Saturday 18 July 2009


“Earth laughs in flowers.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

For Art Sunday today, a linocut print by a contemporary Australian artist, Vida Pearson. She was born in 1957, near Wonthaggi in Victoria, Australia.She spent 3 years at the North Adelaide School of Art between 1982 - 1984 majoring in printmaking and drawing. She has been a professional artist/printmaker since 1985. Vida has won over 100 prizes in art competitions. She exhibits regularly with several galleries and usually has a solo exhibition every couple of years.

The main thrust of her work is hand-coloured linocuts of birds and flora - particularly Australian banksias, grevilleas and eucalypts, which are particularly suited to this medium. She goes on field trips regularly within Australia and overseas to source new material and inspiration. A trip to Antarctica in 2004 was probably the most exceptional and inspirational of these trips for her. She also works in watercolour and pastel when the subject matter calls for it.

The linocut above is of a native Australian flower, perhaps the most magnificent one, the Waratah (Telopea speciosissima). Robert Brown (1773-1858) named the genus Telopea in 1810 from specimens collected in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. Sir James Smith (1759-1828), a noted botanist and founder of the Linnaean Society in England, wrote in 1793: 'The most magnificent plant which the prolific soil of New Holland affords is, by common consent, both of Europeans and Natives, the Waratah. It is moreover a favourite with the latter, upon account of a rich honeyed juice which they sip from its flowers'.

The generic name Telopea is derived from the Greek 'telopos', meaning 'seen from afar', and refers to the great distance from which the crimson flowers are discernible. The specific name speciosissima is the superlative of the Latin adjective 'speciosus', meaning 'beautiful' or 'handsome'. 'Waratah', the Aboriginal name for the species, was adopted by early settlers at Port Jackson.

Telopea is an eastern Australian genus of four species. Two are confined to New South Wales, one to Tasmania and one extends from eastern Victoria into New South Wales. Telopea belongs to the family, Proteaceae, which is predominantly Australian and southern African. The Waratah is a stout, erect shrub, which may grow to 4 metres. The dark green leathery leaves, 13-25 cm in length, are arranged alternately and tend to be coarsely toothed. The flowers are grouped in rounded heads 7 to 10 cm in diameter surrounded by crimson bracts, about 5 to 7 cm long. It flowers from September to November and nectar-seeking birds act as pollinators. Large winged seeds are released when the brown leathery pods split along one side.

The species is fairly widespread on the central coast and adjoining mountains of New South Wales, occurring from the Gibraltar Range, north of Sydney, to Conjola in the south. It grows mainly in the shrub understory in open forest developed on sandstone and adjoining volcanic formations, from sea level to above 1000 metres in the Blue Mountains. Soils within its range tend to be sandy and low in plant nutrients. Rainfall is moderately high. Waratah plants resist destruction by bushfires, a natural element of their habitat, by regenerating from the rootstock. Flowering recommences two years after a moderate fire.

The Waratah is a spectacular garden subject in suitable soil and climate; it flowers prolifically and tends to be long-lived. The Waratah occurs naturally in at least ten national parks in the geological formation, know as the Sydney Basin. Brisbane Water, Dharug and Macquarie Pass National Parks are among the areas where this species is conserved. Waratahs are cultivated north of Sydney and in the Dandenong Ranges, Victoria. They are grown in Israel, New Zealand and Hawaii for the cut flower trade. It was introduced to England in 1789 but cannot survive English winters out of doors except in the south-west coastal regions, and it rarely flowers in glasshouses. It is also cultivated in California.

Enjoy your week!


“If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music.” - Gustav Mahler

Tonight I feel I need to just listen to Bach and then have a long sleep. Glen Gould playing the Prelude from English Suite no 5 is just right.

Thursday 16 July 2009


“Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won’t taste good.” - Joe Paterno

I suppose it would be remiss of me not to mention on this “Food Friday”, the finals of the Australian MasterChef TV program. Although I do not watch the show, it is very hard to escape the publicity it generates. Last night saw the elimination of a Melbourne contender and it is now a battle between the last two remaining contestants, NSW mother-of-three, Julie Godwin against Po Ling Yeow, an Adelaide artist. Apparently 2.36 million viewers tuned into the show last night, giving Channel 10 a ratings buzz. This is the fourth consecutive episode where MasterChef has won the ratings battle with competing channels.

The moral of the story is that food-related content sells. It sells on TV, in bookshops, on radio, in newspapers and magazines, on the internet. Food is such an integral part of our culture and of our life that it is an inescapable component of our existence. People apparently not only enjoy eating food, they also like to read about it, watch it being prepared, listen to people talking about it. We are all willing to experiment, try out new recipes, taste new dishes and tempt our jaded palates with new and thrilling combinations of ingredients.

