Saturday 13 September 2008


“He who sings scares away his woes.” Miguel de Cervantes

Another French song today by the incomparable Belgian singer and songwriter, Philippe Lafontaine. This song "Coeur de Loup" was his first big hit (1989) and launched his career once and for all in Europe in the early 90s. The song garnered many awards in Belgium, France and Quebec. His lyrics are known for being full of jaunty rhythms, alliterations, assonances and double entendres.

The song is a fantastic mixture of word play and brings to mind all things wolf-like. Wolfmen howling at the moon, the wolf and little-red-riding-hood, wolf heart and wolf whistling. Love and lust, joy and misery, talking and being silent. Being in love is like being a kamikaze, like a legionnaire who likes advnture and wishes to travel but wants to do so without commitment…

If your French is up to scratch and idiomatic enough, here are the lyrics:

Cœur de Loup

Pas le temps de tout lui dire
Pas le temps de tout lui taire
Juste assez pour tenter la satyre
Qu'elle sente que j'veux lui plaire
Sous le pli de l'emballage
La lubie de faufiler
La folie de rester sage si elle veut
De n'pas l'embrasser
Quand d'un coup d'aile se déplume
Mon œillet luit fait de l'œil
Même hululer sous la lune ne m'fait pas peur
Pourvu qu'elle veuille

Je n'ai qu'une seule envie
Me laisser tenter
La victime est si belle
Et le crime est si gai

Pas besoin de beaucoup
Mais pas de peu non plus
Par le biais d'un billet fou
Lui faire savoir que j'n'en peux plus
C'est le cas du kamikaze
C'est l'abc du condamné
Le légionnaire qui veut l'avantage des voyages
Sans s'engager
Elle est si frêle esquive
Sous mes bordées d'amour
Je suppose qu'elle suppose
Que je l'aimerai toujours
Le doigts sur l'aventure
Le pied dans l'inventaire
Même si l'affaire n'est pas sûre
Ne pas s'enfuir
Ne pas s'en faire

Je n'ai qu'une seule envie
Me laisser tenter
La victime est si belle
Et le crime est si gai

Cœur de loup
Peur du lit
Sans délais
Suis le swing
C'est le coup de gong du king. Bong !
Cœur de loup
M'as-tu lu
L'appel aux
Gais délits
Sors du ring
C'est le coup de gong du king. Bong !

Pas le temps de tout lui dire
Ni de quitter la scène
YEP ! Elle aura beau rougir
De toute façon il faut qu'elle m'aime
Je n'ai qu'un seule envie
Me laisser tenter......................
Cœur de loup
Peur du lit
Sans délai
Où elle est
Beau colis
Joli lot
Cœur de loup
M'as-tu lu
L'appel aux
Gais délits
En dit long
Mets l'hola
C'est joli
Quand c'est laid.

Friday 12 September 2008


“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the things associated with traveling on business is the business lunch or business dinner or business cocktail party, where one attempts to work in a social setting. It is a very valuable experience in that people are more relaxed and quite likely to be more receptive to new ideas, discuss things in a rather more informal way, be able to interact in a more open and constructive manner. By the by, one can have rather lovely food along the way as this is a tax deductible expense and one may use this means to treat colleagues and prospective clients to some rather fine dining.

I always adhere to the maxim less is more principle. Order one bottle of good wine rather than ply the guests to limitless bottles of disgusting plonk. Organise a single well-rounded, well-cooked and well presented course than several middling to indifferent courses. A few gourmet canapés than an endless supply of cardboard cutout trashy nibblies. After all, this is meant to be about doing business and getting a job done, rather4 than a Lucullan exercise in excessive pleasures of the gastrointestinal kind.

My lat night in Sydney tonight was a case in point where a cocktail party marked the occasion of a professional gathering where I had to make a welcome address. The wine and spirits were good and generous, rather than limitless and indifferent. The hors d’oeuvres liberal and toothsome but not outré. As a result people interacted, talked, communicated, enjoyed.

It’s good to be flying home tonight!

Thursday 11 September 2008


“Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.” – Arthur Eddington

The word for the day today is HADRON…

hadron |ˈhadˌrän| noun Physics
A subatomic particle of a type including the baryons and mesons that can take part in the strong interaction.
hadronic |hadˈränik| adjective
ORIGIN 1960s: From Greek hadros ‘bulky’ + -on

The world has been forced to focus on the CERN laboratory in Switzerland, as a teenage girl in India has killed herself in fear that the Big Bang experiment may cause the end of the world. The 16-year-old girl, named Chayya from Madhya Pradesh drank pesticide and was rushed to the hospital but died a little later. This was caused by watching doomsday predictions made on Indian news programmes, her father said.

