Saturday 17 October 2009


“Those who are faithful know only the trivial side of love; it is the faithless who know love's tragedies.” - Oscar Wilde

I spent most of the day gardening today, doing some heavy duty work that needed doing for a long time. The weather was perfect for it, overcast and cool, although a couple of showers did interrupt the goings-on. At the end of the day although fatigued, a sense of achievement was enough to make everything worth it…

A Greek song by Mihalis Hadjiyannis today:

Secret Kiss

Where does your mind wander, where are you flying?
To which sky’s limits?
And even when you look into my eyes,
Something steals you away from me.

Where do you travel secretly,
In which new land?
And even when in my embrace,
Something draws you there, away from me.

You’re hiding something from me again,
Some new secret,
Like the mark
On your neck…

Your secret kiss,
Every secret sigh, every caress,
Everything is there to see
On your secret mark.

What vows do you hide deep inside you,
What tortures you?
And when I ask you if you love me,
You turn away and cry…

Where does your mind wander, where are you flying?
To which sky’s limits?
And even when you look into my eyes,
Something steals you away from me.

Your secret kiss,
Every secret sigh, every caress,
Everything is there to see
On your secret mark.

A love mark on your neck
Changes your life,
But the mark I have,
Wounds my soul…


Πού φεύγει ο νους σου πού πετάς,
στις άκρες ποιου ουρανού;
κι όταν στα μάτια με κοιτάς
κάτι σε κλέβει αλλού.

Πού ταξιδεύεις μυστικά,
Σε ποια καινούρια γη;
κι όταν σε παίρνω αγκαλιά
κάτι σε θέλει εκεί.

Κάτι μου κρύβεις πάλι
κάποιο μυστικό
όπως το σημάδι
που έχεις στο λαιμό.

Το κρυφό σου φιλί
κάθε ανάσα κρυφή κάθε χάδι
όλα φαίνονται εκεί
στο κρυφό σου σημάδι.

Ποιους όρκους μέσα σου φυλάς
τι σε παιδεύει πες
κι όταν ρωτάω αν μ' αγαπάς
αλλού γυρνάς και κλαις.

Πού φεύγει ο νους σου πού πετάς
στις άκρες ποιου ουρανού
κι όταν στα μάτια με κοιτάς
κάτι σε κλέβει αλλού.

Το κρυφό σου φιλί
κάθε ανάσα κρυφή κάθε χάδι
όλα φαίνονται εκεί
στο κρυφό σου σημάδι.

Ένα σημάδι στο λαιμό
σου αλλάζει τη ζωή
μα το σημάδι που έχω εγώ
χαράζει μια ψυχή.

Friday 16 October 2009


“I prefer to regard a dessert as I would imagine the perfect woman: Subtle, a little bittersweet, not blowsy and extrovert. Delicately made up, not highly rouged. Holding back, not exposing everything and, of course, with a flavor that lasts.” - Graham Kerr

I had a busy day full of meetings today and by the end of the day I was pooped. Walking back to the train station I saw some peaches at a fruit stall. Now that was very early for peaches and the price matched their prematurity. Nevertheless, it got me thinking of the taste of peaches on a wet Melbourne Spring day. Dessert for tonight was decided there and then, with a much more reasonably priced alternative!


Ingredients (for 4 people)

• 2 dessertspoons Peach schnapps
• 4 dessertspoons of apricot jam
• 4 slices left-over sponge cake
• 1 can peach halves
• 6-7 tablespoons of peach fruit yoghurt
• A handful of freshly roasted almonds, chopped
• Whipped cream flavoured with almond essence and sweetened to taste

Mix the peach schnapps with the apricot jam and blend until smooth, adding a little syrup from the canned peaches. The consistency should be like that of honey. Put a slice of the sponge cake in each of the four dessert bowls. Pour an equal amount of the jam mixture over the sponge cake to moisten it. Drain the peach halves and cut them into quarters. Arrange the peaches over the jam-coated sponge slices. Spoon some peach yoghurt over the dessert, enough to cover the peaches. Sprinkle the chopped almonds over the yoghurt and pipe some stiffly whipped cream over the yoghurt. Refrigerate for about 2-3 hours before serving.

Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday 14 October 2009


“It is such a secret place, the land of tears.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Do you remember the last timed you cried? And I don’t mean the last time you peeled onions or were trying to light a fire, I mean wept; cried real, emotional tears as a result of some adversity in your life or as a result of a particularly painful memory surfacing again. If you answered “yes”, then you are probably a woman, as a German Society of Ophthalmology study has shown that women cry more often, for a longer time and more dramatically than men.

But first some physiology: Tears are produced by the lacrimal glands that are situated in the upper eyelids. The fluid that is constantly produced by this gland cleanses and lubricates the exposed surface of the eye and drains into the nose through the lacrimal duct. Every time we blink we help to cover the eye with a thin trilaminar layer of secretion, keeping our eyes moist and washing away dust, bacteria and other irritants. What we think of as tears, scientists call tear film, which is made up of three distinct, microscopic layers. The middle, watery layer (what we normally think of as tears when we cry) is sandwiched between a layer of mucus and an outer layer of fatty, oily substances collectively called meibum.

Tear glands will produce more secretion when the eyes are irritated. These extra tears are called reflex or irritant tears (remember the onion? Apparently if you chew gum while peeling onions you’ll tear less – I haven’t tried it). When something makes you happy or sad, your tear glands will produce emotional tears, which have a slightly different composition than irritant tears. Tears drain down into the eye through two tiny openings on the brim of the upper and lower eyelids at the inner edge of the eyes, which lead to the nasolacrimal tear ducts next to the bridge of your nose. From there, they are channelled into your nasal cavity where they are swallowed or blown out with other nasal fluids. If there are too many tears, they will overflow your lower lid and run down the cheeks.

Sjögren’s syndrome is a disease also called “dry eye syndrome”, where they produce little or no tears. People who have diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus often have this condition as a complication. They must use artificial tears up to every 10 to 15 minutes, and apply other medications to their eyes before going to bed as part of the treatment to improve the condition of their eyes and to prevent infection. Interestingly, some of these people can still produce emotional tears, but not irritant tears!

According to the German Society of Ophthalmology, which has collated different scientific studies on tears and crying, women shed tears on average 50 times a year and men about 10 times a year. Men tend to cry for about three minutes, but for females, crying sessions last around six minutes. Weeping turns into full-blown sobbing for women in 65% of cases, compared to just 6% for males.

Until adolescence, however, there is no sex difference. Up until 13 years, boys and girls cry in the same way and with the same frequency. This suggests that we may learn how to control our crying and there may be other influences such as societal norms and peer pressure, hormonal factors and even family upbringing that will influence whether or not you are likely to burst into tears.

The reasons for crying are different between the sexes too. Women cry when they feel inadequate, when they are confronted by situations that are difficult to resolve or when they remember past events. Men, meanwhile, tend to cry from empathy or when a relationship fails. The function of emotional tears and weeping remains something of a mystery, however, the research found. The cold hard scientists have grave doubts over its cathartic or relaxing effects, but you and I know full well that having a good cry really does get things out of your system!

weep |wēp| verb ( past and past part. wept |wept|) [ intrans. ]
1 shed tears: A grieving mother wept over the body of her daughter | [ trans. ] He wept bitter tears at her cruelty.
• utter or express with tears : [with direct speech ] “No!” she wept.
• [ trans. ] archaic mourn for; shed tears over: A young widow weeping her lost lord.
2 exude liquid: She rubbed one of the sores, making it weep.
noun [in sing. ]
a fit or spell of shedding tears.
ORIGIN Old English wēpan (verb), of Germanic origin, probably imitative.
Jacqui BB hosts Word Thursday.


“Earth laughs in flowers.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was in Brisbane for the day today, leaving on a 6:00 am flight and coming back on a 6:30 pm flight, which with the time difference meant getting back home at 10:00 pm. As I got up at 4:00 am that made for an 18-hour day. Quite tiring, and the trouble is I have to do it all over again next week. At least the day was very successful, with several meetings that were run and which achieved quite a lot. We also had some videotaping done that we shall use for some publicity/marketing purposes.