The plethora of cooking programs on TV is matched by the countless cookbooks that are published every day, it seems. It is not by chance then, that the Australian MasterChef challenge centres around the contestants cooking recipes they would love to include in the first cookbook they will have published after their victory… Do you detect a marketing spin-off, here? Could this lead perhaps to a future TV cooking program where the winning contestant will continue the success generated by the publicity around the program?

I occasionally watch as a podcast the cooking program “The Cook and the Chef”, with Maggie Beer and Simon Bryant respectively. This program for the most part makes me cringe. I find the chef revolting as he must touch everything with his fingers, even when he doesn’t need to. His palpatory adventures apparently give him a high. The absolute revulsion is to see him eat the cooked food with his fingers (often getting burnt in the process, or having goo running down his wrists as he gulps down the food he tastes). I was expecting him to eat soup with his fingers in one of the episodes. I find most of the recipes he gives uninspiring and his manner is annoying, his mannerisms irritating. I guess you can say I am not a Simon Bryant fan.

Maggie Beer, as the cook, is much more sensible, although her association with the chef is contaminating her gentility! She used not to touch ingredients and food, but lately she is getting as bad as Simon. Maggie’s recipes tend to be more appealing and they do not depend so much on the effect a chef strives for. Lately I have gone off the program in a major way and will not watch it in the future, I think (for the reasons stated above, but mainly the disgusting handling of everything and the non-washing of hands – I haven’t seen them wash their hands once!).

I have blogged before about TV chefs, so I’ll stop myself promptly here. My palate has become quite jaded and I will not stomach many more of these programs or swallow any more of these unpalatable celebrity chefs. I like good food (increasingly of late, the simpler the food the better; the fresher it is of course, the more appealing I find it), but my life doesn’t revolve around it and gastronomic indulgences are not my style. In terms of your own taste, bon appétit to you if TV cooking is your thing!


“If you're a gifted flirt, talking about the price of eggs will do as well as any other subject.” - Mignon McLaughlin

I had an extremely busy day today, with a workshop that involved staff from all of our campuses that are visiting Melbourne for two days in order to resolve some issues and plan ahead for the next semester. It was an intense day with much happening, presentations, discussions, work groups, activities and then dinner out for about 40 people. This dinner provided a good opportunity to relax and to talk with colleagues on a social level rather than a professional one. These social activities are a good way to build the teams and to relate to people that one works with.

Dinner was at Max’s restaurant in Hardware Lane in the City. This is a great restaurant with a good menu and wine list, reasonably priced and with great service. Although the food is down to earth, simple and not adventurous, it is done well and with style. We were served very quickly considering there 40 or so of us and we all enjoyed it immensely.

Another reason for the dinner was that we were saying farewell to a member of staff who is leaving our organisation and going back home to the USA. He has been with us for three years and as his contract is up (and his family wants to go back home) he thought it best to go back. He was an excellent professional and a good co-worker and he will be missed.

We gave him a couple of Australian art pieces as a farewell gift and we had the regulation speeches. In his speech he said how much he enjoyed living in Australia and how he would miss the place. One thing he said he would miss a lot would be the “flirting”. He said that a lot of the innocent flirting that went on in the workplace in Australia would lead to serious trouble in the USA and possibly people could get sued. That is so sad…

Flirting if done well is such fun. Max O'Rell said, “flirtation in attention without intention” and this is so true. It is a mark of high civilisation and the playfulness that is implicit in it is harmless. As I said, it must be done delicately and there is an element of innocent humour and good natured fun that underlies it (especially so in the workplace). Now to be sued for that, is completely crazy, in my opinion.

flirt |flərt| verb
1 [ intrans. ] Behave as though attracted to or trying to attract someone, but for amusement rather than with serious intentions: It amused him to flirt with her.
• ( flirt with) Experiment with or show a superficial interest in (an idea, activity, or movement) without committing oneself to it seriously: A painter who had flirted briefly with Cubism.
• ( flirt with) Deliberately expose oneself to (danger or difficulty): The need of some individuals to flirt with death.
2 [ trans. ] (of a bird) Wave or open and shut (its wings or tail) with a quick flicking motion.
• [ intrans. ] Move back and forth with a flicking or fluttering motion: The lark was flirting around the site.
A person who habitually flirts.

flirtation |-ˈtā sh ən| noun
flirtatious |-ˈtā sh əs| adjective
flirtatiously |-ˈtā sh əslē| adverb
flirtatiousness |-ˈtā sh əsnəs| noun
flirty |ˈflərdi| ( flirtier |ˈflərdiər|, flirtiest |ˈflərdi1st|).

