Saturday, 15 October 2011


“Keep your love of nature, for that is the true way to understand art more and more.” - Vincent van Gogh

We took it easy today with the day being relaxing and restful. As well as doing our regular Saturday morning shopping and chores, we also ended up going to Yarambat to the Rivers Nursery as we needed some plants, but because it is also a lovely place to visit. The place was looking wonderful today with all of the Spring flowers in bloom, the ducks out in full force in the pond, and the lovely smell of freshly brewed coffee wafting out from the café. It was a pleasure to walk there and we ended up buying more plants than we had initially gone in for, but the variety and the Spring weather were big temptations not easy to resist.

In keeping with the Spring weather and the pastoral expedition, here is the Fantaisie Pastorale Hongroise Op.26 by Albert Franz Doppler for flute played by Jean Pierre Rampal.

Friday, 14 October 2011


“What is food to one, is to others bitter poison.” - Titus Lucretius Carus

The week has been very full and very busy, just like the weeks before it, I guess. I am glad it’s Friday evening and the weekend is still ahead. Hopefully, it will be a relaxing one. I have some chores to do around the house and garden, but nothing urgent. We have had some nice Spring weather these past few days, but showers and a drop in temperature is forecast for the weekend. We’ll see what eventuates…

Sometimes when we are rather lazy in the kitchen we raid the pantry and concoct some “Larder Chef” dishes. These are quickly prepared meals manufactured from some components of the pantry (usually canned, semi-prepared foods or somehow preserved foods) together with fresh ingredients (usually whatever is in the fridge or whatever has been seasonally available at the market and bought on a whim), and thrown in for good measure some produce gathered from the backyard (usually herbs or some seasonal vegetable). The result is usually very good and would mislead a lot of people tasting it that it is a ritually prepared genuine gourmet dish…

Here is the Larder Chef’s version of a robust Spring soup.

Cream of Mushroom and Leek Soup

1 can of Cream of Mushroom soup
250 mL of cream
A few good dobs of butter
1 large fresh leek
5 large Portobello mushrooms
Ground mace
Freshly ground pepper, salt
Fresh chives, chopped (or parsley)

Wash and clean the leek, discarding the green leaves. Chop finely the white part and reserve.
Clean the mushrooms and chop up finely.
In a heavy skillet melt some butter and sauté the leeks until tender and golden. Put this in a saucepan.
In the same skillet melt the rest of the butter and sauté the mushrooms. When they are cooked, add the cream and the can of soup.
Stir well and add the mace, pepper and salt to taste. Add to the leeks in the saucepan.
Simmer and stir until well cooked.
Ladle into soup ramekins, top with chopped chives (or parsley) and serve with buttered toast.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


“We’re in a giant car heading towards a brick wall and everyone’s arguing over where they’re going to sit” - David Suzuki

The ecological disaster in the Bay of Plenty, near the port of Tauranga, in the North Island of New Zealand has been making the news headlines for the past few days. And rightly so, as this is the greatest such disaster that the nation has ever faced. Maritime New Zealand today reported hundreds of dead oiled birds had been found, and 92 injured birds were being cared for at the National Oiled Wildlife Recovery Centre. The World Wildlife Fund has voiced concerns about the endangered New Zealand dotterel and the fairy terns. The NZ dotterel and the fairy tern are already threatened and it’s possible that if the situation worsens, the local population could be severely depleted. The full extent of the environmental disaster may not be realised for some time, and is likely to worsen over the next few weeks.

The Liberian registered ship, MV Rena, struck the Astrolabe Reef on October 5 on its way to Tauranga and oil leaks were detected soon after. Salvagers moved in the following day and began pumping oil to a bunker barge late on Sunday, but bad weather made the operation dangerous and the prevention of oil spillage almost impossible. The Rena’s remaining crew of 24 was evacuated early on Tuesday morning. The ship’s Filipino navigator appeared in Tauranga District Court today, following a similar appearance by his 44-year-old captain in the same court yesterday and both have been charged with operating a ship in a manner causing unnecessary danger to person or property. The ship’s second officer is expected to face similar charges this week.

The ship has been spilling hundreds of tonnes oil into the ocean and is now on the brink of breaking up after a large crack appeared all the way around its hull. The ship is only being held together by its internal structural components. The salvage crew that has been winched aboard during a calm in the weather is making what may be the last desperate effort to limit the environmental disaster. They will assess whether the remaining oil can be pumped into ships alongside before the Rena comes apart. At least 350 tonnes of heavy fuel oil have spilled from the hull, and the ship is believed to have originally had about 1,900 tonnes of oil and diesel on board. About 88 containers have fallen off as the ship has listed increasingly in stormy ocean conditions.

