Saturday 4 April 2009


“There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.” - George Carlin

This Sunday, I offer you the art of Susan Eleanor Seddon (1941-1997) who was born in Brazil of English parents who had emigrated from South Africa. Two years later her mother died, shortly after the birth of her second child, Patrick. The artist spent her early childhood on a large citrus and cattle farm. She loved the connection to nature offered by farm life and enjoyed a rich fantasy life fed by folk tales told her by her father and by the farm-workers. Encouraged by her father, she began drawing; her first subjects were the cows and horses of the farm. While Boulet took art classes off and on during her life, beginning in her finishing school years in Lausanne, Switzerland, she never studied art formally. She said, in fact, that she never planned on becoming an artist--the vocation came to her as by accident.

Boulet came to the US in 1967 to work for Braniff Airlines. It was also in this year that she met and married Lawrence Boulet, who inspired Susan to invest herself seriously in her art. Boulet credited the birth of her son Eric, in 1969, with freeing her creativity, saying that Eric “somehow freed the child in me; gave me permission to enjoy fantasy… gave me permission to do unicorns and dragons”. Boulet began selling her art in 1970. By 1972, aided by her husband who managed all non-artistic aspects of her career, she was supporting the family. In 1980 her husband died of cancer.

Much of Boulet's work from the 1970s pictures cheerful images from fairytale and fantasy-jesters, knights, mermaids, magicians, and the like-executed in rainbow-bright colors. Around 1980 Boulet produced 'I Heard the Owl Call my Name', the first in a series of paintings that pointed to a new direction in Boulet's work. From this point on, Boulet painted images that she felt tapped into the essence of the collective human unconscious. She visualized images of goddesses from various cultures and Native American shamanic personages that combined the forms of animal and human into a coherent whole. Boulet drew the inspiration for her art from a wide variety of sources: Mythology and poetry, Jungian psychology and worldwide spiritual traditions, as well as deep love of animals and the natural world.

Today Susan Seddon Boulet's paintings are held in collections around the world. Susan Seddon Boulet died in her home in Oakland on April 28, 1997 after a long struggle with cancer.

The paiting above is called “Moon Goddess”. More of her work can be found at:


“Summer set lip to earth's bosom bare, and left the flushed print in a poppy there.” - Francis Thompson

For Song Saturday today, a song by the talented Italian singer/songwriter Riccardo Cocciante: It is "Il Mare dei Papaveri" (The Sea of Poppies). Music: Riccardo Cocciante; Lyrics: Mogol

This is from the 1985 CD of the same name and contains a fantastic selection of songs:
1. Mare Dei Papaveri
2. Tempo Nuovo
3. Due
4. Sabato, Rilassatamente
5. Questione Di Feeling
6. Al Centro del Silenzio
7. Marilyn
8. Concerto Nello Spazio
9. Canzone Dell'infinito
10. Star

Mare Dei Papaveri

Ed è soprattutto quando è sera
che mi manchi ancora un po'.

È davvero stata molto dura
esser coerente e dirti no
ma non si può rinchiuder l'anima
in una storia di abitudini
se hai nel cuore altre immagini.

Io sono da bosco e da riviera
e vorrei vivere con te
ma in una dimensione un po' più vera
che si manifesterà da se
senza paure e senza regole
seguendo il vento come nuvole
per sempre ormai incontaminabili.

Vuoi? Vuoi?
Sei ancora in tempo se vuoi
Puoi! Vuoi?

Noi saremo un nucleo indissolubile
che si apre agli altri senza limiti
per onorare il nostro vivere

Ondeggia il mare dei papaveri
il cielo assiste quieto e complice
noi respiriamo i nostri aneliti

Vuoi? Puoi!
Sei un'altra parte di noi che oramai
lasciamo il suolo perché
il volo viene da sé
si perde, l'opaco senso si perde
e vince la vita, ogni giorno diversa
un abbraccio, una corsa
nessuna storia mai persa, mai persa...

Sea of Poppies

In the evenings, especially,
I still miss you a little bit.

It’s been really very hard
To stay coherent and tell you no,
But one can’t close up one’s soul
In a boring story of habits and routine,
If there are other ideas in one’s heart.

I am of the forest and the river
And wanted to live with you
In a more real dimension,
That would manifest itself
Without fears and rules.
Chasing the wind like clouds,
Now and forever pure.

Do you want to? Really want to?
You have time, if you want to,
You can, if you want to!

We would be an indissoluble nucleus
That would open itself up to others without limits
So that we could honour our life.

The sea of poppies rolls in waves,
The sky quietly assists it, complicitly
And we breathe in our desires.

