Saturday, 7 May 2011


“A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.” - Benjamin Franklin

It’s good to be home again. Perth is such a long away! Flying there really drives home the point what a big country Australia is…

For Music Saturday something restful and beautiful. Voices from the past, reinterpreting Bach’s music vocally. The purists may be offended, but I think Bach would have approved, being the genius that he was and not afraid of innovation and variation (think of of how many arrangements of other composers’ music he made, and how many rearrangements of his own works for varying ensembles).

Here are the Swingle Singers performing the wonderful Sinfonia in G Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Friday, 6 May 2011


“To get away from one’s working environment is, in a sense, to get away from one’s self; and this is often the chief advantage of travel and change.” - Charles Horton Cooley

I am in Perth for work and the weather here has been marvellous. Fine, sunny, almost summery temperatures. Certainly a very mild autumn, unlike Melbourne’s gray one. I was here for our graduation ceremony, which was held in Perth Town Hall, a beautiful old building. It was opened in 1870 and is the only convict-built capital city town hall in Australia. The building is a fine example of the Victorian Free Gothic style. It is located at the highest point of the City, at the corner of Hay and Barrack Streets. An award-winning restoration, completed in 2005, made this heritage building a well-equipped venue for performances, banquets, cocktail receptions, forums, weddings and community events and exhibitions.

Our graduation went very well and everyone enjoyed it, most of all of course, the graduates who received their testamurs after a working for so long and so hard for them. There was a cocktail function afterwards and it is always gratifying to talk to the graduates and the families. One hears a host of interesting things about their experiences, the way they sum up their course and also more importantly, what their plans for the future are.

A small group of us then went out to dinner at éCucina, a trendy restaurant and bar in Perth’s CBD. This offers an Italian-inspired menu for breakfast, lunch dinner and there are also snacks and stuzzichini (Italian-style tapas) served with drinks at the bar. The service was very good and our food was very nice. The company surely always determines whether a night out is successful and we had a very good small group of compatible people. The surroundings were quiet and conducive to pleasant conversation, witty repartee and lots of dinnertime discussion.

Some of the interesting dishes at the restaurant:

For Entrée: Tea-smoked duck salad with seared scallops, mint, peanuts, green pawpaw, pale sugar, chilli and lemongrass dressing; or perhaps, Hiramasa Kingfish Ceviche with pink grapefruit, lime, chilli and baby shiso, finished with extra virgin olive oil. One could also have the tasting plate of antipasti or the charcuterie plate with pork terrine, chicken liver parfait, homemade Italian sausage with cornichons, mustard fruits and warm baguette. A variety of pasta and risotto dishes are offered, not surprising in an Italian restaurant. However, there are some other interesting Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Oriental touches, such as the addition of harissa, Persian feta, wagyu, chimichurri or green peppercorns.

Main dishes offer a variety of meats – lamb, beef, pork, poultry, with touches of seafood here and there.  The grilled Tasmanian salmon with orange and miso, saffron linguine, fennel and orange salad sounded interesting. Steaks were excellent and sourced from grain fed cattle in WA’s southwest and aged on the premises. Side dishes completed the menu, but at the end of our meal, consumed with a good McLaren Vale Shiraz, we didn’t have any room for desserts or coffee.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the Hula Bula Bar (sic!). The place is so kitch that it’s definitely worth visiting. It styles itself as Australia’s only Tiki bar and is decorated garishly using a Hawaiian/Polynesian theme. It is located at 12 Victoria Avenue in Perth’s CBD. The cocktails served are absolutely lethal! The bar was full and noisy, obviously very popular with the locals. The exorbitant prices of the drinks didn’t seem to deter the many people who were intent on drinking themselves under the tables! We had a single drink and went back to the hotel… Just goes to prove that we were a group of old fuddy-duddies!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011


“If it were necessary to give the briefest possible definition of imperialism, we should have to say that imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism.” - Vladimir Lenin

Today is Cinco de Mayo, which is a regional Mexican holiday observed in the state of Puebla and its capital city of Puebla. However, the sizeable population of expatriate Mexicans in several large cities of the USA, observe this holiday with so much fervour and merry-making, that many Americans regard the 5th of May as an important Mexican holiday, or even the Mexican Independence Day (which is actually on September 16).

