Saturday, 23 January 2016


“Music was invented to confirm human loneliness.” - Lawrence Durrell

Johann Wilhelm Hertel (9 October 1727 – 14 June 1789) was a German composer, harpsichord and violin player. He was born in Eisenach, into a family of musicians. His father, Johann Christian Hertel (1697-1754) was Konzertmeister (from 1733) and director of music at the Eisenach court, while his grandfather, Jakob Christian Hertel (ca. 1667-ca. 1726), had been Kapellmeister in Oettingen and later Merseburg.

At an early age Johann Wilhelm accompanied his father, an accomplished viol player, on tour at the harpsichord. He also learned the violin, which he studied with Franz Benda. In 1742 he came with his father to Mecklenburg-Strelitz where he was active playing both instruments. Among his pupils there was Carl Friedrich Christian Fasch (1736-1800). After further music studies in Zerbst and Berlin, Hertel moved to the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, where he made a successful career, initially as principal and later becoming court composer, and likewise undertaking teaching.

During the reign of Duke Christian Ludwig II, Hertel wrote primarily representative instrumental music, while during the reign of his successor, Frederick II (called 'the pious') he focussed on sacred music. In 1770 he was appointed court counsellor and served also as private secretary to princess Ulrike.

He died in Schwerin. Hertel wrote a great number of symphonies, solo concertos, harpsichord sonatas, songs, hymns, cantatas and oratorios. He is considered an important representative of the ‘emotional style’ of the German pre-classical era.

Here is his Oboe Concerto in G minor, played by Meike Güldenhaupt, oboe, accompanied by the Main-Barockorchester Frankfurt.
I: Allegro 00:00
II: Largo 08:33
III: Allegro 14:10

Friday, 22 January 2016


“A compromise is the art of dividing a cake in such a way that everyone believes he has the biggest piece.” - Ludwig Erhard

I have fond memories of my grandmother baking Madeira cake, from a recipe she got from an English friend of hers. The cake has a firm yet light texture. It is eaten with tea or (occasionally) for breakfast and is traditionally flavoured with lemon. Dating back to an original recipe in the 18th or 19th century, Madeira cake is similar to a pound cake or yellow cake.

It is sometimes mistakenly thought to originate from the Madeira Islands; however, that is not the case as it was instead named after Madeira wine, a Portuguese wine from the islands, which was popular in England at the time and was often served with the cake.

Ingredients, Cake
175 g butter, softened
160 g caster sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 eggs, at room temperature
115g self-raising flour
55g almond meal
60ml lemon juice
Lemon icing
230g icing sugar mixture, sifted
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 160°C. Grease and line the base and sides of an 8 x 20cm loaf pan.
Use an electric mixer to beat butter, sugar, lemon rind and cinnamon in a bowl until pale and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour, almond meal and lemon juice and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.
Spoon into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.
To make icing, combine icing sugar and juice in a small bowl to form a runny paste. Pour over top of cake, allowing it to drizzle down the sides. Allow icing to set for 1 hour.

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Thursday, 21 January 2016


“To the Elysian shades dismiss my soul, where no carnation fades.” - Alexander Pope

Dianthus caryophyllus, carnation or clove pink, is a common garden flower and popular florist’s flower in the family Caryophyllaceae. It is probably native to the Mediterranean region but its exact range is unknown due to extensive cultivation for the last 2,000 years. It is a herbaceous perennial plant growing to 80 cm tall. The leaves are glaucous greyish green to blue-green, slender, up to 15 cm long. The flowers are produced singly or up to five together in a cyme; they are 3–5 cm diameter, and sweetly scented; the original natural flower colour is bright pinkish-purple, but cultivars of other colours, including red, white, yellow and green, have been developed. Some fragrance-less carnation cultivars are often used as boutonnières for men.

Carnations were mentioned in Greek literature 2,000 years ago. “Dianthus” was coined by Greek botanist Theophrastus, and is derived from the Greek words for Zeus (genitive “Dios”) and flower (“anthos”). Some scholars believe that the name “carnation” comes from "coronation" or "corone" (flower garlands), as it was one of the flowers used in Greek ceremonial crowns. Others think the name stems from the Latin “caro” (genitive “carnis” = flesh), which refers to the original colour of the flower, or perhaps from “incarnatio” (incarnation), which refers to the incarnation of God made flesh.

