Saturday, 18 October 2008


“Uncertainty and expectation are the joys of life. Security is an insipid thing.” - William Cowper

An evocative song, sung by an extraordinary songstress. Here is the Holly Cole Trio performing “Calling You”, which I first heard to great effect in the film “Bagdad Café”…

Calling you

A desert road from Vegas to nowhere
Someplace better than where you’ve been.
A coffee machine that needs some fixin’
In a little café just around the bend.

I am calling you
Can’t you hear me?
I am calling you…

A hot dry wind blows right through me
The baby’s crying so I can’t sleep
But we both know the change is coming
Come in closer, sweet release.

I am calling you
Can’t you hear me?
I am calling you…

A desert road from Vegas to nowhere
Someplace better than where you’ve been
A coffee machine that needs some fixin’
In a little café just around the bend.

A hot dry wind blows right through me
The baby’s crying so I can’t sleep
And I can feel the change is coming
Come in closer, sweet release.

Friday, 17 October 2008


“It's so beautifully arranged on the plate - you know someone's fingers have been all over it.” - Julia Child

Some of the most satisfying meals I have had, have been non-meals. What do I mean? Well by satisfying I mean that even though I was quite hungry to begin with, I felt satiated after partaking of the food; and by a non-meal, I mean that it did not involve sitting down at a table and having course after course of a formal repast. However, what I am not talking about “fast-food”, take-aways and eating on the run (and other such uncivilised behaviour).

Many a satisfying meal can be had in Greece where one goes out and drinks some ouzo, which is accompanied by all sorts of interesting tidbits called “mezedhes”, for example, small triangles of cheese, little fried minced meat balls, fried whitebait, fried baby calamari, saganaki (fried cheese), slices of tomato and cucumber, olives, slices of crusty bread, boiled prawns and sea snails, pastrami slices, and so on and so forth, the variety being almost limitless and dictated by the imagination of the host and the richness (or otherwise) of his larder.

In Spain the same may be experienced with tapas. In fact one may go bar-hopping (“ir de tapas”) and sample various different ones in each location. One may choose from various seafoods (mariscos) like anchovies, mackerel, sardines, squid and prawns or various smallgoods, including sausages (chorizos), ham (jamón), seasoned meat dishes, bread, etc. All of course, being washed down with sherry, wine or beer.

In France, one may be tempted by a range of savouries known collectively as hors d’ oeuvres or canapés salés. Accompanied by champagne! These are favourites of mine and they can be extremely diverse and varied, the idea of the canapé being more important than its actual composition. At home we often have champagne and hors d’ oeuvres as a complete meal – either because we feel like it or alternatively because there is not time nor inclination to cook anything else…

Here are some of the hors d’ oeuvres we have, not French only, but with an international flavour:


• 1 tub of ready-made taramosalata (Greek red caviar dip)
• 1 tub of ready-made babaganoush or melitzanosalata (Middle-Eastern/Greek
eggplant dip)
• 1 tin of smoked oysters
• 12 tiny continental sausages (fried)
• 100 g of smoked salmon
• Cream cheese
• 1 jar of back caviar
• 1 jar of red caviar
• Sliced stuffed green olives
• Lemon juice
• 100 g of ham
• Some grated Gruyére cheese
• Some blue cheese
• Walnut halves (or pecans)
• 1/2 lemon sliced very thinly
• Dill sprigs
• Fresh basil leaves
• Fresh parsley
• Capers
• Tomato slices
• Mustard
• Mayonnaise
• Canapé crackers
• Vol-au-vent shells
• Mini toasts (tiny squares of crisp oven-toasted bread)
• Butter (optional)
• Olive oil
• Freshly ground pepper

Prepare the mini toasts and crackers by buttering them liberally. Brusht he vol-au-vent cases with olive oil (you may also brush the crackers and mini toasts with oil if you prefer it to butter).

Taramosalata canapés:
Place about a dessertspoonful of taramosalata on a cracker and spread it evenly. Top with a smoked oyster and decorate with a sliver of a lemon slice.