Cinco de Mayo marks the victory of the Mexican Army over the French at the Battle of Puebla. Even though the Mexican army was eventually defeated, the “Batalla de Puebla” came to represent a symbol of Mexican unity and patriotism. With this battle, Mexicans demonstrated to the world that Mexico and all of Latin America were willing to defend themselves against any foreign intervention. This was especially true in those countries where imperialists bent on world conquest had established themselves and were ruling the countries for their own benefit and interest, while the indigenous people suffered.

The French occupation of Mexico developed in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War of 1846-48. With this war, Mexico entered a period of national crisis during the 1850’s. Years of not only fighting the Americans but also a Civil War, had left Mexico devastated and bankrupt. On July 17, 1861, President Benito Juarez issued a moratorium in which all foreign debt payments would be suspended for a brief period of two years, with the promise that after this period, payments would resume.

The English, Spanish and French refused to allow president Juarez to do this, and instead decided to invade Mexico and get payments by whatever means necessary. The Spanish and English eventually withdrew, but the French refused to leave. Their intention was to create an Empire in Mexico under Napoleon III. Some have argued that the true French occupation was a response to growing American power and to the Monroe Doctrine (America for the Americans). Napoleon III believed that if the USA was allowed to prosper indiscriminately, it would eventually become a world power and usurp the domination of the world by Britain, Spain, France and Germany.

In 1862, the French army began its advance. Under General Ignacio Zaragoza, 5,000 ill-equipped Mestizo and Zapotec Indians defeated the French army in what came to be known as the “Batalla de Puebla” on the fifth of May. In the USA, the “Batalla de Puebla” came to be known as simply “Cinco de Mayo”. Mexican Independence was declared on September 16, 1810, the day which is still observed throughout in Mexico as National Day.

Cinco de Mayo has become more of Chicano holiday than a Mexican one. The day is celebrated on a much larger scale in the USA than it is in Mexico. People of Mexican descent in the United States celebrate this significant day by having parades, mariachi music, folkloric dancing and other types of festivities. In any case, the day is worth celebrating as a commemoration of indigenous people’s need for self-rule and freedom from imperialistic powers.

imperialism |imˈpi(ə)rēəˌlizəm| noun
A policy of extending a country’s power and influence through diplomacy or military force: The struggle against French imperialism in 19th century Mexico. Figurative: French ministers protested at U.S. cultural imperialism.
• chiefly historical rule by an emperor.
imperialist |-ˌpi(ə) ˈrēəlist| noun
imperialistic |-ˌpi(ə)rēəˈlistik| adjective
imperialistically adverb
ORIGIN late Middle English: Via Old French from Latin imperialis, from imperium ‘command, authority, empire’; related to imperare ‘to command.’

Tuesday, 3 May 2011


“Love is a sweet tyranny, because the lover endureth his torments willingly.” - Proverb

Love sustains and consumes the world. It keeps us going in times of hardship, easing our distress, but at the same time causing us as much pain as it gives pleasure. When we lack it, we are miserable, but even when we are in love we often are even more miserable. The maddening contradictory emotions of love disrupt our equilibrium and run through our fragile equanimity like a cyclone that wreaks havoc wherever it passes.

Here is a poem I wrote some time ago when very much in love. I view that time now with some bemusement. It was as though I were gravely sick then. After that serious illness, a slow recovery and a gradual return to normality. Now that I simply love and am loved, how wonderful is this feeling of temperate and gentle interdependence that this stable, simple love rich in affection, caring companionship and contentment offers. And yet, the maelstrom of that time of being in love has left indelible sweet memories, not only painful ones.

My Searing Love

My searing love ignites my senses,
A scalding sun that scorches
My every fibre.
No rain,
No river,
No lake,
Can quench it.

My fevered love sears my brow,
Makes my flesh red-hot,
My soul now incandescent.
No ice,
No snow,
No frost,
Can cool it.

My fiery love consumes my being,
A furnace, burning white-hot,
Setting my heart in flames.
No river,
No sea,
No ocean,
Can extinguish it.

My searing love only to be assuaged by
Your single tear shed only for me.
My fevered love only to be cooled down by
Your refreshing touch as you caress me.
My fiery love only to be doused by
Your revitalising words of love,
That first smother the fire,
Then re-ignite it once again afresh…

Monday, 2 May 2011


“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr

The news in the last couple of weeks has been rather dismal and unfortunately, the indications are that things will get worse before they get any better. Economic woes, more revelations of radiation contamination in Japan, a host more natural disasters, the devastation in Alabama wrought by the wild tornadoes are all stories that affect every sensitive person’s psyche in ways that interfere with the way that each of us deals with everyday existence. The search for safety valves and the attempt to release all that tension and quest for some good news stories was exemplified by the near hysteria that accompanied the royal wedding and the scenes of wild elation and abandon that was evident not only in the UK, but the world over.

