Saturday, 13 August 2011


“What moves men of genius, or rather what inspires their work, is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough.” – Eugene Delacroix

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, (born February 27, 1863, Valencia, Spain—died August 10, 1923, Cercedilla), was a Spanish painter whose style was a variant of Impressionism and whose best works, painted in the open air, vividly portray the sunny seacoast of Valencia. Sorolla was from a poor family and was orphaned at age two. He displayed an early talent and was admitted to the Academy of San Carlos in Valencia at age 15. After further studies in Rome and Paris, he returned to Valencia.

Initially, he painted historical and social realist works, one of which, “Otra Margarita” (1892), was his earliest success. He received the greatest recognition, however, for his genre paintings and landscapes. Using heavily impastoed pigments, he combined an Impressionist manner with narrative and anecdotal themes. Summer, the sea and the life of fishermen are themes that figure prominently in his oeuvre.

In 1909 he made a successful debut in the USA in a solo exhibition at the Hispanic Society in New York City. The resulting critical acclaim won him a commission to paint President William Howard Taft in 1909. Upon his return to Spain, he purchased a beach house in Valencia, on the Mediterranean shore. For the rest of his career, he drew his inspiration from the dazzling light on the waters by his home, and his beach scenes are marked by sharp contrasts of light and shade, brilliant colours, and vigorous brushstrokes.

The painting above is characteristic of his work and is his 1910 “Girl on the Beach”. The scene is a dazzling summer’s day with transparent light with the beautiful azures and greens of the sea portrayed with bold strokes of colour. The girl is painted tenderly, yet with deft, rapid brushstrokes that give the painting a freshness and immediate appeal. The noon light is rendered beautifully with reflected sunlight on the girl’s sunburnt face, illuminating it as though with a spotlight. Her delicately rendered left hand is captured in an eloquent gesture, while the right one is almost in silhouette and lacking detail. The dress captures all the subtleties of light and its flapping mirrors the hair, which is also blown back. Counterbalancing the figure is a boat in which a fisherman is fussing over his nets. The reds in this background image are balanced by a mauve-brown shadow on the lower right, and the girl’s figure is the fulcrum on which the whole composition hinges. It is a beautiful painting full of summer sunshine, the saltiness of the sea and the brisk breeze of the seaside. The careless barefoot steps of childhood are contrasted with the toil of adulthood and the painting has a beautiful nostalgic air that is quite captivating.


“When we are unable to find tranquility within ourselves, it is useless to seek it elsewhere.” - François de La Rochefoucauld

Another busy day, but on the home front today. Lots to do, many chores to complete, shopping and then I got a headache that wouldn’t go away. I don’t often get headaches, and if I do, an analgesic tablet will be enough to deal with them. Not so today. It lingered for hours and the analgesics didn’t touch it. It is quite a nuisance and I can understand how disruptive it must be for people who get them often.

Nevertheless it was good to be enjoying a dinner for two tonight, with some wine, nice food, music and then watch some TV. It relaxed me and even if the headache is still there, I battled it and hope that a good night’s sleep will finally cure it. I usually find that some soothing music is good for my headaches.

Here is a wonderful such relaxing piece, the second movement from Beethoven’s Septet in E flat op. 20 – Adagio Cantabile, played by The Gaudier Ensemble. It was first performed in 1800 and published in 1802. It is scored for clarinet, horn, bassoon, violin, viola, cello, and contrabass. It is in six movements and resembles a serenade. Beautiful!

Friday, 12 August 2011


“Sport is a preserver of health.” – Hippocrates

I had a very busy day today, with both desk work as well as a couple of appointments off-campus. One of the bonuses was that I was in the vicinity of Federation Square at lunchtime, when Cadel Evans was being feted for his Tour de France win. In today’s celebration, Evans rode along St Kilda Rd from the National Gallery of Victoria to Federation Square, where he took to the stage to address the populace. Tens of thousands of people lined the route to honour Evans’ achievement and give him a reception usually reserved for AFL footballers and Olympic Games heroes. The feeling was upbeat and euphoric and it was good to see Evans being very friendly with the crowd and showing humility and good-humoured amusement by the massive reception reserved for him.

