Saturday, 22 December 2012


“Love is like a beautiful flower which I may not touch, but whose fragrance makes the garden a place of delight just the same.” - Helen Keller

For Music Saturday a delicious piece by Sergei Rachmaninov. This is the 18th variation in the Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini.

Friday, 21 December 2012


“People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.” - Anton Chekhov

Well I am happy to report the world did not end on 21/12/12 and here is a perfect soup for a summery meal, as it will get rather warm here in Melbourne at the weekend. It is a traditional Ukrainian recipe and it is safely vegetarian, though not vegan! Vegans can omit the sour cream. On the other hand, committed omnivores can substitute chicken or beef stock for the water, which will add depth and extra flavour to the soup.
Borscht for Summer

For stock
2 litres water
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 onion, quartered
3 cloves garlic, crushed
4 sprigs parsley
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper

For soup

4 large beetroots
1 large turnip
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, very finely chopped
2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
1 and 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup light sour cream


Wash all the vegetables well. Place water, celery, carrot, onion, garlic, parsley, bay leaves, salt and pepper in a large pan, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 25 minutes, to make a stock. While the stock simmers, peel the beetroots and turnip, adding all the peel to the pan. Chop the beetroots and turnip into small pieces.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion. Sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the beetroot, turnip and cabbage. Strain the stock, discarding the vegetables. Add the stock to the beetroot mixture. Simmer, uncovered, until root vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes. Blend vegetable to a purée and heat right through.

Remove from heat. Stir in dill and lemon juice. Cool to room temperature. Cover; refrigerate until cold. Whisk in sour cream just before serving.

Traditionally, warm boiled potatoes are eaten as an accompaniment to the borscht. They are served on a separate plate, sprinkled with chopped chives. Some people instead of mixing the sour cream into the soup, serve it in a bowl so that people can add it to both the soup and the potatoes, as they like.

This post is part of the Food Friday meme,
and also part of the Food Trip Friday meme.

Thursday, 20 December 2012


“This is the way the world ends; Not with a bang but a whimper.” - T.S. Eliot

If you believe the media, the end of the world is approaching. The Mayan calendar’s “long count” began on 13 August 3114 BC and will end tomorrow on 21 December 2012. This is of course the Mayan calendar equivalent of the dawn of their version of the “new millennium”, but for some doomsayers, the end of the long count signals the end of the world. This has been aided and abetted by disaster movies like “2012” and “Armageddon”. It is not surprising that around one in ten people worldwide think the world will end in 2012, while about 9% of Australians also think this is true.

I am happy to say that I have lived through about 60 End of World predictions so far, so this latest one will make it 61. You know you’re getting old when you have survived 60 end of world predictions…

The fascination with the 2012 doomsday, which has received a great deal of media attention and has captured people’s imagination, tells us that in the current state that the world is in, we are uncertain about our future and we manufacture scenarios that exteriorise these dreadful visions and our innermost fears. The good old familiar world as we used to know it is changing dramatically, so what better way to express it than by manufacturing a myth? Human nature as it is through the ages, i.e. not changing much, explains why people have felt the need to create myths not only about the creation of the world but also about the end of the world.

Belief that the world will end in 2012, although widespread, is another belief in the long list of similar apocalypse myths that we have invented.  Myth is a powerful device for people to relieve their anxieties and a tried and true method for catharsis through the ages. People express their fear about massive changes and uncertainty by developing myths that act as pressure release valves. Myth enables us to experience the world in a more intense, yet more bearable, way. We can defuse the precariousness of our existence through the construction of a myth that allows to vocalise our most dreaded phobias, and to visualise our worst nightmares. By constructing a myth, we are exorcising our demons.

So what will happen on December 22 when the world still exists? This world of today with all of its anxieties, fears, uncertainties and more real threats to our well-being and long-term survival. If we look at the past when prophecies have spectacularly and repeatedly failed, people continue to believe in the myth, and they latch their lapsed myth onto a another, more distant myth of doomsday. Another myth is newly and conveniently constructed, with numerous reasons invented to explain away the failure of the previous myth to deliver…

We have some more real threats to deal with than the Mayan “End of the World”: Climate change and global warming is changing our ecology and promises a more sinister, longer-term doom. The world economy is precarious, and the financial turmoil that has decimated Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland and other economies worldwide shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Military conflict continues to rage in Afghanistan and the Middle East, there is ongoing civil unrest in Mali, the nations of the Arab Spring, the Congo and Guinea-Bissau. Communities are doing their best to recover and reconstruct following Typhoon Bopha in the Philippines, Hurricane Sandy in the US, recent earthquakes in Japan, and other natural calamities, that seem to be occurring more frequently. The tragedy of last weekend’s school shooting in Connecticut has highlighted that there are enormous numbers of people around the world who are facing the festive season following losses that are almost too horrible to imagine.

What can we do as individuals, as families, as communities, as nations, as humans to make the world a safer, better place? What can we collectively work at, in order to deal with perennial and long-lived problems that seem to be recalcitrant to decades of persistent efforts? Disease continues to cause death and suffering throughout the world. Doctors without Borders and numerous aid organisations around the world are doing their best to limit these problems, and yet they are met with mind-numbing resistance! The latest atrocity in Pakistan where health workers were killed or injured while trying to help people by organising polio vaccinations is horrific. The news of mass shootings from the USA that are regularly reported, and are illustrated graphically by the latest Connecticut incident bring about short-lived debates about gun control – the sickening thing being that gun sales increase after such incidents…

All that the financial crisis that threatens major world economies seems to do is stimulate policies that are further based on the support of multinational company profit-making and perpetuation of rich people’s greed. After each natural disaster, spending on prevention and relief measures is talked about, but money is channelled to other more “convenient” areas, like “defence” or “offence”, as the case may be, and whatever military threat can be manufactured in order to sell the arms made by the multinational companies. Drugs cause millions upon millions of deaths and misery worldwide and yet they are supported covertly by governments whose economies depend on the ill-gotten profits of drug trafficking.