However, dominating the news in the last two days is the death of Osama Bin Laden (March 10, 1957 – May 2, 2011). This has saturated the media and one cannot get away from the images of that well-known bearded face with the suggestion of a smile that somehow chills the marrow of an onlooker. The circumstances surrounding the execution of Osama Bin Laden have attracted much criticism, as has the reaction of wild elation that accompanied release of the news in the USA, especially. The quote that I started this post with, which I read sometime ago has stayed with me and it seems extremely apt under the present circumstances.

One cannot but deplore the thousands of lives lost as the result of terrorist actions instigated by extremist organisations driven by directives from leaders who thrive in a culture of hate and terror. Whether they are Christian or Muslim, Hindu or Atheist, hate engenders hate as Martin Luther King, Jr indicates. Some crimes are heinous and generate within us extreme reactions of revulsion and disgust. People affected personally by the violence, those who have lost loved ones yearn for justice and quote Mosaic law: “An eye for eye and a tooth for a tooth”. Blood shed seeks the revenge that can only be satisfied by shedding even more blood. Vendetta mentality in the past wiped out whole families and made once populous villages ghosts of their former glory.

There are those who already doubt that Osama Bin Laden is dead. The conspiracy theorists thrive in times such as these and under such circumstances. According to them, Osama Bin Laden is alive and well keeping company with Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. The American task force that carried the execution apparently has incontrovertible proof of his death. However, the burial at sea and disappearance of the body have added fuel to the conspiracy theory.

Our world changed with the fall of the Twin Towers in New York City on September 11 2001. This terrorist attack that resulted in 2,752 deaths killed more than people. It wounded a nation’s pride, it created a sore that still bleeds in the people of the USA and an ulcer that fails to heal. Will Osama Bin Laden’s death help scarify these wounds? Will Al Qaeda be defeated or is this latest action engender even more violence, more terror, more destruction? Is this an end or a new beginning of even more abominations?


“For as children tremble and fear everything in the blind darkness, so we in the light sometimes fear what is no more to be feared than the things children in the dark hold in terror and imagine will come true.” - Titus Lucretius Carus

At the weekend we watched an interesting film, which although was touted as a “horror” film, is more of a psychological thriller and a drama with a supernatural twist. There are no over-the-top blood-curdling scenes, no high-pitched string soundtrack, no blood-stained knives, or violence, but rather a constant on-edge feeling that builds up to a good, satisfying climax. The film is Walter Salles’ 2005 “Dark Water”, which is based on a Japanese novel by Kôji Suzuki and a film by Hideo Nakata “Honogurai mizu no soko kara”, who also created the “Ringu” film.

Dahlia Williams (Jennifer Connelly) and her young daughter Cecelia (Ariel Gade) move into a rundown (but affordable) apartment on New York’s Roosevelt Island. Dahlia is currently in midst of a custody battle for Cecelia and messy divorce proceedings, as well as having to deal with constant migraines and unresolved issues from her childhood.  The apartment comes on the recommendation of a sleazy agent (played excellently by John C. Reilly) and has a creepy janitor (great character actor Pete Postlethwaite). From the time the mother and daughter arrive, there are mysterious events, strange noises from the apartment upstairs, whispers and visions. To add to the discomfort, there is a constant drip of dark water from the ceiling in her daughter’s bedroom. Water plays an important role in the movie, not only as it drips from the ceiling, but also the seemingly constant rain that falls from leaden skies, knee-deep water in the apartment above Dahlia’s and a roof water reservoir that looks forbidding and menacing.

Tim Roth does a good job of playing Dahlia’s unconventional lawyer and Dougray Scott is convincing as her estranged husband. The acting honours go to Connelly and Gade, who seem to have a great chemistry, being very convincing as the troubled mother and daughter. Connely gives an acting recital and what could have been a role that could be hammed up considerably, is played with restraint and great aplomb. Her difficulty in coping with her life is conveyed with conviction and half of the success of the film is due to Connelly’s ability to transfer her uneasiness, anxiety and distress to the viewer.