There were several politicians present, including our Lord Mayor and the Victorian Premier, this being a prime PR opportunity for them, rubbing shoulders with the hero of the moment. Cadel is Australia’s first Tour de France winner, and at 34 years is the oldest rider to win the Tour de France since 1923. It was quite fortuitous to be there and take part in this event, one of several anonymous thousands united in a celebratory moment and celebrating a historic sporting victory.

My mind turned to the other type of crowd rioting in England. Or should I say the throng? In both cases, they were large masses of people joining together with more or less a common purpose or goal. In the one case, they were orderly, celebratory, respectful of each other and the only destructive effect they had was perhaps a few items of rubbish left behind after they dispersed. In the other case, there was a violent rabble that was motivated by anger, barbarism, misplaced angst, greed and hate. In their wake they left fire, destruction and death. We are still lucky here in Australia that we can gather together and behave as civilised human beings do. Even in sporting events, crowds in other countries riot and people kill and maim each other with the excuse of supporting different football sides.

On the way back I stopped and bought some sushi for lunch. Sushi is of course nowadays well-known and popular around the world. It is a Japanese delicacy consisting of cooked rice with vinegar (shari) combined with a variety of other ingredients (neta). Neta and forms of sushi presentation vary, but the ingredient which all sushi have in common is shari. The most common neta is seafood. However, its popularity in many countries and its adaptability and ensured that all sorts of exotic fillings are available.

Sushi originated in the 4th century BC in Southeast Asia. Salted fish, fermented with rice, was an important source of protein and could be preserved without spoiling for a relatively long time. The cleaned and gutted fish were kept in rice so that the natural fermentation of the rice helped preserve the fish. This type of sushi is called nare-zushi, and was taken out of storage after a couple of months of fermentation, and then only the fish was consumed while the rice was discarded.

Over time, this preserved dish spread throughout China, and later, around the 8th century AD, in the Heian period, it was introduced into Japan. Since Japanese preferred to eat rice together with fish, the sushi, called seisei-zushi, became popular at the end of Muromachi period. This type of sushi was consumed while the fish was still partly raw and the rice had not lost its flavour. In this way, sushi became more of a way of preparing food rather than a way to preserve food.

Later in Edo era, Japanese began making haya-zushi, which was created as a way to eat both rice and fish; this dish was unique to Japanese culture. Instead of being only used for fermentation, rice was mixed with vinegar and combined not only with fish but also with various vegetables and dried preserved foods. Today, each region of Japan still preserves its own unique taste by utilising local products in making different kinds of sushi that have been passed on for generations.

At the beginning of the 19th century, when Tokyo was still called Edo, the food service industry was mostly dominated by mobile food stalls, from which nigiri-zushi originated. Edomae, which literally means “in front of Tokyo bay”, was where the fresh fish and tasty seaweed for the nigiri-zushi were obtained. As a result, it was also called edomae-zushi, and it became popular among the people in Edo after Yohei Hanaya, a creative sushi chief, improved it to a simple but delicious food. Then, after the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923, nigiri-zushi spread throughout Japan as the skilled edomae-zushi chefs from Edo, who had lost their jobs, moved all over Japan.

The important seasonings served with sushi are soy sauce, and wasabi (Japanese hot horseradish sauce). Soy sauce is used as a dipping sauce. Wasabi is put in nigiri-zushi or is mixed with soy sauce for dipping. The most important side ingredient of sushi is ginger. Pickled ginger is called gari and is served with sushi. Gari is eaten between bites of sushi to refresh the mouth for each new taste.

