Saturday 26 July 2008


“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life.” - Richard Bach

My Very Own Strangers
My very own strangers, the most distant ones,
Are those who live with me.
I look at them, I touch them, I speak to them,
I open my heart to them.
But each one travels alone,
In his own unknown soul;
Each one fights for his life,
In his own foreign land.
My very own strangers, the most beloved ones…
My very own strangers, the most beloved ones…

My very own people live far away,
And love from afar.
Thus the world grows, but so does the heart,
And we remember thus, wherever we may go.
But each travels on his own,
Searching for his soul mate.
And on the pieces of his crystal heart,
Carves his own truth.
My very own people, my heart’s places…
My very own people, my heart’s places…

Οι Δικοί Μου Ξένοι

Οι δικοί μου ξένοι, οι πιο μακρινοί,
Είναι αυτοί που ζουν κοντά μου.
Τους κοιτάζω, τους αγγίζω, τους μιλώ,
Τους ανοίγω την καρδιά μου.
Μα καθένας ταξιδεύει μοναχός
Μες στην άγνωστη ψυχή του
Ο καθένας στη δική του ξενιτιά
Πολεμάει για τη ζωή του.
Οι δικοί μου ξένοι, είναι οι αγαπημένοι…

Οι δικοί μου ανθρώποι ζούνε μακριά,
Κι από μακριά αγαπάνε.
Κι έτσι μεγαλώνει ο κόσμος κι η καρδιά,
Και θυμόμαστε όπου πάμε.
Μα ο καθένας ταξιδεύει μοναχός,
Κι αδελφή ψυχή γυρεύει.
Και στα κρύσταλλα κομμάτια της καρδιάς
Την αλήθεια του λαξεύει.
Οι δικοί μου ανθρώποι της καρδιάς μου οι τόποι,
Οι δικοί μου ανθρώποι της καρδιάς μου οι τόποι.

“Family quarrels are bitter things. They don't go by any rules. They're not like aches or wounds; they're more like splits in the skin that won't heal because there's not enough material.” - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Friday 25 July 2008


“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” - Charles Dickens

Merry Christmas! Yes, it’s Christmas in July in Australia. It is a typically Australasian tradition and it is being celebrated increasingly “as a bit of fun”. The beginnings of the tradition are sometimes attributed to an Irish tourist group that enjoyed the winter snow in Sydney's Blue Mountains and decided to party. However, the precise beginnings of Christmas in July is not known, nor does it need to be, as it is a simple idea that has been enjoyed by many here who remember the northern hemisphere's snow blanketed Christmas.

Australians too love a traditional Christmas dinner, however, the typical midsummer heat here on Christmas Day, means that many families are forced to focus on a BBQ by the beach, salads and ice cream cake, because it is just too hot to get enthusiastic about a traditional big roast, ham, turkey and pudding. So over the years many Australian families and organisations have opted to have an addition Christmas dinner in July, in the middle of winter when it's nice and cool and great for tucking in to a sumptuous big feast. A Christmas in July dinner usually includes Christmas decorations Christmas candles, colourful streamers, bonbons, Christmas hats and whistles.

This Christmas in July tradition is so well entrenched in Australia now, that most restaurants, clubs and dining halls, have an official advertised annual catered menu for Christmas in July, and are often booked well in advance. It's always a great excuse for work teams to get together and party, and at a time when they don't have to battle to reserve a table and pay premium prices.

It is in the Australian snowfields that Christmas in July traditions are really celebrated. July is the peak season for the snowfields they all have special events connected with their Christmas in July celebrations. The main Australian snowfields resorts are at Thredbo, Perisher Blue, Mt. Buller, Charlotte Pass, Mt Selwyn, Falls Creek, Hotham, Baw Baw, Mt. Buffalo, Ben Lomond and Corin Forest. Of course all of the young revellers love to build a snowman when they are in the snowfields, Santa skiing on the slopes is a quite a treat and, since everyone that is there, is on holidays, the nights are full of dining and cheer and merriment, so it is a perfect scene for Christmas in July celebrations. Many families make the brief excursion to the Australian snowfields just for the Christmas in July celebrations.