Tens of kilometres of coastline are closed to the public and some beaches were severely affected, with clumps of oil washing up on the normally pristine coastline near Tauranga. More than 1000 people have so far volunteered to help shift oil off the beaches. This is hard manual work, but Maritime New Zealand are welcoming more people to register to help. In situations like this, it is important for people not to clean the beaches on their own. Such clean-up operations need to be co-ordinated to ensure they are safe, methodical and provide maximum benefit. A team of 500 clean-up personnel is out on the beaches today, concentrating on the areas that need most attention. The smell of oil from the beaches may cause discomfort for some people and Maritime New Zealand advises residents to close their windows and try and avoid areas of oil if possible.

I have been to New Zealand several times and the North Island beaches are some of the most magnificent I have seen. If you have watched the movie “Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian”, the beautiful paradisiacal beaches seen at the beginning of the film where the children are at Cair Paravel were shot in Cathedral Cove, Hahei, Coromandel, New Zealand, which is about 100 km from Tauranga. To think that black sludge and dead marine life, black oil-covered birds and foul-smelling residue are being washed up on these beaches is horrific. I can only imagine the terrible time the locals are experiencing seeing this calamity affecting their shores.

I can understand why the lawyers of the captain of the vessel have requested his name remain secret – some of the more militant locals might decide to take the law into their own hands. Especially so as the grounding occurred on the captain’s birthday. If convicted, the captain could face a fine of up to NZ$10,000 and 12 months in prison. His next court appearance is 19 October when authorities say more charges are likely. The captain was released on bail yesterday from Tauranga district court.

It is unfortunate that a few blog posts ago I wrote a poem on the environmental destruction that is occurring worldwide and may prove to be our species undoing. It seems that elephants are indeed flying near Tauranga this week…

pollution |pəˈlo͞oSHən| noun
The presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance or thing that has harmful or poisonous effects: The level of pollution in the air is rising.
ORIGIN late Middle English: From Latin pollutio(n-), from the verb polluere

Tuesday, 11 October 2011


“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” - Helen Keller

I went out into the garden this evening as the cloudy, grey morning gave way to a beautiful sunny Spring afternoon. The garden is a sight to behold at the moment. The roses are blooming, the irises are bright daubs of colour, the citrus trees have burst forth in a wild flowering spree, the stocks and lilacs in every shade of purple, mauve and violet. Bright golden buttons of the marigolds counterpointed by the clown-like pansies, the bright red geraniums, delightfully delicate pinks of the apple blossom.

And in each flower a microcosm of detail: Sepals enclosing petals, stamens, pistils, anthers, powdery pollen grains, sticky stigmas, and insects galore! Delicate down and prickly thorns, serrated margins of veiny leaves, with each blade of green grass an exclamation mark in Spring’s powerful affirmation of life. Beneath the brilliant blue of the sky the golden rays of sunlight are precious showers of treasure, a rich bounty that is redoubled by every living plant, even the humblest little weed growing in the cracks of the concrete path.

I drank in the colours, the intricate shapes, the play of light and shadow, the shifting hues and patterns as clouds passed quickly in and out of the path of the sun. My eyes filled with beauty and moistened as they overflowed with the loveliness of the Spring garden. A cavalcade of a thousand tints and hues, of shades and gradations of light. An infinitude of pattern, a wealth of detail and motifs of complex intricacies – I reveled in the glory of sight.

World Sight Day is an annual day of awareness held on the second Thursday of October, to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment. As I viewed the colourful Spring garden I couldn’t help but shiver as I remembered that every five seconds someone in the world goes needlessly blind. Most causes of blindness are preventable and it is merely lack of money or access to medical care that contributes tot his terrible fate for millions of people worldwide.

Some frightening statistics:
•    Approximately 284 million people worldwide live with low vision and blindness
•    Of these, 39 million people are blind and 245 million have low vision
•    90% of blind people live in low-income countries
•    Yet 80% of blindness is avoidable - i.e. readily treatable and/or preventable
•    Restorations of sight, and blindness prevention strategies are among the most cost-effective interventions in health care
•    The number of people blind from infectious causes has greatly reduced in the past 20 years
•    An estimated 19 million children are visually impaired
•    About 65 % of all people who are visually impaired are aged 50 and older, while this age group comprises only 20% of the world’s population
•    Increasing elderly populations in many countries mean that more people will be at risk of age-related visual impairment.

“VISION 2020: The Right to Sight” is a global initiative, launched in 1999, which aims to eliminate avoidable blindness by the year 2020. VISION 2020 programmes have been adopted in more than 40 countries. The World Health Organisation is an important partner in these initiatives and provides support to high risk populations in developing countries especially.

