“Parting is all we know of heaven and all we need to know of hell.” - Emily Dickinson
A very busy Saturday today, which was all spent proof-reading my pathology textbook. Reading proofs of a book about to be published is a little bit of an anti-climax. Once the book has been written and it has gone to the publisher, one wants it to be off one’s hands and out there. The proofs and the jolly hard work one has to do going through them with a fine tooth comb making sure all the T’s are crossed and all the I’s are dotted is a boring but essential task. And so it was today, but I managed to get through four chapters…
Tonight was a quiet night spent all alone. And this song is dedicated to the one I wish were here, but who is travelling…
I hear the ticking of the clock I'm lying here the room's pitch dark I wonder where you are tonight No answer on the telephone And the night goes by so very slow Oh I hope that it won't end though Alone
CHORUS: Till now I always got by on my own I never really cared until I met you And now it chills me to the bone How do I get you alone How do I get you alone
You don't know how long I have wanted To touch your lips and hold you tight You don't know how long I have waited You don't know how long I have waited And I was gonna tell you tonight But the secret is still my own And my love for you is still unknown Alone
How do I get you alone How do I get you alone Alone, alone
“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” - Mark Twain
A classic dish for this Food Friday. This is Shepherd’s Pie, originally cooked on the day after a lamb roast was had, but one can now cook it as first off rather than a left over meal as well, since lamb mince is readily available. However, if you have some lamb roast left over from the previous day, you can certainly chop it up and substitute that for the lamb mince.
Shepherd’s Pie Ingredients 800g potatoes, peeled and chopped 1 tbsp butter 1/4 cup milk 1 tbsp oil 1 onion, finely diced 1 clove garlic, chopped 500g lamb mince (or left over lamb roast) 2 carrots, grated 2 tbsp tomato paste 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce 1 tsp chopped rosemary 2 tbsp plain flour 375ml beef stock 1/2 cup grated tasty cheese
Method (Preparation Time: 20 minutes; Cooking Time: 25 minutes; Serves 4) 1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Place potatoes into a saucepan of boiling salted water. Cook for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain, return to saucepan, add butter and milk, mash until smooth. 2. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, cook for 5 minutes until softened. Add mince and carrot, cook until browned. 3. Add tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and rosemary, cook, stirring, for 2-5 minutes. Remove from heat. 4. Stir in flour. Slowly add stock, stirring after each addition, until combined. Return to heat. Cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until sauce has thickened. Spoon into a 2 Litre (8-cup) capacity ovenproof dish. Top with mashed potato then sprinkle over cheese. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden.
“We have failed to grasp the fact that mankind is becoming a single unit, and that for a unit to fight against itself is suicide.” Havelock Ellis
Let me ask a question: Is violence ever justified? Think about it. Consider a situation where you are confronted by a series of events that leave you no other option except to react violently. What do you do? Will you resort to violence to save yourself? To save someone else? To defend family and home? To defend your country? To fight in a war that is “just”? To punish recalcitrant offenders? To execute a criminal? Human history is full of wars, killing, heinous acts of extreme brutality and cruelty of man against man. We acknowledge this and are quick to denounce these acts. And yet, we quickly justify self-defence and the defence of our loved ones who are under violent attack. We distinguish between just and unjust wars. We defend revolutions, which assume justified violence. Freedom fighters are heroes who die for just causes, wanting to liberate their country, their people, willing to die for their cause…
And it is from here on that we get into deeper water that keeps on getting hotter. When does a “freedom fighter” become a terrorist? When does a revolution become a massacre of innocents? When does a “just war” become an excuse for an economically or politically or racially or socially-driven pogrom? Who justifies it? Whose justice does the violence serve? Must we become personally involved in an evil action in order to realise that it is evil as we perform it? Is it not enough for us as logical beings to judge such actions as vicious and avoid them altogether? How can we justify the unjustifiable? Defend the indefensible?
Gandhi said “I am prepared to die, but there is no cause for which I am prepared to kill”. He was the ultimate proponent of non-violence at a time when his country was embroiled in violent clashes with the occupying British. When his countrymen advocated a bloody revolution in order to liberate themselves and their country from the oppressing colonial forces, he was the champion of the non-violent revolution. Through his passive aggression and gentle strength he was able to lead his people to independence. Gandhi was careful to distinguish non-violence from cowardice:
“Nonviolence is not a cover for cowardice, but it is the supreme virtue of the brave. Exercise of nonviolence requires far greater bravery than that of swordsmanship. Cowardice is wholly inconsistent with non-violence. Translation from swordsmanship to nonviolence is possible and, at times, even an easy stage.”
Gandhi showed that non-violence was an effective means of resistance, of revolution, of passive aggression. His ideas stemmed from his deep belief in the goodness of human beings and in the spark of the divine that is within each of us. His sincere belief in a benevolent, peaceful God motivated his philosophy and he was ready to espouse other religions in which he recognised his God called by another name. Christianity was familiar to him, although Christians were not always representative of their faith: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” His philosophy is summed up by: “Non-violence requires a double faith, faith in God and also faith in man.”
