Saturday 30 August 2008


“Him that I love, I wish to be free – even from me.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

For Song Saturday, a magnificent song by Italian singer/songwriter Riccardo Cocciante: “Cervo a Primavera” (1980). Enjoy!

A Deer in Spring

And I shall be reborn
A deer in Spring,
Or rather, I’ll become
A seagull of the reef,
With nothing more to forget
With no more questions to ask,
Just a space to occupy.

And I shall be reborn
My friend, you who understand me
I’ll transform myself into someone
Who can no longer fail –
A partridge of the mountain
Who flies and doesn’t dream
In a leaf or in a chestnut.

And I shall be reborn
My dear friend, oh, my friend,
And I’ll find myself
With no pens nor plumes,
No fear of falling,
Intent only on soaring
Like an eternal migratory bird…

And I shall be reborn
Without any complexes or frustrations,
My friend, I’ll listen
To the symphonies of the seasons
With a definite role to play,
So happy to have been born
Between sky and earth and infinity…


E io rinascerò
Cervo a primavera
Oppure diverrò
Gabbiano da scogliera
Senza più niente da scordare
Senza domande più da fare
Con uno spazio da occupare...

E io rinascerò
Amico che mi sai capire
E mi trasformerò in qualcuno
Che non può più fallire
Una pernice di montagna
Che vola eppur non sogna
In una foglia o una castagna...

E io rinascerò
Amico caro, amico mio
E mi ritroverò
Con penne e piume senza io
Senza paura di cadere
Intento solo a volteggiare
Come un eterno migratore...

E io rinascerò
Senza complessi e frustrazioni
Amico mio, ascolterò
Le sinfonie delle stagioni
Con un mio ruolo definito
Così felice di esser nato
Tra cielo terra e l'infinito...

Friday 29 August 2008


"He that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the skills of the physician." - Chinese proverb

Last night we went to dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Brisbane’s Chinatown. The Chinatown Mall in Duncan Street, Fortitude Valley, has been a centre of Asian commercial and cultural activity since its official opening on the 29th of January 1987. Streets are signed in both Chinese characters and English. Both the Mall's Wickham and Ann Street Official entrance gates are guarded by pairs of stone lions, presented as a gift from the People's Republic of China. The 320 kg stone carvings stand as a symbol of friendship and cultural respect. They also function as sentinels - protectors whose mere presence is said to guard against evil spirits.

The Chinese food in Australia generally tends to be very good and there is a great variety of regional cuisines represented: Cantonese, Beijing, Szechuan, Hunan, etc. A good indicator that a restaurant is good is generally the large number of Chinese diners there! Brisbane, like most other major cities in Australia has its fair share of restaurants and eating Chinese is very popular here.

Food in China is very symbolic and there are strong philosophical elements that govern its preparation and ingredients that balance each other in the recipe. Everyone is familiar with the concept of yin and yang: Hot and Cold, Male and Female, Dark and Light, Winter and Summer. Yin and yang represent the concept of duality, each half making up the totality of the whole. It is appropriate to view them as complementary pairs and the Chinese believe problems arise not when the two forces are battling, but when there is an imbalance between them in the environment. Floods, divorce, or even a fire in the kitchen - all can be attributed to disharmony in the forces of yin and yang.

A basic adherence to this philosophy can be found even in Chinese form, from stir-fried beef with broccoli to sweet and sour pork. There is always a balance in colour, flavours, and textures. However, belief in the importance of following the principles of yin and yang in the diet extends further. Certain foods are thought to have yin or cooling properties, while others have warm, yang properties. The challenge is to consume a diet that contains a healthy balance between the two. When treating illnesses, an Oriental physician will frequently advise dietary changes in order to restore a healthy balance between the yin and yang in the body. For example, let's say you're suffering from heartburn, caused by consuming too many spicy (yang) foods. Instead of antacids, you're likely to take home a prescription for herbal teas to restore the yin forces. Similarly, coughs or flu are more likely to be treated with dietary changes than antibiotics or cough medicines.