So what better than a Christmas Cake recipe for this Christmas in July Food Friday?


500g Raisins
500g chopped Pitted Dates
125g Sultanas
125g Currants
200g Glace Cherries
1 Cup Brandy
250g Butter Cut Into Small Pieces
2 Cups Dark Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Essence
4 X 60g Eggs
200g Dark Chocolate
1 Cup Plum Jam
2 Cups Plain Flour
1⁄2 Cup Self Raising Flour
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon

Mix the dried fruit in a bowl and add the brandy, leaving it marinate for 1-2 hours. Line a 23 cm deep round cake tin (or 2 x 18cm tins) with a double layer of baking paper on sides and base. Wrap outside of tin with a double thickness of brown paper and tie with string or secure join with a paper clip. Heat oven to 160°C.

Beat the butter and sugar, until creamy. Add the vanilla and then the eggs one by one, beating well. Add to the fruit and mix well. Melt chocolate in a small saucepan over simmering water, or in the microwave for about 60 seconds, and then stir in the plum jam and pour over the fruit. Fold in the flour and cinnamon, and pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin. Smooth off the top and shake the pan to settle contents and remove air pockets.
Bake for 2 1⁄2 - 3 hours (2-2 1/4 hours for smaller cakes) until a skewer test comes out clean. Remove from the oven, leave in the tin, wrap in tea towels and rest overnight before serving.
Preparation Time: 30 minutes (plus marination) - Cooking Time: 2-3 hours

Thursday 24 July 2008


“I don't believe in astrology; I'm a Sagittarius and we're skeptical.” - Arthur C. Clarke

Astrology is a controversial subject. Most people will not readily admit that they believe in astrology, but nearly everybody will cast a glance at their horoscope in the newspaper. Astrology has its firm adherents, also, and many a scholarly treatise has been written on its merits, its scientific basis and on the numerous way in which the planets and stars influence our lives. There are many astrologers that earn hundreds of thousands of dollars and their clients include the rich and famous. In some countries, astrologers are consulted before marriages, before beginning new business ventures and before any important decision is made. Today, the heavens shift and the sun moves into the royal house of Leo, the Lion.

LEO THE LION: July 24th - August 23rd. Ruled by the Sun. A fixed, masculine, positive, fire sign. Polar or opposite sign is Aquarius. Fixed Star: Regulus.

Affectionate, Bold, Bossy, Brave, Confident, Courageous, Extravagant, Flattery-seeking, Generous, Gregarious, Leader, Open, Passionate, Persistent, Proud, Romantic, Vain.

The Leonian may be summarised with the verb: “I create”.

These individuals are the kings and queens, they act part of the lawgiver but often they may be represented as the divine child. A Leonian quote: “When I walk out, I am a great event. I do not have to think or even rehearse.” Sylvia Plath.

The Sun in Leo marks one who has a strong will and great ambition. These people usually enjoy being the center of attention and desire others to think well of them. Their creative accomplishments generally put them in the spotlight, usually outshining co-workers who may become jealous of their proud attitude. Leonians are more concerned with the “big picture” than with the numerous small details in life. As such, they tend to enjoy being in authority and using whatever means are available to achieve their desires. Tact should be developed when dealing with those the Leonian finds “inferior”.

The Leonian is clever, artistic and creative, often succeeding in the entertainment industry. Many a successful actor, dancer and entertainer is a Leo. As the Leonian is cheerful, good-natured, enthusiastic, optimistic and so good at organising things, he is often a company director, publicity manger, media presenter or show business executive. They love organising shows, events, productions and even other people’s lives.