The weather in Brisbane today was hot and sunny with the temperature hovering around the 30˚C mark. Meanwhile in Melbourne it was cool and rainy (and we need all that rain!). The Jacarandas, Frangipanis and Coral trees were all in bloom and the fragrance was carried everywhere by the breeze – quite sumptuous!

On the way back, on the plane, I jotted down this on a paper napkin:

Spring Song for the Harem

The Jacaranda blooms for you Miranda,
And I lie basking in your sunny smile.
The fragrant air, the colours flagrant,
Spring’s here and lingers for awhile.

The Frangipani perfumes you sweet Annie,
And I laze in the warmth of your embrace.
Blue skies, while the swift swallow flies,
The air is redolent with cinnamon and mace.

The Coral Tree brightly blushes for you Bea,
And I adore your sweet and gentle manner.
The day so warm, the bees in swarm,
Summer soon will be flying its golden banner.

The Tree Orchid adorns your garden Enid,
And I drink in your beauty’s honeyed draught.
The night so softly falls and in its rite
Caresses us and plies its magic loving craft.

Jacqui BB hosts Poetry Wednesday. Visit her blog for more poems!

Monday 12 October 2009


“Science without conscience is the soul’s perdition.” - François Rabelais

October 13th is the birthday of Rudolf Ludwig Carl Virchow, the German pathologist, medical scientist, anthropologist, and politician (1821-1902) and one of the great men of my science whom I admire greatly. He was the founder of the school of “cellular pathology”, which forms the basis of modern pathology. He was born in Schivelbein, the only child of a farmer and city treasurer. Relatively little is recorded of his childhood.

In 1839 Virchow entered the Friedrich Wilhelms Institute in Berlin to study medicine so that he could become an army doctor. He was influenced by Johannes Müller, who encouraged many German doctors to use experimental laboratory methods in their medical studies. Virchow received his medical degree in 1843, having already shown a keen interest in pathology. In 1845, while still working as an intern, Virchow published his first scientific paper. By this year he had committed himself to a research methodology based on a mechanistic understanding of vital phenomena.

Medical research, according to Virchow, needed to use clinical observation, experiments on animals, and microscopic examination of human tissues in order to understand how ordinary chemical and physical laws could explain the normal and abnormal phenomena associated with life. He accepted the cell theory as one basic element in this mechanistic understanding of life. In committing himself to this view, he joined a group of radical young medical scientists who were then challenging the dominant vitalism of an older generation. He was instrumental in destroying the vestiges of the humoral causation of disease that were still current in Germany at the time.

In 1846 Virchow began to teach courses in pathological anatomy. In 1847 he was appointed to his first academic position with the rank of Privatdozent. In the same year he and a colleague, Benno Reinhardt, published the first volume of a medical journal, the Archives for Pathological Anatomy and Physiology and Clinical Medicine. Virchow continued to edit this journal until his death in 1902. The journal now known as Virchows Archiv is still published.

Early in 1848 Virchow presented a report on a typhus epidemic in Upper Silesia in which he recommended that the best way to avoid a repetition of the epidemic would be to introduce democratic forms of government. This was an indication of radical political ideas. When the revolution broke out in Berlin, Virchow joined the revolutionaries fighting on the barricades. He threw himself wholeheartedly into the revolution. He participated in a number of democratic clubs and helped edit a weekly paper, Die medizinische Reform, which promoted revolutionary ideas in relation to the medical profession.

Virchow's political views led to his suspension by the re-established conservative government in 1849. The suspension was quickly revoked because of the hostile reaction of the medical fraternity. Later the same year Virchow was appointed professor at the University of Würzburg. Shortly after, he married Rose Mayer, the daughter of a leading German gynaecologist. The chair at Würzburg was the first one in Germany to be devoted to pathological anatomy. During Virchow’s 7 years there, the medical school became recognised as one of the best in Europe, largely due to his teaching. He was a very strict and severe examiner and his favourite justification of his extremely difficult pathology examinations was: “Einmal in Leben wenigstens muss doch ein Arzt auf der Höhe der Wissenschaft sein.” (“Well, at least once in his life, a doctor has to be at the peak of his science.”)