In the 1980s, in the wake of increased health consciousness, sushi, one of the healthiest meals around, has got more attention; consequently, sushi bars have opened throughout the Western world. With the introduction of sushi machines, which combine the mass production of sushi with the delicate skills used by sushi chefs, making and selling sushi has become more accessible to countries all over the world.

I like most kinds of sushi, but particularly so the smoked salmon and fish roe, the teriyaki chicken, the vegetarian variety featuring avocado, and of course the widely popular California roll. Although I find wasabi much too hot for me, I do enjoy the soy sauce and preserved ginger. It is a healthful and tasty meal and perfect for lunch.

Thursday, 11 August 2011


“The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but it must be followed by a sense of futility.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

riot |ˈrīət| noun
1 A violent disturbance of the peace by a crowd: Riots broke out in the capital | [as modifier ]: Riot police.
• An uproar: The film's sex scenes caused a riot in Cannes.
• An outburst of uncontrolled feelings: Α riot of emotions raged through Frances.
• archaic Uncontrolled revelry; rowdy behavior.
2 [ in sing. ] an impressively large or varied display of something: The garden was a riot of colour.
3 [ in sing. ] informal A highly amusing or entertaining person or thing: Everyone thought she was a riot.
verb [ no obj. ]
Take part in a violent public disturbance: Students rioted in Paris | (as noun rioting) : A night of rioting.
• Behave in an unrestrained way: Another set of emotions rioted through him.
• archaic Act in a dissipated way: An unrepentant prodigal son, rioting off to far countries.
run riot Behave in a violent and unrestrained way. • (of a mental faculty or emotion) function or be expressed without restraint: Her imagination ran riot. • proliferate or spread uncontrollably: Traditional prejudices were allowed to run riot.
rioter noun
ORIGIN Middle English (originally in the sense ‘dissolute living’): From Old French riote ‘debate,’ from rioter ‘to quarrel,’ of unknown ultimate origin.

After that introduction it is not totally unexpected that today I shall write of the UK riots. As was the case with the whole world, we too watched in shock as the violence erupted on August 7th and left death, injury, senseless destruction, arson, horror, looting, chaos and lawlessness in their wake. Two nights of rioting in London’s Tottenham neighbourhood erupted following protests over the shooting death by police of a local man, Mark Duggan. Police were arresting him when the shooting occurred. Over 170 people were arrested over the two nights of rioting, and fires gutted several stores, buildings, and cars. The disorder spread to other neighbourhoods as well, and then to other cities around the nation.

In the face of unending rioting that has spread to other cities, London deployed 16,000 police in the largest show of force in the city’s history. British Prime Minister David Cameron cut short a holiday in Italy to return home to deal with the widening crisis. Army units are standing by to help restore order. Hundreds of people have been arrested, and over 100 police officers have been injured. What may have begun as a protest over the death of a civilian quickly became a massive show of violence and brutality with looting, destruction of property, rioting for the sake of vandalism and the joy of annihilation.

Anthony Daniels, a retired British prison doctor and psychiatrist, has characterised British youths as “the most unpleasant and potentially violent young people in the world.” Families are terrorised by their own knife-wielding, arrogant and irascible children. The youth of Britain seem to have a sense of entitlement, the only difference between the rich and the poor being that the rich can buy whatever they want, while the poor need to “wheedle, cajole, swindle and steal it.” This seems to be at the core of the disturbances and the looting that was carried out on a large scale.

Rioting and looting are two different things: A riot results from a sense of indignation and an overwhelming feeling of injustice that in many people arouses an intense violent response. Looting is based on envy, greed, consumerism gone awry and a sense that society owes you something that you are unable to afford or couldn’t be bothered working for. Looters are opportunists and will leap at any chance that allows them to act in a manner that advantages their perverted sense of “equality”.

In both cases, crowds breed unrest and both looting and rioting seem to find perfect conditions in which to occur whenever there is crowding together of rabble. The passions are inflamed and the courage that one coward is deficient in is topped up by the traces of courage of many. It is with this borrowed bravado and the shared blind fury that violent acts are committed, with the rush of hormones that accompanies shed blood and the smell of burning that kindles more hostility.

