Saturday 4 October 2008


“Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul” – Plato

I am rather tired tonight after a busy day doing chores and running around here and there. Always something to do around the house at the weekend, shopping, going to the market, going to the library… In any case the day ended well and that’s what matters.

For Song Saturday today, a video that I made when I was a student. We had to make a piece of “Video Art” in which the story was to be told in images only, no words. My piece was called “Secret Garden” and it tried to give a picture of a garden steeped in mystery and intrigue. A garden where the statues looked upon strange goings-on and where murder was in the air…

I also composed and performed the music (with the help of my computer). I have composed quite a lot of music and with the technology nowadays, one can hear quite easily anything from a solo, to a quartet, to a band piece, to a full orchestral score. Tell me what you think…

Friday 3 October 2008


“Why do strong arms fatigue themselves with frivolous dumbbells? To dig a vineyard is worthier exercise for men.” - Marcus Valerius Martialis

You would think that if you had a nice fast walk you would work up an appetite and not only eat your dinner more eagerly but also more of it in quantity. Apparently not! Latest research has shown that being a couch potato and not exercising will cause you to feel hungrier and would require you to eat more in order to feel replete. Sitting around apparently increases hunger more than exercising. It all has to do with psychological factors and our perceptions of hunger. A recent study in the USA, examined young people who were either active or inactive and the effect it had on their appetite.

The volunteers were followed through days when they active (spending 12 hours being active – not exercising but rather walking, doing chores, housework, etc, with only 10 minutes rest in every hour) and when they were being sedentary (sitting watching videos and playing computer games, even being pushed around in a wheelchair if they wanted to go somewhere). The results were quite startling: After the active or sedate days, they were given breakfast and asked how hungry they felt before and after eating breakfast. The sedentary group felt the hungriest (up to 17% more than the active group) and they also did not feel as satiated as the active group did after the meal.

The moral of the story is simple. Keep active, adhere to regular meal times and eat a healthy diet and this will not only maintain your shape, but you will feel better and more satisfied with your meals. Needless to say your health will improve also!

Another interesting study related to dieting, and especially the way that dieters banished sweet foods from their immediate environment so as not to be “tempted” to break their diet. The Belgian study led by Kelly Geyskens found that dieters who kept some “tempting” sweet treats around the house actually increased willpower and helped dieting.

The researchers presented female students with tempting foods and found that the women actually had greater self-control when they were confronted with a sweet treat to which they had access, rather than pictures or smells. It seems counter-intuitive to keep sweet treats in the house while dieting, but having them available, apparently can increase the person’s willpower, which can be “trained up”. So while dieting it helps to have some bon-bons and chocolate treats around which will constantly challenge you and by avoiding them you can activate you self-control strategies, which ultimately will cause you to not eat what you shouldn’t!

Another interesting study that I read about recently, concerns a substance that is found in high concentration in red wine and fruit: Resveratrol. This is an almost miraculous compound that has anti-ageing effects and important anti-oxidant properties. A radiation oncologist, Joel Greenberger, chemically altered resveratrol by adding acetyl groups to it (the compound found in vinegar). When the altered acetyl-resveratrol compound was given to mice it proved to be effective in preventing radiation damage.

This is an important study as there have not been any drugs until now that help to limit radiation damage. This new compound can perhaps be used in nuclear accidents, or to help protect the body when cancer is being treated with radiation therapy. More research is being carried out.

In the meantime, exercise, have plenty of sweet treats around the house but resist temptation and sip on soured red wine!

Thursday 2 October 2008


“Surrender is faith that the power of love can accomplish anything... Even when you can not foresee the outcome.” Deepak Chopra

Today is Eid al-Fitr, the joyous celebration ending the month of Ramadan in the Islamic calendar. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims observe a strict fast and participate in pious activities such as charity and alms giving and peace-making. It is a time of intense spiritual renewal for those who observe it. At the end of Ramadan, Muslims throughout the world observe a three-day celebration called Eid al-Fitr (the Festival of Fast-Breaking).

Eid al-Fitr falls on the first day of Shawwal, the month following Ramadan in the Islamic lunar calendar. It is a time to give in charity to those in need, and celebrate with family and friends the completion of a month of blessings and joy. Before the day of Eid, during the last few days of Ramadan, each Muslim family gives a determined amount as a donation to the poor. This donation is of actual food (rice, barley, dates, rice, etc) to ensure that the needy can have a holiday meal and participate in the celebration. This donation is known as sadaqah al-fitr (charity of fast-breaking).

