Saturday, 2 November 2013


“Define a lady:  She who owns an oboe yet refuses to play it.” – Oboe Jokes

The illustration is Canaletto's "Arrival of the French Ambassador at the Doge's Palace".

For Music Saturday a delicious concerto from the pen of an Italian Baroque composer, Alessandro Marcello (1684-1750). It is his Concerto per Oboe, strings and basso continuo in D minor (SF 935 - Op.1; first published in 1717). It is in three movements: I. Andante e spiccato; II. Adagio; and III. Presto. Marcel Ponseele (Baroque Oboe) is accompanied by the Ensemble “Il Gardellino”.

A slightly older contemporary of Antonio Vivaldi, Alessandro Marcello held concerts at his hometown of Venice. He composed and published several sets of concertos, including six concertos under the title of ‘La Cetra’ (The Lyre), as well as cantatas, arias, canzonets, and violin sonatas. Marcello often composed under the pseudonym Eterio Stinfalico, his name as a member of the celebrated Arcadian Academy (Pontificia Accademia degli Arcadi). He died in Padua in 1747. Alessandro's brother was Benedetto Marcello (1686~1739), also a composer.

Although his works are infrequently performed today, Marcello is regarded as a very competent composer. His ‘La Cetra’ concertos according to Grove are “unusual for their wind solo parts, concision and use of counterpoint within a broadly Vivaldian style, placing them as a last outpost of the classic Venetian Baroque concerto”.

This concerto Marcello wrote in D minor for oboe, strings and basso continuo is perhaps his best-known work. The absolutely delightful middle movement is often played alone, but it wonderfully complemented by the two outer movements. Its worth was attested to by Johann Sebastian Bach who transcribed it for harpsichord (BWV 974).

Friday, 1 November 2013


“Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.” - Nelson Mandela
It’s All Saints Day today and to celebrate it we baked raisin bread. This is a relatively easy recipe that always turns out well. The secret is to let the dough rise sufficiently in order to have a soft bread.
Melted butter, for greasing and brushing
250g plain white flour
250g plain wholemeal flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground allspice
2 tsp (7g/1 sachet) dried yeast
1 tsp sugar
1.5 tsp salt
175mL lukewarm water
100 mL lukewarm milk
1 cup sugar
1 cup sultanas/raisins
2/3 cup vegetable oil
Extra water, for brushing

  1. Brush a 10 x 20cm loaf pan with the melted butter to lightly grease. Measure all your ingredients.
  2. Dissolve the yeast, sugar and a pinch of salt in the lukewarm water and stir to mix. Add a little flour to make a batter. Leave to rise.
  3. Add the sugar to the lukewarm milk and dissolve to stir well. Mix with the risen batter.
  4. Place the flour, salt and spices in a large bowl and mix well to combine. Add the sultanas/raisins.
  5. Make a well in the centre and add the batter to the dry ingredients and mix well. Add more warm water to make a very soft dough.
  6. Add the oil to the dough and knead to incorporate it, until smooth and elastic.
  7. Shape the dough into a ball. Brush a large bowl with the melted butter to grease. Place the dough into the bowl and turn it over to lightly coat the dough surface with the butter.
  8. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and then place it in a warm, draught-free place to allow the dough to rise.
  9. Leave the dough to prove until it is double its size, between 45-75 minutes at 30˚C. When the dough is ready, it will retain a finger imprint when lightly pressed.
  10. Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down in the centre with your fist and knead on a lightly floured surface again for 2-3 minutes or until smooth and elastic and returned to its original size.
  11. Preheat oven to 200°C.
  12. Punch the dough down and shape into a loaf. Place the dough in the greased loaf pan. Brush lightly with the melted butter. Stand the pan in a warm, draught-free place, as before, for about 30 minutes or until the dough has risen about 1cm about the top of the pan.
  13. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until golden and cooked through.
  14. Turn the loaf immediately onto a wire rack and allow to cool.Once cool, store the loaf in a well-ventilated place at room temperature.

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

Thursday, 31 October 2013


“Everything I do from now on, I’ll have a mustache. I can promise you that. I don’t care who I have to convince. If you see me with a mustache in a movie or on stage in the future, you’ll know that I pitched the idea.” - Ty Burrell

Tomorrow, the first day of November begins the “Movember” campaign, which encourages men to grow moustaches for the month in order to raise funds and awareness for men’s health. This has helped raise the profile of prostate cancer and encourages men to see their general practitioner and get tested for prostate cancer. Statistics such as “one in eight Australian men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime” provide an impetus for men to be aware of the disease and do their utmost to get screened and be treated at an early stage fi they need to be.

