Saturday 27 June 2009


“And weep the more, because I weep in vain.” - Thomas Gray

A very busy Saturday today, with much work on my book. I am finalising the illustrations and this takes much care and time. While doing that, however, I can listen to music and this was one of the pieces I heard. Immortal Handel!

An aria from George Frederick Handel’s opera “Rinaldo”, called “Lascia ch’ io pianga” (Let me weep).

The clip is from the Gérard Corbiau film “Farinelli” (1994). Farinelli, was the artistic name of Carlo Broschi, a young singer in Handel's time. He was castrated in his childhood in order to preserve his voice. During his life he becomes to be a very famous opera singer, managed by his mediocre brother

Lascia ch'io pianga

Lascia ch'io pianga la cruda sorte,
E che sospiri la libertà!
E che sospiri, e che sospiri la libertà!
Lascia ch'io pianga la cruda sorte,
E che sospiri la libertà!

Let me weep

Let me weep over my cruel fate,
And that I long for freedom!
And that I long, and that I long for freedom!
Let me weep over my cruel fate,
And that I long for freedom!

Friday 26 June 2009


“Mellow nuts have the hardest rind” - Sir Walter Scott

Most people seem to think that eating nuts is not good for their health because they contains lots of calories and fats. However, a great deal of research has now found that the nuts are very beneficial for health. Nuts are full of proteins, are good sources of fibre, vitamin E, folic acid, copper, magnesium and the amino acid arginine. If people add nuts to their regular diet, many health benefits ensue. Fats present in nuts are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated which have ability to lower LDL cholesterol, (“bad” cholesterol, which is a contributory factor for heart disease). Research has shown that if a diet regimen includes nuts, it can lower the chance of heart disorders.

Nuts can be a great source of energy and because they contain ample amounts of antioxidants, they also have an anti-ageing action. Nuts are a major source of antioxidants like selenium and vitamin E. The more often nuts are eaten the better as the benefits appear to increase as the frequency of nut consumption increases. The risk of fatal coronary disease and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes both appear to decrease steadily as nut consumption increases from less than once a week to once or more per day.

Just what quantity of nuts should be eaten? Studies suggest that 30 to 60 grams of nuts should be consumed daily to gain the maximum benefits seen. Whether even larger amounts confer further benefits is currently unknown. Which nuts are best? The definitive answer to this question is currently unknown. In most studies peanuts, almonds, walnuts, macadamias and small proportions of others are usually investigated.

There are a few problems with nuts you should be aware of.
Aflatoxin: Peanuts are among the top three crops that are subject to infestation by moulds that produce aflatoxin, a potent human carcinogen. The toxin has been found in both peanuts and peanut butter, as well as corn, rice, wheat, soybeans, and sorghum. Testing peanuts and peanut products is regularly carried out by government bodies to ensure that they do not exceed acceptable levels of aflatoxin.

Allergies: Peanuts and tree nuts are both on the list of the eight most common allergens. Children are more likely to develop allergies if their parents or siblings suffer from allergies to legumes or nuts, but even those with no family history of allergies are susceptible. It is recommended that particularly in families with histories of peanut allergies, nursing mothers should not consume peanuts and tree nuts. It is also advised that children under the age of three not eat peanuts.

Environmental: Pesticides abound in the production of nuts. Endosulfan, Cyfluthrin, Phosmet, Atrazine, and Diazinon, are all used widely in nut production. Continued exposure of even small amounts can be toxic. Once harvested, nuts are often fumigated with methyl bromide, a toxic pesticide. While methyl bromide probably won't cause any harm to you when you eat nuts or other treated crops, it is quite dangerous for the farm workers who use it. Also, it is such a large factor in ozone depletion that the countries around the world are phasing out its use.

Nuts are sold in many different forms. Whole nuts, still in their shells are less expensive and will last up to a year without going rancid. Keep them in a cool, dry place. Shelled nuts especially if they're roasted, may last longer if they are kept in the fridge. If you plan on storing them longer than six months, consider putting them in the freezer. On the whole it can be confidently said that nuts are amazingly and surprisingly power-packed food. They provide a unique protection against heart related diseases as well as having anti-ageing properties. They are a good source of energy as well.

Wednesday 24 June 2009


“The true way to render ourselves happy is to love our work and find in it our pleasure.” – Françoise Bertaut de Motteville

Yesterday, I had a message from a far away friend, with whom I had not kept in contact for quite a long while. Our busy lives had kept us from seeing and talking to one another. The pleasure was firstly one of learning that she is well and still working away on her interesting projects, and secondly, that we have once again made contact and that we will no doubt spend many pleasant hours in the future exchanging news, thoughts and ideas.