Yin Foods: Bean Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Crab, Cucumber, Duck, Water, Watercress, Tofu.
Yang Foods: Bamboo, Beef, Chicken, Eggs, Ginger, Glutinous Rice, Mushrooms, Sesame Oil, Wine

Almost no foodstuff is purely yin or yang - it's more that one characteristic tends to dominate. This is why there is not complete agreement among experts as to which foods exhibit yin or yang forces. It also reinforces that it is not so much the individual ingredients, as the balance and contrast between ingredients in each dish, which is important. Interestingly, cooking methods also have more of a yin or yang property, as the list below demonstrates.

Yin Qualities: Boiling, Poaching, Steaming
Yang Qualities: Deep-frying, Roasting, Stir-frying

Like the concept of yin and yang, the Five Elements Theory is at the cornerstone of Chinese philosophy and medicine. The Chinese believe that we are surrounded by five “elements”, but more correctly “energy fields” or “forces”: Wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. However, the elements are not static: they are constantly moving and changing. Just as an imbalance between yin and yang can produce destructive forces, keeping all elements in balance promotes harmony both in our surroundings and ourselves. Of course, balancing five elements is a little more complicated than achieving harmony between two opposing forces. According to Chinese belief, each element acts upon two others, either giving birth to it or controlling it. For example, wood gives birth to fire and controls or suppresses earth. Similarly, fire gives birth to earth and controls metal. All the elements are constantly interacting with other elements—none stand alone. The table below outlines the relationships:

Gives Birth To Controlling
Wood - Fire Wood - Earth
Fire - Earth Earth - Water
Earth - Metal Water - Fire
Metal - Water Fire - Metal
Water - Wood Metal - Wood

As for diet, Chinese herbalists believe that, to properly treat a patient, you must know the state of the five elements in their body. A deficiency or an excess of an element can lead to illness. cure common illnesses. Treating a cough with winter melon tea and fresh water chestnuts is just one example. Suffice to say that practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine rely on it to explain the relationships between the body organs and tissues, as well as between the body and the outside environment. The table below outlines the relationship between the five elements and body parts, feelings, colors, and taste.

Element Yin Yang Feelings Colors Tastes
Wood Liver Gall Bladder Rage Green Sour
Fire Heart Small Intestine Happiness Red Bitter
Earth Spleen Stomach Thought Yellow Sweet
Metal Lungs Large Intestine Sorrow White Spicy
Water Kidneys Bladder Fear Black Salty

How would a physician use the above information to make a diagnosis? Let's say a patient suddenly developed a preference for sour food. This could indicate liver problems. Of course, the actual process of examining a patient and making a diagnosis is much more complex than merely consulting a chart. It requires a thorough understanding of the interaction between all the elements and a good knowledge of the Chinese philosophical system on which disease diagnosis and treatment is based.

Thursday 28 August 2008


“Nothing can cure the Soul but the Senses, just as nothing can cure the Senses but the Soul” - Oscar Wilde

I am in Brisbane once again for work and it has been a day of activity. From the time I woke up at 4:30 am, through to catching an early flight up to Brisbane, then a full day of meetings and staff interviews, through to a social activity for staff and then dinner with my boss, it’s been a non-stop energizing and adrenaline packed day. I am just beginning to wind down now and at nearly 11:00 pm, going to bed looks good…

The view from my hotel is a picture of quietude, much similar to the picture above. Which brings us to the word of the day:

quietude |ˈkwīəˌt(y)oōd| noun
a state of stillness, calmness, and quiet in a person or place.
ORIGIN late 16th century: from French quiétude or medieval Latin quietudo, from Latin quietus ‘quiet.’

Wednesday 27 August 2008


“Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?” – Jalal ad-Din Rumi

Winter drags on in the Antipodes this year and the dark, cold days with drizzling grey skies are taking the toll on mood and mien.