Doomsday predictions around the world abounded as preparations began for the start-up of Europe's Large Hadron Collider. This is a gigantic (27 km long) atomic particle-smasher designed to explore the origins of the universe. Real experiments have not yet begun, but its trial run on Wednesday was accompanied by worries that it might spawn black holes with enough gravitational pull to swallow up the whole Earth. Physicists around the world celebrated the first successful tests of the equipment yesterday.

Experiments that will begin in earnest over the next few days, could revamp modern physics and unlock secrets about the universe and its origins. The huge particle-smashing machine (one of the most complex ever built!) will simulate the time immediately after creation of the universe in the Big Bang that forced matter as we know it into existence.

Although physicists brushed off suggestions that the experiment could create tiny black holes that could cause problems with the planet, poor Chayya and many other people around the world had real fears of a fast approaching Doomsday. Technology and hard science still makes many people uncomfortable or fearful. As our knowledge of science expands and becomes more specialised and complicated, it is beyond the understanding of the average person. We may all use high technology gadgets and place our lives at the mercy of technology when we travel on jet planes, when we listen to our i-pod and watch our TY LCD screens, but not many of us really want to know how it all works.

Ignorance creates fear. Not understanding breeds awe. Rumour runs rife in populations that view technology with the same fascination that they would view magic. Distrust and suspicion hamper progress and the daunting face of the technology involved discourages many from serious study of physics, mathematics, chemistry and all of the other “hard” sciences. How can we remain level-headed when confronted with such an array of quite incomprehensible and apparently magical scientific knowledge, whose simplest everyday applications can seem like wizardry?

Tuesday 9 September 2008


“I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden.” - Ruth Stout

I am in Sydney again for work and take the opportunity of a delayed flight and some spare time in an airport waiting lounge, to bring you my Poetry Wednesday offering early today. Spring has sprung in the Antipodes and the powder blue skies of Sydney are dotted with fleecy clouds – we may have a shower or two today. What better way to celebrate an Australian Spring than with some Australian poetry (a month early in this particular example, but a poem I like, nevertheless).

Mallee* in October

When clear October suns unfold
mallee tips of red and gold

children on their way to school
discover tadpoles in a pool,

iceplants sheathed in beaded glass
spider orchids and shivery grass,

webs with globes of dew alight
budgerigars on their first flight,

tottery lambs and a stilty foal
a papers slough that a snake shed whole,

and a bronzewing's nest of twigs so few
that both the sky and the eggs show through.
Flexmore Hudson

*mallee |ˈmalē| noun
A low-growing bushy Australian eucalyptus that typically has several slender stems.
• Genus Eucalyptus, family Myrtaceae: several species, in particular E. dumosa.
• scrub that is dominated by mallee bushes, typical of some arid parts of Australia.
ORIGIN mid 19th century, from Wuywurung (an Aboriginal language).
Flexmore Hudson (1913-1988) was born in Charters Towers Queensland. He was educated at Adelaide High School and graduated from the University of Adelaide. He began a teaching career in 1934 and taught in the Mallee, and at Scotch College in Adelaide and Adelaide Boys' High School. During the period 1941 to 1947 Hudson founded, edited and published the literary journal, “Poetry”. He also edited the 1943 anthology of Australian verse for Jindyworobak and contributed to the Jindyworobak anthologies from 1938 to 1953. He died in South Australia on 4th May 1988.

Some of the inspiration for his poetry came from his pupils. Whilst teaching at a small school (14 pupils) in the Mallee district of South Australia, the children would tell him of the things they had seen on the way to school. In his poem Mallee in October he refers to the Bronzewing's nest. Quote: "One day I spotted a bronzewing sitting on her eggs, Every morning for about a fortnight I used to stop my bike almost under the nest and watch that bird. I remember how pleased I was that, after a few days, she tolerated my intrusion." taken from This Land - an anthology of Australian Poetry by M.M. Flynn and J. Groom published 1968.


