Friday, 13 September 2013


“For a gallant spirit there can never be defeat.” - Wallis Simpson
For Music Saturday, here is Jean Philippe Rameau’s 1735 complete opera, “Les Indes Galantes”, performed by Les Arts Florissants and directed by W Christie.
Jean-Philippe Rameau (25 September 1683 – 12 September 1764) was one of the most important French composers and music theorists of the Baroque era. He replaced Jean-Baptiste Lully as the dominant composer of French opera and is also considered the leading French composer for the harpsichord of his time, alongside François Couperin.
Little is known about Rameau’s early years, and it was not until the 1720s that he won fame as a major theorist of music with his ‘Treatise on Harmony’ (1722). He was almost 50 before he embarked on the operatic career on which his reputation chiefly rests. His debut, ‘Hippolyte et Aricie’ (1733), caused a great stir and was fiercely attacked for its revolutionary use of harmony by the supporters of Lully’s style of music. Nevertheless, Rameau’s pre-eminence in the field of French opera was soon acknowledged, and he was later attacked as an “establishment” composer by those who favoured Italian opera during the controversy known as the ‘Querelle des Bouffons’ in the 1750s.
Rameau’s music had gone out of fashion by the end of the 18th century, and it was not until the 20th that serious efforts were made to revive it. Today, he enjoys renewed appreciation with performances and recordings of his music ever more frequent.


“Sweet spring, full of sweet days and roses, a box where sweets compacted lie.” - George Herbert
To tempt the sweet-toothed, and be in keeping with the sweetness of the season, here is an easy recipe for a cake that is relatively healthful and not overly sweet, but at the same time easy to make. The yoghurt topping is optional, but it does give an extra hint of sweetness and is quite creamy, if you really do like your cakes sweeter.
Easy Fruit Loaf

1 cup toasted rolled oats
1 cup chopped mixed fruit (apricots, dates, sultanas, citrus peel)
1 packed cup brown sugar
1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup of milk
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 tsp ground cloves
1/3 tsp ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 160-170˚C.
Mix together the dry ingredients and spices.
Make a well in the centre and pour in the milk.
Mix well and pour into a lined and greased loaf tin.
Bake 45 minutes to an hour, until a skewer driven into the cake comes out clean.
The cake mixture is wet and the slower you cook it, the moister it remains.
You may ice the cake with a yoghurt topping:
3 cups icing sugar
¼ cup softened butter
170 ml plain low fat yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla essence
Crushed walnuts
Mix butter and sugar, stirring in yoghurt and vanilla essence until smooth. Decorate with crushed walnuts.
This post is part of the Food Friday meme,
and also part fo the Food Trip Friday meme.

Thursday, 12 September 2013


“We have finally started to notice that there is real curative value in local herbs and remedies. In fact, we are also becoming aware that there are little or no side effects to most natural remedies, and that they are often more effective than Western medicine.” - Anne Wilson Schaef
Every year, in the third week of September in Australia, National Herbal Medicine Week is observed. This is a time that the public is made aware of the importance of herbs (and plants in general), as sources of medicinal preparations. Herbal medicine practitioners promote herbal medicine to the general public, they correct misinformation and myths surrounding herbal medicine, and they share their knowledge and show people the strength, potential and value of herbal medicine. In both the West and the East, herbal medicine has a strong tradition that goes back for thousands of years.
Nearly a quarter of all modern medicines are derived from natural products, many of which were first used in traditional remedies. In Africa and Asia, 80% of the population still uses traditional remedies rather than modern medicine for primary healthcare. Even in developed nations, traditional medicine is gaining appeal. Up to 80% of the population in Western countries has tried an alternative therapy such as traditional Chinese medicine or herbal medicine. A survey conducted in 2010, found that 74% of US medical students believe that Western medicine would benefit by integrating traditional or alternative therapies and practices.
The industry is worth big money. In 2005, traditional medicines worth US$14 billion were sold in China. And in 2007, Brazil saw revenues of US$160 million from traditional therapies, part of a global market of more than US$60 billion. It is no wonder that many multinational drug companies are now devoting many resources to making and marketing natural medicines and supplements.
Modern medicine is desperately short of new treatments. It takes many years for a new drug to get through the research and development pipeline to manufacture and the cost is enormous. Dependable remedies in the modern doctor’s armamentarium may also become obsolete as growing drug resistance evolves. This is especially associated with the misuse of antibiotics and has rendered several such medications and other life-saving drugs useless. Scientists and pharmaceutical companies are increasingly turning their eyes to traditional medicine and herbal compounds.
Making traditional medicine mainstream and incorporating age-old substances and treatments into modern healthcare is difficult. Ensuring that traditional medicines meet modern safety and efficacy standards is not easy. There is also concern among conservationists that a growing traditional medicine market threatens biodiversity through overharvesting of wild medicinal plants. Beyond the sustainability of natural resources, combining traditional and modern medicines faces challenges that are the result of key differences in how each is practiced, evaluated and managed. One the one hand there is the empirical, ad-hoc, individualised approach of traditional medicine, while on the other hand, the Western medical approach is rigorously regulated and prescriptive, rigid and formulaic, as well as being supported by evidence through experimental and clinical trials.
There is no doubt that traditional medicine has much to offer global health, especially as new drugs are urgently needed. If both developed and developing countries joined research capacities in collaboration, new scientific techniques could spark a revival in global health research and development and many of the age-old herbal treatments and traditional lore could be incorporated usefully into modern medicine practice. Integrating traditional medicine into modern healthcare is certainly being taken seriously by some of the biggest research bodies worldwide. In 2007, 62 countries had national institutes for traditional medicine — up from 12 in 1970.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013


“Terrorism has once again shown it is prepared deliberately to stop at nothing in creating human victims. An end must be put to this. As never before, it is vital to unite forces of the entire world community against terror.” - Vladimir Putin
On September 11, 2001 the USA came under terrorist attacks, which are also called the 9/11 attacks. These were a series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks committed by 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda (whose name in Arabic means “the base”) against targets in the USA, the deadliest ever terrorist attacks on American soil in U.S. history.
The attacks against New York City and Washington, DC, caused extensive death and destruction and triggered an enormous USA effort to combat terrorism. Some 2,750 people were killed in New York, 184 at the Pentagon, and 40 in Pennsylvania (where one of the hijacked planes crashed after the passengers attempted to retake the plane); all 19 terrorists died. Police and fire departments in New York were especially hard-hit: Hundreds had rushed to the scene of the attacks, and more than 400 police officers and firefighters were killed.
The worldwide distress caused by the attacks was overwhelming. Unlike the relatively isolated site of the Pearl Harbor attack of 1941, to which the September 11 events were soon compared, the World Trade Center lay at the heart of one of the world’s largest cities. Hundreds of thousands of people witnessed the attacks firsthand (many onlookers photographed events or recorded them with video cameras), and millions watched the tragedy unfold live on television. In the days that followed September 11, the footage of the attacks was replayed in the media countless times, as were the scenes of throngs of people, stricken with grief, gathering at “Ground Zero” (as the site where the towers once stood came to be commonly known) some with photos of missing loved ones, seeking some hint of their fate.
Despite their success in causing widespread destruction and death, the September 11 attacks were a strategic failure for al-Qaeda. Following September 11, al-Qaeda lost the best base it ever had in Afghanistan. The succession of events and the retaliatory strikes by the USA and its allies subsequent to 9/11 culminated in the death of Osama Bin Laden, several years after the attacks. On both sides, the number of innocent victims was immense.
As these attacks are remembered and commemorated, their significance in 21st century world history assumes a greater role, considering that terrorism is far from over and that the “war on terror” initiated by George W Bush is far from over and certainly not victorious. The recent events in Syria are but one example of how innocent civilians are victims in internecine struggles where a regime does not hesitate to use weapons that are heinous and will kill non-discriminately all in their range. This is the basis of terrorism – all manner of violent acts, which are intended to create fear and which are perpetrated for a religious, political, or ideological goal, and deliberately target or disregard the safety of civilians.
Are we ever likely to mature as a civilised species and be able to coexist peacefully with one another? Are we ever likely to respect others and tolerate differences in ideology, religion or politics? Shall we ever unite in universally condemning acts of terrorism or indeed war? Are we even close to a universal brotherhood of man, where the world is a place of peace and where nations help each individual on earth of battling with each other for reasons that are at best described as ludicrous? Current affairs and the despairing news one hears every day seems to indicate that this is still a dream, unfortunately…

Tuesday, 10 September 2013


“Sing, O Muse, of the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures, for so were the counsels of Zeus fulfilled from the day on which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles, first fell out with one another…” – Homer, Iliad

The Muses of Greek mythology are the daughters of Zeus and the titaness Mnemosyne, who personified memory. The nine Muses are the nymphs of the arts and sciences, and as such inspire all artists, poets, philosophers, and musicians. They are the companions of Apollo, the god of the sun, light, the arts, music, poetry and healing. In his role, as leader of the Muses, Apollo is given the name Musagetes – ‘Muse Leader’. Each Muse presides over a particular form of literature, art or science.

