Saturday, 29 June 2013


“Whether you like it or not, Paris is the beating heart of Western civilisation. It’s where it all began and ended.” - Alan Furst

As we progress towards the Southern Midwinter, it is good to be able to enjoy some sunny days, even though they are cold. The nights have been very cold with frost or fog, yet not unpleasant enough to not walk about in.

For Music Saturday, some gems from the French Baroque: Jean Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) for  L’ Orchestre du Roi Soleil. Symphonies, Ouvertures & Airs à jouer. “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme”; “Le Divertissement Royal”; “Alceste’; Chaconne de “L’ Amour Médecin” played by Le Concert des Nations directed by Jordi Savall. In Federation Square the other day a busker was playing one of the menuets from here. Just goes to show what a cultured place I live in!

Jean-Baptiste Lully (Italian: Giovanni Battista Lulli) 28 November 1632 – 22 March 1687, was a Florentine-born French composer who spent most of his life working in the court of Louis XIV of France. He is considered the chief master of the French baroque style. Lully disavowed any Italian influence in French music of the period. He became a French subject in 1661.

Lully’s music was written during the Middle Baroque period, 1650 to 1700. Typical of Baroque music is the use of the basso continuo as the driving force behind the music. The pitch standard for French Baroque music was about 392 Hz for A above middle C, a whole tone lower than modern practice where A is usually 440 Hz.  Lully’s music is known for its power, liveliness in its fast movements and its deep emotional character in its sad movements. Some of his most popular works are his passacaille (passacaglia) and chaconne, which are dance movements found in many of his works such as Armide or Phaëton.

The influence of Lully's music produced a radical revolution in the style of the dances of the court itself. In the place of the slow and stately movements, which had prevailed until then, he introduced lively ballets of rapid rhythm, often based on well-known dance types such as gavottes, menuets, rigaudons and sarabandes.

Through his collaboration with playwright Molière, a new music form emerged during the 1660s: the comédie-ballet which combined theatre, comedy, incidental music and ballet. The popularity of these plays, with their sometimes lavish special effects, and the success and publication of Lully’s operas and its diffusion beyond the borders of France, played a crucial role in synthesising, consolidating and disseminating orchestral organisation, scorings, performance practices, and repertory.

Friday, 28 June 2013


“Once you get a spice in your home, you have it forever. Women never throw out spices. The Egyptians were buried with their spices. I know which one I'm taking with me when I go.” - Erma Bombeck

Garam masala (from Hindi: Garam “hot” and masala “spices”) is a blend of ground spices common in North Indian and other South Asian cuisines. It is used alone or with other seasonings. The word garam refers to intensity of the spices rather than capsaicin content. A typical Indian version of garam masala is: Black & white peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, black and white cumin seeds, black, brown and green cardamom pods, mace and bay leaf.

Some recipes call for spices to be blended with herbs, while others for the spices to be ground with water, vinegar, coconut milk, or other liquids, to make a paste. In some recipes nuts, onion or garlic may be added. The flavours may be carefully blended to achieve a balanced effect, or a single flavour may be emphasised. Usually a masala is toasted before use to release its flavour and aromas. Here is a vegetarian recipe, which I got from friends of ours after enjoying it at a dinner at their house.

Vegetarian Masala


3 cm long piece of fresh ginger, washed, peeled, sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 can peeled tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 small yellow capsicum, diced
1 small green capsicum, diced
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, sliced
1 and 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
350 g cauliflower florets
1/2 cup coconut milk


Process ginger and garlic in food processor until finely chopped. Add tomatoes with juice and cayenne pepper, and pulse until combined. Set aside.

Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and capsicum, and sauté 10 minutes, or until softened. Stir in potatoes, carrots, cauliflower florets, garam masala, and chilli powder. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add tomato mixture, and 1/2 cup water. Simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in coconut milk. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with steamed rice.

