“In general, mankind, since the improvement in cookery, eats twice as much as nature requires.” - Benjamin Franklin
I took my staff to lunch today as a little bit of a social, team-building exercise but also as a small way of acknowledging their continuing efforts in doing their job well. In the past when I was a junior staff member at University, I remember working very hard, doing my job well and getting very little recognition for my work. It often takes very little to show people that work for you your appreciation of their work. Today’s lunch was a case in point. I let them choose the venue and was pleasantly surprised as it turned out to be a little of a revelation. I guess I should not have been surprised given that they were academics.
We walked to the restaurant, which is about a kilometre from our College and I had some reservations as the skies over Brisbane today were leaden grey and we had a few downpours during the morning. Nevertheless, the weather held fine during our walk and we were able to enjoy our lunch in dry clothes. The place is called “L’ Académie” and it is a combination hotel, restaurant, bar, patisserie. The interesting thing about it is that it is the training establishment for a cooking academy, catering and hospitality industry school. It is where the aspiring chefs get to try out their skills under the watchful eye of their supervisors. The advantage is that the prices are extremely reasonable ($15.00 for a three-course meal!) and one gets the satisfaction of helping these young people develop their skills.
I must say that I was quite impressed by the venue, the service and the food. The interior is in harmony with the late Victorian exterior of the establishment and the sensitively renovated generous rooms have dark red and green walls on which hang suitably lurid Victorian oil paintings, with the regulation potted palms. An open central kitchen and food preparation area allows one to watch the young chefs at work and it is wonderful to see them busily working away producing one’s selection from the menu. I had the Mediterranean platter for entrée (marinated baby octopus, eggplant and capsicum antipasto, tomato and onion appetizer and toasted home made rusks). This was followed by a well-done steak on a bed of mashed potato and spring vegetables, and for dessert a tiramisu parfait. It was accompanied by a very good Western Australian shiraz wine.
Although not “gourmet” quality, my meal exceeded my expectations and was ten times better than the (much more expensive) meal that I had the previous night in my hotel’s “gourmet” restaurant. The evening meal last night was abominable. I chose to have only main course and dessert, and unfortunately I selected the grilled pork. I always like my meat well and truly cooked, even steak (what did Woody Allen say? “I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead - not sick, not wounded - dead.”), but pork especially has got to be very dead, very well cooked. The pork last night was blood-red raw inside and seared on the outside. Add to that the fact that it took just over 50 minutes to arrive (and I was one of only three patrons in the place!). Needless to say, I did not eat my pork, only nibbled on the sickly sweet stewed apple that accompanied it and made do with the broccolini on the side. The dessert was a standard chocolate mud cake – nothing to write home about.
This restaurant was at the “Watermark Hotel” a four star establishment which would only manage a maximum of three stars on my scale. Admittedly the staff were solicitous when they saw that I did not eat my meal an enquired whether I would like something else. I politely but firmly refused and they did have the decency to cut my bill. Nevertheless, I don’t think that this type of meal or service is representative of a four star hotel or a gourmet restaurant.
I am now home after a flight which was (surprisingly for a Friday night) on schedule. Needless to say that I shall be relaxing at the weekend (although there is some work to do, as well). Tomorrow night we are going out to a very nice restaurant in Melbourne (entertaining overseas guests), and certainly in Melbourne the standard of the food and service is easily the best in Australia. That concludes my Food Friday entry, even though it included a little beef…
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move.” - Robert Louis Stevenson
My day today has been full of meetings, interviews, consultations with staff and many administrative duties that go hand in hand with my visits to Brisbane. A very hectic schedule, but also very satisfying, as at the end of the day one gets the feeling that much has been achieved and the trip is worth it. Although the weather has been very pleasant I have not had a chance to enjoy it as I have spent most of my time indoors. However, I did walk to work in the morning from my hotel, which is a good 2 kilometres away, and I walked back there this evening. Spring is evident in the gardens and parks and the subtle fragrance of the mauve jacaranda mixed with the headier creamy frangipani blossoms, perfuming the streets.