Do you want to? Really want to?
You are another part of ourselves that now
Leaves the soil so that we can fly,
Because flight comes naturally.
The dark sense loses itself
And life wins; life each day more diverse,
With an embrace, a race,
And no story ever lost, ever lost…

Enjoy your weekend!

Friday 3 April 2009


“If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty.” - Japanese Proverb

“Picture you upon my knee Just tea for two And two for tea Just me for you And you for me...alone”

So the old song goes, and the wonderful beverage from China, made now a citizen of the world and after water is the most popular drink worldwide. Tea refers to the agricultural products of the leaves, leaf buds, and internodes of the Camellia sinensis plant, prepared and cured by various methods. Tea also refers to the aromatic beverage prepared from the cured leaves by combination with hot or boiling water, and is the colloquial name for the Camellia sinensis plant itself.

Unless you drink your tea iced, chances are that you enjoy it scalding hot! Iranian scientists have published a study in the British Medical Journal where they report that drinking steaming hot tea has been linked with an increased risk of oesophageal cancer. The oesophagus is the muscular tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach. The study found that drinking black tea at temperatures of 70˚C was associated with a heightened chance of developing this cancer.

Oesophageal cancers kill more than 500,000 people worldwide each year and oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) is the most common type. Tobacco and alcohol are the main factors linked to the development of oesophageal cancers in Europe, America and Australia. Until now, it has not been clear why other populations around the world have high rates of the disease although there has been a theory that regularly drinking very hot drinks damages the lining of the gullet.

Golestan Province in northern Iran has one of the highest rates of OSCC in the world, but rates of smoking and alcohol consumption are low and women are as likely to have the cancer diagnosed as men do. Tea drinking, however, is widespread. The University of Tehran researchers studied tea drinking habits among 300 people diagnosed with OSCC and compared them with a group of 570 people from the same area. Nearly all participants drank black tea regularly, on average drinking over a litre a day.

Compared with drinking warm or lukewarm tea (65C or less), drinking hot tea (65-69C) was associated with twice the risk of oesophageal cancer, and drinking very hot tea (70C or more) was associated with an eight-fold increased risk. The speed with which people drank their tea was also important. Drinking a cup of tea in under two minutes straight after it was poured was associated with a five-fold higher risk of cancer compared with drinking tea four or more minutes after being poured. There was no association between the amount of tea consumed and risk of cancer.

Because the researchers had relied on study participants to say how hot their tea was, they then went on to measure the temperature of tea drunk by nearly 50,000 residents of the same area.
This ranged from under 60C to more than 70C, and reported tea drinking temperature and actual temperature was found to be similar. Hot black tea is a tradition in the Middle East

Previous studies from the UK have reported people prefer their tea to be about 56-60C - cool enough not to be risky. In a British Medical Journal editorial, David Whiteman from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Australia said: “The mechanism through which heat promotes the development of tumours warrants further exploration and might be given renewed impetus on the basis of these findings”.

Dr Whiteman advised tea-drinkers to simply wait a few minutes for their brew to cool from “scalding” to “tolerable”. Adding milk, as most tea drinkers in Western countries do, cools the drink enough to eliminate the risk. Oliver Childs, a spokesman for Cancer Research UK, said: “Tea drinking is part of many cultures, and these results certainly don’t point to tea itself being the problem. But they do provide more evidence that a regular habit of eating and drinking very hot foods and drinks could increase your risk of developing cancer of the oesophagus”.

Linda Solegato has said that: “Iced tea may not have as much wisdom as hot tea, but in the summer better a cool and refreshed dullard than a steamy sweat-drenched sage - leave sagacity to the autumn!”; but perhaps there is much more wisdom in iced tea after all!

Thursday 2 April 2009


“The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.” – Voltaire

I am currently working on a medical dictionary and together with my two fellow editors-in-chief we have been very busy over the last few months getting together the second edition of this monumental work. I am now examining the picture entries that illustrate the words and this is the fun part, sorting through various images and determining their suitability. To a certain extent the choice of image can be the clinching factor in making a dictionary entry clear and lucid. No matter how good a definition is, if the accompanying image is poor, then the whole entry can confuse rather than illuminate. If the image is as good as the definition, the reader will be doubly enlightened.

So, no surprise that today’s word is a medical one:

cystoscope |ˈsistəˌskōp| noun Medicine
An instrument inserted into the urethra for examining the urinary bladder.
cystoscopic |ˌsistəˈskäpik| adjective
cystoscopy |sisˈtäskəpē| noun
ORIGIN early 18th century: From late Latin cystis, from Greek kustis ‘bladder’ and from modern Latin -scopium, from Greek skopein ‘look at’.

Be well and be happy!

