Saturday, 12 June 2010


“It becomes increasingly easy, as you get older, to drown in nostalgia.” - Ted Koppel

A song from my youth, today sung by Don McLean. I remember listening to this while I was discovering myself, discovering art, discovering life and death. A great song about a great artist by a great artist. Here is “Vincent” from 1971.


Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and grey.

Look out on a summer's day
With eyes that know the
Darkness in my soul.
Shadows on the hills
Sketch the trees and the daffodils,
Catch the breeze and the winter chills
In colors on the snowy linen land.

And now I understand what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen
They did not know how
Perhaps they'll listen now.

Starry, starry night
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze
Swirling clouds in violet haze reflect in
Vincent's eyes of China blue.
Colors changing hue
Morning fields of amber grain
Weathered faces lined in pain
Are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand.

And now I understand what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free.
perhaps they'll listen now.

For they could not love you
But still your love was true
And when no hope was left in sight on that
Starry, starry night.

You took your life
As lovers often do;
But I could have told you, Vincent,
This world was never
Meant for one
As beautiful as you.

Starry, starry night
Portraits hung in empty halls
Frameless heads on nameless walls
with eyes that watch the world and can't forget.
Like the stranger that you've met
The ragged men in ragged clothes
The silver thorn of bloody rose
Lie crushed and broken
On the virgin snow.

And now I think I know what you tried to say to me,
How you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen
They're not listening still
Perhaps they never will.

Friday, 11 June 2010


“After these two, Dr. Diet and Dr. Quiet, Dr. Merriman is requisite to preserve health.” - James Howell

I was up in Brisbane for work once again today and essentially spent the whole day in long and packed meetings. I had to catch the first flight out, which meant I got up at 4:00 a.m. and eventually got home at 10:00 p.m. which makes for a very long day… Fortunately all the meetings went well and were very constructive with quite a lot achieved, which is more than can be said for many committees and meetings at work.

Usually at meetings like these, morning tea, lunch and afternoon are provided and the fare is typically an example of the colonial past where sandwiches, pastries, pies, biscuits, sweet rolls and other such carbohydrate and calorie-rich food abounds. It was unusual in today’s meetings that we were treated to a healthy choice of foods. Firstly, there were bowls of fruit on the tables and these were kept full of luscious seasonal fruits. Queensland is in a subtropical zone so the winters are warm and dry. Consequently we were able to enjoy grapes, bananas, passionfruit, strawberries, mandarins, kiwifruits , apples and pears. Secondly, there were dishes of nuts like cashews, almonds, macadamias and walnuts. Some dried fruit were also set out, including paw-paw, pineapple, apricots and pears.

Lunch consisted of fresh flat bread wraps with salad and cheese or lean ham. There were also some baked organic vegetarian pasties. There were juices and lots of cool water available during the day as well as herbal teas and green tea. Needless to say we all enjoyed the food, which did a great deal to keep our mind keen during the day and to make our meetings more productive.

We have a long weekend coming up, with Monday being Queen’s Birthday. This long weekend in Victoria is traditionally the opening of the ski season ( There have been good snow falls already and the skiers have already started to congregate in the resorts that have fair to good cover that is conducive to good ski runs. No doubt, the weekend will be very busy on the snow fields.

I look forward to a quiet weekend at home with lots of R&R!

Thursday, 10 June 2010


“It is clear that the way to heal society of its violence... and lack of love is to replace the pyramid of domination with the circle of equality and respect.” - Manitonquat

I wrote yesterday on my blog about the railway station close to my house where I board the train every morning when I commute to work. I am rather lucky in that this station is well-cared for, has a strong sense of community and there are many “regulars” who see each other every morning (and often every evening on the return journey). A large part of the sense of community is the stationmaster, Peter Leith. His cheery face and friendly greeting every morning directed at all the commuters ensures that one’s day begins well. He has a calm manner, a kindly word for all and a good sense of humour.