A blessing associated with modern technology is the ease of communication. The internet has certainly made keeping in contact as simple as sending an email or tapping away a message on a messenger program. Skyping or video-Skyping is even more conducive to effective communication and a conversation can be carried out in more or less normal fashion, especially if you are able to see the smiling face of your interlocutor. Work-related communication has never been easier with the all of the modern means of keeping in touch.

Often, though, the problem with keeping in touch is not how easy or difficult it is, but rather the amount of finite time that we have at our disposal in order to carry out everything that we are compelled to do in a day. Work has increased its demands in the last few decades and many people now work extra long hours in order to keep up with the demands of their job. Unfortunately, this leads to our neglecting many of our other activities, not spending as much time as we would like with our families and friends. Needless to say that the less pressing tasks, as well as the activities that give us personal and selfish pleasure, our hobbies, are often the first to be sacrificed.

The workaholic is very much a product of our modern society and is nowadays in many cases the rule rather than the exception that we were familiar with in the past. Work makes enormous demands on our time, not only in the workplace, but it also invades our own space and private life. How easy it is nowadays to take work with us every night? Simply a matter of loading some files onto a USB flash drive and the computer at home takes over from where the computer at work left off. Or even more to the point, many people work on the same laptop both at work and at home (and also on the train, perhaps, on the way there and back)! Email access is universal and it is often expected to be able to send and receive work emails at any place and at any time. Mobile phones increase our accessibility and students expect to receive instant replies to their emails.

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is certainly something that applies to today’s world as much as it did, all those centuries ago when the folk sage came out with this saw. It is surprising that in this day and age of labour-saving devices, increasing leisure time, and strictly legislated work hours many of us still manage to run out of time in order to amuse ourselves and take pleasure in the company of our friends and dear ones.

This issue becomes all-important as the mid-year break approaches and a window of opportunity presents itself to many of us. A time to take a break and indulge in some annual leave. If you can afford to, consider taking some time off to have a break from work and relax as you catch up with family and friends, read a novel, fly a kite, go away somewhere, take a drive, bake a cake, put your feet up. “Taking time away from the stress of work can improve job performance, decrease stress-related illnesses and add years to our lives”, says Joe Robinson, author of “Work to Live: The Guide to Getting a Life”.

The seal in the illustration is one of Confucius’ wisdoms from his Analects: “Is it not a pleasure to have friends come from afar?”

workaholic |ˌwərkəˈhôlik| noun informal
A person who compulsively works hard and long hours.
workaholism |ˈwərkəˌhôlizəm; -ˌhäl-| |ˈwɔːkəhɒlɪz(ə)m| noun
Work + alcoholism

Jacqui BB hosts Word Thursday


“Things that were hard to bear are sweet to remember.” - Seneca

The context of our existence changes our experience of the same stimuli. Sun warms, sun burns; flowers we can delight in or flowers can repel us; an odour attracts us and the same odour can seem noisome; an appealing pallor can become a loathsome sickliness… Our feelings colour the perception of our world and our emotions filter the impressions we process inside our head.


Yellow was the sun high up
Warm the beams that gilded us.
Yellow was the wheat that ripened
On sun-drenched field.
Yellow was the daisy
Looking at the sun.
Yellow was your hair
Soft, sunlit and shining.

Yellow, burning orb
The sun blazes, scorches.
Yellow, the wheat that rots
On yellow muddy soil.
Yellow the daisy dried, singed
By drought and unrelenting sun.
Yellow your hair, fading,
Now only a memory.

Yellow was the dress you wore,
The muslin golden in the sunlight.
Yellow were the sunflowers
I gave you, each a shining sun.
Yellow was the lemon
That you picked, sweet-tasting.
Yellow was the saffron
That we dined on, exquisite.

Yellow, the tatters of your dress
Rags, now in the wardrobe.
Yellow, the pollen stains
Of long-dead sunflowers.
Yellow, the lemons
Hanging, all unpicked, all bitter.
Yellow, the saffron
Now uneaten, ghastly.

Jacqui BB hosts Poetry Wednesday

Tuesday 23 June 2009


“In youth and beauty, wisdom is but rare!” - Alexander Pope

I don’t know if you kept up with the story of Kimberley Vlaminck of Belgium and the furore she caused when she accused a tattooist of “ruining” her face by tattooing 56 stars on it after she allegedly asked for only three… The 18-year-old Vlaminck is suing the tattooist Ruslan Toumaniantz, claiming she had asked him for only three stars - and had fallen asleep during the procedure, waking up to a “nightmare” in her Belgian hometown of Courtrai. The tattooist said that Kimberley Vlaminck had absolutely agreed she wanted 56 stars tattooed on the left side of her face. However, he said that he would help pay for them to be removed. This, because Vlaminck had claimed because Toumaniantz is Rumanian and spoke only Flemish, he didn’t understand her when she spoke to him in French (which with Flemish, is the other official language of Belgium) and English.