Smoked salmon canapés:
Half an hour before preparation, soak the smoked salmon in the lemon juice. Spread some softened cream cheese on a mini toast. Cut a strip of smoked salmon and twirl it on top of the cream cheese in the form of a scroll. Place two capers in the centre and decorate with small sprigs of dill.

Caviar canapés:
Spread a thiCk layer on mayonnaise on the buttered cracker. Place half a teaspoon of black caviar on one half of the cracker and half a teaspoon of red caviar on the other half. Decorate with half a lemon slice across-wise the two caviar halves.

Ham and cheese vol-au-vents:
Place some grated Gruyére in the vol-au-vent case and place some mustard on top of it. Cut strips of ham, wrap it and place turban-like on top of the cheese/mustard. Top with half a teaspoon of mayonnaise. Bake in a hot oven until the mayonnaise develops a gold crust. Decorate with freshly ground pepper.

Cheese and tomato canapés:
Place some grated Gruyére on a buttered mini toast on which you have spread some mustard. Place in the oven until the cheese has just melted. Top with a tomato slice and freshly ground pepper. Decorate with capers and basil leaves.

Blue cheese and walnut canapés:
Place some blue cheese on a buttered cracker or mini toast. Twirl a strip of ham around the edge of the canapé. Top with half a walnut (or pecan).

Eggplant canapés:
Place a dessertspoonful of babaganoush on a buttered cracker. Top with sliced olives and capers. Decorate with sprigs of parsley.
Sausage vol-au-vent:
Dip the sausage in mustard and wrap a strip of ham around it. Place it in vol-au-vent case and sprinkle liberally with grated Gruyére. Place in the oven until the cheese melts. Decorate with tomato wedges and parsley sprigs.

Thursday, 16 October 2008


“We are one, after all, you and I. Together we suffer, together exist, and forever will recreate each other.” - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

And the word of the day today is “Noösphere”

noösphere |ˈnōəˌsfir| noun
A postulated sphere or stage of evolutionary development dominated by consciousness, the mind, and interpersonal relationships (frequently with reference to the writings of Teilhard de Chardin).
ORIGIN: 1940s: from French noösphere, based on Greek nous ‘mind.’ and Greek sphaira ‘orb, globe.’
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was a visionary French Jesuit, palaeontologist, biologist, and philosopher, who spent most of his life trying to integrate religious experience with natural science. A monumental task, to say the least, as his Christian theological catechism was in direct conflict with the newly developed theories of evolution of Darwin. While immersed in this task he became enthralled with the possibilities for humankind, which he saw as heading for an exciting convergence of systems, an "Omega point" where the coalescence of consciousness will lead us to a new state of peace and planetary unity. Long before ecology was fashionable, he saw this unity he saw as being based intrinsically upon the spirit of the Earth.

He wrote: “The Age of Nations is past. The task before us now, if we would not perish, is to build the Earth.” Teilhard de Chardin died a full ten years before James Lovelock ever proposed the “Gaia Hypothesis” which suggests that the Earth is actually a living being, a collosal biological super-system. Nevertheless, Chardin's writings clearly reflect the sense of the Earth as having its own autonomous personality, and being the prime centre and director of our future, the guiding force for the synthesis of humankind into a new and more wise evolutionary race of beings.

“The phrase ‘Sense of the Earth’ should be understood to mean the passionate concern for our common destiny which draws the thinking part of life ever further onward. The only truly natural and real human unity is the spirit of the Earth. The sense of Earth is the irresistible pressure which will come at the right moment to unite them (humankind) in a common passion. We have reached a crossroads in human evolution where the only road which leads forward is towards a common passion. To continue to place our hopes in a social order achieved by external violence would simply amount to our giving up all hope of carrying the Spirit of the Earth to its limits.” – summarises his philosophy.

He suggested that the Earth in its evolutionary unfolding, was growing a new organ of consciousness, called the noösphere. The noösphere is analogous on a planetary level to the evolution of the brain in humans as they evolved from lower animals. The noösphere is a “planetary thinking network” – an interlinked system of consciousness and information, a global net of self-awareness, instantaneous feedback, and planetary communication. At the time of his writing, computers of any merit were the size of a city block, and the Internet was, if anything, an element of speculative science fiction.