Of course, prostate disease is not the only reason for Movember. Testicular cancer, mental and health issues affect men in high numbers and these diseases also are highlighted during the month, with an emphasis on diagnosis, treatment and raising of funds for research. Movember challenges men to grow a moustache for the 30-days of November, thereby changing their appearance and the face of men’s health.

In October Mo Bros sign up at, and on the 1st of November with a clean-shaven face start their Mo growing journey. Then for the entire month, these men known as “Mo Bros”, effectively become walking, talking billboards for 30 days. Through their mustache growing efforts they raise awareness for the often ignored issues of men’s health, by prompting conversations wherever they go.

Another crucial part of being a Mo Bro is to raise funds for men’s health. Men donate their face, and much like taking part in a run or a walk for charity, ask their family and friends to sponsor their efforts. Movember’s not just for men. The women of Movember are known as “Mo Sistas”. They play a vital role in the success of Movember by supporting and encouraging the men in their life to get involved. Mo Sistas also get involved by signing up at, and participate by raising funds and awareness themselves. Essentially, Mo Sistas do everything that Mo Bros do, without a mustache.

Since its humble beginnings in 2003 in Melbourne, Australia, Movember has grown to become a truly global movement inspiring more than 3 million Mo Bros and Mo Sistas to participate across 21 countries worldwide. In 2012, over 1.1 million people around the world joined the movement, raising AUS $141.5 million.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


“It’s said that All Hallows’ Eve is one of the nights when the veil between the worlds is thin - and whether you believe in such things or not, those roaming spirits probably believe in you, or at least acknowledge your existence, considering that it used to be their own. Even the air feels different on Halloween, autumn-crisp and bright.” - Erin Morgenstern

Tomorrow is Halloween, which is the last night of the Celtic year and is the night associated with witchcraft, fairies, elves and wicked spirits.  In countries where the Celtic influence is strong, customs surrounding Halloween are still current and relate to pagan rituals celebrating the beginning of the Winter cycle.  Tales of witches and ghosts are told, bonfires are lit, fortune-telling and mumming are practiced.  Masquerading is the order of the night, making of jack-o-lanterns and the playing of games pass the hours pleasantly. Bobbing for apples in a tub of water is an age-old custom.  These pagan practices have been incorporated into the Christian tradition through association with All Saints’ Day on November the first.

The seasonal association of the apple with Halloween goes back even to Roman times.  November 1st was the time when the Romans celebrated Pomona’s festival.  She was the goddess of orchards and ripe maturity.  Her festival was the time to rejoice in the fruits of the season and also the time to open up the Summer stores for Winter use.  In Celtic tradition the apple was the fruit of the Silver Bough of the Otherworld and symbolised love, fertility, wisdom and divination. The hazel was a sacred Celtic tree and the hazelnut symbolised wisdom, peace and love. A hazel tree grew by the sacred pool of Avalon and was described as the Tree of Life.

As Halloween is the night when witches and evil spirits, the souls of the dead and wicked fairy folk roam the earth, numerous superstitions surround the night and have as a characteristic and apotropaic or protective function.  The fire on the household hearth should on no account be left to die on this night, else evil spirits will descend down the chimney.  Bonfires were lit on hilltops to drive off witches.  Purification by fire ordained that people jumped over the flames, in some parts even cattle driven through the embers.  In some parts many an unfortunate old woman was burnt in these fires because she was suspected to be a witch.  The fires of purification were called Samhnagan.  Often, food offerings were left out for the fairies on this night.  Travelling was to be avoided at all costs as one could be led astray by the spirits and fairies.  If one had to go out, pieces of iron or cold steel were carried on one’s person as a repellent against witchcraft.
            Hey how for Hallow E’en
            A’ the witches tae be seen
            Some in black and some in green
            Hey how for Hallow E’en.

Other traditions surrounding Samhain (i.e. November 1st and beginning of Winter), involved the reversal of order and normal values, the reign of chaos.  This involved deriding figures of authority, hurling abuse and cabbages at notable people, playing tricks and practical jokes on friends and relatives.  Parties of “guisers” went around from house to house collecting apples, nuts or money while riding a hobby horse or carrying a horse’s head.  The association of the horse with this festival may go back to the ancient Roman festival of the October Horse, the last of the harvest feasts.  Such customs are still very active in some countries, especially the USA, where Halloween has been revived with vigour, no doubt because of its appeal but also because of commercial potential.

It was customary at this time of dying vegetation and the fall of the year to decorate houses with evergreens such as holly, fir or mistletoe.  This harks back to druidic tradition, which ritualised Autumn’s passage into Winter, the evergreen being a reminder that all was not lost, and life went on, ever vigilant of the return of Spring.  Pliny records a Druidic ritual where the mistletoe was cut with a golden sickle, to fall onto a white cloak and not allowed to touch the ground.  Two white bulls were sacrificed and a feast held.  The ritual sacrifice and slaughter of animals at this time was also seen in Gaul and Teutonic lands.  It was as much a Winter feast and laying in of Winter stores as it was also a killing of animals to conserve the meagre fodder during the harsh Winter months.

In even older times, human sacrifice was practised and this was to appease the Winter gods and to ensure the return of Spring and bring fertility.  The Welsh festival of the Black Sow held at this time is a vestige of the human sacrifice rituals.  The whole village ran down a hillside as fast as each could, shouting all the while: “Black Sow take the hindermost!”. The last person down the hill was the victim to be claimed by the Black Sow, the spirit of evil, cold and death.

Samhain was also a time of peace and all forms of violence, warring and fighting being suspended.  No divorces were allowed, making it therefore a time for celebrating marriages.  This also made it a time of the year when all sorts of love oracles were performed. A form of love divination was practised in Scotland and Northern England with hazelnuts on this night.  A group of young unmarried women gathered around the fire and each took a hazelnut and threw it into the flames, saying:
            If you love me, pop and fly,
            If you don’t lie and die.

She then started to recite the names of possible suitors, her husband being indicated by the popping of the nut in the flames.  A variation on this practised in Wales was the throwing into the flames of apple pips by two lovers.  The same rhyme as above was recited and if the two pips popped simultaneously the lovers would marry happily.  If the two pips exploded at different times, the two lovers would part.

Another divination involved a young woman taking a candle and going alone into a dark room with an apple.  The candle was placed in front of the mirror and the apple was consumed while the woman combed her hair, looking into the mirror all the while.  The face of the woman’s future lover (or of the Devil!) would then appear over her shoulder.


Tuesday, 29 October 2013


“We don’t live in the Garden. We live far from Eden. Every life is full of heartaches. Every life, frankly, is unspeakably sad.” - John Eldredge

“Le Jardin de la France” by surrealist painter Max Ernst is this week’s visual stimulus for Magpie Tales’ followers who take the challenge to  create verbally a suitable response. My offering follows the artist biography.

Max Ernst (born April 2, 1891, Bruhl, Germany; died April 1, 1976, Paris) was a German artist. He enrolled in the University at Bonn in 1909 to study philosophy, but soon abandoned this pursuit to concentrate on art. At this time he was interested in psychology and the art of the mentally ill. In 1911 Ernst became a friend of August Macke and joined the Rheinische Expressionisten group in Bonn. Ernst showed for the first time in 1912 at the Galerie Feldman in Cologne. At the Sonderbund exhibition of that year in Cologne he saw the work of Paul Cézanne, Edvard Munch, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent van Gogh. In 1913 he met Guillaume Apollinaire and Robert Delaunay and traveled to Paris. Ernst participated that same year in the Erste deutsche Herbstsalon.

In 1914 he met Jean Arp, who was to become a lifelong friend.Despite military service throughout World War I, Ernst was able to continue painting and to exhibit in Berlin at Der Sturm in 1916. He returned to Cologne in 1918. The next year he produced his first collages and founded the short-lived Cologne Dada movement with Johannes Theodor Baargeld; they were joined by Arp and others. In 1921 Ernst exhibited for the first time in Paris, at the Galerie au Sans Pareil.

He was involved in Surrealist activities in the early 1920s with Paul Éluard and André Breton. In 1925 Ernst executed his first frottages; a series of frottages was published in his book ‘Histoire Naturelle’ in 1926. He collaborated with Joan Miró on designs for Sergei Diaghilev that same year. The first of his collage-novels, ‘La Femme 100 Têtes’, was published in 1929. The following year the artist collaborated with Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel on the film ‘L’ Age d’ Or’.