Tuesday 31 March 2009


“The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief.” - William Shakespeare

April Fool’s Day today and there were several pranks around this morning beginning on the radio where several nonsensical pieces were played, supposedly composed by a hitherto unknown son of JS Bach. Then some interesting news items including the Goodwill’s plans to tour a new ‘submersive audiovisual environment’ stage show dubbed “The Circle”. Other news regarding a new cash crop being considered for drought-stricken areas – a variety of rapidly growing berry bush that doesn’t need watering and produces ready to harvest dried fruit. Stories of several people being sent on fools’ errands, and then of course it is all over by twelve noon.

Something which wasn’t very funny was the release of the Conficker worm, which is a computer worm that can infect PCs and spread itself across a network automatically, without human interaction. It is suspected that the worldwide computer disaster may have been averted through good communication and people being alerted to use anti-virus programs.

The other very sad news item from Australia is our floods in the Northeast of NSW, with many towns severely flooded. Parts of the New South Wales mid-north coast have been declared a natural disaster zone after at least 3,200 people were trapped by a flood described by emergency services as a once-in-a-century phenomenon. The Coff’s Harbour CBD is under flood waters and the situation will not improve for a couple of weeks. All of this of course after the bushfires and destruction in Victoria. We are still recovering from the aftermath of these and many people that have been affected by the tragedy have either moved to Melbourne (our public transport is free for the victims until October, I read in the train station this morning), or are desperately trying to rebuild their lives in their devastated areas.

For Poetry Wednesday today a classic Australian poem by Dorothea Mackellar (1885 - 1968)

My Country

The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes.
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins,
Strong love of grey-blue distance
Brown streams and soft dim skies
I know but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!

A stark white ring-barked forest
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon.
Green tangle of the brushes,
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart, around us,
We see the cattle die-
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back threefold-
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land-
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand-
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

Dorothea Mackellar

The illustration is Australian artist Arthur Streeton’s 1896 painting “The purple noon's transparent might” (Oil on canvas, 123.0 x 123.0 cm in the National Gallery of Victoria).


“No man likes to have his intelligence or good faith questioned, especially if he has doubts about it himself.” - Henry Adams

I was having a cup of coffee with a colleague this morning and she was telling me that she went to a wedding at the weekend. Apparently, as the bride was walking up the aisle, she stumbled and lost her shoe, causing her to trip and would have fallen over if it weren’t for her father who got hold of her. She was summarily shod again after they ensured that she was OK and the ceremony proceeded without further hitch (except the one that the priest tied…). My colleague then went on and said that at the reception afterwards numerous stories surfaced about similar events at weddings, including one story that was told about someone’s friend of a friend who was a maid of honour at a wedding and who walked on a grating on the sidewalk and got her shoe caught in it. The grating was removed and everyone moved to the side to try and release her shoe. Another member of the wedding party then walked up carelessly and fell into the opened up hole that the grating was covering. He fell down a distance of three metres and broke his neck, dying on the spot.

We laughed over this recognising the stuff of an urban legend. An urban legend is any modern (fictional) story, which is told as truth and which reaches a wide audience by being passed from person to person. Most urban legends are completely false, but some turn out to be largely true, and a lot of them may have been inspired by an actual event which evolved into something quite different in their passage from person to person, becoming embellished and altered in the manner of Chinese whispers. More often than not, it isn't possible to trace an urban legend back to its original source, they seem to come from nowhere and everywhere.

Psychologists have come up with a number of definitions for urban legend. To many, a legend must be a story, with characters and some sort of plot. Others lump widely dispersed misinformation into the urban-legend category. While these “facts” don’t always have the narrative elements of traditional legend, they are passed from person to person and frequently have the elements of caution, horror or humour found in legends. Many of the urban legends are on the themes of death, sex, crime, contamination, technology, ethnic stereotypes, celebrities, horror or of beating the system. They are mostly cautionary tales with some sort of moral at the end, and give a dire warning about the “terrors lurking out there”.

One of the most famous of urban legends is the “hooked-hand” tale: A young couple on a date drive off to a remote spot to “park”. Over the radio, there is a news flash that interrupts the music telling of a psychopath with a hook prosthesis for a missing hand, who has escaped from a local mental institution. The girl wants to go home, but her boyfriend insists there’s nothing to worry about. After a while, the girl thinks she hears a scratching or tapping sound outside the car and terrified she says again she wants to leave. The boyfriend assures her it’s nothing, but at her insistence, they eventually drive off. When they get to the girl’s house, the boyfriend goes around to the passenger side to open her door. To his horror, there is a bloody hook hanging from the door handle. The cautionary tale here is simple and direct: Don’t go parking in lonely spots that could hide a myriad dangers, trust the woman’s intuition, and certainly don’t engage in premarital sex!