This is an important element in maintaining safety, security and does much to discourage threatening or unruly behaviour at the station. Unfortunately, nowadays we have to be on guard every minute of the day and be wary in public places lest we fall victim to some senseless act of violence. Fortunately, In Melbourne this is not as common as in some other parts of the world, and where I live is much safer than in other suburbs. However, it is part of life and one has to be always vigilant and alert.

To the point is the incident that occurred at the Gardenvale railway station here in Melbourne, last Sunday. A 16-year-old was the victim of a bashing by a gang of youths, who struck him violently and pushed him off the platform onto the train tracks. The poor boy had been bullied at school and on Facebook for some months by the same gang members that attacked him at the train station. The station was not deserted, about twenty adults were there at the time.

The boy’s mother said that her son had walked his girlfriend to the railway station to see her safely onto a city-bound train, but the assailant and his accomplices saw him and attacked. They held his girlfriend back, while the assailant king hit the boy so he fell to the ground and he was kicked multiple times in the back. While many adults witnessed the attack, no-one lifted a finger even as one yelled out “someone, please help him”.

Fortunately, someone did do something. The rescuer was 17-year-old Sam Porter on the opposite side of the track. He witnessed the incident, horrified and jumped down the platform to get back up on the city side. Young Sam wasn’t prepared to just stand by while someone was bashed. His mother was a former police officer and he says that he was brought up to help people in need. The real surprise for Sam was that that no-one else joined in to help him in rescuing the attacked youth.

The bashed boy was prepared to lie on the tracks and put an end to his life, he confessed later. He felt absolutely desperate and humiliated. He was thoroughly demoralised after months of taunting, false rumours, and comments posted on Facebook. If it weren’t for Sam, the boy’s mother said, her son could well be dead now.

Gardenvale station is not in a ghetto or a poor working-class suburb. It is situated in Melbourne’s blue-ribbon suburb of Brighton where house prices fetch millions of dollars at auction and where the idle rich parade through shopping streets where shops display expensive imported items and the cars parked nearby are Jaguars, Porsches, Mercedes and BMWs. The youths could well have been born with a silver spoon in their mouths. Sam said that increased staffing at stations, extra police and stricter penalties were needed to prevent more incidents of this sort.

What are we doing wrong as a society? What is happening to our community? Why is it so hard for our stationmaster Peter to maintain that sense of community at our station? Why have we learned to live with violence and fear and indifference? If this is happening now, today what will it be like tomorrow? Will it be complete anarchy? Jungle rules?

King hit |ki ng hit|, noun
A king hit, also known as a sucker punch is a common street fighting technique. Experts may feign fear or friendliness to put their opponent off guard or approach him from the side or rear to deliver a surprise blow. To guard against this, fighters may place their backs against a wall or issue an ultimatum against any close approach. The king hit may carry the added connotation that the blow is, as a rule, pre-empting a fight, and intended to cause as much damage as possible, and is usually aimed at a weak point such as the groin or kidneys.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010


“In the hope to meet shortly again, and make our absence sweet.” - Ben Jonson

Oh, what a wintry day today in Melbourne! I was at the train station at 6:30 a.m. and it was still dark. It was very cold and rainy with the wind carrying a hefty chill factor with it. The train station was illuminated brightly in the darkness and a few (fewer than usual!) early morning commuters were braving the cold and darkness, and were waiting for the train with me. The station master at my station is a lovely, elderly man who always smiles and has a cheery word for everyone. He was wearing in his winter gear today, a greatcoat, gloves and a remarkable ushanka making him look quite Russian! Despite the early hour and the cold, wet day his good humour was there. Surely it was sorely needed today, much more so than it is needed on other days.

It was still dark when I got into the City just before seven and there was remarkably little traffic and not too many pedestrians as I walked to work. It seems everyone was luxuriating in their warm bed and putting off their departure from home. While I was standing at the traffic lights, waiting for them to change, I took it all in and it was quite a strong emotive experience while the cold crisp air mingled with my feelings and thought. I mentally jotted down a poem that I wrote down several hours later at the end of the day. Here it is…


A winter morning:
Cold, wet and the sky blacker now
Than in the dead of night.
The car headlights
Reflected on the moist tarmac;
My breath in steamy clouds,
As I wait to cross the street in falling rain.