In their personal relationships Leonians can be very unlucky. This is because although superficially very confident or brassy and seldom depressed, they are easily hurt and very sensitive. The Leonian can reach rock bottom and suffer a devastating despondency, which however, will not last long. In fact, the Leo character is never more evident than in adversity and the positive side will shine through. The negative aspects of Leo are snobbery, pomposity, encased in dogma and they can be frustratingly patronising. In most cases the charm and positivity wins. Extrovert a Leonian may be, but inside the bold and brassy exterior there is a loyal heart and a good and generous nature.

The Leonians are generally very successful in their lives and although they can be very generous and liberal with their money, their pocket is always full. Free-spenders they may be but they are rarely without money.

astrology |əˈsträləjē| noun
The study of the movements and relative positions of celestial bodies interpreted as having an influence on human affairs and the natural world.
Ancient observers of the heavens developed elaborate systems of explanation based on the movements of the sun, moon, and planets through the constellations of the zodiac, for predicting events and for casting horoscopes. By 1700 astrology had lost intellectual credibility in the West, but continued to have popular appeal. Modern astrology is based on that of the Greeks, but other systems are extant, notably those of China and India.

astrologer |-jər| |əˈstrɑlədʒər| noun
astrological |ˌastrəˈläjikəl| adjective
astrologist |-jist| noun

ORIGIN late Middle English: From Old French astrologie, from Latin astrologia, from Greek, from astron ‘star.’ The term (in full natural astrology) originally denoted the practical uses of astronomy, applied in the measurement of time and the prediction of natural phenomena. The current sense (in full judicial astrology, relating to human affairs) dates from the mid 16th century. + From French -logie or medieval Latin -logia, from Greek, denoting a subject of study or interest.

Do you believe in astrology?

Wednesday 23 July 2008


“The night walked down the sky with the moon in her hand.” - Frederick L. Knowles


Deserted streets;
Cold lights;
Fogged up windscreen.
The street cleaners (pity them!)
Go hither and thither like wraiths.
Neon signs, cheap, inhospitable
Advertise dives that stay open the whole night long.
The taxi drivers (pity them!)
Earn a night’s living – barely awake.

The traffic lights:
Amber, red,
Amber, green.
Quiet streets,
Cars parked in rows like gravestones.
A thousand dark windows of houses,
Inside which loud snores, you think, resound.

The leaves, falling constantly
As if of silver, lit by the cruel street light.
A thousand leaves,
Swept by the wind
In waves, huge billows
Of silver, dead leaves.

And I.
I who drive alone in the frigid night.
Betrayed, rejected, forlorn.
And I who drive, seemingly, a thousand miles.
And I’ve forgotten – some stars that jeer
As though embroidered with silver thread on velvet sky,
A suitable backdrop to the impersonal high-rise apartment buildings,
Each hiding a thousand miseries.

O night, enchantress,
You bewitch in your dark veils,
Night of a thousand secrets!
Dark goddess, obscure peri
Who conceals a thousand mysteries.
O night, child abductress
Beguiler, stealer, who
In your cloak’s deep folds corrupts unstoppingly.

Night of a thousand songs,
Moonlit and strange, silver-black
You give us without pity
A thousand flimsy dreams,
Only for to reclaim them each dawn
As the cock crows…

Tuesday 22 July 2008


“Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” - Benjamin Disraeli

Greetings from Brisbane! I am here for work for a couple of days and as usual the weather has been lovely for this time of the year. It is always pleasant to visit Brisbane between June and September, as it is relatively warm and fine (compared to Melbourne) and while temperatures in Melbourne hover around the 12-13˚C mark, Brisbane enjoys 22-24˚C. However, with the amount of work I had to get through I did not enjoy the great outdoors much…