“Joy is the best of wine.” - George Eliot

On the ninth day of the ninth moon, the Chinese celebrate Chrysanthemum Day. This is to honour T’ao Yuan-Ming, a poet who loved chrysanthemums above all other flowers as they bloomed in frosty autumn when all other blossoms were long dead. Chrysanthemum wine is drunk to ensure a long life. The Japanese adopted the same festival on the same day and named it Choyo-no-Sekku. It is celebrated nowadays with many chrysanthemum shows and competitions for the best blooms.

Drinking Wine, V

I built my house amongst the throng of men,
But there is no din of horse or carriage going by.
You ask me, puzzled, “How can such a paradox arise?”
When the heart’s remote, all earthly things stand aloof.
I cut chrysanthemums by the eastern hedge,
Afar on the horizon shimmer the southern hills;
How good the highland air is at sunset…
The flying birds in company come to their nests.
In this is true beauty, real savour,
But probing inside myself, I find no apt words.
T’ao Yuan-Ming (365-427 AD)

Sunday 7 September 2008


“The father who does not teach his son his duties is equally guilty with the son who neglects them.” – Confucius

Continuing on the theme of Fathers’ Day in yesterday’s blog, I am reviewing an Australian movie we watched at the weekend, “Romulus, My Father” (2007), by director Richard Roxburgh. The movie is based on the autobiographical book of the same name by author and philosopher, Raimond Gaita. Romulus Gaita fled his home in Yugoslavia at the age of thirteen, and came to Australia with his young wife Christine and their four-year-old son, Raimond, soon after the end of World War II. Raimond Gaita tells a tragic story about growing up with his father in the lonely stretches of country Australia.

The film translates the book well and while Raimond tells the story of his father’s life in his new homeland, he also explores the morals and personality of the man who shaped his future. The story is about marital relationships, love, compassion, friendship. It is violent and tender, it is harsh and gentle like the land in which it takes place. It explores the nightmarish reality of madness, the balance between work and the moral order of things. Therein is portrayed the poverty of existence, but also the richness of heart and soul. It is a superficially simple tale of honesty (with ourselves first and then with others), a memoir of a love of a man for a woman and love between a father and his son.

The film is quite brutal and violent in parts, poignant and sparse in its emotions, but quite powerful in its frugality. Ferocious images assail the viewer’s eyes and the faint-hearted may do well to not watch it as the violence grips one by the throat. One wonders how the tender, young child, Raimond, survived through such a brutal childhood to become a foremost academic and well-respected philosopher. The relationship between him and his father may have been the salvaging grace. As Raimond Gaita says: “On many occasions in my life I have had the need to say, and thankfully have been able to say: I know what a good workman is; I know what an honest man is; I know what friendship is; I know because I remember these things in the person of my father.”

The child actor Kodi Smit-McPhee who plays Raimond definitely is the one that carries the film, while Eric Bana does a creditable job as Romulus. Franka Potente plays Raimond’s mother and good performances are also given by Marton Czokas and Russell Dysktra as two brothers, family friends of the Gaitas. Australian TV viewers will recognize Terry Norris in a small supporting role (“Blue Heelers”, “Matlock Police” “Division 4” and “Homicide” - and how he has aged!).

The music by Basil Hogios and the cinematography by Geoffrey Simpson are a great addition to the film and contribute hauntingly to the atmosphere. Although there is great sadness and loneliness expressed in the film, there is also an underlying optimism and determination to succeed in the face of adversity. Raimond’s success in later life can be read between the lines and in the epilogue screen after the fade out, we are pleased to learn that Romulus also found some tranquility and fulfillment later in life also.

It is a grim film, a violent and powerful one, but worth seeing nevertheless.


“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection.” - Sigmund Freud

It is Fathers’ Day here in Australia today and many a family were celebrating Dad’s special day. For Art Sunday, quite aptly a painting inspired by the day: Rembrandt’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son” (1662, Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg), illustrating one of the most poignant of the parables in the New Testament.

Luke 15:11-32 (21st Century King James Version)
And He said: “A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me.' And he divided unto them his estate. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land, and he began to be in want.

And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine ate, and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, `How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father and will say unto him, "Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. Make me as one of thy hired servants."'

And he arose and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said unto him, `Father, I have sinned against Heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.' But the father said to his servants, `Bring forth the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet. And bring hither the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to be merry.

"Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, `Thy brother is come, and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.' And he was angry and would not go in; therefore came his father out and entreated him. And he answering said to his father, `Lo, these many years have I served thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment; and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this thy son was come who hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.' And he said unto him, `Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry and be glad; for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.'”

Happy Fathers’ Day!