Friday, 9 May 2008


“Ah why refuse the blameless bliss? Can danger lurk within a kiss?” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The memory of our first kiss can stay with us throughout our life and sometimes may colour a gray moment. Whether it was really as beautiful as what we remember it as being is debatable, but nevertheless, we hold it in a dear place within our heart. Here is a short extract from the movie I reviewed last Movie Monday, “The Choir of Haritonas” (2005) by Greek director, Grigoris Karantinakis. It captures beautifully the magic moment of that first innocent kiss. The music is by Nikos Platyrachos.

What is your memory of your first kiss?


“Cookery has become a noble art, a noble science; cooks are gentlemen.” - Robert Burton

The pavlova is a very popular dessert in both Australia and New Zealand. It is named after Anna Pavlova, the famous Russian ballerina who toured Australia and New Zealand in 1926 and Australia again in 1929. In 1934, the chef of the Hotel Esplanade in Perth, Western Australia, Herbert Sachse, created the pavlova. The dish is sweet, light, foamy white and delicious. A truly poetic interpretation of a great dancer’s angelic stage presence in sugar and egg-white.

There is some controversy over which country it originates from - both Australia and New Zealand claim the Pavlova as their national dish. The Meringue Cake was common in NZ in the early 1930s. In 1973, Sachse stated in a magazine interview that he sought to improve the Meringue Cake recipe that he found in the Women’s Mirror Magazine on April 2, 1935. That recipe was contributed by a New Zealander.

5 egg whites
pinch salt
250 g caster sugar/sugar (equal parts)
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 level teaspoons cornflour
(Please note the following equivalents:
Caster sugar or fine/super fine sugar; corn flour or cornstarch)
Whipped cream
Fruit to decorate: Sliced kiwifruit, peaches, strawberries, blueberries and passionfruit pulp.

Preheat oven to 200˚C. Lightly grease oven tray, line with baking paper or use non-stick cooking spray. Beat the whites of eggs with a pinch of salt until stiff (until peaks form). Continue beating, gradually adding sugar, vinegar and vanilla, until of thick consistency. Lightly fold in cornflour.
 Pile mixture into circular shape, making hollow in centre for filling. (Mixture will swell during cooking).
Electric oven: Turn oven to 130˚C and bake undisturbed for 1.5 hours.
Gas oven: Bake at 200˚C for ten minutes, then turn oven to 130˚C and bake a further hour. Fan forced oven: temperature and time needs to be adjusted accordingly.
Turn oven off, leave pavlova in oven until cool.
Top with whipped cream and decorate with fruit.

When seeing the dessert, it is easy to understand why some people say it was inspired by one of Pavlova’s famous tutus, draped in green silk cabbage roses. The basic shape was provided by a meringue case, while the froth of the net was suggested by whipped cream with slices of kiwifruit for the green roses. I must say that while in Perth I enjoyed a delicious slice of pavlova, home made too! Thank you, Rosanne!

Wednesday, 7 May 2008


"You owe me five farthings" say the Bells of St. Martin's – Folk rhyme

I’m still in Perth and this morning I enjoyed a walk down by the river. The Swan Bells, situated on the banks of the Swan River close to the city centre of Perth, are housed inside this futuristic tower with armadillo-like shells enclosing a glass and steel spire. It contains 18 bells, 12 of them (cast in 1724) from St Martin-in-the-Fields Church in London, and the Perth tourist bureau speak of this carillon construction as one of the world's biggest musical instruments. They really do sound majestic as one walks by and are a great focal point in the Swan River foreshore park. The bells had to be removed from the London church because they were vibrating so vigorously every time they pealed that they caused structural damage and would have shaken the old building into eventual ruination. They were then sent to Australia as a gift during the bicentennial in 1988.

The tower and the bells have become a monument synonymous with Perth, the sound of its success ringing proudly through the city. The tower is within the redeveloped cafe, restaurant and shop-filled Barrack Square. The square also features entertainment areas, offices, cycling and walking paths, boat ramps, jetties and function areas within a landscaped garden and has become a focal point for residents and tourists alike. The tower was designed by architects Hames Sharley and is highlighted by innovative illuminations that show it sitting in a pool of water lit at night and refracting sunlight during the day.

The noise emitted by the bells is such that it has to be controlled. Soundproof louvers and doors were used to muffle the sound and can be manoeuvred to direct the noise towards either the city or the river. The 18 bells have a combined mass of about nine tonnes and when rung, exert forces of several times their mass on the support structure. To achieve the required stiffness, the six-storey bell chamber is made with reinforced concrete that was cast in-situ.