He developed his concept of “cellular pathology”, basing his interpretation of pathological processes on the recently formulated cell theory of Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann. In the same period he became joint editor of an annual publication reviewing the year's progress in medical science. This publication later became known as Virchow’s Jahresbericht, and he continued to edit it until his death. He also started work in 1854 on his “Handbook of Special Pathology and Therapeutics”, which became the model for later German “handbooks” in various sciences. Although Virchow's main interest at Würzburg was pathology, he also continued to work in the field of public health and began researches in physical anthropology.

In 1856 Virchow accepted a chair at the University of Berlin on condition that a new building be constructed for a pathological institute. He remained in this position for the rest of his life. From 1859 Virchow renewed his activities in politics. In that year he was elected as a member of the city council, on which he served until his death. On the council he mainly interested himself in matters of public health. In 1861 Virchow was one of the foundation members of the Deutsche Fortschrittpartei and was elected in the same year to the Prussian Diet. He vigorously opposed Bismarck's preparations for war and his “blood and iron” policy of unifying Germany.

In the late 1860s and 1870s Virchow concentrated his attention on anthropology and international medical relations. He was active in numerous international medical congresses during this period and kept a continuing interest in the control and prevention of epidemics. In 1873 Virchow was elected to the Prussian Academy of Science. All his contributions to this body were in the field of anthropology, mostly concerning physical anthropology and archeology. In his new field as in others he took up the task of editing a leading journal, the Zeitschrift für Ethnologie. Virchow's later years continued to be active, especially in relation to his editorial duties. He died on Sept. 5th, 1902.

The painting is by Robert Thom who has painted a remarkable series of history of medicine tableaux.

Sunday 11 October 2009


“Illusions commend themselves to us because they save us pain and allow us to enjoy pleasure instead. We must therefore accept it without complaint when they sometimes collide with a bit of reality against which they are dashed to pieces.” - Sigmund Freud

Yesterday we watched a Fellini film, his first colour feature, in fact. It was the 1965 “Giulietta degli Spiriti” (Juliet of the Spirits). The film starred Fellini’s wife Giulietta Masina, in one of her finest performances as Giulietta, the downtrodden, rooster-pecked wife of Giorgio (Mario Pisu), a philandering insensitive oaf of a man. A host of obnoxious relatives and hangers-on complete the cast with some amazingly outré screen presences by Sandra Milo, Valentina Cortese, José Luis De Villalonga, Caterina Boratto, Sylva Coscina and Valeska Gert. Reality mixes with fantasy, memories mix with goings-on in the spirit world and the whole movie is a quasi-surrealistic kaleidoscope of colour and movement. Phantasmagoric would be my choice of word to describe the film, which works on many levels and manages to satisfy even a quite demanding viewer. Fellini’s mastery of the director’s art is evident in full flight in this movie.

The plot is quite insubstantial and could be summarised in a few sentences. Giulietta, a naïve, superstitious, simple woman is in love with and married to Giorgio. He cheats on her with “Gabriella”, a name he murmurs in his sleep and which is overheard by Giulietta. She is persuaded to investigate the spirit world in order to “become happier” by her pushy and eccentric family that brow-beat her. Her memories of a repressive childhood surface as she begins to explore the spirit world and as she discovers her husband’s infidelity. She is tempted to cheat on him on him by the voluptuous Suzy, her neighbour. The film traces Giulietta’s path to liberation.

The plot is embroidered with multicoloured silken threads of narrative, sub-plots that twist and turn as well as pure whimsy. Fellini was having enormous fun making this movie and it shows. Self-indulgent full flights of fancy are hard to come by in cinema, but Fellini scores well in this film. Some of the costumes (and especially the hats) are grotesquely rococoesque and amazingly, contribute so much to the telling of the story! Perhaps what helps the story-telling the most is the colour. This may have been Fellini’s first colour film but he used colour like a master artist. Every screen sparkles and coruscates, pure bold masses of colour alternating with drab, greyish browns that complement Giulietta’s often virginal white garb. Colour is happiness, gaiety, abandon, lust and unbridled sexuality, while the darker shades and white represent restraint, repressed emotion, celibacy and innocence. When Giulietta dons the bright red dress, she has decided to take charge of her life (even though this decision may be undermined by insecurity, doubt and lack of resolve).