His first American show was held at the Julien Levy Gallery, New York, in 1932. In 1936 Ernst was represented in Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 1939 he was interned in France as an enemy alien. Two years later Ernst fled to the United States with Peggy Guggenheim, whom he married early in 1942. After their divorce he married Dorothea Tanning and in 1953 resettled in France. Ernst received the Grand Prize for painting at the Venice Biennale in 1954, and in 1975 the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum gave him a major retrospective, which traveled in modified form to the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, in 1975. He died on April 1, 1976, in Paris.

Love’s Sacrifice

When first my heart was opened up
A garden blossomed on my lips;
Love did my selfishness eclipse
And sunshine filled my empty cup.

I was an angel soaring high above
I gave you wings, a key to paradise;
While you disdainfully raised your price,
Selling your heart, and spurning love.

To love and you, all did I sacrifice
I severed wings, and fell to earth
Believing in your innate worth,
Yet all I gave you did not suffice,

And your voracious greed would not be sated
Until my very soul was in your hands.
Now is my garden buried under burning sands,
My angel wings lie broken, desecrated.

What was so pure, so holy, freely given
Discarded lies in some dirty gutter.
The candle flame will flicker, sputter,
My very soul wrested from me, riven…

Monday, 28 October 2013


“When a white army battles Indians and wins, it is called a great victory, but if they lose it is called a massacre.” - Chiksika, Shawnee

When I was young I read the classics of literature, some appropriate for my age, others not so. One of them I remember vividly was James Fenimore Cooper’s “The Last of the Mohicans”. This was a rollicking tale quite exotic and full of adventure, battle and a plot full of incident and brave deeds. After reading it, I remember also a version of the same novel falling into my hands in the “Classics Illustrated” series – remember those? As a consequence, the novel stayed relatively fresh in my mind, well into my adulthood. And so often it is with the classics – we read them at a young age and then they get relegated to the depths of the bookcase, to remain there and not get re-read.

When I caught sight of the Michael Mann 1992 movie of “The Last of the Mohicans” starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe and Russell Means, I smiled and had to get it to watch as it conjured up visions of my youth and flights of my imagination. The film did not disappoint, and sure enough it stirred up my memories and the tale was told well enough cinematically.

The plot takes place in the mid-1700s in the Canadian/USA border where British and French troops do battle in colonial America, with aid from various native American war parties who have sided according to different loyalties. The British troops enlist the help of local colonial militia men, who are reluctant to leave their homes undefended. A budding romance between a British officer’s daughter and an independent man who was reared as a Mohican complicates things for the British officer, as the adopted Mohican pursues his own agenda despite the wrath of different people on both sides of the conflict.

There is plenty of spectacle in the movie, carefully orchestrated battle scenes, hand-to-hand combat, adventurous escapades, trekking through the wild frontier and lots of noble derring-do as the forces of good do battle with evil, personified by Magua (Wes Studi), the Indian with a grudge against the British who killed his family. It’s interesting that some Indians are represented as noble and good and others as evil and scheming – rather than the typical Western where the Indians are all savages hell-bent on rampaging and killing and scalping. The British get a rather bad write-up as well, with the French being depicted as wily and diplomatic. The colonials are the stock “good guys” – perhaps with good reason, given the way that they were taken advantage of by the ruling British.

Academy Award Winner Daniel Day Lewis does a great job as Hawkeye, the legendary warrior who encourages the Colonial militia to desert and is definitely the hero of the movie. Madeleine Stowe plays Cora with fiery strength and sensitivity when she needs to, a perfect foil to Day Lewis’s Hawkeye. Jodhi May is the blonde Alice, Cora’s younger timid sister, who manages to rise up to the challenge of the final scenes of the movie with great aplomb. Russell Means is powerful as the Mohican elder Chingachgook who acts as point of reference for all that is noble and good in the Native American. Wes Studi plays Magua, the infamous Huron Indian, perfect as the strong, vibrant villain consumed with hatred. The cast is directed well by Mann, who keeps the pace furious and well-suited to the breathes action of the text.

Overall we enjoyed this movie quite a lot, although it was quite violent and graphic in parts (yes there are scalping scenes!). Definitely one for those rainy Sunday afternoons where one needs a good rollicking film to watch.