To begin with, the Muses were probably a vague collections of deities, undifferentiated within the group, which are characteristic of certain, probably early, strata of Greek religion. Differentiation is a matter of mythological systematisation rather than of cult, and began with the 8th-century-BC poet Hesiod, who mentioned by names all nine muses, as well as their tutelary attributes.
Name Meaning

Epic Poetry
Writing tablet


Love Poetry

Song and Elegiac Poetry
Aulos (flute)

Tragic Mask

Of many hymns

Delights in dance

Comic Mask

Celestial globe

According to the Greek Myths, in his usual philandering manner, Olympian Zeus lusted after the young titaness Mnemosyne, the daughter of Gaia and Uranus. He overcame her and slept with her for nine consecutive nights. The result of their encounter was the Nine Muses, who were endowed with beauty, intellect and enormous talent in literature, the arts and the sciences.

Mnemosyne gave the babies to the nymph Eupheme to nurture, while Apollo was entrusted with their education. Apollo took them to beautiful Mount Helicon, where an old Temple of Zeus used to be. The Muses dedicated their lives to their arts. Ever since then, the Muses have supported and encouraged creation, enhancing the imagination and providing inspiration of artists.

According to Greek Mythology, two of the Muses invented the theory and practice of learning, three of the Muses invented the musical vibrations of the lyre, four of the Muses invented the four known dialects of the Greek language (Attic, Ionian, Aeolian and Dorian), and five of the muses the five human senses. Seven of the muses invented the seven chords of the lyre, the seven celestial zones, the seven planets and the seven vowels of the Greek Alphabet.

Very little is known of the cult of the muses, but they had a festival every four years at Thespiae, near Helicon, and a contest (Múseia), presumably in singing and playing. They probably were originally the patron goddesses of poets (who in early times were also musicians, providing their own accompaniments), although later their range was extended to include all liberal arts and sciences—hence, their connection with such institutions as the Museum (Mouseíon, seat of the Muses) at Alexandria, Egypt.

Monday, 9 September 2013


“It’s not going to do any good to land on Mars if we’re stupid.” - Ray Bradbury
Last weekend we watched a sci-fi film that reminded me of the good, old-fashioned space sagas, with lots of adventure and lush visual effects. It was Andrew Stanton’s 2012 film “John Carter”, starring Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins and Willem Dafoe. The movie was based on Edgar Rice Burroughs “A Princess of Mars” (the first in a series of 11 novels), which I had read in my youth and which I had enjoyed. The screenplay was written by the director, in collaboration with Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon.
John Carter is a US Civil War veteran who in 1868 is trying to live a normal life. He is approached by the Army and asked to rejoin as he is needed to quell an Indian uprising. As he has had enough of war, he refuses and is thus locked up. He escapes and is pursued by soldiers, who are confronted by Indians. Carter escapes into a cave, which turns out to be the legendary cave of gold he has been searching for. While in the cave he meets someone who is holding a strange medallion. When Carter touches it, he finds himself in another world, “Barsoom”; a place where he can leap incredible heights and has prodigious strength. He encounters strange tall, green-skinned beings he has never seen before. Later, he meets a woman who helps him to discover that he is on Mars. To his chagrin he discovers he is caught in the made of a war and he needs to pick sides in order to survive.
The film reminded me of Avatar in some ways, however, it was a really good, original one with its 132 minutes being well-spent and never along its length did we feel it was too long. The CGI are outstanding and this is what one would expect from the Disney studios. We watched in on Bluray and the colour, clarity and interweaving of live action with CGI were breathtaking. Overall the cinematography, costumes, sets, look and feel of the film was fantastic. It appears the film suffered greatly from bad criticism, but I found that this was unfair.
The two leads were relatively unknown and this was one of the critics’ beefs. Taylor Kitsch is convincing and natural, while Lynn Collins is beautiful and dashing, a good foil to the heroics of the leading man. Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkas and Samantha Morton as Sola, Mark Strong as the evil Matai Shang all the cast is without exception excellent. The music by Michael Giachinno is remarkably well suited to the action, and the editing by Eric Zumbrunnen supports the narrative greatly.
This is a film I would happily watch again in the near future and this is a good enough recommendation for it. The plot is satisfying and has enough twists and turns to keep one amused. The production values are high, the acting is good and at over two hours long if it leave you wanting more at the end, I think it has ticked all of the entertainment boxes.
Here is a trailer made by fans as opposed to the official one. I think this one is superior…