The picture is part of Brisbane’s Southbank district. Southbank is adjacent to the City and along the Brisbane River. About 17 hectares of riverside recreational parkland within a 125 hectare precinct that lies across the waters of the Brisbane River from the high rises of the central business district, it is a place for visitors and the people of Brisbane alike to sun themselves, shop, dine and enjoy the arts. The best way to reach Southbank from the City is across the Victoria Bridge. Once across, one can see Melbourne Street which is flanked by the Old Museum and Art Gallery on the right and the Old Performing Arts Centre on the left, behind which one can see the curving shell of the Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Most of Southbank spreads off to one’s left, and is reached by the Clem Jones Promenade. Southbank was built on the World Expo 1988 site, and at that time was filled with pavilions and displays from around the world. The pagoda, a symbol of peace, was a gift from Nepal and one of the few things retained when the area was transformed into Southbank. A few steps past it, turning right, a boardwalk takes one through a shaded rainforest section filled with jungle noises and vegetation. A stream gurgles and the greenery refreshes the soul. Beyond this is an amphitheatre-style piazza that hosts regular performances, and at weekends the whole place becomes a market.

Back towards the riverbank, is a beach patrolled by professional life guards. This borders an artificial lagoon surrounded by palm trees and rocks. It is a wonderful site for City dwellers to enjoy a beach-style environment on their doorstep. Adjacent to it is an arbour (picture above), which is a meandering bougainvillea-covered path running the length of Southbank. A kilometre of blazing magenta, it is made of more than 400 slim, curving pillars linked by cables along which the bougainvillea is trained. In the evening it glows with mood lighting.

Numerous restaurants, cafés and bars make Southbank a mecca for the bon viveur and last night I dined in Kapsali restaurant. This was a friendly, Mediterranean restaurant with quite good food and ambience. The waiters were pleasant and the service fast. I had the grilled Barramundi fillet with lemon butter, creamed potato and wok tossed vegetables.

Enjoy the week!

Sunday 20 July 2008


"Artists create out of a sense of desolation. The spirit of creation is a excruciating, intricate exploration from within the soul." – El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos)

We watched the 2007 film “El Greco” at the weekend, by Yannis Smaragdis starring Nick Ashdon, Juan Diego Botto, Laia Marull and Dimitra Matsouka. The film had received some rather controversial reviews and it was interesting to see it and make up our minds about it. Looking at it critically one easily finds fault with it and it can be dismissed as biofiction, which lacks any real depth or true characterisation. On the other hand if one changes one’s perspective, and approaches it without any expectations (and more importantly without prior knowledge of the artist, his work or his times), this film has several saving graces and one can see why it can appeal to a very large number of people.

Firstly, let me put on my tall, silk stovepipe hat of the harsh film critic who is well-versed in the life and times of Domenikos Theotokopoulos, the 16th century artist born in Venetian –occupied Crete, but who through Venice finally made a home for himself in Spain and became one of the most famous and well-regarded artists of all time. Remarkably little is known about he life of El Greco and there a few pieces of documentary evidence that will shed light on his travels and life. The film makes quite a few assumptions and is quite inventive as far as personal details are concerned, so as a biographical work it is closer to fiction than fact. The few indisputable facts about El Greco’s life are surely shown, but around them the tissue of fiction does more to obscure them than to clothe them.

The script is platitudinous to say the least and the two major themes that run through it are freedom (on a national as well as a personal level), and the belief in one’s abilities and personal credos versus on ones imposed by convention or people in power. The struggle of El Greco to establish himself as an artist through his controversial art is counterpointed with his personal relationships. A noble Venetian woman who loves him in Crete become a nun (who later saves him in true deus ex machina style) and the Spanish noblewoman who loves him and bears his son sees his struggle with the church and the establishment as too risky an undertaking and opts (at least initially) for abandoning him (however, to preserve the happy ending, they are reunited, at the conclusion of the film). El Greco’s relationship with Cardinal Niño El Guevara (who portrait he painted in magnificent red robes and rather fetching spectacles) is made much of. On the one hand, there is an almost passionate and perverse courting on the Cardinal’s part (although the homosexual undertones are never explicitly stated), while on the other, El Greco remains aloof and committed to his art, unwilling to compromise on sexual, religious, artistic or ideological grounds.