I shall be spending the day in Brisbane tomorrow also and then returning home for the weekend on Friday evening. There is lots of work to be done at the weekend as every time I come to Brisbane I take home a new project or two. Such is the lot of a peripatetic worker! Hence our word of the day:
peripatetic |ˌperipəˈtetik| adjective 1 Travelling from place to place, esp. working or based in various places for relatively short periods: The peripatetic nature of military life. 2 (Peripatetic) Aristotelian. [ORIGIN: with reference to Aristotle's practice of walking to and fro while teaching.] noun 1 a person who travels from place to place. 2 ( Peripatetic) an Aristotelian philosopher.
“A little Madness in the Spring Is wholesome even for the King.” – Emily Dickinson
I am in Brisbane again for work and the Spring has sprung gloriously here. The sun was brilliantly shining today, the flowers blooming and the heat already beginning to become almost uncomfortable. A poem by John Keats for today’s Poetry Wednesday offering, suitably in season!
The sun, with his great eye, Sees not so much as I; And the moon, all silver, proud, Might as well be in a cloud.
And O the spring – the spring! I lead the life of a king! Couched in the teeming grass, I spy each pretty lass.
I look where no one dares, And I stare where no one stares; And when the night is nigh, Lambs bleat my lullaby.
“Ask five economists and you'll get five different explanations (six if one went to Harvard).” - Edgar R. Fiedler
The world economic crisis seems to be worsening and the share markets continue to totter. The multi-billion dollar rescue package approved by the US congress seems not to have affected the sinking confidence of investors and the world may have to brace itself for a very serious economic downturn. I was speaking to a friend today who is close to retirement and his superannuation funds have taken a hiding, making him contemplate yet another few years in the workforce. Nervousness abounds and trepidation is uppermost in the mind of some of the more parasitic of professionals: Bankers, stockbrokers, consultants, agents, non-producers of all sorts… The skimmers of the cream are anxiously watching the layer of cream get thinner and thinner and the milk get watered. This is the time of the lean cows.
Every now and then, we must have this reality check and the high-flying cowboys of Wall Street must come down a peg or two. The trouble is the ordinary person in the street will hurt also, or rather will hurt more. Where did the $700 billion come from? From where did this largesse rain down like manna from heaven? Surely not the bank account of Mr Bush or his cronies. The failure of the US bailout plan brought credit markets to a virtual standstill and some US traders believe US banks may start cutting credit card lines if the crisis worsens. It is also becoming virtually impossible in the US to secure new credit.
In the face of the world crisis, a slowing economy and tumbles in our own share prices, our Reserve Bank has cut official interest rates by 100 basis points to 6 percent in an effort to shield the Australian economy from further fallout from the global financial crisis. The central bank may make further cuts by Christmas, economists believe. This is a dramatic move and evidence enough that things will get worse before they get better. The Australian dollar fell 1.6 US cents in the minutes after the Reserve Bank announcement at 2:30 pm, to 70.36 US cents, but it has since risen back above 72 US cents. This is quite a dramatic drop as a few months ago it was almost on par with the US dollar.
The fear that a “recession” will escalate to a “Recession” is uppermost in most people’s minds at the present time. Economists may theorise and try to explain the burst soap bubble of Wall St in terms of economic cycles and the ideas of Marx and Engels, however, the moral of the story is that working people will just have to bear the brunt of factory closures, increasing unemployment, house dispossessions and descent into poverty that is inevitable in a Recession. Oh, by the way all of the unemployed dispossessed and poverty-stricken ordinary citizens must try and save some money to help the poor Wall St financiers and the bankers, the stock-brokering cowboys and the agents. They must maintain their million dollar lifestyles somehow. It’s so tough when their cooks and their butlers and their maids and their chauffeurs are all so poor, we must give them another $700 billion…
I’ll give you a pot-pourri report of several movies we have watched over the past few weeks and I haven’t had a chance to report on in Movie Monday. I’ll provide a brief outline of the plot and my recommendation as a mark out of ten.