Add to that our culture of rank consumerism and the equation of money with success and status and one has a perfect motive for looting. The have-nots will hanker after what the haves enjoy on a daily basis and they will do their utmost to obtain it by fair means or foul. The glorification of violence in our TV shows, movies, video games and literature provides a perfect education for our young people who have as their role models gangsters, murderers and action heroes involved in violent acts. The success of criminals and their fabulous lifestyles supported by the proceeds of crime and impunity from the legal system and justice is another incitement to crime and violence.

At courthouses in the UK, chaotic scenes have been enacted with several courts sitting through the night to process scores of alleged looters and vandals, including an 11-year-old boy. The defendants included Natasha Reid, a 24-year-old university graduate who admitted stealing a TV from a looted electronics store in north London. Her lawyer said she had turned herself in because she could not sleep because of guilt. Also due to appear in court were several people charged with using social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to incite violence. Technology to the aid of terror, not the first time we have seen that happen…

Numerous questions arise about our society, our values, our youth, our education system. We need to re-examine the way we entertain ourselves, the way that we worship our idols. Is the loss of our spirituality to be partly blamed? The disruption of family life? The dilution of our morals and the deterioration of our ethical standards? The lack of the rigour of the military life as there is no compulsory national service? All of these? I don’t know what the answers are, but it seems we are heading towards disaster…

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


“Who would give a law to lovers? Love is unto itself a higher law.” – Boethius

The creative writing group hosted by Magpie Tales has set a challenge based on the image above, which is Edward Hopper’s “Summer Evening, 1947”. Edward Hopper is one of the USA’s best-loved artists. Hopper was born in Nyack, New York, in 1882. He studied at the New York School of Illustrating, and at the more prestigious New York School of Art. Here he studied under American realist Robert Henri. After his studies at the NY School of Art, Edward Hopper went on to study in Paris. This was 1906, at a key time in the development of modern art. It took a long time for Hopper to experience commercial success. He struggled for years, surviving as an illustrator. His first success as a painter came in 1924 when he sold out a show at the Rehn Gallery in New York. This is the year he painted “The House by the Railroad”, one of his most famous works. He died in 1967, his studio near Washington Square in New York City, having achieved recognition and great financial success.

In this painting a young couple in summer dress are conversing on a porch under the harsh artificial light of an incandescent bulb. There is tension in the scene and despite the fairly neutral body language what is being discussed looks as though it is not too pleasant. The image is unsettling with its grouping of figures on the right against the darkness of the late night and the bright light with its stern shadows. The house looks dark and deserted and the drawn curtains on the door are somehow forbidding, even though the window is less hostile. My first impression when I first saw the painting was: “They’re breaking up”. The second thought was: “She’s pregnant and he won’t like it when he hears it…” Yet another thought in quick succession was more optimistic: “He’s about to propose. Casually, perhaps, but that’s the way they are…”

The poem below goes with none of these first thoughts.


“I can’t, I really can’t, I tell you,”
He says quietly yet with great feeling.
She’s insulted, and looks away sullenly –
A woman scorned has a hellish disposition.

“You mean you don’t like me, don’t you?”
Her voice cold, her eyes, sharp cut glass.
“You never said you didn’t like me…”
She’s angry, but stares vacuously, controlling it.

“No, heck, no! I do like you, but…”
He stammers, blushes and his words stick
Deep in his throat, his breath shallow,
While his hands fidget ineptly.

“It’s Debbie, isn’t it?” She asks.
“I know it’s her, I’ve seen you two,
Laughing, whispering, you two, together.”
Her ire white-hot, warming even more the summer air.

“Patty, please, no it’s not what you think…”
His eyes are downcast, his feet shift uneasily,
He half sits on the balustrade, his left hand raised
To quieten his racing heart, an ineffectual gesture.

