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Culture Zone 01


Sandro Botticelli
Sandro Botticelli, real name Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi (1445-1510), one of the leading painters of the Florentine Renaissance. He developed a highly personal style characterized by elegant execution, a sense of melancholy, and a strong emphasis on line; details appear as sumptuous still lifes.


Botticelli was born in Florence, the son of a tanner. His nickname was derived from Botticello (“little barrel”), either the nickname of his elder brother or the name of the goldsmith to whom Sandro was first apprenticed. Later he served an apprenticeship with the painter Fra Filippo Lippi. He worked with the painter and engraver Antonio del Pollaiuolo, from whom he gained his sense of line; he was also influenced by Andrea del Verrocchio.

Botticelli had his own workshop by 1470. He spent almost all of his life working for the great families of Florence, especially the Medici family, for whom he painted portraits, most notably the Giuliano de’ Medici (1475-1476, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.). Adoration of the Magi (1476-1477, Uffizi, Florence) was painted on commission (though not for the Medicis) and contains likenesses of the Medici family. As part of the brilliant intellectual and artistic circle at the court of Lorenzo de’ Medici, Botticelli was influenced by its Christian Neoplatonism, which tried to reconcile classical and Christian views. This synthesis may be the theme of two larger panels commissioned for Medici villas and now in the Uffizi, Primavera (1478?) and Birth of Venus (after 1482). While scholars have not yet conclusively deciphered these paintings, their slender elegant figures, which form abstract linear patterns bathed in soft golden light, may depict Venus as a symbol of both pagan and Christian love.

Botticelli also painted religious subjects, especially panels of the Madonna, such as the Madonna of the Magnificat (1480s), Madonna of the Pomegranate (1480s), and Coronation of the Virgin (1490), all in the Uffizi, and Madonna and Child with Two Saints (1485, Staatliche Museen, Berlin). Other religious works include Saint Sebastian (1473-1474, Staatliche Museen) and a fresco, Saint Augustine (1480, Church of the Ognissanti, Florence). In 1481 Botticelli was one of the several artists chosen to go to Rome to decorate the walls of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. There he executed The Youth of Moses, the Punishment of the Sons of Corah, and the Temptation of Christ.

In the 1490s, when the Medici were expelled from Florence and the fanatic Dominican monk Girolamo Savonarola preached austerity and reform, Botticelli experienced a religious crisis. His subsequent works, such as the Pietà (the early 1490s, Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan) and especially the Mystic Nativity (1490s, National Gallery, London) and Mystic Crucifixion (1496?, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts), reflect an intense religious devotion.

Botticelli's Art Gallery

I have selected some paintings by Botticelli below in the gallery. Enjoy!


Nocturne in C Sharp Minor

by Frédéric Chopin | Nocturnes

Frédéric Chopin
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849), Polish composer and pianist of the romantic school, widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in the history of piano music. Chopin is among the few composers to have written almost exclusively for the solo piano. He never wrote a symphony, an opera, or a choral piece; he did not produce a single string quartet. But dozens of his works, in a dozen or more forms—mazurkas, polonaises, ballades, nocturnes, etudes (exercises or studies), scherzos, waltzes, and others—are now standard compositions for keyboard. Chopin was an unconventional musician who frequently abandoned the classical rules and disciplines. He created new harmonies and pioneered new musical forms in which to present his musical ideas.
Nocturne in C Sharp Minor
The piece I have chosen today by Chopin is Nocturne in C sharp minor. This delicately beautiful piece will definitely take you to another world, but a fun fact about this piece it is said that Chopin wrote it for his sister to practice before she ventured into his Concerto no.2.

I hope you enjoy my music choice of the week.


I Do Hate Her

I do hate her
and I love falling onto her skin
As I so much love how I hate her within
I love the malice shining down her sight
the fallacy, as if she’d said anything right
I barely glimpse a lie on her lips
dancing twirling its shadow tips
evil eyes of a wolf so cunning
with lies like ghosts around roaming
her eyes an abode of Satan deep inside
too much lust dispersed all sanity from her mind
Yet when she approaches, I question my doubts
when her tears fall as the repenting rain floats
when I have my heart of heart, she’d end the tale
her laughing eyes would look back at me chasing her tail
when her arms hacked around me, my bones she smote
and poured her malice through my lips down my throat
the way I hate her so much loves her still
as I’ve always wished my caress would kill
I do hate her.

Poem by Nizar Qabbani

Translated by Danny Ballan

Nizar Qabbani
Nizar Qabbani is a Syrian poet who left his mark on the modern Arabic poetry by breaking away from the traditional structure and content of classical Arabic poetry.




I Do Hate Her
This poem is said to be written about a woman whom Nizar loved, but she seemed to be trying to take advantage of him by playing she was in love with him. As sensitive as he had always been, he wrote this poem of a man struggling to hate a woman his mind is telling him to hate, but his heart does not work by any logic the mind dictates. It is the contrast in this poem and the volatile emotions that make it such a special poem.


Of course, the original language of this poem is in Arabic, so I have tried to preserve as much as possible of its essence in the translation I made into English.




The Schindler's List
There have been many movies depicting the horrors of WWII, but very few could capture reality in a sensational manner as much as The Schindler’s List did. It is a movie about the Holocaust and a time in history when humanity was completely out of the picture, just like many other times humanity suffered in the past, as it is still suffering now, and, as I think, will always do because we have not learned anything from the million lessons our history gave us.


In Brief
The film is based on a true story when an ambitious businessman comes to Poland to profiteer from the prospect of war and exploit the low-costing Jew labors, but when the time came to take his Jew workers to take the journey to Auschwitz, his humanity comes back to him to do an extraordinary action done by so few in times of misery and danger like those of WWII.

This movie is not only about Jews suffering the horrors of WWII, it is about the suffering of human beings and the futile waste of the most precious thing we have, human life.


Why This Movie?
I understand some people might criticize my choice because of the subject matter and all, but I say that I cry for the futile loss of any man’s life for my life is no more important than any of them, and I think it’s time we learned that we are all brothers and that in a massive war like WWII, everybody lost, but our humanity was the biggest loser.

I don’t want this to sound political to you because it isn’t. The film starring Liam Nesson and Ben Kingsley and directed by Steven Spielberg is guaranteed to touch you deep in your heart in a place where we are all the same color, race and religion.





Hungry Writer


One More Try - George Michael

George Michael is a British singer who was loved and cherished by millions around the world.

You might remember (if you’re old enough) his hit song Careless Whisper and Last Christmas back from the days of Wham, but today I chose another classic by George, One More Try, which was written by George himself and released back in 1987 in his album Faith.

The song talks about a man who is reluctant to love again because his earlier lover (teacher, as mentioned in the song) taught him a tough lesson about love that still hurt.

What can I say? It is a beautiful song back from the 80s.

My apologies for people who didn’t get to know the best part of the 20th century; you have no idea what you have missed.

I hope you like my song choice of the week.


I’ve had enough of danger
And people on the streets
I’m looking out for angels
Just trying to find some peace
Now I think it’s time
That you let me know
So if you love me
Say you love me
But if you don’t
Just let me go…

‘Cause teacher
There are things that I don’t want to learn
And the last one I had
Made me cry
So I don’t want to learn to
Hold you, touch you
Think that you’re mine
Because it ain’t no joy
For an uptown boy
Whose teacher has told him goodbye, goodbye, goodbye

When you were just a stranger
And I was at your feet
I didn’t feel the danger
Now I feel the heat
That look in your eyes
Telling me “No”
So you think that you love me
Know that you need me
I wrote the song, I know it’s wrong
Just let me go…

And teacher
There are things that I don’t want to learn
Oh the last one I had
Made me cry
So I don’t want to learn to
Hold you, touch you
Think that you’re mine
Because it ain’t no joy
For an uptown boy
Whose teacher has told him goodbye, goodbye, goodbye

So when you say that you need me
That you’ll never leave me
I know you’re wrong, you’re not that strong
Let me go

And teacher
There are things that I still have to learn
But the one thing I have is my pride
Oh, so I don’t want to learn to
Hold you, touch you
Think that you’re mine
Because there ain’t no joy
For an uptown boy
Who just isn’t willing to try
I’m so cold inside
Maybe just one more try



Iliad, ancient Greek epic poem in 24 books attributed to the poet Homer. It was probably composed in the 8th century bc, but it describes events of the Trojan War, a conflict between Greece and Troy that took place four centuries earlier. The initial cause of the Trojan War was the abduction of Helen, the queen of Sparta, by Paris, a Trojan prince. The Iliad relates in 15,693 lines a momentous episode in the Trojan War—the wrath of the Greek hero Achilles and its destructive consequences.

The Action

The action of the Iliad begins in the tenth and final year of the Greek siege of Troy. The Greek army has been besieging Troy for over nine years. In a recent raid on a nearby district, the Greeks have captured Chryseis, daughter of a priest of the god Apollo. Agamemnon, commander in chief of the Greek forces, has taken her for his slave woman. Apollo in anger afflicts the Greeks with a devastating plague after Agamemnon humiliates the priest.

The Wrath of Achilles

At an assembly of the army Agamemnon, urged by Achilles, agrees to send back Chryseis. But he insists that he shall have Briseis, Achilles’ captive, in her place. Achilles, in anger at this slight on his honor, draws his sword to attack Agamemnon, but is restrained by the goddess Athena who wishes the Greeks to win the war. Achilles abuses Agamemnon as a shameless and selfish coward and announces his withdrawal from active service in the war.

Nestor, by far the oldest and wisest of the Greek kings, tries to reconcile the quarrelers, but fails. Chryseis is restored to her father by Odysseus, the most diplomatic and effective of the Greek commanders. Agamemnon takes Briseis, and Achilles asks his mother, Thetis, to persuade Zeus, the king of the gods, to allow the Trojans to win a victory, so that the Greeks may learn how much they owe to his valor and honor him accordingly. Zeus consents despite protests from his wife Hera, who favors the Greeks.

The Armies Prepare

Zeus sends a deceptive dream to Agamemnon, who calls a council of the commanders. Confusion follows: The army is seized by a sudden desire to return home, but Odysseus, prompted by Athena, checks the rush toward the ships with a powerful speech. Thersites, the only ugly and mean-spirited soldier in the poem, boldly insults Agamemnon until Odysseus stops him with abusive language and blows. After a prudent speech from Nestor and a sacrifice to the gods, the whole Greek army, except Achilles and his followers, prepares for battle.

A detailed description of the forces contributed by each Greek state (the so-called Catalogue of the Ships) follows. The use of colorful poetic descriptions saves it from being a dry list. The Trojan army assembles to resist the attack and is described in a briefer catalogue. The army is led by Hector, the chivalrous and valiant son of Priam, king of Troy. Hector’s brother Paris has caused the war by abducting Helen, wife of Menelaus, king of the Greek state of Sparta.

The Battle Begins

Paris offers to fight a duel with Menelaus to settle the conflict. After an exchange of blows, Paris’s protector, the goddess Aphrodite, intervenes to save him. Treacherously incited by their enemy Athena, the Trojans break the armistice made before the duel and thereby put themselves morally in the wrong. A series of single combats ensue, skillfully interspersed with domestic incidents inside Troy.

Eventually, when the Greeks are hard-pressed by the Trojans, Agamemnon sends representatives to Achilles who offer rich gifts and the return of Briseis if he will join the fight again. Achilles refuses because he knows reentry guarantees his death at Troy and he now believes no form of honor is worth his life. Yet, after the Greek warrior Ajax appeals to him as a friend, Achilles announces he will fight again if Hector reaches their ships.

The Death of Patroclus

Further duels and maneuvers follow. The Trojans attack the Greek camp, and Hector seems unstoppable. Hera, fearing a Trojan triumph, adorns and beautifies herself voluptuously and lures Zeus away from helping the Trojans. He and she withdraw together to Mount Ida. The Greeks regain the upper hand. Zeus awakens, furiously realizes Hera’s cunning, and gives help again to the Trojans. The Greeks fall back in panic. Pitying their plight, Patroclus, dearest friend of Achilles, puts on Achilles’ armor and drives the enemy back. But Hector meets Patroclus in single combat and kills him, and a bloody battle rages over his corpse.

The Death of Hector and the Funeral of Patroclus

Achilles resolves to avenge his friend’s death. Thetis persuades Hephaestus, god of metalworking, to make a beautiful new suit of armor for her son. The ornamentation of the shield is described in detail: It includes civic and rural scenes and dancing figures. Achilles, equipped with his new armor, sallies out and kills many Trojans. He fights the river-god Scamander and finally encounters Hector, who panics and is chased three times by Achilles around the walls of Troy. Achilles overtakes Hector and with the help of Athena kills him remorselessly. He ties Hector’s corpse by the heels to his chariot and drags it exultantly back to the Greek camp, while Priam, Priam’s wife Hecuba, and Andromache, Hector’s devoted wife, bewail Hector’s death.

Achilles makes preparations to give Patroclus a hero’s funeral. A feast is given; wood is gathered from the forests of Mount Ida for a great pyre. Patroclus’s corpse is laid on the pyre; the funeral rites are performed, the body is consumed by fire, and the bones are gathered in a golden vessel. Then come athletic contests in his honor.

The next day Achilles, still full of grief, drags the body of Hector round the burial place of Patroclus repeatedly. After twelve days Apollo appeals to the gods to end this indignity. Zeus agrees to allow Priam to ransom the body of his son, despite the opposition of Hera. Thetis is sent to persuade Achilles to consent to the return of Hector’s body. Iris, messenger of the gods, tells Priam of Zeus’s decision. Priam, despite Hecuba’s efforts to dissuade him, sets out for the tent of Achilles, bearing rich gifts as a ransom.

In a somberly magnificent scene Achilles receives Priam with grave courtesy and, remembering his own aged father Peleus (whom he knows he will never see again), gives Priam the body of Hector. Priam returns with it to Troy. Andromache mourns her husband, Hecuba her son, and Helen her friend. The Trojans perform the obsequies of Hector, and the poem ends with the line: “So they tended the burial of Hector, tamer of horses.”

The Characters

The characters of the Iliad are lifelike, vivid, and memorable. On the Greek side are the arrogant, self-centered, yet majestic Agamemnon and the young, quick-tempered, and honor-obsessed Achilles. Savage in his anger, Achilles at heart remains courteous and compassionate. Nestor, though prudent and subtle, is often long-winded. Odysseus, hero of the other epic attributed to Homer, is conciliatory, self-controlled, and resourceful; Ajax, bold, massive, and magnanimous; and Diomedes, dashing and debonair. Many others are portrayed with masterly variety and clarity.

Among the Trojans are the valiant, affectionate, lovable, and doomed Hector, and the age-worn, grief-stricken, but undefeated Priam. Hecuba, wild with grief, first tries in vain to coax her son back to safety, then laments his death in utterly hopeless grief. Andromache, noblest of young wives and mothers, appears in one of the most moving scenes ever composed: the final parting between her and Hector. Helen, conscious of the destructive element in her supreme beauty, remains helpless to escape it.

The gods, too, have vivid but by no means admirable personalities. They bicker, quarrel, scheme, deceive, and even come to blows; they provide the only moments of humor in the grim story. Yet Zeus is invested at times with a sublimity that approaches the highest conceptions of deity. There also are many glimpses of minor characters—soldiers, mythological figures, captives, servants, and country folk—in the background. No poet has surpassed Homer in the art of subtle, economical character drawing.

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