However, this evolution is now evolving into being very rapidly, which in Gaia time, is but a mere blink. In these few seconds of evolutionary time, our planet is developing a cerebral cortex, and emerging into self-conscious awakening. We are approaching the Omega point that Teilhard de Chardin was so excited about. This convergence however, though it was predicted to occur through a global information network, was not a convergence of merely minds or bodies, but of heart, a point that he made most fervently:

“It is not our heads or our bodies which we must bring together, but our hearts. Humanity is building its composite brain beneath our eyes. May it not be that tomorrow, through the logical and biological deepening of the movement drawing it together, it will find its heart, without which the ultimate wholeness of its power of unification can never be achieved?”

In these days of uncertainty, economic crisis, terrorism, massive population shifts, gross inequity, East versus West, First versus Third World, it is important to reflect upon the notion of a noösphere, a higher level of being that transcends our greedy venality and our worldly, materialistic pursuits. The answer lies in the melding of religion with science, intellect with emotion, idealism with pragmatism and the breaking down of barriers worldwide. A new state of evolution of humanity, where heart and brain no longer are in conflict but interdigitate and complement one another to indeed bring about the noösphere proposed by de Chardin…

Wednesday, 15 October 2008


“The love we give away is the only love we keep.” – Elbert Hubbard

A poem recovered from an old diary. It speaks of enchantment and disenchantment, falling in and out of love, of looking through hazy, rose-tinted glasses and clinical, prescription ones of crystal-clear glass that reveal the world and all of its imperfections.

Outside your Door

When I loved you, I loved you so
That even your door, shut as it was,
Was a thing beloved.
When I loved you, I loved you so
That each night I had to spend outside your window,
Until you turned off your light.
When I loved you, I loved you so
That tears would flow from my eyes,
Whenever I but thought of you.

Now so much time has passed,
That your door, even though open wide,
For me has no appeal.
Now so many things have come between us,
That even though your light burns all night,
I would not even know it.
Now so much has my heart hardened,
That the tears that you may shed for me
Are but scattered raindrops in a parched desert.

Monday, 13 October 2008


“If our food and drink don’t meet your standards, please lower your standards” – Chevy’s Restaurant Graffiti

Today is the 39th annual World Standards Day. Every year on World Standards Day, the international community celebrates the importance of standards-related activities and pays tribute to the collaborative efforts of the thousands of individuals that give of their time and expertise to this important work that benchmarks products, services and activities ensuring our quality of life is ever on the rise. A world without standards would soon grind to a halt. Transport and trade would seize up. The Internet would simply not function. Hundreds of thousands of systems dependent on information and communication technologies would falter or fail - from government and banking to healthcare, air traffic control, emergency services, disaster relief and even international diplomacy. Nearly all aspects of the modern world are heavily dependent on standards.

The date, October 14th was chosen because it was on that day in 1946 that delegates from 25 countries first gathered in London and consequently decided to create a new international organization dedicated to the coordination and unification of standards work. The International Organization for Standardisation (ISO) was officially formed one year later and it was at the prompting of an ISO President that the first World Standards Day was celebrated on October 14th, 1970. Since that time the spirit of collaboration embodied by World Standards Day has expanded to include its celebration by members of ISO, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). A variety of unique activities are devised by national accreditation bodies and participants in the international community, to commemorate World Standards Day.

The work of the ISO, the IEC and the ITU in developing international standards opens up markets but also brings environmental protection, safety, security, health and access to information and knowledge. Increasingly international standards are helping to break down the barriers between rich and poor nations. Standardisation helps provide higher quality at lower costs by ensuring that competition exists between vendors. It makes it easier for consumers to make an informed choice about equipment or services that they buy.

Ultimately, the goal of World Standards Day is to raise awareness of the importance of international standardization to the world economy and to promote its role in helping meet the needs of all business sectors. A specific theme for World Standards Day is selected annually by ISO, IEC and ITU. In 2008, "Intelligent and sustainable buildings" has been chosen for the 39th World Standards Day. The poster for 2008 World Standards Day above has been added to a design for a “green” building designed by Mithun and planned for downtown Seattle. This building design has won the Cascadia Region Green Building Council's Living Building Challenge: To create a building that functions like an organism, with apartments, a restaurant that utilizes food grown on site, and that is fully self-sufficient.