Kenny (2006) This Australian movie is a “mockumentary” about the trials and tribulations of Kenny, a portable toilet plumber who works for the Splashdown company, supplying executive lavatories for all occasions, from the humble church fête to the huge crowd magnet, the Melbourne Cup. It is set in Melbourne and the first few minutes are amusing, but the poo jokes get a bit much after that and Kenny’s philosophies are bit trite and predictable. A few laughs here and there, but despite what most people that I talked to about this think (recommending it highly), I wasn’t terribly impressed. Clayton Jackson, the director, delivers a dud… 5/10
The Castle (1997) “A man’s house is his castle” says an old English proverb and this is where this film takes its title from. I mention this film here, even though it’s been ages since we’ve seen it, by way of contrast from the film above. This Australian film is a gem and delivers a great punch. A Melbourne family is very happy living where they do, near the Melbourne airport "practically their back yard". However, they are told that their house it to be acquired by the airport authority and they have to leave their beloved home. The film is a wry look at their fight to keep their house, fighting Government and airport authorities, taking their case as far as the High Court. Very well done and excellent direction by Rob Sitch with ace performances by the leads. 8/10
Blithe Spirit (1945) This classic film by David Lean is based on the play by Noël Coward and has Rex Harrison, Constance Cummings and Kay Hammond playing the leads, with Margaret Rutherford stealing the show. The plot is silly enough, but Coward keeps it light and fluffy and David Lean directs it with gusto. To get background for a new book, author Charles and his second wife Ruth light-heartedly arrange for local mystic Madame Arcati (Margaret Rutherford) to give a séance. The unfortunate result is that Charles' first wife Elvira returns from beyond the grave to make their life something of a misery. Ruth too gets increasingly irritated with her supernatural rival, but Mme Arcati is at her wit's end as to how to sort things out. 7/10
Beowulf (2007) Beowulf is the great Anglosaxon epic poem written sometime between the 8th and 11th century AD. This is not the first film of the epic, but it has the dubious honour of being the first animated 3D projection one. One has to admire the technology, but it is still quite clunky and one wonders why they bothered… Set against the coming of Christianity, this is the story of the last hero, Beowulf. Grendel, a monstrous troll wreaks havoc in the mead hall of the Danish king, Hrothgar. He offers rewards for the death of Grendel, so Beowulf, a great and boastful Geat warrior, arrives with his thanes. Beowulf sets aside his armour and awaits the monster; a fierce battle ensues that leads to Beowulf's entering the watery lair of Grendel's mother, where a devil's bargain awaits. Beowulf returns to Herot, the castle, and becomes king. Jump ahead many years, and the sins of the father are visited upon Beowulf and his kingdom. The hero must face his weakness and be heroic once again. Very violent, very clunky, some beautiful moments. 5.5/10
Bonbón - El Perro (2004) This Argentinian film by filmmaker Carlos Sorin is a little gem. It is a simple and deceptively superficial tale about ordinary people living in the wilds of Patagonia. The actors are non-professional and the plot revolves around a 52-year-old man, Juan "Coco" Villegas, who has been a petrol station attendant for twenty years. When Juan finds himself unemployed overnight, he first tries to survive by selling his hand-made knives. Business is bad and he can't find real work, until one day, after fixing a vehicle on a farm, he gets paid by means of a beautiful Argentinian watch-dog, Bonbón! From this day on, his life changes as he is convinced to start showing the dog. A heart-warming tale, told without artifice and with no pretense. Quite charming! 8/10
15 Minutes (2001) This is a film written and directed John Herzfeld that takes a critical look at America and the forces that drive its culture. It uses the ploy of two external stressors that come into a system and cause it reach a crisis. The two stressors in this case are Oleg and Emil, criminals who come to New York City from Eastern Europe to pick up their share of a heist. Oleg steals a video camera and starts filming their activities, both legal and illegal. When they learn how the American media circus can make a remorseless killer look like the victim and make them rich, they target media-savvy NYPD Homicide Detective Eddie Flemming and media-naive FDNY Fire Marshal Jordy Warsaw, the cops investigating their murder and torching of their former criminal partner, filming everything to sell to the local tabloid TV show "Top Story." The result is explosive. This is a very violent and confronting film, not for the squeamish. However, it does make a point and points an accusing finger at mass media and its often underhanded methods. 7/10