Antique Engraving

The sun paints the west with saffron
The sky around it mauve.
The naked trees are shuddering,
Night comes fast, dark, cold.
In front of me the city stretches
Dressed in grey and black,
While in the horizon’s depths
Bell towers echo a melancholy
Sadness, violet, heavy, baroque.

A chimney spews out shadows
Spreading its smoke like endless veils
That asphyxiate me,
Aided by the bony claws
Of dead branches.
My pain, a dying bird,
Has nested in my throat,
And sorrow throttles me
With hands like pincers.

In the west, the golden glow’s no more
Black clouds cover the sky.
Hope flies, chased by the wind,
Who gallops past,
Piercing my empty soul.

Tuesday 26 August 2008


“Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards and in high heels.” – Faith Whittlesey

The U.S. celebrates Women's Equality Day each year on August 26. Congress designated this date in 1971 to honour women's continuing efforts toward full equality. Spearheading the effort was U.S. Representative Bella Abzug (D-NY). The 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote was certified as part of the U.S. Constitution on August 26, 1920. It was the culmination of a 72-year-long civil rights movement that originated at the world's first women's rights convention held in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. Several generations of women's suffrage supporters wrote, lectured, marched, and lobbied to achieve what many Americans considered a radical change to the Constitution. Few early supporters lived to see victory in 1920.

In 1967, Executive Order 11375 added sex to other prohibited forms of discrimination in Federal employment. In response, the U.S. Civil Service Commission established the Federal Women's Program (FWP). Today, American women are leaders in business, government, law, science, medicine, the arts, education, and many other fields. Remarkable American women have broadened opportunities for themselves and women around the world. The observance of Women's Equality Day not only commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, but also recognises women's continuing efforts toward full equality.

Many activities are organised in the U.S. to commemorate this day and include exhibitions, award ceremonies for special achievement, lectures, special events and cultural activities. A web page devoted to women’s achievements is to be found here: while another website devoted to women in history is found here:

Monday 25 August 2008


“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” – Catullus

Do you remember the old “Pink Panther” movies with Peter Sellers? There was a rash of them in the 1960s and 1970s, beginning with the very first one in 1963 (“The Pink Panther”) and the last one in 1978 “The Revenge of the Pink Panther”. Some people dislike Peter Sellers, but I ma big fan of his and certainly even the people who dislike him must admit that he created some wonderful characters on screen. The bumbling Inspector Clouseau is one of these and the Pink Panther sequels are certainly testimony to the fact that people lapped these films up. I was one of them and remember the laughs we had in my youth watching all these films.

It was with trepidation that I picked up a DVD from the “specials” bin in the DVD store I shop in and saw that Steve Martin had decided to do a remake of the Pink Panther movie. “Sacré bleu!”, I thought, “This is sacrilege!” It must have been quite a courageous thing to do, even for someone with the comedic talents of Steve Martin (another of the actors who some love other hate). Even though the DVD was remarkably cheap (that in itself also quite suspicious, as the film was made in 2006), I was debating whether to get it or not, given the fond memories I had of Peter Sellers in the original Pink Panther movies.

Well, I did buy it and we got to watch it last weekend. OK, it was different but I think one has to give Martin his due. He is not trying to be Peter Sellers, he pays tribute to him. The film is not a remake, it is like a sequel, or rather a parallel universe Clouseau. The script is very entertaining (Martin co-wrote it with Len Blum) and the gags, although commonplace, work effectively in a juvenile way (but then again, that’s how the original gags in the Sellers series were). These are movies to have a laugh over, they are not out to win the Nobel prize…

There is quite a lot of repressed sexuality in the film and many double entendres, however, relatively well shielded o the youngsters can still watch and not be distracted by smut. Overall I was pleasantly surprised and was once again won over by Steve Martin and his Gallic antics. Inspector Dreyfuss, played by Kevin Kline was rather disappointing, but Jean Reno plays Clouseau’s side-kick very effectively. Beyoncé Knowles has a guest role as a singer involved in the murder investigation and of course she sings the regulation song. See the movie for a bit of light-hearted fun. Don’t expect Sellers, and enjoy Steve Martin.