A winter morning:
The sidewalk deserted,
Empty, just like my heart.
Your absence lingering
Like the smell of fallen leaves;
Your face, glimpsed as it were,
On a window as a passerby is reflected.

A winter morning:
A steaming cup of coffee
Warming my hand.
Thoughts of our shared breakfasts
Your ardent hand on mine,
The sound of your laughter,
The taste of fresh, warm buttered toast.

A winter morning:
The dawning day, grey and cold
The sun, absent, like you.
I linger expectantly for your return;
Spring thoughts in deepest winter,
Flowers made of the few yellowed leaves
On bare twigs; warmth imagined of our reunion.

Monday, 7 June 2010


“And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold their tents like the Arabs
And as silently steal away.” - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Vachellia farnesiana, the needle tree, is the birthday plant for today.  It is a hardy tree with numerous thorns distributed along its branches, feathery leaves, and bright yellow, fragrant ball-like flowers like pom-poms. In the language of flowers, this plant symbolises “dangerous love”.

An Indian legend recounts how this plant originated: A falcon tried to steal soma (the drink of immortality of the Indian gods).  The falcon was wounded by one of the demons guarding the soma and thus it lost a feather and a claw, which fell to earth.  They sprouted forth and gave rise to plant with the feathery leaves, and sharp spikes, which bears the fragrant flowers reminiscent of the scent of the heavenly drink.

Cassie perfume is distilled from the flowers. Cassie absolute is employed in preparation of violet perfume bouquets, which are extensively used in European perfumery. Cassie pomades are manufactured In Uttar Pradesh and the Punjab.

In the northern hemisphere, this rhyme is said on this day:
    If on the eighth of June it rain
    That foretells of a wet harvest, men sayen.

Today is the 200th anniversary of Schumann’s birth, in 1810. Robert Alexander Schumann (1810–1856) was a German romantic composer. His wonderful solo piano music (such as the well known Carnaval and Kinderszenen) occupied him until 1840, when he began to turn to the orchestra and to songs. His orchestral works such as the Piano Concerto in A Minor (1841–45) and the Rhenish Symphony (1850) exemplify his mastery of classical forms but also show an emotional intensity that hint at his later nervous breakdown. An articulate and gifted critic, he championed younger composers such as Chopin and Brahms. His wife, Clara Josephine (Wieck) Schumann (1819–1896) was an outstanding concert pianist.  One of my favourite of his compositions is the Träumerei, Opus 15 N˚ 7.

Sunday, 6 June 2010


“The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?” - Pablo Casals

We watched an Indian movie from Bollywood last weekend, which we enjoyed very much. Sure, it was melodramatic and some scenes were quite mushy and theatrical, but overall it was a good film with fantastic cinematography, colourful costumes, lush music and songs, expansive scenery, lots of action, goodies and baddies, a romance, a court-room scene, a message about national identity and an artistic document that attempts to broker peace between age-old enemies. The film is Yash Chopra’s 2004 “Veer-Zaara”.

The plot has as follows: The International Human Rights Commission, which has identified Pakistan as an area with some issues in Human Rights violations, recruits a young female barrister, Saamiya Siddiqui (Rani Mukerji), newly admitted to the bar, to investigate the rights of long-serving prisoners, who have not had a fair trial. Her first case concerns Prisoner No.786 who is the Indian Rajesh Rathore (Shahrukh Khan). He has been captured as an alleged spy and sentenced to jail indefinitely. Saamiya finds out that his real name is Veer Pratap Singh and goes to meet him in order to find out how she can help him. Although he has never spoken a word for over 22 years, he responds to her as she calls him by his real name. Veer starts to tell his story to her, and thereafter she realises that truly, he is neither Rajesh Rathore nor a spy. He is a Sikh man who loved a Moslem woman, Zaara Haayat Khan (Preity Zinta), a rich heiress of Lahore. Saamiya discovers that Veer was caught up in a web of deceit and betrayal, made to sign a “confession”, which resulted in his confinement.