“Don’t lie to me, I hate liars, you know I do.”
She straightens her arms, behind her,
And her breasts jut out, provocatively.
“I am not pretty enough, not good enough…”

“Oh shucks, no! You’re beautiful, Patty,
You know you are, and Debbie and I are just friends,”
His eyes are moist and pleading now,
“You know that I’m not lying!”

“You’re hiding the truth and that’s worse.”
She says and looks down sourly.
“You’re a pretender, that’s who you are,
A teller of stories and a deceiver…”

He lowers his eyes and wipes a tear.
“You don’t know, you don’t understand.”
He looks away and manages to stammer:
“Patty, your brother Joe and I, we two, we’re…”

But the words are glutinous and stick to his tongue;
He looks at her terrified and with a quick movement
Runs away, disappearing into the night,
Leaving her bewildered, frozen in the ice of his refusal.


“I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.” - Frank Lloyd Wright

I’ve had another very full and tiring day in Sydney for work again today. However, at the end of it there was a great deal of satisfaction as much had been achieved. It was good to watch the dynamic of the team once again today and I was satisfied to have contributed in a positive manner to the business of the day. Many things come about in a way that is unexpected, and quite a lot of unplanned activities can contribute greatly to a fortuitous result. So it was today and after an impromptu group discussion that I contributed to, it was gratifying to be told by a few people that what I had talked about was inspiring. It is good to be able to do that and not really plan it. But I guess that is my job, to lead and inspire people.

One of the activities that we had to engage in today was to do some succession planning. This was part of risk-minimisation strategy where we had to think about the people in our organisation and consider possible successors to each of our roles. This of course gets harder the closer one gets to the top of the ladder. One has to consider all sorts of variables, the benefits of internal versus external appointments, performance management and training, as well as grooming of the most promising candidates. One has to give opportunities to people and provide pathways for training, further education, and the chance to get some practice at tasks that are a level above them.

In the academic field the hierarchy is fairly well defined and an able person, beginning at the bottom may gradually work their way up. Over the years, as such a person picks up experience, more knowledge and skills, ability to deal effectively with difficult situations and people, he or she is able to climb the hierarchical ladder. Its lowermost rungs are close to each other and easy to climb. The closer one gets to the top, however, the further apart the rungs become and when one is about to go for the topmost rung, it is well out of reach. There is only one way to attain this topmost position and that is to grow wings and fly to it. A good work environment provides the opportunities for the employees to sprout those wings and attain the topmost position in the hierarchy.

It is always difficult to deal with situations where a good internal candidate applies for a promotion to higher level and one also has to consider some good external applicants. My preference has always been to encourage and give chances to the internal candidates, preferring their appointment over an external applicant who is equivalent in skills and experience to them. When one has an external candidate who is better than the internal one, and one makes that external appointment, a situation could develop that is quite messy and can lead to some people management issues. One has to be assured that the human resources department is able to counsel, manage and support the unsuccessful internal candidates…

Our new campus is just opposite the Central Railway Station in Sydney so it is so easy to reach with the airport train. One avoids the traffic, pays about a third of the fare of a taxi ride and is at the airport in about 12 minutes. It is such a pity that Melbourne Airport does not have a train service. Both Sydney and Brisbane are served admirably by their airport trains. There is great efficiency and sustainability in solutions like this, which not only are beneficial for air travellers, but also reduce the road traffic considerably.

Monday, 8 August 2011


“Worthless people live only to eat and drink; people of worth eat and drink only to live.” – Socrates

I am in Sydney for two days for work. It has been a very intensive first day with a high-powered Executive Team meeting where we’ve had a pow-wow on our new campus in the centre of Sydney. It has been an interesting and highly-charged day with talks, presentations, team-building exercises and a general bonding session. Although we’ve spent all day locked up in a room, the hours just rushed by and there wasn’t much of a chance to feel bored or distracted. The day was a great success and we now all feel more comfortable with one another and there’s a very positive team feeling.