According to a Christian legend, carnations first appeared on earth as Jesus carried the Cross. Carnations sprang up from where the Virgin Mary’s tears fell as she cried over her son’s plight. Miss. Anna Jarvis (founder of Mother’s Day) used carnations at the first Mother’s Day celebration because carnations were her mother’s favourite flower. In the USA and Canada, carnations are still popular Mother’s Day flowers representing a mother’s love. A red carnation may be worn if one’s mother is alive, and a white one if she has died.

In the language of flowers, a bouquet of multi-coloured carnations signifies “fascination” and a woman’s love (except in France, where they stand for misfortune and bad luck). Red carnations mean “deep love”, while light red carnations carry the meaning “admiration”. Pink carnations are symbolic of maternal love, while white carnations mean pure love and good luck. On the other hand, striped carnations have a negative meaning of refusal and regret, while yellow carnations mean disappointment and dejection. Purple carnations mean capriciousness and green carnations are associated with the festivities of St Patrick’s Day. Violet and lilac-coloured carnations signify novelty and enchantment.

At the University of Oxford, carnations are traditionally worn to all examinations; white for the first exam, pink for exams in between, and red for the last exam. One story explaining this tradition relates that initially a white carnation was kept in a red inkpot between exams, so by the last exam it was fully red. Red carnations worn or carried on May Day symbolise revolutionary feelings and sympathies with the labour movement. Green carnations are also a symbol of homosexuality and they were worn famously by Oscar Wilde and Noël Coward.

Carnations grow readily from cuttings made from the suckers that form around the base of the stem, the side shoots of the flowering stem, or the main shoots before they show flower-buds. The cuttings from the base make the best plants in most cases. These cuttings may be taken from a plant at any time through Autumn or Winter, rooted in sand and potted up. They may be put in pots until the planting out time in Spring, which is usually in April or in any time when the ground is ready to be handled. The soil should be deep, friable and sandy loam.

Carnations need some hours of full sun each day and should be kept moist. Avoid over-watering as this may tend to turn the foliage yellow. Spent flowers should be removed promptly to promote continued blooming. The quality of the bloom depends on the soil and irrigation aspects for growing carnations. Those who grow carnations should know the importance of pinching, stopping and disbudding. At the time of plucking carnations, leave three to four nodes at the base and remove the stem. The plant foliage should not be exposed to the direct heat of a stove or the sun.

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016


“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” - Edmund Hillary

For this week’s theme, Poets United is featuring “Mountains”. My contribution below:

Geography Lesson

I know a desert much vaster, more arid than the Sahara;
An ocean deeper, greater, more extensive than the Pacific,
A mountain higher, grander, more proud than Everest.

I know a place much quieter, more deserted than the deepest sea;
A place much colder, far more desolate than the Arctic,
More lonely, more forlorn than even the tiniest of desert isles.

A vast parched plain are my lips deprived of your kiss;
An endless ocean are my tears that will not dry,
A haughty pinnacle my pride that will not forgive you.

My loneliness a wordless, silent void;
My heart, a frozen, icy wasteland as you left it;
And as for my existence, that still at least remains,

That tiny desert isle that you but once almost visited...

Tuesday, 19 January 2016


“I would rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth.” - Steve McQueen

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.

Kuala Lumpur is the national capital and most populous global city in Malaysia. The city covers an area of 243 km2 and has an estimated population of 1.6 million as of 2010. Greater Kuala Lumpur, covering similar area as the Klang Valley, is an urban agglomeration of 7.5 million people as of 2012. It is among the fastest growing metropolitan regions in South-East Asia, in terms of population and economy. Kuala Lumpur is the seat of the Parliament of Malaysia.