Sunday, 8 September 2013


“If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.” - Tom Stoppard
Anna Mary Robertson was born in Greenwich, New York, on September 7, 1860, but she is more well-known as Grandma Moses. She was the third of ten children born to Russell King Robertson, a farmer, and Margaret Shannahan. She had a happy childhood and worked hard on their family farm. Her father enjoyed seeing the children’s drawings and would buy them large sheets of blank newsprint upon which they could draw. The young Anna Mary loved to draw happy, colourful scenes. She only attended school in the summer due to the cold and her lack of warm clothing. At twelve she began earning her living as a hired girl at homes near the family farm.
In 1887 Anna Mary married a farm worker, Thomas S. Moses, and the couple settled on a farm in Virginia. They had ten children, five of whom died at birth. In 1907 the family moved to Eagle Bridge, New York, where Grandma Moses spent the rest of her life. It was on this farm in Eagle Ridge that Anna Mary painted her first painting. She was wallpapering her parlour and ran out of paper. To finish the room she put up white paper and painted a scene. It is known as the “Fireboard”, and it hangs today in the Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vermont. Her husband died in 1927, and her son and daughter-in-law took over the farm. As she aged and found farm work too difficult, Grandma Moses took up embroidering pictures in yarn to fill her spare time. At the age of seventy-six, because of arthritis, she gave up embroidery and began to paint. Her early work was usually based on scenes she found in illustrated books and on Currier and Ives prints (prints made during the 1800s, showing American lives, historical events, and celebrities).
In 1938 Grandma Moses’s paintings were discovered by an art collector and engineer, Louis Caldor. He saw a few of her paintings displayed in the window of a drug store in Hoosick Falls, New York, while on vacation. He purchased these, and the next day he bought all the paintings Grandma Moses had at her farm. In October of 1939, three of these paintings were exhibited at the “Contemporary Unknown Painters” show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Her first one-woman show was held in New York City in 1940 and immediately she became famous. Her second one-woman show, also in New York City, came two years later. By 1943 there was an overwhelming demand for her pictures, partially because her homespun, country scenes brought about wonderful feelings and memories for many people.
Most of Grandma Moses’s paintings were done on pieces of strong cardboard, 24 by 30 inches or less. She regularly portrayed happy scenes of rural home life, sometimes picturing herself as a child. She also painted a number of historical pictures, usually about her ancestors, one of whom built the first wagon to run on the Cambridge Pike. In some works figures are dressed in eighteenth-century costumes, as people might have dressed in the country. Certain colour schemes correspond to the various seasons: White for winter, light green for spring, deep green for summer, and brown for autumn. Among her most popular paintings are “The Old Oaken Bucket” (1943, shown above), “Over the River to Grandma’s House”, “Sugaring Off”, and “Catching the Turkey”.
Grandma Moses worked from memory, portraying a way of life she knew from experience. The people in her paintings are actively engaged in farm tasks, and, although separated, are part of the established order of seasonal patterns. In most paintings the landscape is shown as a large, scenic view and would be completed before the tiny figures were put in. Grandma Moses died on December 13, 1961.
Technically, the work of naive painters is distinguished by a conceptual (a general and broad view) rather than a visual or realistic and accurate approach to painting. This involves an innocent picture using a linear format (flat, one dimensional space) that portrays scenes and people with an absence of weather in the skies and shadows around shapes. Some of the strengths of primitive painting lie in the feeling for pattern that is painted into the picture and the charm of the mood that is projected from the work. In Grandma Moses’s paintings the viewer often feels the joy of life illustrated in the scenes. “In McDonnel’s Farm” (1943), for example, a group of children are shown in a circular dance at the right, while all the other figures are busily engaged in farm tasks: One man loads the hay wagon, another harvests, another cuts the grass with a hooked tool called a scythe. In her paintings there is no despair, unhappiness, or aging, yet this unrealistic view of life is presented with remarkable power.