Sunday, 27 October 2013


“My mother said to me, ‘If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.’ Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso.” - Pablo Picasso
Pablo Ruiz y Picasso, known as Pablo Picasso (25 October 1881 – 8 April 1973) was a Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer who spent most of his adult life in France. As one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century, he is known for co-founding the Cubist movement, the invention of constructed sculpture, the co-invention of collage, and for the wide variety of styles that he helped develop and explore. Among his most famous works are the proto-Cubist “Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon” (1907), and “Guernica” (1937), a portrayal of the German bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.
Picasso, Henri Matisse and Marcel Duchamp are regarded as the three artists who most defined the revolutionary developments in the plastic arts in the opening decades of the 20th century, responsible for significant developments in painting, sculpture, printmaking and ceramics. Picasso demonstrated extraordinary artistic talent in his early years, painting in a realistic manner through his childhood and adolescence. During the first decade of the 20th century, his style changed as he experimented with different theories, techniques, and ideas. His revolutionary artistic accomplishments brought him universal renown and immense fortune, making him one of the best-known figures in 20th-century art.
Picasso was born in a poor family in southern Spain and after some early training with his father, a provincial drawing teacher, Picasso showed that he had thoroughly grasped naturalistic conventions at a very young age. After some incomplete sessions of art school in Barcelona and Madrid, Picasso spent his adolescence associating with the group of Catalan modernists who gathered at Els Quatre Gats in Barcelona. From there he moved to Paris, where he quickly found like-minded poets and painters. His work began to attract serious critical attention and praise by the time he was twenty.
His first mature work, dating from this time, around 1901, is classified as his Blue Period. He painted itinerant performers, vagrants, and prostitutes, all in tones of blue. Important early works include his “Self- Portrait” (1901) and “La Vie” (1903). As Picasso spent more time in Paris, his painting developed, and as he began to meet the right people, his mood lifted. His subject matter remained much the same, but his tones became warmer, or rosier, and the atmosphere of his paintings more optimistic. This is Picasso’s Rose Period, but really there was no marked technical change between this and the Blue Period; this phase of the development of his work is more like a cheerful coda to his Blue Period than a separate period.
In Paris, his life was punctuated by his association with several “mistress-muses”; women in his life who were his most consistent inspiration, as he reshaped their bodies in the boldest formal experiments. He always saw painting as a kind of sexual activity; he would trace back new styles in his painting to the inspiring appearance of a new mistress. Unfortunately, while his girlfriends were such a valuable impetus to his art, they seldom emerged from their association with him unscathed. Jacqueline Roque and Marie-Thérese Walter committed suicide, and Olga Koklova and Dora Maar became mentally unhinged. While Picasso’s relationships imbued life into his painting, they often destroyed the lives of the women involved.
Acquiring the valuable patronage of the American siblings Leo and Gertrude Stein, Picasso soaked in all the experimental energy of the Parisian art scene and, inspired by other French painters, especially Cézanne, and also the “primitive” art of Africa and the Pacific. Picasso began to create for himself a radically new style exemplified by his “Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon” (1907), which is perhaps the most revolutionary painting of the century. This prepared the ground for Cubism, a style Picasso developed in collaboration with another painter, Georges Braque.
Demolishing the traditional conception of pictorial space, Picasso and Braque painted objects as facets of an analysis, rather than as unified objects; they wanted to paint as they thought, not as they saw. This period of their work is called Analytical Cubism, and Picasso’s work in this style formed a kind of progression over the years.
The next innovation in cubism, a joint effort between Picasso and Braque, was Synthetic Cubism. Here, the defining characteristic was collage, a technique never before used in fine art; Picasso’s “Still Life with Chair Caning” (1912) is the first example. This new method allowed Picasso to play with the detritus of modern life, the handbills and the newspapers and other such cast-offs of the metropolis, which had never before been satisfactorily incorporated into the visual arts.
Picasso made valuable contributions to art throughout his entire life, but it was the invention of Cubism that secured his immortality. His later work, in a proliferation of styles, from Surrealist to neo-classical, shows that his artistic vitality transcends any one style. Remarkably prolific, no single technique or medium could contain the artist’s apparently boundless energy. He was one of the few artists who was remarkably successful during his long lifetime and he sphere of influence is still active today.
The detail from his “Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon” above shows off Picasso’s brilliant innovation to the maximum. The work portrays five nude female prostitutes from a brothel on Carrer d'Avinyó (Avinyó Street) in Barcelona. Each figure is depicted in a disconcerting confrontational manner and none are conventionally feminine. The women appear as slightly menacing and rendered with angular and disjointed body shapes. Elements of “primitive” art in the form of African masks, references to ancient Iberian statuary and bold colours with fluid line are synthesised into expanses of surface that begin to be broken up, fragmented into the cubist forms that will characterise the painter's style for several years hence.