many cases distinctive to that particular language alone, and it cannot be translated word for word into another language. One could also say that an idiom is a “peculiarity of phrase approved by usage”; it is an unusual or even completely illogical way of saying something, which is accepted because by convention people use it very often and are familiar with its “hidden” meaning.
Idiomatic expressions are a lively part of almost all the world’s languages and underlying these phrases are historical, political, social or cultural events that have had a great deal to do with their creation. Myths and legends, folk stories, observations of nature and the endowment of animals with certain human traits will often create an idiomatic expression. Sometimes, a potent visual image underlies their origin, and metaphor, simile or hyperbole often underpins them. In a few instances the same image is conveyed across many languages, which demonstrates the universal need to colour ordinary speech with a powerful image whose common origin spans several cultures and linguistic groups. Idioms have sometimes been referred to as “miniature word poems” for these reasons.
One, however, should be wary of applying one’s own cultural yardsticks to another language and culture, since the same social situation, everyday object or common animal may be viewed differently in different cultures. A case in point is the fox, which in many Western cultures and languages is the archetypal illustration of cunning, craftiness and slyness. In other cultures, the fox may not be viewed in the same way! In Luke 13.32, Jesus uses the illustration of a “fox” to characterise the petty king, Herod Antipas. When the Greek term, Αλώπηξ, “fox”, was simply translated into English as “fox”, the intended meaning it had for Jesus’ hearers in the first century was missed, because the sociocultural connotations did not necessarily travel when this word was translated into another cultural setting.
Countless commentators have for years blithely assumed that “a fox, is a fox, is a fox” and that the idiomatic meaning underlying “fox” in all cultures is that of cunning and craftiness. The notion, “sly as a fox”, is assumed to be applied universally. However, many rabbinical illustrations reveal that in the ancient Judaean setting, and within the Hebraic sociolinguistic culture, the term “fox” (Hebrew shu’al) does not signify “sly” or “crafty” at all. Rather, it signifies “small fry,” “weak,” or “insignificant.” In Hebrew, the fox is the animal that is consistently used for contrast with “lion” (as an indication of someone strong or significant). In actuality therefore, Jesus was characterising Herod Antipas as an insignificant ruler rather than as a crafty or sly one.
The idioms that are unique to a certain language alone present a major stumbling block to foreign language learners when they encounter these offending phrases. To speak “idiomatically” is the aim of advanced foreign language learners. One’s competence in a language will often be judged, ultimately, on one’s command of the idioms of that language, as any solver of the English cryptic crossword will testify! Hence, familiarity with most of the commonly used idioms of a language is considered to be an essential feature of demonstrating competency in that language.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013


“The atomic bomb made the prospect of future war unendurable. It has led us up those last few steps to the mountain pass; and beyond there is a different country.” - J. Robert Oppenheimer

On August 6, 1945, the United States of America used a massive, atomic weapon against Hiroshima, Japan. This was the first time an atomic bomb was used in warfare. The nuclear bomb, which packed the equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT, flattened the city, killing tens of thousands of civilians. While Japan was still trying to comprehend this devastation three days later the United States struck again with another atomic bomb, this time dropping it on Nagasaki.

Japan marked the 68th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima with a sombre ceremony to honour the dead, and once again pledged to seek the elimination of nuclear weapons from the world’s arsenals. Approximately 50,000 people stood for a minute of silence in Hiroshima's peace park near the epicentre of the early morning blast on Aug. 6, 1945, that killed up to 140,000 people. The bombing of Nagasaki three days later killed tens of thousands more people, prompting Japan’s surrender to the World War II Allies. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was one of the many dignitaries attending the event, and noted that as his was the only country in history to face a nuclear attack, it has the responsibility to seek to ban nuclear weapons.

The U.S.A and its allies have always maintained that the WWII bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were necessary and helped save many more lives around the world by convincing Japan to surrender, bringing about an end to WWII. The sacrificing of tens of thousands of civilians as a means to an end, however noble this end seems to be, has always been a point of protest and argument against what has been characterised as an inhuman act, or as a war crime.