The girl said last week: “It is terrible for me. I cannot go out onto the street. I look like a freak.” She also mentioned that her father had become furious when he had seen her on her return home. The family was going to sue Toumaniantz for the cost of having the tattoos removed by laser treatment. The story gave rise to intense media interest and it circled the world. Such interest is fuelled in part by the increased number of young people that undergo various forms of body mutilation and modification – piercings, tattooing, cosmetic surgery, implants, etc.

Ms Vlaminck has admitted today that she has been lying. She confessed that she had asked for 56 stars, and not only did she not fall asleep, but that she had loved the result. When she got home and her father became furious, she said that she had fallen asleep and that the tattooist had made a mistake. This apparently mitigated somewhat her father’s wrath.

Toumaniantz (who himself is covered in tattoos and piercings) has withdrawn his offer to help pay for the laser removal of Vlaminck’s tattoos and, wisely, has indicated that from now on, he will obtain a written and signed consent form from his client before he embarks on their embellishment.

This is story that is disturbing on many levels. Firstly, I shall divulge and then dissociate completely my own views on body modification so that I shall not prejudice my case. Piercings and tattoos are not my thing. I do not wear jewellery of any kind and I can barely tolerate a watch on my wrist. To even think about a piercing makes me wince and I would not consider having any tattoo. However, I believe that mature people who wish to modify their body can do so, full well knowing the consequences of such procedures. It is very much a case of “I disagree with you, but I defend your freedom of choosing to do what you wish with your own body”.

The body modification that is being carried out more and more by minors, by teenagers I find quite worrying. They are being influenced (while quite vulnerable) by family, friends, peers, fashion and this influence can have harmful consequences. Firstly, unless the piercing or tattoo is performed under suitable conditions by a reputable practitioner, there is the very real risk of infection: Hepatitis, HIV, etc etc… Secondly, even if the body modification is carried out under strict aseptic conditions, there are all sorts of complications that may occur: Secondary infection, gangrene, excessive scarring, keloid, damage of underlying tissue, interference with physiological function, etc, etc… Thirdly, the body modification that may have been undertaken in a fit of youthful enthusiasm or inebriated bravado, may on reflection prove to be a regrettable decision. Furthermore, as the young person grows into adulthood, the body modification may prove to be an embarrassment or inappropriate in an adult context.

The story is disturbing for me because the young woman felt she could get away with accusing an innocent person as being responsible for a decision she herself had made. She felt no compunction in lying brazenly and shifting the blame from herself to a “foreigner” who could not “speak her language and hence did not understand her”. Add to the deception and dissimulation, blatant racism. This is a very silly young woman, completely immature and childish in her outlook. The tattoos are an example of the decisions she may be making in her life for which she has no responsibility or real understanding.

The decision by the tattooist to give half the money required for the removal of the tattoo (even though he full well knew the girl was lying) has a certain nobility and gentlemanly charm. A gracious gesture showing maturity and responsibility. The withdrawal of the offer once the girl confessed, a justifiable business decision.

We have become obsessed in our society with instant gratification, satisfaction of the basest instincts, the quest for momentary pleasures, the selfish pursuit of personal goals at whatever cost. Peer acceptance based on superficial criteria is one of the measuring sticks of “success” and “popularity”. Decisions are made instantaneously with no real thought of the consequences or their impact on other people. We place value on things that are worthless and neglect the real treasures.

I wonder what made Vlaminck confess the truth? A sudden upswelling of remorse and attack of conscience? I don’t think so. My gut feeling is that the father divined the truth and pressured the girl into admitting her mistake. What a sad and pitiful story. What have we evolved into? If this is civilisation, then what is primitive humanity? We have popular music that is like some primordial noise made by cannibals before a feast. We dance nowadays like monkeys jumping up and down on trees. We value baubles and gold above and beyond all else. We kill and maim and annihilate our peers like some primordial pre-humanoid intent on dominating its fellows. We decorate ourselves with piercings and tattoos like some ancestral savages. This is decadence…

Sunday 21 June 2009


“If the cinema is any kind of force for social change, then it's a force for the bad, because most films are about one guy with a gun solving a problem.” – Ken Loach

At the weekend just been we watched a typical Hollywood film. I had heard nothing about it, but the big names attracted me to it: Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland, Kim Basinger, Eva Longoria, etc, etc. The 2006 Clark Johnson film is “The Sentinel”. The film is formulaic and slickly made, the acting is borderline competent and the story is predictable. I expected more action and car chases, but the film was more of a blood and guts, shoot ‘em up type. In fact, if you like violence and get off on seeing people getting shot, you would probably enjoy the movie.