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

Thursday, 27 June 2013


“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” - Plato
Well, Australian politics has once again proven that it is a volatile, yet not unpredictable, arena of power games. On the 24th of June 2010, Kevin Rudd elected Prime Minister of the Labor Party is ousted form leadership by his deputy Julia Gillard who assumed the top job, becoming Australia’s first female Prime Minister. For nearly two years, Rudd and Gillard have been playing power games, garnering support in a Government that is hanging on the edge of a precarious, small majority. Various political scandals, leaks, squabbles and leadership speculation have made the Labor Party seem like a spent force in the political stakes and the alternative on the side of the Liberals is not an option that many Labor supporters would consider as an alternative on election day, especially given the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott never a popular choice as Prime Minister.
On the 27th of February 2012, Julia Gillard won a leadership poll quite comfortably, with Rudd getting 29 votes to her 73 votes of support in the Labor Caucus. On the 30th of January Gillard announced a September 12th election this year. This marked the beginning of the end of hopes of a Labor party re-election with litmus test polls making it quite clear that she could never lead the Labor party to a win in this poll.
On June 26th Kevin Rudd was re-elected as Prime Minister by the Labor Caucus defeating Julia Gillard 57 to 45 votes. Rudd has taken back the PM position, three years to the week after he was pushed out. It is easy to imagine that Kevin Rudd may think that this has all been about righting a wrong, seizing back what was his “by right”. He did say in the press conference immediately after the ballot results were announced: “In 2007 the Australian people elected me to be their PM. That is the task that I resume today …” The leadership squabble has been costly to the party and contributed to, although is not responsible for, Gillard’s failures. This has not surprisingly, led to Gillard’s announcement about her retirement from politics.
These events of the past three years have highlighted that the Australian Labor Party nationally has experienced its most rancorous divisions since the split of the 1950s. The present situation, contrary to the split of the 1950s, involves the party in government, as opposed to the 1950s when the party was in opposition. More damning now, is the reason behind the divisiveness, which in the 1950s was due to ideological and philosophical differences within the party ranks while now, egos seem to be involved. This may reflect the deterioration of politics worldwide into polls based on personality and popularity rather than fundamental differences in political policy, ideology and key strategic directions.
The progressive, slightly left-leaning Labor party in Australian politics has in the last two decades moved towards the right, becoming more capitalistic, more conservative and more influenced by globalisation policies that favour big company interests. The conservative, rightist Liberal party is not much different from the Labor Party in ideology and policy, but perhaps they may be more honest in the rhetoric that admits the direction they advocate. Many people later this year will have a real problem when they go to vote. We may see quite a shift towards the minor parties, the worse case scenario being one of the small parties holding the balance of power, which may make governing the country difficult. We shall see what we shall see…

Wednesday, 26 June 2013


“There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief.” - Aeschylus
Magpie Tales has provided us with a photograph, “University of Michigan fraternity party” by Stanley Kubrick for “Look” magazine. This is the springboard for several creative endeavours that followers of her blog embark on. Here is mine:

This Moment

This moment will be the moment
That will be sweet remembrance,
As the years pass, and we shall be reminiscing.

The acrid smell of a lighter just struck,
And the billows of aromatic smoke,
As burning menthol of cigarette just lit, sublimates.

The glow of your moist eyes
Illuminated by the flame of love,
Or is it lust, perhaps, or maybe just pure desire?

The song that was playing,
Just before it became “our song”,
Will remain forever special, even beyond our separation.

This moment is the moment
That right now makes time elastic
The moment lasting forever, only because we wish it so.

The warmth of your body,
Because of its nearness, or is it mine?
Or perhaps the fire burning, crackling in the fireplace?

The sound of voices,
Uttering sweet susurrations
That vocalise our innermost thoughts and desires…

That moment was the moment
That we remember now,
Complete in every one of its myriad of details.

The moment has been the moment
That defined us and our separate lives;
A photograph just found, less accurate than our sweet memories.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013


“Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.” - Laozi

When one travels the routine is disrupted and one’s schedule is thrown somewhat awry. This is especially the case with work trips that are often rushed and leave one little available time for oneself. Having said that, here’s the usual Monday Movie review, slightly belated. We watched this movie last weekend and it was just right for us at the time as it combined humour with pathos, poignancy with satire. We enjoyed it thoroughly and we recommend it for viewing.

It is Radu Mihaileanu’s 2009 film “The Concert” starring Aleksey Guskov, Dmitriy Nazarov and Mélanie Laurent. It is a European collaborative production with contributions from France, Italy, Romania, Belgium and Russia, with the soundtrack in Russian and French. The scenario is by Radu Mihaileanua and Alain-Michel Blanc, based on a story by Héctor Cabello Reyes and Thierry Degrandi.

The story begins in Moscow, where the former conductor of the Bolshoi Orchestra Andrey Simonovich Filipov is now, 30 years later, the cleaner of the theatre. Andrey fell in disgrace with the Communist Party for protecting the Jewish musicians of the orchestra and was forbidden to ever conduct an orchestra again. One night while cleaning the present orchestra director’s office, Andrey reads a just-received fax and inspired by its contents, he hides the document. The fax is from the Châtelet Theatre in Paris, which has just invited the Bolshoi Orchestra to perform a concert in Paris within two weeks.

Andrey shows the fax to his friend and cello player Aleksandr ‘Sasha’ Abramovich Grosman who now drives an ambulance and together they decide to reunite fifty-five former musicians of the Bolshoi Orchestra to travel to Paris and perform The Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. This is to be done secretly as they will impersonate the current Bolshoi Orchestra, which is no longer up to international standard playing.