Founded in Australia, the Fred Hollows Foundation is an international development organisation, focussing on blindness prevention and Australian Indigenous health. It is an independent, non-profit, politically unaligned and secular body. It carries on the work of the late Professor Fred Hollows (1929-1993). Fred was an eye doctor, an internationally renowned skilled surgeon, a champion of the right of all people to good health and a strong advocate for social justice. The vision of the Foundation is for a world where no one is needlessly blind, and Indigenous Australians enjoy the same health and life expectancy as other Australians. You can donate here to help the Foundation continue its good work.


“18 And, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, fat-fleshed and well-favoured; and they fed in a meadow:
19 And, behold, seven other kine came up after them, poor and very ill-favoured and lean-fleshed , such as I never saw in all the land of Egypt for badness:
20 And the lean and the ill-favoured kine did eat up the first seven fat kine:
21 And when they had eaten them up, it could not be known that they had eaten them ; but they were still ill-favoured, as at the beginning. So I awoke.” – The Bible, King James Version, Genesis 41.

The quote from Genesis that I start today’s entry with is the Pharaoh’s dream explained by Joseph. The seven plentiful and rich years in the land of Egypt are to be followed by the seven bad years of famine and dearth. By explaining the Pharaoh’s dream and enjoining him to be chastened by its prophecy, Joseph saves Egypt from famine and gains the Pharaoh’s favour, but indirectly also causing his own reunion with his family. The lean and fat cows analogy has stood the test of time and even today we may talk of “fat cows” – the good times where we save up for the rainy days head – the “lean cows”. It seems the world’s economic fortunes are going through a “lean cows” period with the world-wide crisis. Few are those countries that have prepared well and most major economies around the world are struggling to cope.

It seems that we humans refuse to be prudent and ignore history at our peril. Our politicians are busy legislating short-term policies to suit their personal goals and look for solutions of immediate political expediency. The world of big business is dominated by greed and the relentless multiplication of profits, to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. The stock market balloon is heedlessly inflated. Yes, there are “well-favoured kine” that will result out of such activities, but it is inevitable that “ill-favoured kine” will follow and the balloon will burst. But who plans for the lean times, nowadays? Even now, in such dire economic times we spend beyond our means and fail to plan ahead. Our politicians and other leaders – community, business, national – give the worst examples. The kings that live a life of luxury and revel in wild spending sprees will crash down from their thrones…

Here is my poem inspired by Magpie Tales’ latest image, from Michael Sowa’s “The Little King”.

The Once Was King

Old King Cole knew in his soul
His days were numbered
Like journal pages; and he rages,
With ire encumbered.

Old King Cole hid in a hole
Real world ignoring;
Drinking his coffee, eating his toffee
His subjects deploring.

Old King Cole, winning a poll
Rigging the voting,
Promised them cake, no one will bake
Generals promoting.

Old King Cole, regularly stole
The treasury’s wealth.
With golden spoon, in his saloon
Ate caviar with stealth.

Old King Cole knew that his role
Was soon ending,
As if in a soap; he couldn’t cope
With his expending.

Poor Old King Cole
Who for his life whole
Cared nought for the budget;
Is now made redundant
No more gold abundant,
No more will he fudge it.

It’s all in the news,
Poor Mr Cole’s blues
Are due to the crisis.
King nevermore,
Mammon foreswore,
Instead, prays to Isis…

Sunday, 9 October 2011


“The most protean aspect of comedy is its potentiality for transcending itself, for responding to the conditions of tragedy by laughing in the darkness.” - Harry Levin

We watched an absolutely abysmal film last weekend that did not promise much to begin with, but which we nevertheless decided to watch as we wanted a little bit of a laugh and had absolutely no desire to immerse ourselves into something serious or emotionally taxing. It was Brad Silberling’s 2009 movie “Land of the Lost” with Will Ferrell, Danny McBride and Anna Friel. I must say that Ferrell doesn’t inspire me with great confidence when I see his films being advertised and this particular film was deep down the bottom of the specials bin at the video store – a heavenly sign, perhaps. This film was really bad… A puerile, quite unfunny, sci-fi fable about, about, about, hmmm, about 102 minutes long.

Ferrell plays a discredited scientist whose big brainchild is a tachyon amplifier that plays music from “A Chorus Line” as well as amplifying sub-atomic particle energy to transport people into a parallel dimension where present, past and future coalesce. He ends up building his machine and together with a Cambridge University dropout and a desert amusement park owner manages to transport the group to another dimension where dinosaurs coexist with cavemen (actors in obvious monkey suits), aliens (in green rubber suits) do battle with each other for control of the universe and where Ferrell bumbles his way through swamp and desert in order to save the universe. Terrible plot, abominable acting, scatological schoolboy jokes and a film that is Z-grade matinée fare.