ORIGIN mid 16th century: Apparently symbolic, the elements fl- and -irt both suggesting sudden movement; compare with flick and spurt . The original verb senses were [give someone a sharp blow] and [sneer at]; the earliest noun senses were [joke, gibe] and [flighty girl] (defined by Dr. Johnson as [a pert young hussey] ), with a notion originally of cheeky behaviour, later of playfully amorous behaviour.

Jacqui BB hosts Word Thursday

Tuesday 14 July 2009


“Time is the fire in which we burn.” - Delmore Schwartz

Time is an elastic concept. It’s made of mist and moonbeams, sunrays and shadows. Time crawls, time flies, time cheats us and rewards us. Time mocks us and is deadly serious in its dealings with us. Time alters our perspectives, shifts our judgment, changes our emotions and wreaks havoc with the way that we view the world. Time laughs with us, and at us. It can dry our tears or evince a flood of them where there was only pure joy just before.

This poem was written more than twenty years ago, when times were different for me and when the end of the world threatened to engulf me. Tears, pain, agony were mine then, and now I can barely remember the depths of the despair that I felt; the reminder being these words scratched on an old notebook. Time heals the wounds of the heart and dulls the pain of our soul. Our mind conspires with it and what was madness then, is only a sweet nostalgia now.

Nocturne in G Minor

In the serenity of sweet night
Which glides on softest skin like a caress,
I seek you still…
And when the moonlight calls out to me,
To bathe in its beams anew,
I cannot bear it, I must remember you.

But how can I find you?
How can I run to meet you
Now that my heart has lost its compass,
Now that there are no signs from you?
I seek you still…
And reason screams, and warns against it!
I must not repeat the same mistakes it tells me.

And yet, I search for you,
Your image faint and delicate,
Wandering like a lone firefly
In the dark fields of my mind.
I seek you still…
How can I not remember you,
How can I not desire you more than ever?

You left, and I promised I’d forget you.
I said it would be hard, but I would do it
Even if I had to reforge myself in steel.
And yet, each evening of the full moon
When that shining orb of ours rises,
It’s then that I miss you most.
I fail to keep my promises and I admit,
I love you even now,
I remember you evermore,
I seek you still…

Jacqui BB hosts poetry Wednesday

Monday 13 July 2009


“The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?” - Pablo Casals

Happy Bastille Day! July the 14th is the day on which France celebrates its National Day. It commemorates the day of the storming of the Bastille, which took place on 14 July 1789 and marked the beginning of the French Revolution. The Bastille was a prison and a symbol of the absolute and arbitrary power of Louis the 16th's Ancient Regime. By capturing this symbol, the people signalled that the king's power was no longer absolute and that power should be based on the people and be limited by a separation of powers.

The Bastille only held seven prisoners at the time of its capture, however, the storming of the prison was a symbol of liberty and the fight against oppression for all French citizens. The revolution in France upheld the Republic’s three ideals: Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity for all French citizens, a symbolism duplicated in the nation’s tricolour flag. It marked the end of absolute monarchy, the birth of the sovereign Nation, and, eventually, the creation of the (First) Republic, in 1792. Bastille Day was declared the French national holiday on 6th July 1880, on Benjamin Raspail's recommendation, when the new Republic was firmly entrenched.

For the wordy types amongst you (me included!), Bastille is an alternate spelling of bastide meaning “fortification”. Bastide comes from the Provençal word bastida meaning “built”. There is also a French verb embastiller with the meaning “to establish troops in a prison”.

To celebrate the day in a suitably French manner, here is something delicious to drink:

1 large pineapple
2 oranges
5 passionfruits
1 apple
1 punnet strawberries
6 tablespoonfuls icing sugar
1 cupful brandy
2 bottles of Champagne

Peel and clean the pineapple, chopping into small cubes and put into a large bowl. Juice the oranges and add to the pineapple. Wash and hull the strawberries, leaving them to drain. Half them and add to the bowl. Peel the apple and chop finely into the bowl. Add the passionfruit pulp to the bowl and stir in the sugar until it is dissolved. Stir in the brandy and put the bowl into the freezer, until almost frozen solid. Break into chunks, put into a punch bowl and pour the chilled champagne over the fruit mixture. Vive la France!