She undertakes to prove that Veer has been wrongly imprisoned, but faces many obstacles, including the fact that her peers do not approve of her, as she is seen as a woman doing a “man’s job” as a barrister. She also has to confront the country’s top prosecutor, Zakir Ahmed (Anupam Kher), her former boss, who will be up in court against her. Saamiya courageously takes up the challenges and she investigates the case, with the added difficulty that Veer does not want Zaara’s name or her family’s to be brought up in court, in order not to stain her honour.

The film adhered to several classic Bollywood formulas: There is much emotion and sentimentality, there are the standard musical and dancing numbers (with admittedly well-written music and sensitive lyrics), beautiful costumes and a romantic story. It is also a long movie, running for 192 minutes, true to type Bollywood. The film was not meant to be a realistic documentary, but rather functioned in an idealised setting for a love story. However, it was more than the romantic story of the star-crossed lovers Veer and Zaara; it was a love story of people for their land, a love story of human beings for their traditions and family values, the love for truth, honour and respect. The settings are water-coloured, fairy-tale and idealised. But this is a movie produced for a public that wants its stars to live in larger than life settings, experience violent emotions, overcome tremendous obstacles and survive the wildest vicissitudes of fortune. Yash Chopra gives all this to the public and more. He provides a message that steals upon the viewer surreptitiously and when it hits, it is a revelation and packs a strong emotional punch.

The film makes a feminist statement, it looks at nationalism through eyes sick of the violence that nationalism often engenders, and it represents patriotism coming second after humanity. The final scenes when Veer is in the courtroom and recites his poem as his only contribution to the proceedings is a powerful, moving and poignant moment. The film is like an opera. There is sentiment and drama. There is coincidence and destiny. There is emotion and epic storyline. If you wish to see reality, go and see a documentary or a new-wave, grunge-city, crime drama. I recommend this, but only if you do not mind subtitles, if you do not have a cynical attitude, if you are pure of heart and open of mind…


“Certain thoughts are prayers.  There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees.” - Victor Hugo

For Art Sunday, a contemporary Greek artist, George Kordis (Γεώργιος Κορδής). George Kordis was born in Greece in Makryracchi of Phthiotis in1956, and grew up in Athens. He studied theology in the Theological School of the University of Athens and concurrently studied Byzantine iconography under the tutelage of Cypriot hagiographer Symeon Symeou. He obtained a Master of Theology at the Holy Cross Seminary in Boston and also studied art at the School of Art of the Boston Museum. When he returned to Athens he continued his art studies in painting and engraving under Fotis Mastichiadis. He has become an expert in theology and the aesthetics of Byzantine painting. In 1991 he obtained a Doctorate of Theology and since 2003 he is a lecturer in the Theological School of the University of Athens.

His painting style owes much to the Byzantine tradition. He uses examples of Byzantine lay painting to set the stage for his subjects, which are often indebted to the West for their iconographic references and technique. He has exhibited his work widely, in more than 25 personal exhibitions and even more collective ones. His works are in many public and private collections.

As a hagiographer, he has an intimate knowledge of the past Byzantine riches of the icon, but he does not simply copy old works, he creates his own personal style, which although is traditional and builds on solid historical foundations, is fresh and startlingly original. He has painted many icons, but also has created the mural decorations of many churches in both Greece and abroad.

The painting above is his personal interpretation of the seasons personified. First comes Autumn losing a page of manuscript in the rising wind. Then pensive ageing Winter, playing with his worry beads. A youthful Spring rejoices in the flower-filled meadow at the feet and the flying kite of the beginning of Lent. Summer s a young fisherman, grasping the sun and ready to set sail with his nets in the green sea. A beautiful tableau of the year’s cycle.