The sensitive anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing comes as Japan debates the role of nuclear energy, following the country’s 2011 earthquake and subsequent nuclear disaster, which is still now having widespread and dangerous after-effects. Presently, almost all of Japan’s nuclear power plants remain shut down following the meltdowns at Fukushima, which spread radiation over a large area and forced thousands to flee the area. Prime Minister Abe and his party want to restart the plants following safety inspections, but the plan has proved controversial for many in the energy-dependent nation. Since the accident, there have been repeated safety concerns at the Fukushima power plant, where operators are struggling to contain radiation-contaminated water, which is now making its way to the ocean and contaminating intervening land and subsoil.

Humans are blessed with the largest and most powerful brain power in the animal kingdom. We have the capacity to think and our intellect gives us the ability to create and use knowledge in ways that allow us to control our environment in amazing ways. We have developed the power to create marvels: Great works of architecture, art, music, literature, engineering, invention… But we have also excelled in the arts of war, with an almost endless repertoire of destruction and cruelty within our means. We have the potential to be angels, but how much easier to be devils. It takes great effort to be “good” rather than “evil” and that is where the real power of an individual is manifest – to be creative, good and kind rather than destructive, evil and cruel.

Monday, 5 August 2013


“Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.” John W. Gardner

Maurits Cornelis Escher (17 June 1898 – 27 March 1972), usually referred to as M. C. Escher, was a Dutch graphic artist. He is known for his often mathematically inspired woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints. These feature impossible constructions, explorations of infinity, architecture, and tessellations.

He worked primarily in the media of lithographs and woodcuts, though the few mezzotints he made are considered to be masterpieces of the technique. In his graphic art, he portrayed mathematical relationships among shapes, figures and space. Additionally, he explored interlocking figures using black and white to enhance different dimensions. Integrated into his prints were mirror images of cones, spheres, cubes, rings and spirals. Escher was left-handed…

Magpie Tales has chosen M.C. Escher’s “Drawing Hands” of 1948 as a stimulus for the creativity of the followers of her meme. Here is my poem inspired by this Escher drawing.

The Scribe

I create with hands clasping pencil;
With pencil drawing lines
That define the hands that guide the pencil,
That is driven by my desperate soul.

I write with hands holding pen;
The pen that dips into the inkwell of my heart,
Giving my lifeblood a voice of its own,
And my vehement emotions an outlet to vent.

I limn with hands that guide brush;
A brush that takes breaths from my lips
And rebreathes them in colour on a page
That outlines my spent desires and vain hopes.

I sketch with hands blackened by charcoal;
The charcoal not black enough to compare
To the blackest thoughts of my mind’s vacuum,
The emptiness of the void that was there
Ever since you left.


“Our heirs, whatever or whoever they may be, will explore space and time to degrees we cannot currently fathom. They will create new melodies in the music of time. There are infinite harmonies to be explored.” - Clifford Pickover
We had some cold and wet weather over the weekend and it was very pleasant to be able to sit at home in the warmth and watch a movie in the afternoon. It was a rather interesting film that we did watch, Gregory Hoblit’s 2000 movie “Frequency” starring Dennis Quaid, Jim Caviezel, Shawn Doyle and Elizabeth Mitchell. The film was a science fiction drama based on the premise that communication between the future and the past is possible under a set of certain electromagnetic conditions triggered by solar flares. Once you get over this conceit, you can immerse yourself in the possibilities suggested by the movie, including the famous paradoxes where the possibility of time travel in one form or another allows one to change the course of history.
For example, one paradox is the idea that if one were able to go back in time, the time traveller could change things in the past by interfering with his own family history. The grandfather paradox and the idea of autoinfanticide are typical of this: In this paradox, a time traveller goes back in time and kills his grandfather at a time before his grandfather met his grandmother. If he did so, then his mother or father never would have been born, and neither would the time traveller himself, in which case the time traveller never would have gone back in time to kill his grandfather… Autoinfanticide works the same way, where a traveller goes back and attempts to kill himself as an infant. If he were to do so, he never would have grown up to go back in time to kill himself as an infant.
The plot of the movie has as follows: A rare atmospheric phenomenon triggered by solar flares in the 1960s and the 1990s allows a New York City firefighter in the past, to communicate with his son 30 years in the future via short-wave radio. The son uses this opportunity to warn the father of his impending death in a warehouse fire, and manages to save his life. However, what he does not realise is that changing history has triggered a new set of tragic events, including the murder of his mother. The two men must now work together, 30 years apart, to find the murderer before he strikes so that they can change history again.
We enjoyed this film as a thriller/mystery more than as a science fiction movie. Time played a role, but the interweaving stories of past and present were what made the film interesting and involving. The characters were interesting and believable, the family relationships portrayed were authentic and believable and the situations that father and son find themselves in through the tenuous connection over time are often poignant, sometimes humorous and at other times filled with suspense and mystery. The acting is very good and both Quaid as the father and Caviezel as the son do a sterling job with the material that has been given to them.
Toby Emmerich, better known as a film producer, wrote the story of this movie and he has managed to combine a great many original features with some old standards of the “Time travel” theme. The strong serial killer plotline that runs through the movie adds so much to the story and as the film progresses becomes an integral part of the story. Michael Kamen has provided an intelligent film score that doesn’t intrude but invests the action with suitable suspense and mystery. Cinematography by Alar Kivilo and film editing by David Rosenbloom contribute to the polished feel and look of the film. Watch it!