We’ve had a great dinner out and then four of us went out to a bar for a night cap. This was another chance for building a good relationship amongst us and having a relaxed time where we could discuss a few things off the record and in a “safe” environment without any holds barred. We drank, we talked, we laughed, we had a good time.  A couple of strangers approached us and sat with us, exchanged pleasantries, socialised. Alcohol, the great social leveller ensured that conversation flowed freely and uninhibitedly, jokes were shared and no expectations were put on the table. We all got up and went back to our hotel with some rest and relaxation scheduled before tomorrow’s session.

In the morning we are starting off the day with a working breakfast, only to proceed to another full of formal proceedings with more presentation, discussion and tossing around of new ideas. This will conclude our get-together and then a return home in the evening.

Sunday, 7 August 2011


“Life is painting a picture, not doing a sum.” - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Frederick McCubbin is one of Australia’s most famous and significant painters. He was born in Melbourne, 25 February 1855 and died in Melbourne, 20 December 1917. McCubbin was a baker’s son, who soon joined the family business and drove a baker’s cart before being apprenticed to a coach-painter. He started his training in art and design from 1869 at the local Artisans’ School of Design in Carlton, and by 1872 entered the School of Design, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. It was not until the Munich-trained George Folingsby (1828–91) was appointed master of the Gallery Art School in 1882 that McCubbin received a thorough academic training in figure painting.

Folingsby evoked McCubbin’s interest in large-scale history pieces with a pronounced national flavour. From the colonial artist and Swiss émigré Abram-Louis Buvelot, McCubbin absorbed a more intimate, Barbizon-style vision of the Australian landscape. Julian Ashton directed his attention to subjects from contemporary life and introduced him to plein-air painting. In the mid-1880s McCubbin’s growing adherence to plein-air Realism was strengthened by the influence of Portuguese-born Arthur Loureiro (1853–1912) and, more dramatically, by the impact of Tom Roberts, recently returned from Europe in 1885.

With Roberts and Arthur Streeton he founded the painting camp at Box Hill, in the suburbs of Melbourne, that became known as the Heidelberg School. The Realists’ concern with the integrity and significance of the subject shaped McCubbin’s fundamental attitudes to art. Unlike Roberts and Charles Conder (a fellow Heidelberg painter), McCubbin was only marginally influenced by the Aesthetic Movement, and he exhibited a token five works at the famous 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition in Melbourne in 1889.

As one of the founders of the Heidelberg school, McCubbin was a significant figure in the development of the Australian school of landscape and subject painting that emerged at the close of the nineteenth century. His work was directly influenced by the earlier traditions of Australian colonial art, late-Victorian subject pictures of a high moral tone. In later years McCubbin turned increasingly to landscape painting, portraying the lyrical and intimate beauty of the bush. The early influence of Corot gave way to that of J. M. W. Turner, as he turned from the quiet poetry of the shaded bush to the brilliant impressionistic effects of light and colour of his final manner.

McCubbin was a warm and gregarious personality and a gentle and intuitive teacher, who contributed greatly to the art world in Melbourne by his activities in various societies, through the conviviality of the McCubbin house which was always a focus for artists and students, and as a teacher of several generations of artists. He was a member of the Savage Club.

His 1887 painting “The Morning Train” above is a good example of McCubbin’s Heidelberg “Impressionistic” style. There is a painterly quality to the painting, with its layers of colour, scumbling of paint, light and dark, impasto and wash. The light and dark contrasts and the harsh morning light point out the difference between nature and machine, the bucolic and the metropolitan. McCubbin paints the train as it emerges between the cows and the farm sheds, its smoke blending with the clouds in the sky above, technology and progress overtaking and vanquishing nature. The colours are Australian and the landscape although recognisably that of a Downunder farm, still owes much to the French impressionists that the Heidelberg School was so influenced by.