France is a Western European country with shores on the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. It has an area of 544,000 square km and a population of 60 million. Its terrain is varied with high plateaux, mountain ranges and lowland basins. Its climate is mild ranging from typical Mediterranean in the South, to mild and wet further to the North. Agriculture is favoured by both land and climate making France one of the major European exporters of wheat, barley, sugar beet and wine. Manufacturing is the other major employer with rich reserves of oil, gas and coal assisting greatly the economy. French perfumes and other luxury goods are a major income earner while tourism is also a major industry. Paris is the capital city with other major cities being Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux, Lille, Grenoble, Rouen, Nantes and Toulouse.

The painting above is by an anonymous painter and depicts the storming of the Bastille.

Sunday 12 July 2009


“There is a great streak of violence in every human being. If it is not channeled and understood, it will break out in war or in madness.” - Sam Peckinpah

At the weekend we watched one of those Hollywood genre films that made Hollywood what it is, for better or worse. It was rather nostalgic watching it and seeing some of the actors that have long since passed away, such as William Holden Robert Ryan, Edmond O’Brien, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson and one of the old school who has good genes and is still hanging on at 92 years, Ernest Borgnine. The film was Sam Peckinpah’s Western of 1969, “The Wild Bunch”. The film was very violent as far as Westerns go, but I guess it had to cater to late 1960s tastes (remember the violence in “Bonnie and Clyde”?).

Pike Bishop (Holden) and his ageing gang of outlaws have staged a daring train robbery at Starbuck, South Texas in the first decade of the 20th century. The robbery goes awry and the gang head south across the Rio Grande and into Mexico. They are being pursued by Deke Thornton (Ryan, a former partner of Pike’s who doesn’t want to go back to jail and for whom killing the bunch is the one unpleasant means of securing his freedom) and his men, made up of bounty hunters. They had been hired by the railroad to stop Bishop and his gang from robbing the rail depot and now have 30 days to track them down and kill them. Bishop and his men plan to spend only a short time in Mexico and then cross back into Texas to continue their banditry. However, a violent Mexican generalissimo who wants them to rob a U.S. train carrying arms persuades them to stick around and reap the $10,000 in gold. They carry out the robbery successfully, but it leads to a terrifying final confrontation.

The film is one of the last big Westerns to come out of Hollywood seeing how the genre had its heyday in the 40s, 50s and early 60s. In the 70s, the traditional Western gave its place to the offbeat one and in a way, the plot of “The Wild Bunch” is an indication of the end of an era in Hollywood. The myth created by John Wayne as the “Good Cowboy”, the shining angel-like presence of Shane, the heroism of Gary Cooper in “High Noon” are all negated by the immorality and gross realism depicted in this demythologising movie. Peckinpah takes every opportunity to “tell it like it was” and the bloody, violent images assault the senses of the viewer with their grimness. One of the most disturbing images for me was in the opening sequences of the film with some children torturing scorpions and ants. This sets the scene for the horrors that follow and prepares the viewer for the bloodbath of the ending.

The movie is acted superbly and the direction is masterly. Cinematography is wonderful and the colours fresh and brilliant (OK, the blood was a bit too red!). The scenes in Mexico are extremely authentic and the poetry of some of the faces Peckinpah shows us is quite amazing. In fact the Mexicans in the background observing the action and who become unwittingly involved are almost like a silent Greek chorus in a tragedy.

The film is loved and hated equally vehemently, and personally I enjoyed seeing it, although violence for its own sake, gratuitous violence is abhorrent. There was a similar controversy about Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”. We also watched this recently and I must admit that I felt that the violence in the Gibson film was too much and detracted from the plot. Too much violence loses its power and in the case of “The Passion”, the gratuitous violence made one believe that the film was a vehicle for sadists rather than as a demonstration of man’s inhumanity to man and the condemnation of an innocent to a terrible death. Oddly, I did not have the same feeling with “The Wild Bunch”, although I admit that the faint-hearted would find this film challenging.

Peckinpah depicts violence graphically in his movies and with the release of “The Wild Bunch”, easily the most violent Western made and one of the most violent movies of all time, he earned his nickname “Bloody Sam”. A drunk, a coke addict, a sentimental romantic, possibly schizophrenic, a little man with a big chip on his shoulders, Peckinpah was said to be many things. By the end of the 1970s, he disappeared into obscurity; yet after he died, he began to re-emerge as an influential director who left a rich cinematic legacy (“Straw Dogs”, “The Osterman Weekend”, “The Ballad of Cable Hogue”, “The Getaway” and many more).

Have you seen this film? What did you think?