Tonight, on the eve of a terrible anniversary, it is appropriate to think of Gandhi and his ideas of non-violence. Terrorism had no place in Gandhi’s universe and even a justifiable act of violence was anathema to his philosophy. That a man like him died a violent death in the hands of an assassin is the ultimate irony. Such acts of terrorism are the most despicable acts that human beings are capable of. Killing the innocent, murdering the adherents of non-violence, executing the blameless are all acts like re-crucifying Christ all over again.
Have we learned anything in these last eight years since 9/11? Has the world changed? Has the “war against terror” achieved anything? I think not. Every morning I hear on the news reports of suicide bombings, of renewed terrorism threats, of violence and more violence. Where is it leading us, when will it end? And will there be human beings left on this planet to see the end of it?
passive resistance |ˈpasiv| |riˈzistəns| noun Nonviolent opposition to authority, esp. a refusal to cooperate with legal requirements: They called for protest in the form of passive resistance. ORIGIN late Middle English: from Latin passivus, from pass- ‘suffered,’ from the verb pati. + from Old French resister or Latin resistere, from re- (expressing opposition) + sistere ‘stop’ (reduplication of stare ‘to stand’ ).
“The first study for the man who wants to be a poet is knowledge of himself, complete: he searches for his soul, he inspects it, he puts it to the test, he learns it. As soon as he has learned it, he must cultivate it! I say that one must be a seer, make oneself a seer. The poet becomes a seer through a long, immense, and reasoned derangement of all the senses. All shapes of love suffering, madness. He searches himself, he exhausts all poisons in himself, to keep only the quintessences. Ineffable torture where he needs all his faith, all his superhuman strength, where he becomes among all men the great patient, the great criminal, the great accursed one--and the supreme Scholar! For he reaches the unknown! ...So the poet is actually a thief of Fire!” - Arthur Rimbaud
A poem for a thief of words – a poem that will not easily be “borrowed”. I thought that what was freely given could hardly be stolen, except by one whose joy derives from the act of kleptomania…
Hail, all-bright Lady Mediocrity! You shine on radiantly, unashamedly Although your light is but reflected.
You utter well-turned phrases Your ears so used to accolades, Even if the applause you hear is for mouthing stolen wit.
Magnanimously you bend low Giving alms to the needy all around you, But your munificence runs on borrowed funds.
Hail bright, if slightly tarnished star, Lord help preserve us from your indiscretions, There is so much of your second-hand originality around us.
“He who opens a school door, closes a prison.” - Victor Hugo
The photograph above by David Seymour moves me and makes me quietly introspective. The contrast between the gnarled old hands and the childlike letters they labour to write is a confronting sight. We take it for granted that an adult can read and write. We refuse to acknowledge that there is a reason nowadays for anyone to be illiterate. Yet, even today throughout the world, one in five adults is still not literate and two-thirds of them are women while 75 million children are out of school. Illiterate generations still cede their place to illiterate offspring and in developing countries, it still remains an enormous problem.
Have you ever thought what it would be like not being literate? I was immersed in such an experience when I was visiting Egypt about 30 years ago. I was in Aswan and in those days, English speakers were few and far between in Southern Egypt. I could communicate mainly with gestures and with a few elderly people in pidgin French. The most intimidating, humbling and disempowering experience that I had was being surrounded by signs, newspapers, magazines, street names, traffic signs, all written in Arabic – a script and language that I was completely unfamiliar with. It was then that I realised how an illiterate person felt, surrounded by a sea of mysterious symbols that they couldn’t understand…
Literacy is a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. The most effective way to disenfranchise and render powerless a group is to deprive them of the right to literacy. Spoken language and oral communication are a characteristically human trait that distinguishes us from animals, however, being able to command the written form of language is the difference between the civilised and the uncivilised, the powerful and the weak, the influential and ineffectual, the advantaged and the disadvantaged, the prominent and the obscure.
Educational opportunities depend on literacy and without literacy even the most basic of educations is impossible. Literacy is essential for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy. A good quality basic education equips students with literacy skills for life and further learning; literate parents are more likely to send their children to school; literate people are better able to access continuing educational opportunities; and literate societies are better geared to meet pressing development.
This year, International Literacy Day put the spotlight on the empowering role of literacy and its importance for participation, citizenship and social development. Literacy and Empowerment is the theme for the 2009-2010 biennium of the United Nations Literacy Decade.
I look at the photograph above and I feel an immense gratitude towards my parents, my teachers, and the luck of the draw that resulted in me being born in an environment where I was assured of being amongst the four of five that were literate, rather than the one in five who isn’t. You are reading this and therefore you should celebrate with me your literacy. Happy Literacy Day 2009!
“Marriage (noun): The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in all, two.” - Ambrose Bierce
We went to the 16th Greek Film Festival here in Melbourne, last week and saw one of the Greek films on show, “Bang Bang Wedding” («Το Γαμήλιο Πάρτι» in Greek, meaning “The Wedding Reception”). This was a 2008 romantic comedy directed by Christine Crokos and starred Alex Dimitriades, Faye Xyla, Betty Maggira, Chrysa Ropa, Wilma Tsakiri and Christos Biros. There was a connection with Australia as the leading man, Alex Dimitriades is an Australian-Greek who has been in several films in Australia already. This was his first Greek film.