Sunday, 4 August 2013


“Now I really make the little idea from clay, and I hold it in my hand. I can turn it, look at it from underneath, see it from one view, hold it against the sky, imagine it any size I like, and really be in control, almost like God creating something.” - Henry Moore
Henry Spencer Moore OM CH FBA (30 July 1898 – 31 August 1986) was an English sculptor and artist. He is best known for his monumental bronze sculptures, which are located in various prominent public places. He became the most influential and famous sculptor of his generation. Henry Moore was born on 30 July, 1898, in Castleford, Yorkshire. He was the seventh child in a family of 8 children. His father worked in a colliery in Castleford but wanted his children to avoid working down the mines, so as much as possible given the family’s poverty, the children were educated at a local school.
It was in his teenage years that Henry developed an interest in art. His talent helped him to get a scholarship to Castleford Secondary school. Aged 18 he was called up to the army and in 1917 was injured during a gas attack at the Battle of Cambrai. After his injury, he spent the remainder of the war behind the lines training new recruits. Moore later said the war was for him not a traumatic experience - unlike that of many of his contemporaries.  After the war, he continued his education and in 1921 won a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art.
Moore was a talented student, but already he was experimenting with new styles and this often created conflict with his teachers who were trying to teach the classic style of perfection in form and composition. Moore was attracted to a more spontaneous art form with imperfections evident in the sculpting. In 1924, he spent time travelling in Italy and later Paris. Here he could view the great Masters such as Michelangelo and Giovanni Pisano. But Moore was also influenced by his studies of primitive art, and at the Louvre he was particularly influenced by the Toltec-Maya sculptural form, the Chac Mool.
On his return to London, he took up a teaching post at the Royal College of art. This part time post enabled him to work on his own art, leading to his first commissions such as the “West Wind” (1928-29).  In the 1930s, Moore became an active member of the informal modern art movement, centred around the ideas and innovation of people like Pablo Picasso and Jean Arp. He also briefly flirted with the surrealist movement.
The Second World War led to more traditional commissions and Moore worked as a war artist producing memorable pictures such as images of civilians fleeing the Blitz in the London underground.  This helped Moore’s reputation and after the war led to numerous awards and opportunities in America. In 1948 he was awarded the International Sculpture Prize at the Venice Biennale. Significant commissions included: A reclining figure for UNESCO building in Paris 1956; A Nuclear energy sculpture at the University of Chicago. (to commemorate 25th anniversary of nuclear reaction); Knife Edge – Two Piece in 1962 for College Green, London around Houses of Parliament.
In 1972, Henry Moore established his Henry Moore Foundation - a charitable trust to promote art education and the support of young artists. He was a man of modest means. Despite his wealth and fame he lived frugally remembering his Yorkshire roots. He even turned down a knighthood in 1951 because he didn’t want to be seen as an establishment figure. Yet, during his lifetime he did become the dominant sculpture of his generation.
Moore’s organically shaped, abstract, bronze and stone figures constitute the major 20th-century manifestation of the humanist tradition in sculpture. Much of his work is monumental, and he was particularly well-known for a series of reclining nudes. The image above is characteristic of his work. It is the “Reclining Woman” of 1956. It is located at the Sainsbury Centre, University of East Anglia, Norwich, Norfolk, England (1962 cast, acquired by Sir Robert and Lady Sainsbury).