“Love is a cunning weaver of fantasies and fables” - Sappho
A quiet day today and an even quieter evening tonight. For Music Saturday, something old and new at the same time. Something exotic and something indigenous… A curious mixture of the genuine and the imagined. A Greek progressive music group of the 1990s that took inspiration from ancient poems and imagined ancient music. The group is called “Avaton” and here is their rendition of one Sappho’s poetic fragments:
Αεριων επεων αρχομαι αλλ’ονατων [ε] γω το καλλος επιτ[μεζον]…
οφθαλμοις δε μελαις νυκτος αωρος και ποθηω και μαομαι ουκ οιδοττι θεω
διχα μοι τα νοηματα κατ’ εμον σταλαχμον
ου τι μοι υμμες ας θελετε υμμες [ο] ττινας
γαρ ευ θεω κηνοι με μαλιστα παντων σινοντα[ι]
εγω δ’εμ’[αυται τουτο συ]νοιδα
μη κινη χεραδος ου γαρ θεμις εν μοισοπολων οικιαι
ου κ’αμμι ταδε πρεποι
ΣΑΠΦΩ (≈620 BC - 570 BC)
I start my song with ethereal soft words. In my life I served beauty.
Along the night, when dark sleep captures my eyes and desire burns me and excites my body,
I know not what to do: my mind is divided drop after drop the pain within me…
No, it’s not you who for me, as much you want it,
For they whom I benefit injure me most...
Yes, I have placed this deep in my mind and I know it.
Leave the pebbles and don’t mix them up. Lamentations are not be heard into poets’ homes.
Such things are not appropriate for us.
SAPPHO (≈620 BC - 570 BC)
“Every man who possibly can should force himself to a holiday of a full month in a year, whether he feels like taking it or not.” - William James
Well, I took Wiliam James’ advice and forced myself to have a holiday. I shall have eight days off rather than a month, but already I am greatly looking forward to it. We have nothing planned, but who knows, we may go away or we may stay at home. It all depends on what is available and how we feel. One thing is for certain, I shall not be at work on Monday!
Another wonderful winter dish for today’s Food Friday. I remember visiting Budapest many years ago, now and tasting the authentic version of this dish in a little tavern in the suburbs – it was delicious!
HUNGARIAN GOULASH Ingredients
60 g butter
2 tablespoonfuls of oil
1 kg lean stewing steak cut into 2 cm cubes
1/2 kg onions
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoonfuls paprika
150 mL water
1 bay leaf
1/2 kg small new potatoes, peeled
salt and ground pepper to taste
Melt the butter with the oil in the cooking saucepan and add the beef cubes when the fat is very hot, browning quickly on all sides. As the meat is sealed, remove from the pan and reserve. Add the chopped onion and cook until golden. Add the paprika, salt, pepper and garlic, the water and bay leaf. Return the beef cubes to the pan and stir to coat them thoroughly with the sauce. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about an hour. Stir in the potatoes and continue simmering for a further hour until cooked. Remove the bay leaf and spoon goulash into warmed bowls, spooning the sour cream on top. Serve with a gutsy shiraz or cabernet.
“It strikes! one, two,
Three, four, five, six. Enough, enough, dear watch,
Thy pulse hath beat enough. Now sleep and rest;
Would thou could'st make the time to do so too;
I'll wind thee up no more.” - Ben Jonson
I can’t believe it will be August in a couple of days time! The year has flown past and before not too long it will be December again. Time and our perception of it is an amazing thing. Sometimes it drags and hors seem like centuries, while other times months whiz past as if they were seconds. I have been so busy at work this year that I think this is what has made me believe the year has flown by. I guess growing older may also have something to do with it…
The older we become and the great our age, the shorter each year becomes relative to those we have lived through. Someone 80 years old sees one year as one eightieth of their life, whereas a child of eight would see one year as one eighth of its life. For a child the year drags on and on, for an older person it flies past. For a lover waiting his beloved, seconds dilate into hours. For a condemned man waiting execution, days become seconds as the day of death draws closer.
The more one thinks of time the more one becomes fascinated and perplexed. It can be seen as a ribbon unwinding and moving ever forward, our finger following it along sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Some say it can only go forward and certainly that is what our ordinary every day experience seems to indicate as the logical thing. However, moving backwards in time is something that has fascinated humans from time immemorial. Fast forward and fast reverse like a video player, perhaps? The typical time machine experience…
Einstein’s relativity theory and the various experiments that have been done to test it out have proven that time is elastic. Time goes slower in heavier gravitational environments. Space-time is curved and the universe is expanding… There is some evidence that time travel may be possible, but not within our lifetime surely!
relativity |ˌreləˈtivətē| noun
1 The absence of standards of absolute and universal application: Moral relativity.
2 Physics the dependence of various physical phenomena on relative motion of the observer and the observed objects, esp. regarding the nature and behavior of light, space, time, and gravity.