The Spanish Inquisition comes in, and in what is supposed to be the climax, El Greco is accused of heresy and blasphemy – his punishment for rejecting the advances of the Cardinal, however, a vision of angels chastens the Cardinal and El Greco’s impassioned (but rather trite speeches) end the film on a joyous and triumphant note. This is more soap opera than a work of art and the costumes and settings look a little more theatrical than realistic.

The music by Vangelis is good and the cinematography OK, but the script has let this production down. No character development, no thoughtfulness about the potentially conflicting situations that could have provided some very powerful scenes between the leads and a rather poor last appearance by Greek veteran actor Sotiris Moustakas (through no fault of his own), who delivers some very mind-numbing lines as El Greco’s teacher, Titian.

Rather a scathing review, wouldn’t you think? Let me take my high hat off and put on my layman’s cap (rather worn and with no pretensions of high-brow aspirations). In this incarnation I could view the film as an enjoyable introduction to a great artist’s life and his art, made approachable by engaging, instantly familiar situations and emotions, one that any person could relate to in an easily ingestible and digestible form. It is colourful, engaging (because of its lack of assumptions about the viewers’ prior knowledge or education) and one that gives a simple direct message. Besides, the good guys win and all is resolved happily in the end.

I must say that I was more harsh than lenient with my personal criticism because of all the hype that I had heard about the film before I saw it. I was expecting much more than the film delivered and besides I knew something about the life and art of Domenikos Theotokopoulos before I saw the film. As my expectations were very high, I was rather disappointed. However, don’t let me put you off seeing, although, be warned and don’t have high expectations. This is a biofiction, costume drama, better suited to a Sunday afternoon DVD session, rather than a special trip into a cinema.

It should be noted that there is an equally flawed 1966 “El Greco”, yet another version of the artist’s life, starting Mel Ferrer in the title role. In this one, the action concentrates on the artist’s Toledo period and his later years. I think overall, one is more likely to be satisfied by a visit to Spain and a view of the master’s incomparable masterpieces in some of the galleries…


"When you start a painting, it is somewhat outside you. At the conclusion, you seem to move inside the painting." - Fernando Botero

It is Max Liebermann’s birthday today and he was a German impressionist painter. He was born in Berlin, on the 20th July 1847 and died in Berlin, on the 8th Feb 1935, the son of a Jewish businessman. His activities encompassed painting, drawing, printmaking and art collecting. He dominated the German art world from the 1890s to the 1930s. At the beginning of his career, he was a highly controversial figure, but after the turn of the century his art was regarded as “classic” and he was showered with honours. His Naturalist and Impressionist works have been consistently admired, despite being banned during the Nazi period. Liebermann's approach was that of a liberal cosmopolitan, and his work is distinguished by its honesty and commitment to social reform. Influenced by Dutch and French painting, he led the modernist movement in Germany away from the literary art of the 19th century.

His “Old Woman with Cat” was painted in 1878, and depicts an old woman sitting alone with a cat in front of a rough wall. Her head bowed to the side and her large coarse hands gently embracing the cat emphasise the emotional bond between the woman and her pet. Through such gestures, Max Liebermann filled the subject with his own understated and affecting humanity. He depicted the woman in bright light and wearing a richly colored skirt, thus omitting obvious signs of poverty and avoiding an unnecessary display of sentimentality.

Influenced by the Dutch Masters of the 1600s, Liebermann became fascinated with themes that concerned contemplative states. He also absorbed the lessons of French painters; his richly worked execution of this painting reflects the painterly style he learned in Paris in the 1870s. The Old Woman with Cat was painted in 1878 in Venice, where Liebermann went to recuperate after breaking his leg. He captured that city's famous golden light to harmonize the rich and disparate colors and textures of the woman and the setting.