On the day of Eid, Muslims put on new clothes and gather early in the morning in outdoor locations or mosques to perform the Eid prayer. This consists of a sermon followed by a short congregational prayer. After the Eid prayer, the faithful usually scatter to visit various family and friends, give gifts (especially to children), and make phone calls to distant relatives to give well-wishes for the holiday. These activities traditionally continue for three days. In most Muslim countries, the entire 3-day period is an official government/school holiday. In 2008, Eid al-Fitr is between the 2nd and 5th of October.

Common greetings during this holiday are the Arabic greeting EĪd mubārak ("Blessed Eid") or ‘Īd sa‘īd ("Happy Eid"). In addition, many countries have their own greetings based on local language and traditions.

The word of the day is Islam:

Islam |isˈläm| noun
• The religion of the Muslims, a monotheistic faith regarded as revealed through Muhammad as the Prophet of Allah.
• The Muslim world: The most enormous complex of fortifications in all Islam.

Founded in the Arabian peninsula in the 7th century AD, Islam is now the professed faith of nearly a billion people worldwide, particularly in North Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. The ritual observances and moral code of Islam were said to have been given to Muhammad as a series of revelations, which were codified in their holy book, the Koran. Islam is regarded by its adherents as the last of the revealed religions, and Muhammad is seen as the last of the prophets, building on and perfecting the examples and teachings of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. There are two major branches in Islam: Sunni and Shia.

Islamic |ɪˈslɑmɪk| adjective
Islamicisation |isˌlämisiˈzā sh ən; iz-| noun
Islamicise |isˈlämiˌsīz; iz-| verb
Islamism |ˈisləˌmizəm; ˈiz-| noun
Islamist |ˈɪsləməst| noun
Islamisation |isˌlämiˈzā sh ən; iz-| noun
Islamise |ˈisləˌmīz; ˈiz-| verb

ORIGIN from Arabic 'islām ‘submission,’ from 'aslama ‘submit (to God).’

Wednesday 1 October 2008


“I was never less alone than when by myself.” - Edward Gibbon

Who are sitting in company under the bright window?
Two of us – my shadow and I.
The lamp is burning itself out and forces me to go to bed,
Forsaken now even by my shadow.
Ah, such misery!
How desolate am I!
Xiang Gao (born ≈1100)

Tuesday 30 September 2008


The first book was printed on this day in 1452. It was Johann Gutenberg’s Bible.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, occurs on the first and second days of the month of Tishri. In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means, literally, “head of the year” or “first of the year”. This name is somewhat deceptive, because there is little similarity between Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days of the year, and our New Year, which is a time of partying and drinking. There is something in common, however, the New Year’s day is a time to plan a better life, making "resolutions." One engages in introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the new year. The name "Rosh Hashanah" is not used in the Bible to discuss this holiday. The Bible refers to the holiday as Yom Ha-Zikkaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom Teruah (the day of the sounding of the shofar). The holiday is instituted in Leviticus 23:24-25.

The shofar is a ram's horn which is blown somewhat like a trumpet. One of the most important observances of this holiday is hearing the sounding of the shofar in the synagogue. A total of 100 notes are sounded each day. There are four different types of shofar notes: Tekiah, a 3 second sustained note; shevarim, three 1-second notes rising in tone, teruah, a series of short, staccato notes extending over a period of about 3 seconds; and tekiah gedolah (literally, "big tekiah"), the final blast in a set, which lasts 10 seconds minimum. The Bible gives no specific reason for this practice. One that has been suggested is that the shofar's sound is a call to repentance. The shofar is not blown if the holiday falls on Shabbat.

No work is permitted on Rosh Hashanah. Much of the day is spent in the synagogue, where the regular daily liturgy is somewhat expanded. In fact, there is a special prayerbook called the machzor used for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur because of the extensive liturgical changes for these holidays.

Another popular observance during this holiday is eating apples dipped in honey, a symbol of our wish for a sweet new year. Bread is also dipped in honey (instead of the usual practice of sprinkling salt on it) at this time of year for the same reason. Another popular practice of the holiday is Tashlikh ("casting off"). People walk to flowing water, such as a creek or river, on the afternoon of the first day and empty their pockets into the river, symbolically casting off our sins. Small pieces of bread are commonly put in the pocket to cast off. This practice is not discussed in the Bible, but is a long-standing custom. Tashlikh is normally observed on the afternoon of the first day, before afternoon services. When the first day occurs on Shabbat, many synagogues observe Tashlikh on Sunday afternoon, to avoid carrying bread on Shabbat.

The common greeting at this time is L'shanah tovah ("for a good year"). This is a shortening of "L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem" (or to women, "L'shanah tovah tikatevi v'taihatemi"), which means "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year."

So, happy Jewish New Year 5769!