The film was pleasant enough, although rather thin on plot and unfortunately, some great opportunities for great comedy went unexploited. It managed to raise chuckles in us, although some members of the audience had come prepared to laugh big time and they did (even at inappropriate points, I’m afraid – but maybe I am being a snob…). We felt throughout that the potential of the cast was underutilised and the fault was mainly with the script, but also the rather pedestrian direction.
The plot revolves around a wedding taking place in Crete. The family is Cretan, but its members live all around the world and the wedding serves as an excuse to bring them all together in order celebrate and do some family bonding. The groom is a fashion photographer and the bride an ecologist –very modern and very emancipated. The parents, in-laws and extended family and friends provide some sub-plots which are rather insubstantial and to pad out the film there is also a private party in a villa that wedding guests crash into. This because the wedding invitations give wrong directions on how to get to the rather isolated country property where the wedding reception will be held. Most of the film revolves around the adventures of the guests and family as they try to get to the reception. The bride and groom argue and decide to get a divorce, each going their separate ways, only to find that they are still madly in love with each other. The bride’s stepmother gets amnesia, the groom’s mother gets drunk, the groom’s father turns up with his new English wife and throws a spanner in the works, while some wedding guests have a good time at the party, which is not the wedding party.
The scenery of Crete formed a gorgeous backdrop for some scenes and the music was interestingly quirky, although not so much Greek as one would have expected. The film was pleasant and amusing, but not one of the great comedies. If you come across it and one-and-a-half hours to spare, watch it. But certainly, don’t go out of your way to find it in order to watch it!
“True contentment depends not upon what we have; a tub was large enough for Diogenes, but a world was too little for Alexander.” - Charles Caleb Colton
For your delectation on this Art Sunday, a painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme (May 11, 1824 - January 10, 1904). Gérôme was a French painter and sculptor in the style now known as Academicism. The range of his oeuvre included historical painting, Greek mythology, Orientalism, portraits and other subjects, bringing the Academic painting tradition to an artistic climax.
Born at Vesoul (Haute-Saône), he went to Paris in 1840 where he studied under Paul Delaroche, whom he accompanied to Italy (1843-1844). He visited Florence, Rome, the Vatican and Pompeii, but he was more attracted to the world of nature. Taken by a fever, he was forced to return to Paris in 1844. On his return he followed, like many other students of Delaroche, into the atelier of Charles Gleyre and studied there for a brief time. He then attended the École des Beaux-Arts. In 1846 he tried to enter the prestigious Prix de Rome, but failed in the final stage because his figure drawing was inadequate.
A little before he died he wrote to Aublet, one of his students: “I begin to have enough of life. I've seen too much misery and misfortune in the lives of others. I still see it every day, and I'm getting eager to escape this theatre.” He was to live just ten more days and perhaps knew that his heart was weakening.
This painting of his is “Diogenes” (1860), the famous ancient Greek philosopher, foremost of the school of cynics (kyon/kynos – “dog” in Greek). Cynicism called for a closer imitation of nature, the repudiation of most human conventions, and complete independence of mind and spirit. Diogenes (ca. 400-ca. 325 BC) was the son of Hicesias, and was born in Sinope. He arrived in Athens after he and his father had been exiled from their native city for debasing the coinage in some way. His life in Athens was one of great poverty, but it was there that he adopted Antisthenes's teachings and became the chief exponent of Cynicism.
Diogenes was not famous for developing a strong theoretical argument for his way of life. Antisthenes, the pupil of Socrates, was his inspiration, and he put into practice his master's teachings in a way which made a striking impression upon his contemporaries. Indeed, it was Diogenes's application of Antisthenes's principles which gained for him the notoriety he enjoyed. His goals were self-sufficiency, a tough and ascetic way of life, and anaideia, or shamelessness. Diogenes held that through a rigorous denial of all but the barest necessities of life one could train the body to be free of the world and its delusions. Through anaideia one could show the rest of humanity the contempt in which their conventions were held. He is shown here to live in poverty in an old pot and be accompanied by the dogs that his philosophy took its name from.
The lamp he is lighting and which he used to hold aloft even in daylight was to aid him to find an “honest human being”. However, he used to say with disappointment that even with the aid of his lamp he found nothing but scoundrels and rascals. When Alexander the Great visited Diogenes, he stood in front of him happy to have met the famous philosopher. He introduced himself and asked him if he desired anything of him, as he was ruler of the world. Diogenes looked at him blandly and asked him to move sideways, as he was blocking the sunlight that warmed him. Alexander then asked him why he was staring at a pile of human bones so intently. Diogenes replied that he was trying to distinguish the bones of his illustrious father from the bones of a slave but could see no difference between the two. Alexander then said to him: “If I were not Alexander, then I should wish to be Diogenes”.
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.