Deep Rising (1998) Stephen Sommers wrote and directed this potboiler of a thriller/horror movie that is embarrassing to watch. The only reason I bought it was because it was $1.99 at our video shop and the cover was rather attractive in a surrealistic way – bad move! Bad movie! A band of ruthless hijackers invade the world's most luxurious cruise ship and they're shocked to discover the passengers have mysteriously vanished (shades of the Marie Celeste!). However, they soon find that they are not alone. Something horrible is lurking just out of sight - a deadly creature from the unexplored depths of the ocean is on the ship and it begins to snatch the horrified intruders one by one. There’s blood (lots of it), there’s violence (gratuitous), there’s guts and gore and goo and glop and glime (I made that last one up – glistening slime). OK for a rainy Sunday afternoon when there’s nothing else to do and you can’t watch something decent. 4/10
Oxygono (2003) The tag team of Greek writers/directors Thanasis Papathanasiou and Michalis Reppas have a made a very strange film – “Oxygono” (= Oxygen or its pulpy English title “Blackmail Boy”). It is set in a small provincial town where Magda, the matriarch, tries to maintain a balance within a family facing many serious problems. The family’s apparently “normal”, bourgeois, every-day existence is threatened by internal stress that will crack it open, bringing to the surface hatred and passion. At the bottom of everything lies money, the root of all evil. Sex is the other motivating force, which makes many of the characters commit acts that are neither pleasant nor moral. Magda runs a bakery while caring for her invalid husband injured in a car crash that killed one of her daughters. The other money-hungry daughter is married to Stelios, with whom Magda is having an affair. Christos, is Magda’s son who is bisexual and is sleeping with a young girlfriend, an older woman and an older bisexual man, the city official Yorgos who is married with children and is in charge of the city planning. Yorgos chief project involves the land Magda owns. The plot boils down to a blackmail plan that will gain money for the land the family owns. The blackmail plan involves Christos' affair with Yorgos in which videotapes are made of Christos' assignations with Yorgos. The lives of all the characters are altered once the greed consumes them and there are discoveries, betrayals, twists and turns that end with tragedy. This is violent film with graphic sex scenes – quite confronting and once again not for the viewers with weak stomachs. 6.5/10
Reign of Fire (2002) Hmmmmm, another little dud of a movie here… Rob Bowman paints a picture of post-apocalyptic Britain where the destruction has been caused by a brood of fire-breathing dragons. A B-grade science-fiction/fantasy shoot-them-up-arcade-style-game type movie with lots of action, special effects and a scientific explanation of how dragons breathe fire! It got a bit tiring because they were all being so earnest about everything… If they injected a bit of humour, it may have been a bit more enjoyable! 5/10
Water (2005) Indian-born, Canadian director Deepa Mehta has made a very beautiful and sensitive film about the plight of a group of widows forced into poverty at a temple in the holy city of Varanasi in the 1930s. Mehta focuses on the relationship between one of the widows, who wants to escape the social restrictions imposed on widows, and a man who is from the highest caste and a follower of Mahatma Gandhi. “Water” was not allowed to be filmed in India and Mehta had to go to Sri Lanka to make the film. It was subsequently banned in India and Pakistan as “irreverent and seditious”. The film is one of a trilogy, the other two “Fire” and “Earth” also being quite controversial. 8.5/10
For Art Sunday today, a painting by James C. Christensen, an American artist whose works are very much in the surrealistic/fantasy style. This is one is called “Pallida Mors” (Pale Death) and superposes the young girl on the verge of womanhood with the skeletal remains of bird and reptile skeletons in the tradition of the “memento mori” paintings of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Certainly an arresting image and a skilful portrait.
All but Death, can be Adjusted- Dynasties repaired- Systems - Settled in their Sockets- Citadels - Dissolved-
Wastes of Lives - Resown with Colors By Succeeding Springs- - Death Unto itself - Exception - Is exempt from Change -
I have been blogging daily on this platform for several years now. It is surprising that I have persisted as the world is changing and "microblogging" is now the norm. I blog to amuse myself, make comment on current affairs, externalise some of my creativity, keep notes on things that interest me, learn something new and to surprise myself with things that I discover about this wonderful, and sometimes crazy, world we live in.
I sometimes get the impression that I am on a soapbox delivering a monologue, so your comments are welcome.