The city was once home to the executive and judicial branches of the federal government, but they were moved to Putrajaya in early 1999. Some sections of the judiciary still remain in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. The official residence of the Malaysian King, the Istana Negara, is also situated in Kuala Lumpur. Rated as an alpha world city, Kuala Lumpur is the cultural, financial and economic centre of Malaysia due to its position as the capital as well as being a key city. Kuala Lumpur was ranked 48th among global cities by Foreign Policy's 2010 Global Cities Index and was ranked 67th among global cities for economic and social innovation by the 2thinknow Innovation Cities Index in 2010.

Kuala Lumpur is defined within the borders of the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur and is one of three Malaysian Federal Territories. It is an enclave within the state of Selangor, on the central west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Since the 1990s, the city has played host to many international sporting, political and cultural events including the 1998 Commonwealth Games and the Formula One Grand Prix. In addition, Kuala Lumpur is home to the tallest twin buildings in the world, the Petronas Twin Towers, which have become an iconic symbol of Malaysia's futuristic development.

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

Please link your entry using the Linky tool below:

Monday, 18 January 2016


“Science fiction writers foresee the inevitable, and although problems and catastrophes may be inevitable, solutions are not.” - Isaac Asimov

I was wary about Christopher Nolan’s 2014 movie Interstellar before watching it, as his 2010 film “Inception” had disappointed me greatly (see my review here). However, after watching this 169 minute epic at the weekend I was pleasantly surprised. The screenplay was by the two Nolan brothers, Christopher and Jonathan, and the film starred Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Matt Damon and David Gyasi.

'Interstellar' is the story of a future earth dystopia, where climate change and a plant blight does not allow crops other than corn to grow. Worsening conditions and disease amongst the population mean that humanity’s extinction is almost certain. The hero of the movie is an ex-NASA test pilot named Cooper (McConaughey), who is a widower, and a dedicated family man (now corn farmer as all scientific jobs have been scrapped). He has two children, and is especially partial towards his bright daughter Murphy (named after Murphy’s Law). Cooper is invited by the now covert and top secret NASA to become humanity’s last hope in finding a new home, as a wormhole has appeared near Saturn. This provides a portal that will warp a spaceship to another galaxy in quest of a habitable planet. Heading the project is Professor Brand (Caine), a brilliant physicist, whose daughter (Hathaway) is also an astronaut that accompanies Copper on his mission.

This is an intelligent science fiction movie, not one based on pyrotechnics and arcade-style shoot-‘em-up chases in space. Although one has to suspend scientific belief now and then, most of the science is valid and to their credit, the Nolans did consult with astrophysicists when writing the script and making the movie. Relativity and the way that time becomes elastic for those who travel very fast through space is significant in the storyline. Alternate universes where more than three dimensions exist are also explored in the film. However, more importantly, the film’s main focus is that of love. How important is love to human beings and what are we capable of doing to ensure the safety of those we love. There are other themes, including the gregariousness of humans and the scourge of loneliness, the concept of heroism and altruism, especially as they relate to the good of society and humanity as opposed to the good of any one individual, and how honest are we as individuals, as organisations as a species…

The acting in the movie is excellent, with McConaughey pulling out all stops and delivering a suitably heroic performance, although his first allegiance script-wise is to the concept of fatherhood. Hathaway looks prematurely aged in the film and is quite a far cry from the ingénue roles of her early career. She plays her role convincingly and has good chemistry with McConaughey, although their relationship is not one of lovers. Caine in his old age has mellowed and as one would expect delivers his lines well and looks the part of a brilliant if flawed scientist. The musical score is brilliant and composer Hans Zimmer, adds considerably to the action, but even more importantly underlines the emotional motivation of the characters. The cinematography and special effects were of the standard one expects nowadays of Hollywood and were suitably unobtrusive so that they did not detract from the meat of the movie.

Nolan has made some very interesting and in some cases extremely good films. Some say “Inception” would be his masterpiece, but I beg to differ. Other people would say it’s “The Dark Knight”, or “Memento”. His remake of the Norwegian thriller, “Insomnia”, was excellent, not something that one can always say about remakes. His vision of the “Batman” sagas, starting with “Batman Begins”, is a gem of the super hero genre. There are many others, with a favourite of mine “The Prestige”, adapted from the novel of the same name, which is dark and disturbing, although quite entertaining.