I think cinema, movies, and magic have always been closely associated. The very earliest people who made film were magicians. - Francis Ford Coppola

How often have you seen lists of “100 Best of …” whether it’s books, music albums, places to visit, great paintings, or movies? There is a whole series of books nowadays, of the ilk: “1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die”, and its companion “1001 Films You Must See Before you Die”. I guess it’s much easier to be inclusive when you are dealing with a large number of “greats”, but what about the best 10 of all time? Can you construct a list of the 10 greatest films of all time?

The problem of course is that great films can’t be measured scientifically because “greatness” is extremely subjective – “one man’s meat is another man’s poison” so to speak. Artistic merit of films (or other works of art for that matter) can never be rated or quantified, although critics, reviewers, and fans still make ten best lists, hundred best lists, all-time greatest lists, favourites lists, awards lists, and generate results of polls. The nationality and cultural background of the compiler of the “10 Best…” list will also play an extremely important role in his or her selection. The movie industry is also one that has been dominated for a very long time by Hollywood, and most lists tend to reflect this.

Over a long period of time, it has been found that the English-language films found here in this selection of Greatest Films repeatedly appear on all-time best film lists by critics and are often noted in the collective responses of film viewers. There is reasonable consensus by most film historians, critics and reviewers that these selections are among cinema's most critically-acclaimed, significant "must-see" films (of predominantly Hollywood-American production).

These choices were limited to English-language, theatrically-distributed, narrative feature films. And that means foreign-language films, documentaries, TV movies and mini-series, and short films were not considered. Emphasis in these selections is purposely directed toward earlier, more classic Hollywood/American films.

Annie Hall (1977)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Ben Hur (1959)
The Big Sleep (1946)
Casablanca (1942)
Citizen Kane (1941)
E.T. The Extraterrestrial (1982)
Fantasia (1940)
The Godfather (1972)
The Godfather - Part II (1974)
Gone with the Wind (1939)
The Graduate (1967)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
A Night at the Opera (1935)
North by Northwest (1959)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Psycho (1960)
Schindler’s List (1993)
Some Like it Hot (1959)
Star Wars (1977)
Taxi Driver (1976)
The Third Man (1949)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
Wuthering Heights (1939)

Now, if your tastes are a little more universal and cosmopolitan, you could include some non-English language films that are amongst the “greatest”:

8½ (1963)
Aguirre, The Wrath of God (1972)
L’ Avventura (1960)
Battleship Potemkin (1925)
Belle de Jour (1967)
La Belle et la Bête (1946)
The Bicycle Thief (1948)
Le Boucher (1969)
Cinema Paradiso (1988)
Cria Cuervos (1975)
Les Diaboliques (1954)
La Dolce Vita (1960)
La Double Vie de Veronique (1991)
Earth (1930)
Fanny and Alexander (1982)
The Four Hundred Blows (1959)
Grand Illusion (1937)
Jules et Jim (1962)
Landscape in the Mist (1988)
Lola (1961)
M (1931)
Metropolis (1927)
Nosferatu (1922)
La Notte (1961)
Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (1964)
Playtime (1967)
Raise the Red Lantern (1991)
Ran (1985)
Rashomon (1951)
La Regle du Jeu (1939)
Rocco e I Suoi Fratelli (1960)
The Seven Samurai (1954)
La Strada (1954)
Viridiana (1961)
The World of Apu (1959)

My lists may seem a little eclectic and I may have omitted what you would consider are amongst the “greatest”, however, as I said earlier, this is a subjective process. Besides, these films that I have listed above are ones that I have seen and have liked for one reason or another. What are some of your favourite films of all time that should be on my lists?

Sunday, 12 October 2008


"In a completely sane world, madness is the only freedom!" - J. G. Ballard

For Art Sunday, the art of David Tench McKean (born 29 December 1963 in Maidenhead, Berkshire). He is an English illustrator, photographer, comic book artist, graphic designer, filmmaker and musician. His work incorporates drawing, painting, photography, collage, found objects, digital art and sculpture. He is an exponent of surrealism, and his 2005 film “MirrorMask” best exemplifies his enormous artistic