Monday 29 September 2008


“It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.” - John Andrew Holmes

On Sunday we watched Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 2006 film, “Babel” starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Iñárritu won the Cannes Film Festival’s Best Director award with this film and he has several other important films under his belt: “Amores Perros” and "21 Grams". This film is constructed in an almost signature way, with several interlocking stories connected by a common thread. In this case, this is a high powered rifle that makes its way from Japan to Morroco and manages to change the life of people in the USA and Mexico, as well. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett give good performances, but they pale into insignificance when compared to the actors playing the Moroccan family and the Mexican family, who do a really exceptional job.

An American couple holidaying in Morroco are victims of a freak accident involving kids playing with a rifle. A Japanese father and daughter try and cope with the results of suicide, while in Mexico the children of the American couple survive an ordeal in the desert after their nanny tries to do the right thing by everyone. The film is strong and cleverly juxtaposes all four stories, but it could be cut as its 138 minutes makes it drag somewhat. The cinematography and the direction are wonderful, but the impact is lost somewhat by its slow pace in parts.

Similar to the same director’s “Amores Perros” the interlocking stories theme highlights common factors of human existence at various levels of society the world over. The message is simple: The universality of humanity - what causes us pain and joy is the same all over the world and as humans we all experience the same despair and hope in similar situations.

Well worth seeing, but quite a violent film with some very graphic scenes…

Sunday 28 September 2008


“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” - Edgar Degas

Yesterday I had to go the University of Melbourne, my alma mater, and as always found many changes, especially so as the last time I had been there was about 2 years ago. Nevertheless, some things had not changed and one of them was the art around the campus. The gallery of the University is the Ian Potter Museum of Art. It is worth visiting both for its collection and its own architecture. Designed by one of Melbourne's most interesting contemporary architects, Nonda Katsalidis, it incorporates parts of older university buildings such as the Napier Waller Art Deco stained glass window from the old Wilson Hall (which burnt down). The gallery is a bequest to the university from the businessman, Sir Ian Potter. The very distinctive façade has this striking sculptural mural, where classical art burgeons forth from the interior of the museum! A tribute to the excellent collection of Greek pottery housed n the museum, perhaps. There are some very good 19th century paintings and many contemporary art pieces. Temporary exhibitions make the bulk of the exhibited material.

Whenever I visited the Baillieu Library as a student I could not help but notice the monumental sculptural group just outside, on the lawn adjacent to the library. The bronze sculpture known as “Charity Being Kind to the Poor”, was originally the “crowning piece” of the massive entrance portico of the Equitable Life Assurance Society headquarters in Collins Street. The building was demolished in the late 1950s and the owners presented the sculpture to the University. Created by architect Edward W Raht and sculptor Victor Tilgner at the Imperial Art Foundry in Vienna in about 1893, the substantially-scaled Charity, sheltering a huddled family, is a clear statement on the advantages of buying life insurance. Originally situated at the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning’s Mount Martha site, it was relocated to its present location in 1981.

Fifty metres away from the Baillieu Library are James Gilbert’s Atlantes, a pair of massive stone classical male figures supporting the western entrance to the underground car park. Everyone is aware of the Caryatides, the female figures supporting the porch of the maidens of the Erechtheum on the Acropolis in Athens. The male equivalent of a Caryatis is an Atlas (as in the giant Atlas of mythology who supported the heavens on his back). Atlantes is the plural and refer to the architectural device of male figures supporting an architectural feature on their backs. Both Caryatides and Atlantes were very common in the past as standard architectural features.

This imposing gateway was originally part of the Colonial Bank of Australasia Building on the corner of Elizabeth and Little Collins Streets in the City of Melbourne. The bank donated them to the University in 1932 following the demolition of that elaborate 1880s city building. Unfortunately, the unrelenting wheels of progress have meant that many a fine building was demolished in the past to make way for some modern monstrosity that adhered to the tastes of the time. At least some vestiges of these original buildings have been saved and through the sensitivity of some souls can still be enjoyed today.

The abiding relevance of Classical Greece is also reflected in the Melbourne Greek Orthodox Community’s gift to the University to commemorate the 1956 Olympiad in Melbourne: Poseidon, a modern cast bronze copy of one of the finest examples of early classical sculpture. The original (c. 460 BC) is in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. It was recovered in 1928 in the sea off Cape Artemision after fishermen found its arm in their nets. It depicts Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, about to hurl a trident (which is now missing from the original statue and therefore from this cast also). An alternative interpretation of the iconography is that it depicts Zeus about to hurl a thunderbolt.

The statue is one of only two approved castings; the other is in the United Nations Building in New York. It was initially located in the University’s Beaurepaire Centre sporting complex, built in the 1950s and used as a training pool for the 1956 Olympic Games. Poseidon was relocated to the courtyard of the Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Building in 1994.

The University as a place of intellectual pursuits, a temple of learning, a refuge for the arts and sciences, teaching and research ensures that art will always have a place in its environs.