Salles directs the movie with great skill and he manages to get the most out of every scene and out of each actor. There is great atmosphere, well-planned lighting and good scene-setting. The viewer is immersed into the troubled, tense agitation of Dahlia and her daughter, with a build-up that raises the viewer’s apprehension and disquiet until the ultimate scenes when Dahlia finally realises what need be done to save the situation.

The jacket of the DVD has a lot of irrelevant marketing hype about this being a “horror” movie, but it is in fact a human drama, with even the supernatural element being almost an afterthought. Instead of ghosts, one could view the supernatural elements as products of Dahlia’s troubled mind. It is not your regular ghost story. Dahlia’s attempt to cope with her own past and attempts to resolve the conflict in her relationship with her neglectful mother is a strong driving force in the movie. It also explains Dahlia’s actions and her immense love for her own daughter, which ultimately determines her actions and the course that she takes in the end.

It is an intelligent, dark and tense psychological thriller, which creates an apprehensive, uncomfortable atmosphere from the beginning. It is tragic and sad, especially in its ending, but is characterised by good acting, good direction, but perhaps could have benefitted from a stronger script. The removal of the supernatural element in favour of a psychological explanation for Dahlia’s actions could have allowed the film to be marketed more as a drama rather than as the misguided move to market it as a “horror” movie. Good one to watch!

Sunday, 1 May 2011


“He that is in a town in May loseth his spring.” - George Herbert

Happy May Day! I hope that Spring has truly sprung in the Northern Hemisphere, and that you took the opportunity to go gambolling in the fields, a-Maying! I know in many European countries, May Day is an opportunity for going out into the countryside and collecting wildflowers. It is a time of singing, dancing and celebration. Winter has well and truly gone and Spring is in its full glory. A May wreath is made and hung up on the entrance door once everyone returns t the house. This may well be another tradition that is lost to city dwellers just as the countryside gets progressively further and further away from them as the city sprawls ever outward.

We drove out into the countryside, but it was well and truly Autumn (see my Photoblog)! The skies gray, the occasional shower fell but nevertheless, we went a-Maying! We still have a wonderful showing of blooms in our gardens, with the glory of the chrysanthemums in preparation for Mother’s Day next Sunday.

In tribute of the day, a flower painting by Odilon Redon, who painted many flower pictures replete with striking colour and brilliant pure pastel hues, pastel on paper being one of his favourite mediums.

Bertrand-Jean Redon better known as Odilon Redon (April 20, 1840 - July 6, 1916) was a Symbolist painter and printmaker. He was born in Bordeaux, Aquitaine, France. Odilon was a nickname derived from his mother, Odile. Redon started drawing as a young child, and at the age of 10 he was awarded a drawing prize at school. At age 15, he began formal study in drawing but on the insistence of his father he switched to architecture. His failure to pass the entrance exams at Paris’ Ecole des Beaux-Arts ended any plans for a career as an architect, although he would later study there under Jean-Léon Gérôme.

“Peyrelebade”, his father’s estate in the Médoc became a basic source of inspiration for all his art, providing him with both subjects from nature and a stimulus for his fantasies, and Redon returned there constantly until its enforced sale in 1897. He received his education in Bordeaux from 1851, rapidly showing talent in many art forms: He studied drawing with Stanislas Gorin (≈1824-1874) from 1855 and he also became an accomplished violinist. He developed a keen interest in contemporary literature, partly through the influence of Armand Clavaud, a botanist and thinker who became his friend and intellectual mentor.

He learned lithography under Henri Fantin-Latour and he came to be associated with the Symbolist painters. His oils and pastels, chiefly still lifes with flowers, won him admiration as a colourist from Henri Matisse and other painters. His prints (nearly 200 in all), which explore fantastic, often macabre themes, foreshadowed Surrealism and Dada.

This is his Ophélie dans les fleurs (Ophelia among the Flowers) circa 1905-8, a pastel on paper work (640 x 910 mm). Redon fills this painting with rich, bright colour, highlighting the flowers. Ophelia is in shadowy profile with a relatively sepulchral yellow ochre. The colouration suits the theme of the death of Ophelia from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”. The lovesick Ophelia, driven to madness by Hamlet’s cruel rejection of her, drowns while picking flowers. The sky is a rich yellow pink, signifying perhaps sunset and death, while the blue water that drags Ophelia down is a rich ultramarine.

In his journal for 1903 he wrote of his empathy for natural elements in his work: “I love nature in all her forms ... the humble flower, tree, ground and rocks, up to the majestic peaks of mountains ... I also shiver deeply at the mystery of solitude.”