We thoroughly enjoyed the movie and even if there are some inconsistencies and flaws in it, one can overlook them, as in totality this is an emotionally satisfying film and one that gets the viewer to think a little, going beyond simple entertainment and eye-candy value of many of the standard science fiction films.

Sunday, 17 January 2016


“I dream of painting and then I paint my dream.” - Vincent Van Gogh

Claude Émile Schuffenecker (1851 - 1934) was a French Post-Impressionist artist, painter, art teacher and art collector. A friend of Paul Gauguin and Odilon Redon, and one of the first collectors of works by Vincent van Gogh, Schuffenecker was instrumental in establishing the Volpini exhibition, in 1889. His own work, however, tends to have been neglected since his death – and even worse, recent season campaigns in the media have reactivated resentments virulent since the late 1920s, when Schuffenecker was suspected to have imitated the work of other contemporary artists, among them, Van Gogh. Still a contentious issue, it has not been established whether he produced forgeries…

The artist was born in the Franche-Comté, and his father, a tailor originating from Guewenheim (Alsace, today Haut-Rhin), died when Émile was little more than two years old; the same year his brother Amédée was born in Charentenay (Haut-Rhin). The widow with her two boys moved to Meudon, close to Paris, where part of her mother’s family lived, and where she had found work at a laundry. In the years to follow Emile was raised by his mother’s sister, Anne Fauconnet Monnet, and her husband Pierre Cornu in Paris, educated by the Frères des Ecoles chrétiennes, and started work in his uncle’s business, a chocolate and coffee-roasting facility in the Les Halles quarter.

Émile Schuffenecker studied with Paul Baudry in Paris in 1870, and later met Paul Gauguin when both worked at the stock brokerage firm of Bertin. He remained close friends with Gauguin throughout his life, and an extensive correspondence between the two artists survives. The stock market crash of 1882 led Schuffenecker to abandon his career as a stockbroker, and to support himself as an art teacher; a career he maintained, alongside his work as an artist, until 1914. In 1884 Schuffenecker was one of the founders of the Société des Artistes Indépendants and, along with Albert Dubois-Pillet and Odilon Redon, signed the statutes of the organisation.

Among the artists exhibiting at the inaugural Salon des Indépendants was Georges Seurat, whose work greatly impressed Schuffenecker. Two years later, Seurat’s painting of A Sunday Afternoon on the Grande Jatte was exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants to immense popular interest and critical attention, alongside works by Paul Signac, Henri-Edmond Cross and other Neo-Impressionists. Schuffenecker, who himself briefly painted in a pointilliste manner, was invited to take part in the eighth and final Impressionist exhibition in 1886.

He began to sell his paintings around 1888, after Theo Van Gogh held an exhibition of his work, alongside that of Gauguin and Federico Zandomeneghi, at the Boussod & Valadon gallery in Paris. The following year Schuffenecker organised an exhibition at the Café Volpini of paintings by the Groupe Impressioniste et Synthésiste, including works by himself, Gauguin, Emile Bernard, Louis Anquetin and others. The only solo exhibition of Schuffenecker’s work to be held in his lifetime took place in 1896 at the Librarie de l’Art Indépendant in Paris, and included seventeen paintings, twenty-one pastels and three drawings.

Although by no means wealthy, Schuffenecker was able to support the careers of Gauguin, Emile Bernard and other artists, whose works he purchased. In time he came to own a large number of works by Gauguin, as well paintings by Cezanne and Van Gogh and drawings by Odilon Redon and Charles Filiger, although he was forced to sell his collection following his divorce in 1903. As an artist, Schuffenecker remains relatively little known today in comparison to Gauguin and some of his contemporaries, and only a handful of exhibitions have been devoted to him outside of France. Indeed, he remained relatively obscure even in his lifetime, once describing himself as a man who, ‘placed in the margin, made himself at home there, without bitterness, without desire.’

The portrait above, “Jeune femme à la robe rose”, of 1893 is in the Portland Art Museum. The sitter is the Comtesse Antoine de la Rochefoucauld and there is also a pastel drawing corresponding to the oil portrait above. Schuffenecker experimented much with his painting and his style underwent frequent changes, chameleon-like depending on the company he kept at the time…