The concept of relativity was set out in Einstein's special theory of relativity, published in 1905. This states that all motion is relative and that the velocity of light in a vacuum has a constant value that nothing can exceed. Among its consequences are the following: The mass of a body increases and its length (in the direction of motion) shortens as its speed increases; the time interval between two events occurring in a moving body appears greater to a stationary observer; and mass and energy are equivalent and interconvertible. Einstein's general theory of relativity, published in 1915, extended the theory to accelerated motion and gravitation, which was treated as a curvature of the space-time continuum. It predicted that light rays would be deflected and shifted in wavelength when passing through a substantial gravitational field, effects that have been experimentally confirmed.
“Force is all-conquering, but its victories are short-lived.” - Abraham Lincoln
For Poetry Wednesday today, Yannis Ritsos (1909–90), a Greek poet. He is one of modern Greece’s most widely translated poets and moved from an early concern with classical themes and style to a more deeply personal lyricism. His writing reflects family tragedies, a stay in a tuberculosis ward, and his political engagement against dictatorship that earned him periods of deportation and house arrest. He served time in prison camps during 1947-1952 and after the 1967 coup, thence living under house arrest or surveillance. He took moral power from his poems, and spoke of political enemies with compassion rather than bitterness.
Some of his best known works include: Tractor (1934), and Pyramids (1935). These two works achieve a fragile balance between faith in the future, founded on the Communist ideal, and personal despair. Epitaph (1936). This was a lengthy poem which uses the mechanics of traditional poetry but expresses in a clear and simple language a message of fraternity and brotherhood. Vigil (1941-1953), and Districts of the World (1949-1951). These were written from his experiences in prison camps, which occurred because of the Greek civil war and his stance against the Fascists
Later works marked Ritsos’ development and maturity as a Poet: The Moonlight-Sonata (1956) – When Comes the Stranger (1958), The Old Women and the Sea (1958), The Dead House (1959-1962) This is a long monologue partly inspired by the ancient Greek mythology and the ancient tragedies: A characteristic of his latest poems such as: Late in the Night (1987-1989) is that they are filled with sadness and the awareness of suffering. But in a humbly poetic way Ritsos preserves a gleam of hope in his creative tragedy.
With These Stones
An unexpected wind blew. The heavy shutters creaked.
Leaves were lifted from the ground. They flew away, flew away.
Until only stones remained. Now we must make do with these –
he kept repeating – with these, with these. When night descended
the great, inky mountainside, he threw our keys into the well.
Ah, dear stones—he said—one by one I'll chisel
the unknown faces and my body, with its one hand
tightly clenched, raised above the wall.
May 30, 1968
Saturday, Sunday, Saturday again – and before you know it, Monday.
A quiet dusk without colour, or trees, or chairs.
We have nothing to spend. The old pitcher on the dinner table;
the plates, the glasses, the sad hands, the deserted –
the spoon rises; another mouth finds it – but which mouth?
Who eats? Who grows quiet? In the open window
a small, forgotten moon swallows its own spit.
It's not that we're no longer growing fat, but that we're no longer hungry.
June 4, 1968
Partheni concentration camp Translated by Scott King
“To me the ideal doctor would be a man endowed with profound knowledge of life and of the soul, intuitively divining any suffering or disorder of whatever kind, and restoring peace by his mere presence.” - Henri Amiel
We had a disastrous day on the train system today, after a power fault in the city about 5:00 am was caused by an overhead contact cable that broke at North Melbourne train station and triggered a short circuit, affecting the viaduct between Southern Cross and Flinders Street stations. The outage plunged part of the Southern Cross station into darkness and stranded more than half of Melbourne's commuters travelling in and out of this major station. About 400,000 people were affected, but fortunately my train at 7:00 a.m. went through. I was wondering why the Southern Cross station was dark as we were going through it, but I didn’t think twice about it until later on that morning I started getting SMS messages from our staff who were stranded in various parts of the rail network.
Our public transport system is usually fair to good, but every now and then disruptions do occur and then chaos ensues, as happened today. Commuters will be hopefully be mollified on Friday as there is to be free public transport as an apology for the disrupttons today…
The cornflower (bluebottle), Centaurea cyanus, is the birthday flower for this day. In Greek mythology, Cyanus was a young man who spent his days gathering flowers and adoring Chloris, the goddess of vegetation and flowers. When he died suddenly one day while in a cornfield, Chloris transformed him into the cornflower as a reward for his devotion. The flower was used as a love oracle. Carried in a young man’s pocket and surviving till the next day, meant that he would marry his sweetheart. If the flower withered and died, his sweetheart would leave him for someone else. The petals of the flower yield a blue pigment that miniaturists used commonly in the past. The flower symbolises delicacy and a dweller of heaven. Astrologically it is Saturn’s plant under the sign of Libra.
In Faust, Goethe has Margaret speak: “Now, gentle flower, I pray thee tell
If my love loves, and loves me well;
So may the fall of the morning dew
Keep the sun from fading thy tender blue.”
The Greek Orthodox faith celebrates the feast of St Panteleimon (also known as St Pantaleon) today. He was the son of a wealthy but pagan father and a devout Christian mother. He was born in the late 3rd century in Nicomedia and his mother brought him up as a Christian. He became a doctor and migrated to Rome, becoming a physician in emperor Maximian’s court. The rich life of the court tempted him away from his faith but an encounter with Hermolaus, a Christian priest reawakened a new Christian feeling in him. He sold all his possessions and donated the money to the poor, giving his medical services to all the needy for free. His fellow doctors were amazed by the numbers of miraculous cures he seemed to effect and their envy was instrumental in his denouncement and arrest as a Christian in emperor Diocletian’s persecution of ca 303 AD. He was to be executed and six times he was miraculously saved, finally being successfully beheaded. He is known as a martyr and healer, the patron saint of cripples and invalids. A Greek proverb proclaims: “All the blind and crippled go to St Panteleimon”.
“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” - Harriet van Horne
I was in Brisbane today for work and it was an exhausting day. It is not very good to commute over such long distances as the day becomes tiring and one’s body objects somewhat. I must be getting old! I spent the whole day in a small room with the auditors that we had around, but at least all went well and the trip was successful.
At the weekend we saw an interesting little film, which on reflection was mildly amusing, but otherwise nothing to write home about. It was Nora Ephron’s 2009 “Julie & Julia”. The film is a double biography of famous American cook Julia Child and the less famous Julie Powell, also a cook and author. Meryl Streep who played Child overacted somewhat, just to ensure that everyone knew who the star was in the movie, while the rest of the cast were fairly competent.
The film is a constant hashing backward and forward in time (and place), between 1949 Paris and 2002 New York. In 1949, Julia Child, the wife of a diplomat, tries to spend her days constructively while her hubby (played in a laid back way by Stanley Tucci) works in the embassy. She tries millinery, bridge, and then cooking lessons at the Cordon Bleu school. There she discovers her passion for food and we follow her life until she writes her first cookbook. In 2002, Julie Powell, a public servant and unpublished author, decides to cook her way through Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in a year and to blog about it.
The stories and the two women’s lives become tangled as there many common elements: Good friends (mostly), loving husbands, and of course the food. The zest of French cooking is conveyed well and the 1949 Paris scenes are well shot. I began to watch the film with interest, but halfway through I started drifting off. It was too long, too repetitive and Julia Child was too much, while Julie Powell was too bratty and had too many tantrums.
Nothing much happens in the film except for cooking and people talking at one another. I don’t know, maybe I wasn’t in the mood…
“The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.” - Henry Miller
For Art Sunday today, the art of Margaret Preston (1875–1963). She was Australia’s foremost woman painter between the wars, who with her vital art sent a series of shock-waves through art circles. Not to mention her spirited journalism and her belligerent enthusiasm for living, during a career that spanned over seventy years. Her vibrant decorative paintings and prints of distinctively Australian subjects (especially flowers) have bewitched the Australian public since they were first exhibited in the early 1920s and made her one of the most well-known female artists.
Margaret Preston studied art in Sydney under W. Lister Lister, at the National Gallery School, Melbourne, and at the Adelaide School of Design. In 1904 she went to Munich to attend the Government Art School for Women, then going to Paris where she studied at the Musée Guimet and exhibited still lifes. After a brief return to Adelaide in 1907 she left again for Europe, working with disabled soldiers in Devon. In 1919, after returning to Australia by way of North America, she married William George Preston, a businessman, and settled in Sydney. The couple travelled extensively throughout Australia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the Pacific Islands.
Although well-known for her decorative still lifes, she was also a skilful wood engraver and linocut printer. Her prints featuring Australian native plants have become very valuable in recent years. She was a writer and lecturer of art, being a champion of and influenced by Aboriginal bark paintings. She was a member of the Society of Artists, the Australian Art Association and the Contemporary Group, Sydney. At the Paris International Exhibition in 1937 she was awarded a silver medal.
She was quick-witted and a lively writer on art and travel, an accomplished lecturer and children’s educator. She delivered her ideas in short staccato sentences, which could explain simply difficult ideas. In 1927 when Art in Australia devoted a complete edition to her paintings, prints and writings, she not only paid for additional colour illustrations, but also wrote an autobiographical essay with the provocative title “From Eggs to Electrolux”. However research by many art historians (which began in the early 1970s), has shown that what Preston wrote, did not always tally with fact. On her marriage certificate, for example, she reduced her age by some eight years, making herself slightly younger than her husband! Her autobiography was in essence an entertaining piece of fiction based on her life…
This is her “Fuchsias” from 1928. The print medium lends itself to her epigrammatic pictorial style and her bold, bright and mosaic-like colours. The flowers are jewel-like and look as though they have been cut precisely by a saw. The hues are harmonious and complement well the busy but well-composed arrangement. This is a piece of art full of joie de vivre and exuberance.
I have been blogging daily on this platform for several years now. It is surprising that I have persisted as the world is changing and "microblogging" is now the norm. I blog to amuse myself, make comment on current affairs, externalise some of my creativity, keep notes on things that interest me, learn something new and to surprise myself with things that I discover about this wonderful, and sometimes crazy, world we live in.
I sometimes get the impression that I am on a soapbox delivering a monologue, so your comments are welcome.