The film is loosely based on the children’s TV Series “Land of the Lost” from the 70s, which was about Rick Marshall, and his two children Holly and Will, who got stranded in a strange and mysterious worlds, where time and space collided. This was a good series, but the film shares little with it. The original TV series had a sense of innocence, child-like wonder and was a good adventure TV show with a wonderful world of dinosaurs and simian semi-human creatures. It was tacky and inauthentic but at the same time quite sweet and wholesome, very characteristic of the era. All of this is lost in the film and the makers couldn’t seem to decide whether to make it a G-rated family film (like the original show) or whether it would be an adult comedy/parody full of sexual and drug jokes. While there is a lot of the latter, adult it is not.

We watched this film, but there was a lot of eye-rolling, much attempt to smile at some less objectionable jokes, lots of groaning, and some disgust at scenes that would have appealed to depraved teenage ninja turtles, perhaps. Ferrell to his credit tries to wade his way through the pitiful script written by Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas and utters some abominably nonsensical drivel. The film has special effects and CGI (with some convincing dinosaurs), but there are also some very amateurish troglodytes in monkey suits and some very plastic looking aliens that reminded us of the “Creature of the Black Lagoon” on a bad day.

The sexual references were heavy-handed, the drug taking scenes hardly healthy role-modelling material, the scatological jokes rife and the level generally aimed at about ankle level. This is really a film that is struggling with itself and can hardly be saved. I can laugh at some nonsensical humour, but I really want it to be clever and witty. This was idiotic and witless and dragged on and on. The best part was the costive, bad-tempered tyrannosaur that had it in for Ferrell.

If you watched the 1070s TV series and look towards this movie for some nostalgia value, then don’t bother. If you are rather omnivorous and non-discriminating in your movie comedies or you are a fan of Will Ferrell, then you can watch this. The film cost $100 million to make and grossed just under $50 million. I guess the public voted with their feet and the bush telegraph ensured that word got around…


“Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.” - Oscar Wilde

For Art Sunday today, I am sharing an art site that is sponsored by the Australia Council. The Australia Council for the Arts is the Australian Government’s arts funding and advisory body. They support Australia’s arts through funding, strengthening and developing the arts sector. They collaborate to build new audiences, foster philanthropic support and deepen understanding of the arts through research. Each year, they deliver more than $160 million in funding for arts organisations and individual artists across the country. This is extremely important in times like ours where the fragile world economy means that arts funding comes very low on the pecking order of government funding priorities.

Each year the Australia Council develops a set of Strategic Priorities to ensure efforts are focussed on areas identified by the sector as critical to capacity building. These priorities are informed by the art form sector plans, the leadership team, the art form boards and committees and research by the organisation. The Australia Council’s four over-arching Strategic Priorities for 2011-12 are:

Cultural Leadership: In 2010/11 the Australia Council conducted research to identify the characteristics of effective cultural leaders. The Council will work with the sector to identify effective development pathways, including the building blocks for leadership development.
Programs – Continuation the Australia Council’s Emerging Leaders Program a national framework for cultural leadership development.

Realising the potential of broadband: The commitment by the Australian Government to a national broadband network (NBN) is promoted as the largest single infrastructure project in our lifetime. It creates potential for all aspects of the arts community, including individual artists, arts organisations and arts administrators. Targeted projects in areas that are connected to the NBN will help the sector seize new opportunities.
Programs – Commissioned projects for small arts organisations, including cross platform transmedia and other new practices in targeted NBN connected areas new partnerships between the arts sector and media/technology companies the development of tool-kit and education program to extend the findings from the Australia Council’s online engagement research.

Innovative practice: This initiative will support new forms of artistic expression and presentation platforms, as well as the importance of supporting artists in the research and development of their practice at various stages of their careers.
Programs – Investing in a Creative Australia, the Federal Government’s $10 million commitment to assist artists to create new work and increase audience access to diverse creative expressions

Diversified models for support:
Support structures come in many forms; financial, mentoring, new models, partnerships and collaborations as well as delivery methods such as touring. By considering diverse operating models, this initiative aims to strengthen the arts sector.
Programs – A project to research, pilot and evaluate new funding models (such as crowdsourcing) the development of a framework for national touring a developmental program for independent producers.

An online initiative of the Arts Council of the Australia that brings art closer to the people is the “What Makes Me” cube project. This gives people the chance to upload images, videos and music onto the faces of a cube. The website invites the people of Australia to review the importance art has on their life by creating a personal cube of art that has some personal significance to each individual creator. I have created a couple o f cubes, which are shown above. I have chosen to upload some of my photographs, my paintings but also images that hint at my music compositional activities and my sources of inspiration. It is a fun way to get people to think about art in their everyday life.