Andrey invites the Communist leader and former KGB man, Ivan Gavrilov, to manage the orchestra and he requests from the French organisers for the orchestrea to stay in Paris for three days and the prominent violinist Anne-Marie Jacquet to play the solo violin part. When the Russians arrive in Paris, Andrey meets Anne-Marie while the musicians go wild wandering around the city, partying but also raising money by doing odd jobs. The unprofessionalism of the Russian musicians forces Anne-Marie to call off the concert; but Sasha convinces her to come to the theatre.

Meanwhile Andrey reminisces an incident with the violinist Lea thirty years ago and he struggles to keep hiding a secret from Anne-Marie. Meanwhile, the real Bolshoi Orchestra director comes to paris with his family on holiday and sees advertisements for the Bolshoi concert. Will he interfere? What is the connection between Andrey and Anne-Marie? Will Andrey find his wandering musicians? Will the concert go ahead? Will Andrey be able to conduct after all these years without even a single rehearsal?

The film is well produced and directed and the acting is wonderful – especially the bumbling orchestra members, the caricatured Russian officials and the exasperated Frenchmen who are trying desperately to raise cash with this special concert. The music as one would expect is wonderful and Tchaikovsky’s score is supplemented by Armand Amar’s original incidental music. It was an enjoyable and often touching film.

Monday, 24 June 2013


“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia.” - Charles M. Schulz
I am in Perth for work for a few days and I staying in Fremantle. Fremantle is a city in Western Australia, located at the mouth of the Swan River. Fremantle Harbour serves as the port of Perth, the state capital. Fremantle was the first area settled by the Swan River colonists in 1829. It was declared a city in 1929, and has a population of approximately 25,000.The city is named after Captain Charles Howe Fremantle, the English naval officer who had pronounced possession of Western Australia and who established a camp at the site. The city contains well-preserved 19th-century buildings and other heritage features. The Western Australian vernacular diminutive for Fremantle is Freo.
Being a weeknight in Winter last night, it was not surprising that the streets were quite deserted even though it was still early when I went out for a walk. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was one of eerie desolation, accentuated somewhat by the sodium lamps and their amber light. Winter in Perth is much milder than in Melbourne, with the temperature yesterday climbing towards 20˚C and falling to about 12˚C at night. Very pleasant, compared to the -1˚C minimum in Melbourne the other night.

Fremantle is quite an amazing town with many old, lovingly restored Victorian buildings. The University of Notre Dame has done quite a great deal in reviving and renovating whole blocks of the West End, with many of the streetscapes reminding one intensely of times gone by. There is great architectural heritage, including convict-built colonial-era buildings, an old jetty and port, and prisons; presenting a variety and unity of historic buildings and streetscapes. These were often built in limestone with ornate façades in a succession of architectural styles. Rapid development following the harbour works gave rise to an Edwardian precinct as merchant and shipping companies built in the west end and on reclaimed land.

Sunday, 23 June 2013


“No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist.” - Oscar Wilde
For Art Sunday today, the French artist, Berthe Morisot (born January 14, 1841, Bourges, France and died March 2, 1895, Paris). Morisot was a French painter and printmaker who exhibited regularly with the Impressionists and, despite the protests of friends and family, continued to participate in their struggle for recognition. Her canvases are suffused with light and colour and some of her portraits of mothers and children are wonderful examples of the genre.
The daughter of a high government official (and a granddaughter of the important Rococo painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard), Morisot decided early to be an artist and pursued her goal with seriousness and dedication. From 1862 to 1868 she worked under the guidance of Camille Corot. She first exhibited paintings at the Salon in 1864. Her work was exhibited there regularly through 1874, when she vowed never to show her paintings in the officially sanctioned forum again. In 1868 she met Édouard Manet, who was to exert a tremendous influence over her work. He did several portraits of her (e.g., “Repose,” c. 1870). Manet had a liberating effect on her work, and she in turn aroused his interest in outdoor painting.
Morisot's work never lost its Manet-like quality, with an insistence on design. She did not become as involved in colour-optical experimentation as her fellow Impressionists. Her paintings frequently included members of her family, particularly her sister, Edma (e.g., “The Artist's Sister, Mme Pontillon, Seated on the Grass,” 1873; and “The Artist’s Sister Edma and Their Mother,” 1870).
Delicate and subtle, exquisite in colour with, often a subdued emerald glow, they won her the admiration of her Impressionist colleagues. Like that of the other Impressionists, her work was ridiculed by many critics. Never commercially successful during her lifetime, she nevertheless outsold Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Alfred Sisley. She was a woman of great culture and charm and counted among her close friends Stéphane Mallarmé, Edgar Degas, Charles Baudelaire, Émile Zola, Emmanuel Chabrier, Renoir, and Monet. She married Édouard Manet’s younger brother Eugène.
In the painting above, “In the Garden at Maurecourt”, Morisot’s style is shown well. The immediate effect of the “impression” that scene makes on the artist is apparent by the joyous brushstrokes, strong colours and the immediacy of the pose of the sitters. It is almost like a sketch in colour and yet an accomplished and finished art work.