The 80m high glass clad spire is designed using the same concept as a bicycle wheel, laid horizontally. The spokes radiate from the centrally-positioned axle, the form declining in width as it rises to a point. The solid steel columns of the spire are rectangular. The concrete bell chamber is enveloped in 30m high, armadillo-like copper sails and glass.

carillon |ˈkarəˌlän; -lən|noun
a set of bells in a tower, played using a keyboard or by an automatic mechanism similar to a piano roll.
• a tune played on such bells.
carillonneur |ˌkarələˈnər| |ˈkarɪljəˈnəː| |-ˈrɪlə-| |kə-| noun
ORIGIN late 18th cent.: from French, from Old French quarregnon ‘peal of four bells,’ based on Latin quattuor ‘four.’

Tuesday, 6 May 2008


“A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” - Lao Tzu

Greetings from Perth! I am here for work and enjoying the very pleasant Autumn weather with beautiful sunny days with temperatures in the high twenties. Lots of things to do for work, but also some opportunities for walking around the City and perhaps a dinner in one of the nice restaurants here.

A poem by Emily Dickinson for you today:
THE SUN just touched the morning;
The morning, happy thing,
Supposed that he had come to dwell,
And life would be all spring.

She felt herself supremer,—
A raised, ethereal thing;
Henceforth for her what holiday!
Meanwhile, her wheeling king

Trailed slow along the orchards
His haughty, spangled hems,
Leaving a new necessity,—
The want of diadems!

The morning fluttered, staggered,
Felt feebly for her crown,—
Her unanointed forehead
Henceforth her only one.
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Monday, 5 May 2008


“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” - Albert Einstein

The powerful forces of nature have yet again wreaked havoc, and the death toll in Myanmar is rising and rising with each news report I hear. An international relief effort has begun and it is perhaps just as well that the junta has appealed to the international community for help, because clearly the infrastructure is unable to cope with the magnitude of the devastation. The disaster is the worst cyclone to hit Asia since 1991, when 143,000 people died in Bangladesh. Presently, the death toll stands at 15,000 with 30,000 people reported missing. No doubt the death toll will rise in the next few days.

It is as though humanity is being punished for its hubris. We strut about and parade our discoveries, our science and technology, the control we exert over life and death and yet we cannot do anything about the weather… Our activities on this planet are proving to be increasingly deleterious and our pullulating masses are causing climate change, extinctions of plants and animals, destruction of the biosphere in a degree unprecedented until the present time.

We have started to react, sluggishly and half-heartedly and in the meantime, disasters such as the Myanmar destruction, recent tornadoes in the USA, droughts and floods around the globe are driving home the point that we may be reacting too little and too late. How can we avert disaster at this stage? We are bombarded with the bad news on a global level and yet our sphere of influence is only local. The message must get through to everyone and it is only by changing behaviour on the local level that we can expect to see benefits globally. Perhaps not in our lifetime but in our children’s or grandchildren’s generations.

Our government here in Victoria has a list of ten things that everyone can do to help the environment and help in long-term sustainability. This is a good start and may help each and every one of us to “think globally and act locally”:

1. Take a four-minute power shower
2. Take reusable bags with you when you go shopping
3. Turn off lights and appliances at the switch when not in use
4. Sign up to Green Power with your electricity supplier
5. Buy the most energy and water efficient appliances you can afford
6. Put your food or plant scraps in the compost or worm farm
7. Look for products without unnecessary packaging
8. Walk, cycle or use public transport when you can – and leave the car at home
9. Grow plants native to your area in your garden
10. Go green when you clean.


“Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.” - Peter Ustinov

For Movie Monday today, four movies we have recently watched and a mixed bag they are too! I hope something here tickles your fancy.

1) “Hearts in Atlantis” (2001 – Directed by Scott Hicks)

An interesting period piece of the 1960s, a coming of age story and the story of a friendship between a young boy and an old man. The movie is an adaptation of a Stephen King book, or rather the first novella in the book, “Low Men in Yellow Coats”. It is a beautiful movie, slow and full of period touches, good acting with the two leads, Anthony Hopkins and Anton Yelchin certainly carrying the movie. Although we enjoyed the movie, it is also one that is easily forgotten and on reflection not as profound as it first strikes one. Worth seeing, 6.5/10

2) “The Tree of Wooden Clogs” (1978 – Directed by Ermanno Olmi)