As far as the plot is concerned: American secret service veteran agent Pete Garrison saved the life of president Ronald Reagan in the past and became a legend. Years later, he is responsible for the personal security of the American president Ballentine and the first lady Sarah Ballentine. Garrison is having a love affair with the first lady. Walter, Garrison’s informer discloses that there is a traitor in the secret service and a plot to kill the president (by neo-Nazis or Russians or Communists – who knows? Bad guys, I guess). David Breckinridge, who used to be Garrison’s best friend, and the chief of the secret service, William Montrose, are put in charge of the investigation. All the agents are submitted to a polygraph test, which Garrison fails because of his involvement with the first lady. As a result he is accused of treachery and is apprehended. He escapes and conducts his own investigation trying to find who is the mole all the while being pursued by the secret service, his former friends.

Now that I’ve written out the plot I’ve realised how ridiculous it all is. “The Sentinel” is representative of the present-day decadent Hollywood mass-produced movie and displays the trashy lack of imagination present in so many movies nowadays. The film is generic, contrived and lazily put together. It is a film that depends on the big names as drawing cards, on an efficient marketing and advertising machine and hordes of pap-consuming public that have been trained to consume such films.

A film about an assassination plot of a president could be riveting stuff if well made and directed. However, this one is uninspired and the direction is flat and gives the impression that Clark Johnson was very bored when he was making it (he probably was). Eva Longoria’s role was so underdeveloped that it was inevitable to suppose that she was just a token pretty face, the token woman in the secret service – she hardly had any lines to speak! The affair between the first lady and Garrison was left unresolved and the president is depicted as a complete cretin. The real mole was spottable ten minutes into the movie and there were some terrible stereotypes in it. My advice is, avoid wasting your time seeing it!


“Science and art belong to the whole world, and before them vanish the barriers of nationality.” – Goethe

Today is officially the first day of Winter in the Southern Hemisphere, as it marks the Winter Solstice, when the sun has reached its Northernmost point in the sky at noon, and hence we see the shortest day and the longest night of the year. The sun rose at 7:35 am and set at 5:08 pm today, a short day of just over nine hours. The days will begin to get progressively longer from tomorrow and the nights shorter. The day was cool, but not excessively cold and we did have some showers now and then – no rain, however!

We went to the Ian Potter Gallery today, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Rather than try and look at all of the exhibits, we chose to simply concentrate on a couple of wings of the gallery only and these were the special exhibitions area and the Indigenous Art exhibit hall. The latter is a gallery filled with mostly Aboriginal art works: Paintings on bark and on canvas, sculptures, some basketwork and a few drawings. The variety of works was quite extensive and one could happily spend several hours looking at all of these treasures.

However, we moved on to the special exhibitions area where a John Brack (1920-1999) retrospective exhibition is currently being held (24/4/09-9/8/09). This is the first John Brack retrospective to be held in more than twenty years and surveys the artist’s complete work, including drawing, painting and all of his major series. The gallery is showcasing its latest Brack acquisition, “The Bar” (1954) bought for $3.2 million (see illustration).

“The Bar” was Brack’s largest oil painting at the time he painted it. Considered radical for its time, “The Bar” presents a stark view of life in Melbourne suburbia, the infamous ‘six o’clock swill’ as patrons hurry to finish their drinks before early closing time. It is also an ironic parody of Edouard Manet’s important 1881 work, “A Bar at the Folies-Bergère”. Brack’s “Collins St., 5p.m.” was completed a year later in 1955 and purchased by the NGV in 1956. Like “The Bar”, “Collins St., 5 p.m.” exemplifies the style for which Brack is renowned.

The exhibition was well worth seeing and the iconic nature of many of these paintings bring to mind some pages of Australian history, values, personalities and the Australian psyche.

John Brack (1920 - 1999) Biography
1920 Born in Melbourne
1938-39 Night classes at National Gallery Art School, Melbourne
1946-49 Full time classes at National Gallery Art School, Melbourne
1952-62 Art Master, Melbourne Grammar School
1962-68 Head of National Gallery Art School
1999 Died, Melbourne.