Giulietta Masina proves her worth as a consummate actress in this film and a single glance, a twitch of her eyebrow, a slight tilting of her head speaks more than a thousand lines of dialogue. Her transformation from an innocent, apparently happy middle class housewife to a knowing, self-assured, experienced but crushed woman is apocalyptic. The last scenes seem to me to indicate that Giulietta has venged herself. Once again it’s her eyes that seem to indicate her actions. Her insistence to help preparing Giorgio’s meal before he leaves to join his mistress makes me think that poison is on her mind. But is she only thinking about it, or did she do it? Fellini teases us.

One disappointing aspect of the film was Nino Rota’s music. I am no great fan of any of his music. His cheery band-like tunes jangle too much and in some places jar and detract from the images on the screen. Occasionally, his march-like jingles will marry with the cavalcade of images on the screen, but overall, I found the score a great let down. It may be argued that the music contributes to the irony of the plot, but I needed something more sympathetic with Giulietta’s character. One scene when Giorgio’s friend, the mysterious Spaniard who Giulietta is tempted by, strums the guitar in the garden is quite magical and more in tune with the spirit of the film (all puns intended!)…

See it, it’s worth it!


“Now every field is clothed with grass, and every tree with leaves; now the woods put forth their blossoms, and the year assumes its gay attire.” - Virgil

Seeing it was a beautiful Spring day today (complete with a Spring shower in the afternoon), I give you for Art Sunday, Redouté. Pierre Joseph Redouté (1759-1840) was one of the most famous flower painters of all time. He was born into a Flemish painters’ family, who earned a living by producing decorative and church paintings. He started painting at a young age. In 1782 he went to Paris, where he initially worked as a decorative painter at the “Theatre des Italiens”. In his spare time, he frequently drew in the Jardin du Roi. Here he caught the attention of the botanist Charles Louis L'Héritier, who encouraged him to produce anatomical studies, introduced him to dissection techniques and offered him free access to his botanical library and plant collection. Redouté contributed to L'Héritier’s publications, catching the eye of the flower painter Gérard von Spaendonck, who, together with other artists, produced drawings and paintings for the famous Vélins du Roi. Spaendonck recruited Redouté as a staff member, and he subsequently contributed over 500 paintings to this huge undertaking. An important aspect of this collaboration was that Redouté was introduced to Spaendonck's watercolor technique, by which he used to produce flower paintings with a bright transparency.

Finally, Marie-Antoinette appointed him as her court painter. Encounters with the royal family were, however, rare. During the 1790s, Redouté became one of the most popular flower painters. He perfected the colour stipple engraving technique, which he had learned during a stay in London and first applied it in his illustrations for de Candolle's work “Plantes Grasses”. From 1802 he published his “Liliacées”, in which he largely applied the technical possibilities of colour printing to the large and evenly coloured leaves and blossoms.

In 1805 he was appointed court and flower painter to the Empress Josephine. After she had been overthrown, he remained in close contact with the Bourbon royal family. From 1817 to 1824 he produced the work that was to become the peak of his success, “Les Roses” in an excellent edition by Firmin Didot. Each delivery of the finished colour copperplates, was received with a storm of enthusiasm, but in spite of his fame and his employment at court, he continued to attribute more importance to the scientific detail than to the effects of composition and colour seen in purely artistic flower paintings. From 1822 until he died, Redouté occupied a simple position as a painting teacher, succeeding Spaendonck, and often talked about his art in front of over 150 students in the large hall of the Buffon gallery.

The Redouté roses are fresh, delicate, beautifully drawn and with colours that are vibrant and crisp. If springtime had to have an artist, surely he would be one that she would consider.
(Rosa gallica maheka from Pierre-Joseph Redouté’s Les Roses, 1817-24)