In this Italian film set in a farming community in the 19th century, poverty-stricken Italy, nothing much happens and the film lasts for three hours. Yet the masterly film-making manages to involve the viewer into four seasons with the humble families in Lombardy, immersing one into the back-breaking work, the joys and sorrows and the relentless cruelty of a rich landowner, who controls the lives of his serfs. A beautiful film, rich in historical detail, with non-professional actors making of it almost a documentary of another time and place, that manages to make one smile, cry, laugh and sob. The soundtrack of Bach organ works is just right for the mood. Get hold of it and watch it! 8.5/10
3) “The Disorderly Orderly” (1968 – Directed by Frank Tashlin)

I first watched this Jerry Lewis film many years ago when I was 10 or 11 and I remember I laughed till I was sore. By chance I got hold of the DVD and we watched it again. Not as funny as I remembered it, but nevertheless, still managed to make me chuckle. It is slapstick and derivative, but nevertheless, manages to highlight Lewis’ comedic talents and as a farce it is one of Jerry Lewis’ best. Lewis play s Jerome Littlefield who wants to be a doctor. But he is very clumsy, and a hypochondriac (whatever symptoms he hears described, he gets). So he must settle for being an orderly. Dr. Howard, who runs the Whitestone Sanatorium where Jerome works, has faith in Jerome, but nobody else it seems... 
Alice Pearce is great playing a woman with many medical conditions (the description of her “Gall bladder just dripping and dripping” is hilarious). It all ends well and boy gets girl. Fun and games. 5.5/10

4) “The Choir of Hariton” (2005 – Directed by Grigoris Karantinakis)

A well-made Greek film, set in the late 1960s at the time of the military dictatorship. It is set in a small town in Corfu, where the annual tradition of the competition of the choirs has many choral groups in the city competing for the prize, a chocolate statuette of Venus. A leftist headmaster, Hariton, trains the school choir, but he soon crosses sword with Major Dimitriou, the town's new National Guard Commandant, who trains the army choir. They both vie for the affection of Helen, the maths teacher, while the adolescent Gregory who is in love with a fellow student is the great hope of the school choir who have their hopes set on his pure voice to win them the trophy. Intrigue, mystery, love, sex, humour, slapstick, pathos, it’s all a mixture and rather well carried off! 7/10

Sunday, 4 May 2008


“To believe with certainty we must begin with doubting.” - Stanislaw Leszczynski

This Sunday is called St Thomas’ Sunday in the Greek Orthodox faith as it commemorates one of Christ’s apostles who is best remembered for his lack of faith. St. Thomas is best known for his role in verifying the Resurrection of his Master. Thomas' unwillingness to believe that the other Apostles had seen their risen Lord on the first Easter Sunday merited for him the title of "doubting Thomas." Eight days later, on Christ's second apparition, Thomas was gently rebuked for his scepticism and furnished with the evidence he had demanded - seeing in Christ's hands the point of the nails and putting his fingers in the place of the nails and his hand into His side.

At this, St. Thomas became convinced of the truth of the Resurrection and exclaimed: "My Lord and My God," thus making a public Profession of Faith in the Divinity of Jesus. St. Thomas is also mentioned as being present at another Resurrection appearance of Jesus - at Lake Tiberias when a miraculous catch of fish occurred.

This is all that we know about St. Thomas from the New Testament. Tradition says that at the dispersal of the Apostles after Pentecost this saint was sent to evangelise the Parthians, Medes, and Persians; he ultimately reached India, carrying the Faith to the Malabar coast, which still boasts a large native population calling themselves "Christians of St. Thomas." He capped his left by shedding his blood for his Master, speared to death at a place called Calamine. He is the patron of architects.

The painting I’m showcasing today is an illustration is by the masterly Caravaggio painted in 1600. It is oil on canvas, 230 x 175 cm and is in the Cerasi Chapel, Santa Maria del Popolo, in Rome. The drama of disbelief of the tale of St Thomas seems to have touched Caravaggio personally. Few of his paintings are physically so shocking. This depiction of Thomas pushes curiosity to its limits before he will say, 'My Lord and my God.' The classical composition carefully unites the four heads in the quest for truth. Christ's head is largely in shadow, as He is the person who is the least knowable. He also has a serene beauty that is lacking in the furrowed faces of the apostles. The shocking image of the digit exploring the depths of the lance wound is mitigated slightly by the guiding hand of Christ, which seems to push Thomas’ finger deep into the wound. There is no doubt that this is supreme proof of Godhead.