Who needs a Mayan apocalypse, who needs an asteroid to destroy the earth? Who needs a big bang? Our earth, our civilisation, humanity itself is dying slowly and painfully with a whimper…

Wednesday, 19 December 2012


“Don’t part with your illusions. When they are gone, you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.” Mark Twain
Today is the anniversary of the birth of:
Philip V, king of Spain (1683);
William Parry, Arctic explorer (1790);
Mary Ashton Livermore, social reformer (1821);
H. Allen Smith, author (1906);
Leonid Brezhnev, Soviet statesman (1906);
Jean Genet, French writer (1910);
Galt MacDermott, composer (1928);
Cicely Tyson, actress (1933);
Maurice White, singer (1941);
Tim Reid, actor (1944);
Elaine Joyce, actress (1945);
Robert Urich, actor (1946);
Janie Fricke, singer (1947);
Claudia Kolb, swimmer (1949);
Jennifer Beals, actress (1963).
Today’s birthday flower is the carnation, Dianthus caryophyllus.  Dianthus is from the Greek meaning it is Zeus’s flower (Zeus = Dias; anthos = flower). It is therefore under the dominion of Jupiter, astrologically. In the language of flowers, a striped carnation means refusal, a yellow carnation means disdain. A pink carnation is symbol of divine love or motherly love, legend having it that pink carnations sprang from the earth when the Virgin Mary’s tears fell to the soil.  A red carnation is a symbol of woman’s love and of fascination.
In the Roman calendar, today is XIV Kalends January and the third day of the festival of the Saturnalia. On the third day of the Saturnalia the ancient Romans celebrated the Opalia, in honour of the goddess Ops, wife of Saturn. She was the goddess of success and fertility and many sacrifices to her meant enduring prosperity for Rome and her people.
The following notables died on this day: In 401, St Anastasius I, Pope of Rome; in 1370, Urban V (Guillaume de Grimoard), Pope of Rome.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012


“Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depths of love.” - George Eliot

A photograph by Andy Magee serves as the inspiration this week in Magpie Tales’ creative writing meme.

Return II

You came back, said you understood
(At last!)
You came back and said you knew me,

You came back, you took once more all I had left
(So little!)
You came back and you reaped my scanty harvest watered with tears

You came back, and with sweet words you led me
(I listened!)
You came back and with sweet glances you led me
(I talked!)

You left me once again,
Bound once more with your mended chains.
You left me once again,
Ensuring that your conquest was once again secure...

Sunday, 16 December 2012


“Illness, insanity, and death were the black angels that kept watch over my cradle and accompanied me all my life.” – Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch, (born December 12, 1863, Löten, Norway—died January 23, 1944, Ekely, near Oslo), was a Norwegian painter and printmaker whose intensely evocative treatment of psychological themes built upon some of the main tenets of late 19th-century Symbolism and greatly influenced German Expressionism in the early 20th century. His painting “The Scream” (1893), can be seen as a symbol of modern spiritual anguish.

Munch was born into a middle-class family that was plagued with ill health. His mother died when he was five, his eldest sister when he was 14, both of tuberculosis; Munch eventually captured the latter event in his first masterpiece, “he Sick Child” (1885–86). Munch’s father and brother also died when he was still young, and another sister developed mental illness. Munch showed a flair for drawing at an early age but received little formal training. An important factor in his artistic development was the Kristiania Bohème, a circle of writers and artists in Kristiania, as Oslo was then called. Its members believed in free love and generally opposed bourgeois narrow-mindedness. One of the older painters in the circle, Christian Krohg, gave Munch both instruction and encouragement.

Munch soon outgrew the prevailing naturalist aesthetic in Kristiania, partly as a result of his assimilation of French Impressionism after a trip to Paris in 1889 and his contact from about 1890 with the work of the Post-Impressionist painters Paul Gauguin and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. In some of his paintings from this period he adopted the Impressionists’ open brushstrokes, but Gauguin’s use of the bounding line was to prove more congenial to him, as was the Synthetist artists’ ambition to go beyond the depiction of external nature and give form to an inner vision. His friend the Danish poet Emanuel Goldstein introduced him to French Decadent Symbolist poetry during this period, which helped him formulate a new philosophy of art, imbued with a pantheistic conception of sexuality.

Munch’s own deeply original style crystallised about 1892. The flowing, tortuous use of line in his new paintings was similar to that of contemporary Art Nouveau, but Munch used line not as decoration but as a vehicle for profound psychological revelation. The outraged incomprehension of his work by Norwegian critics was echoed by their counterparts in Berlin when Munch exhibited a large number of his paintings there in 1892 at the invitation of the Union of Berlin Artists. The violent emotion and unconventional imagery of his paintings, especially their daringly frank representations of sexuality, created a bitter controversy. Critics were also offended by his innovative technique, which to most appeared unfinished. The scandal, however, helped make his name known throughout Germany, and from there his reputation spread farther. Munch lived mainly in Berlin in 1892–95 and then in Paris in 1896–97, and he continued to move around extensively until he settled in Norway in 1910.

In Norway, Munch painted until his death. In his later paintings Munch showed more interest in nature, and his work became more colourful and less pessimistic. Munch died in Ekely, near Oslo, on Jan. 23, 1944. He left many of his works to the city of Oslo, which built a museum in his honour.

The painting above “Melancholy” of 1894-96 is typical of Munch’s mature style. The dark, sombre mood is complemented by the sinuous lines and the pensive, introspective subject is well suited to the artist’s mind-set of a brooding contemplation.