A more elaborate tale tells of a businessman visiting Las Vegas and meeting an attractive woman in the bar that he gets quite friendly with. They have a few drinks and he manages to get very drunk. The next thing he remembers is that he wakes up in his bathtub, which is full of ice and bloody water. The phone is beside him and on it is pinned a note: “Ring 911 or die!” He does so and after he is rushed to hospital to deal with his serious injury, it turns out that the woman he met was part a gang of organ harvesters who have removed his kidney to sell on the black market. The warning here is that the businessman ended up in this predicament only after going to drink at a bar and then flirting with a mysterious unknown woman. Don’t drink! Don’t flirt with strange women! Don’t cheat on your wife! Don’t be an idiot in a strange city!

An amusing urban legend revolves around a colony of alligators in New York sewers who are responsible for many disappearances of people that get devoured. The colony is found by a group of children and they manage to alert police who exterminate them. Many such urban legends have the characteristics of an amusing story or a joke, that plays on fears or prejudices of (gullible) people that tend to accept them as true.
Do you have a story of an urban legend? Do tell!

Sunday 29 March 2009


“There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.” – André Gide

On Sunday we watched a Johnny Depp film, the 2004 thriller “Secret Window”, directed by David Koepp. It is based on a Stephen King novel and is another of these films where one turns the brain off and spends 96 minutes vegetating on a little mindless escapist entertainment. I must admit that I like a good thriller or film noir, an intelligent horror movie, but cannot stand the “Friday 13th” type of drivel or “Nightmare on Elm St” type of horror flicks that are essentially produced for the pajama party or drive in crowd and calculated to produce the most screams per minute by scattering the most blood and gore across the screen per unit time.

Johnny Depp is not one of my favourite actors although he has been in many successful films. He tends to pout a lot in this film and spends a lot of time tousling his hair and looking like stunned rabbit. He also seems to sleep a lot (and not in his bed). The cast includes John Turturro, Maria Bello, Timothy Hutton and Charles S. Dutton. They all act in a rather woodenish way and they are good caricatures of the typical suspense/thriller movie. The twists and turns of the plot are rather predictable and the ending is less than satisfying.

In short, the plot has as follows (don’t worry, I won’t give anything away by peppering it with spoilers): After a bitter separation from his wife (Maria Bello), the famed mystery writer Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) lives alone at his remote lake house. He is unexpectedly confronted there by a dangerous and mysterious stranger named John Shooter. Claiming Rainey has plagiarised his short story, the psychotic Shooter demands “justice”. When Shooter's demands turn to threats (and subsequently murder) Rainey turns to a private detective for help. But when nothing stops the horror from spiralling out of control, Rainey soon discovers he can't trust anyone or anything.

There is a very horrific scene in which a dead animal is featured, so if you are squeamish about it, then this is not the film for you. I disliked it particularly as it didn’t contribute to the story. The scene could have been easily deleted. Philip Glass was responsible for part of the score but “Psycho” it’s not, although there are some Hitchcock tributes in the film.

I got a bit sick of Depp and his hair very early on in the movie and his impression of a village idiot fails to satisfy. I got a few laughs out of the movie (unintentional, to be sure, the scenes were meant to be scary!) and watched till the end, even though it was quite lame. This is a B-grade TV flick to be seen during a pizza night with a few good friends and relaxing and joking about it. I would not go out of my way to find it and see it, but if its on TV, send out for a pizza and ring a couple of friends…


“To him in whom love dwells, the whole world is but one family.” - Buddha

For Art Sunday today, the art of Peter Gerasimon. He was born in 1951 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, one of eight children of Russian/German immigrants. He developed an interest in fine arts from a very young age and attended art classes, despite advice from relatives and friends that this was not a secure career choice. He attended art classes at the Escuela de Artes Quilmes, Argentina 1966-1967 and a course at the “Famous Artists School for Talented Young People” 1969-1971.

Peter Gerasimon succumbed to the advice of his family and not believing an art career could support him in the future, pursued studies in economics and business management. Nevertheless, painting remained his passion and even on his business trips he always found some time to draw sketches and produce an occasional painting. In early 1996 he gave up his busy management career to go after his true calling, becoming a full time artist. He set up his home studio and gallery, “Glenrowan Studios” in Gisborne, Victoria, near the Macedon Ranges and met with instant success. He has since then held many exhibitions and won various art prizes.

This painting is called “A Glorious Day in Melbourne” and depicts one of the most famous buildings of our city, the Flinders Street Station. This is the station I get off every morning when going to work. It is a lovely old Victorian building and at one time housed the longest corridor in the world. A tongue in cheek comment is the blue utility in the intersection driven by the former treasurer Peter Costello and in which the passenger is John Howard our last PM.

More of this artist’s work can be seen on: