Saturday 24 October 2009


“Let's not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives and we obey them without realizing it.” - Vincent Van Gogh

Regrets and nostalgia are a potent mix of explosive emotional force. The past haunts and beguiles us. The moments of rare happiness write themselves indelibly on our heart while tears and pain are wiped away, softened, becoming hazy in the distant horizon. All the while the sun of remembered joy illuminates the watercoloured domain of nostalgic perfection. Missed opportunities, lost chances, evanescent happinesses, miseries of lonely nights disappear while bright springs, the newly-born feeling of first love, perfect summer days persist and torture us in the approaching winter of our old age.

A song from the past, remembered tonight. “Another Day”, by Roy Harper

The kettle's on, the sun has gone, another day.
She offers me Tibetan tea on a flower tray.
She's at the door, she wants to score.
She really needs to say.
I loved you a long time ago, you know.
Where the wind's own forget-me-nots blow.
But I just couldn't let myself go.
Not knowing what on earth there was to know.
But I wish that I had 'cause I'm feeling so sad.
That I never had one of your children.
Across the room, inside the tomb, a chance has waxed and waned.
The night is young, why are we so hung up in each other's jeans?
I must take her.
I must make her while the dove domains.
And feel the juice run as she flies.
Run my wings under her sighs.
As the flames of eternity rise.
To lick us with the first born lash of dawn.
Oh really my dear I can't see what we fear.
Standing here with ourselves in between us.
And at the door, we can't say more, than just another day.
And without a sound, I turn around, and walk away.

Friday 23 October 2009


“The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you're hungry again.” - George Miller

Another day in Brisbane today, which went very well although it was very busy and full of meetings, negotiations and resolutions of issues. One gets a sense of achievement after days like this and in this case where a trip was involved, one may say it with even greater satisfaction as all the trouble has been worth it. At home tonight, to sleep in my own bed, always one of the pleasures of returning home. Another busy weekend ahead with more work on the book.

Tonight a recipe that I looked up on the net, as it was something that I had last night at the restaurant and which I liked.

Mushroom Pasta

250 g spaghettini
150 g mixed mushrooms
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
1 leek
black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leave, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
2-4 tablespoons heavy cream
parmesan cheese, grated to garnish

Boil some water for the pasta. Salt the water, add the pasta, and cook for about 8 minutes.
Wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp towel and thinly slice them.
Heat the oil in a large deep skillet over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until tender and golden, 7-8 minutes.
Meanwhile, halve the leek lengthwise and cut off the tough tops and trim off the root end. Thinly slice the leek, then wash in a large bowl of cold water, swishing the leeks vigorously and separating all the layers to free the grit. Let the leeks stand in the water for 1 minute, then scoop them out and dry on a clean kitchen towel.
Add the leeks to the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper and the thyme. Cook for 3-4 minutes more, then add the wine.
Cook for 30 seconds to reduce the wine a bit, then stir in the cream and heat through. Add the drained pasta to the mushroom mixture, toss to coat with the sauce, and adjust the seasonings. Top with grated cheese at the table.

Thursday 22 October 2009


“Success: To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am in Brisbane for work, today and tomorrow and it is a gruelling schedule with much happening and not much respite. At the hotel room tonight I am feeling rather tired as it was a 3:30 am start this morning and a 6:00 am flight out of Melbourne, arriving in Brisbane two hours later at 7:00 am (Brisbane is one hour behind Melbourne as they don’t have daylight saving). Now it’s getting on past 9:30 pm (well, 8:30 pm) and I have been up and about and doing things for 18 hours or so…

Today was a very important day on campus as we had an accreditation panel come through and do an inspection of the campus and interviews of staff. This was a very rigorous and full schedule from about 11:00 am until 5:00 pm. There was a great deal of preparation for this visit, not the least of which was the documentation and then the various interviews, visits to the library, classrooms, laboratories, and interviews with staff, students and alumni, as well as the executive. The good news is that we all passed muster and our courses were reaccredited. The feeling at the campus at the end of the day was heady and buoyant, and I was pleased that my team’s efforts were acknowledged and lauded.

We celebrated by going out to dinner in an Italian restaurant called “Capri” here in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, in a precinct known as the Emporium. It is very cosmopolitan dining and entertainment precinct with a boutique hotel (“The Emporium”) on site also. We celebrated with champagne and a good Italian meal. There was much laughter and mirth and good humour and much of the tension of the last few months (while the submission was being prepared) was released.

Tomorrow I have an important meeting with one of the tertiary institutions here in Brisbane to broker an articulation agreement between our two Colleges. The preliminary discussion shave gone very well and I am confident of having another success tomorrow.

Now, I think it may be time for an early night. Getting up early tomorrow again!

Wednesday 21 October 2009


“Education would be much more effective if its purpose was to ensure that by the time they leave school every boy and girl should know how much they do not know, and be imbued with a lifelong desire to know it.” - William Haley

Yesterday in the train coming back from work I sat in front of two young hooligans. Loud louts who shouted inanities and swore, and terrorised my fellow commuters, some of whom changed seats to distance themselves from them. I stayed put, fascinated by these uneducated dregs of humanity that spoke of gaol and brushes with police, boasted of drunken brawls and were proud of their illiteracy as they tried, but could hardly read a forgotten newspaper on the seat beside them. Their cackling laughter and vile manner, their foul mouths and knocked out teeth their scabby faces and dirty fingernails aroused pity in me for their wasted young lives…

Wasted Lives

I am not talking of the murderer
Whose heinous acts have subjugated and perverted his humanity.
I am not referring to the swindler,
Whose keen mind is twisted into self-serving deception.
I am not even speaking of the addict,
Whose weakness of the spirit wastes both mind and body.
I choose even not to mention the gambler
Whose passion leads to ruin for himself and family…

The wasted lives I sing of
Are much more mundane, more commonplace and more prevalent.
The wasted lives of countless millions
Whose petty mind remains unschooled,
Who fail to take the proffered opportunity.
Those cripples of the intellect
Who lead a life of trivial ennui,
Suspended between a bookless, thoughtless void
And the junk of popular “culture” and vacuous television.
Whose highest pursuit is a drunken revel,
Lust without love, sex without affection;
Or maybe the pointless violence of gangs
Clashing over competing football teams.

My song of wasted lives is a dirge
Of unrealised potential,
And unseized possibility,
Of nascent achievement quashed:
Like the stirrings of an embryo
Aborted before it is allowed to perfect to birth.

The wasted lives cry out
In richest countries and resplendent cities
The very cornerstones of civilisation.
These lives cry out like the howls of savage beasts
Amidst the libraries and the galleries and the museums,
The concert halls and the lecture halls, the universities.

So shall the human race die out:
Not in a nuclear holocaust,
Nor in a terrible pandemic.
Not in a warring bang,
But rather in the whimper of inertia,
Of the wasted lives of the multitudes
Who will cause humanity to peter out in degeneracy…

Jacqui BB hosts Poetry Wednesday

Tuesday 20 October 2009


“The great secret that all old people share is that you really haven't changed in seventy or eighty years. Your body changes, but you don't change at all. And that, of course, causes great confusion.” - Doris Lessing

World Osteoporosis Day is observed on October 20th every year and provides an all-important focal point for informing and educating the general public and policy makers about the prevention of a disease, which is still ignored by many and about which there is poor general awareness. World Osteoporosis Day 2009 is the second year of a “call to action” campaign which seeks to mobilize the power of millions of concerned citizens to advocate for better osteoporosis healthcare policies in government healthcare systems, private insurance companies, and corporate healthcare networks.

Osteoporosis is a chronic disease of the skeletal system, caused by the progressive loss of bone density. Depletion of minerals, especially calcium from the bones reduces their density, making them increasingly porous, weak and brittle. This increases the risk of fracture anywhere in the body. Bones at the wrist, spine and hip are especially prone to fractures. Osteoporosis is an insidious disease that strikes silently without too many symptoms in the initial stages. Often, it takes an unexpected fracture to discover the condition. Awareness of the risk factors can decrease its incidence.

Between 12 to 20% of people die within one year following a hip fracture. It is estimated that 80% of those who are at high risk of osteoporosis, and have suffered at least one fracture, have neither been identified nor treated for the disease. Women are more at risk to present with severe osteoporosis, especially after the menopause (1 in 3 women over 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures, as will 1 in 5 men).

Many national governments do not treat osteoporosis as a major health priority and fail to provide adequate resources for its detection and treatment. Many health insurance schemes still do not cover diagnosis and treatment prior to the first fracture – even when it is cost effective to do so. World Osteoporosis Day was started in the UK in 1996 by the UK National Osteoporosis Society. It has now been taken over by the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) that has as a focal point educating the general public about the disease, but also to activate so as get the policy makers and government to act and introduce policies and laws that prevent this disease in the population.

Adequate levels of calcium intake can maximise the positive effect of physical activity on bone health during the growth period of children. Calcium supplementation has been shown to have a positive effect on bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. Calcium and vitamin D supplementation reduces rates of bone loss and also fracture rates in older male and female adults, and the elderly. In institutionalised elderly women, this combined supplementation reduced hip fracture rates. Fruit and vegetable intake was positively associated with bone density in a study in men and women. The exact components of fruits and vegetables, which may confer a benefit to bone are still to be clarified. Moderate alcohol intake is not thought to be harmful to bone. However, chronic alcohol abuse is detrimental to bone health, with one of the mechanisms being a direct toxic effect on bone forming cells.

Remember that 2.2 million Australians are affected by osteoporosis. About 11% of men and 27% of women aged 60 years or more are osteoporotic, and 42% of men and 51% of women are osteopenic. The lifetime risk of osteoporotic fracture after 50 years of age: 42% in women, 27% in men. There are 20,000 hip fractures per year in Australia (increasing by 40% each decade). Total costs relating to osteoporosis are $7.4 billion per year of which $1.9 billion are direct costs.

Celebrate World Osteoporosis Day and raise public awareness of it!

Sunday 18 October 2009


“We challenge the culture of violence when we ourselves act in the certainty that violence is no longer acceptable, that it's tired and outdated no matter how many cling to it in the stubborn belief that it still works and that it's still valid.” - Gerard Vanderhaar

At the weekend, we watched a film I didn’t particularly want to see. I had heard quite a lot of hype about it and it was advertised to death when it first came out and I think it even won a couple of awards (yes, Denzel Washington got the Oscar for best male lead in it, and won a whole lot of other awards, IMDB tells me). At the end of it, I hadn’t changed my mind about it and this isn’t a film I would recommend to a friend of mine.

The film was Antoine Fuqua’s 2001 “Training Day”. Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn, Tom Berenger, Eva Mendes and a whole lot of other actors I don’t know played in it. The film is pure Hollywood cops-and-robbers, with action, blood gore, corruption, drugs, dirty money, sleazy people, dilapidated neighbourhoods, and good guys who aren’t really any good at all. Very predictable and pandering to a public whose tastes have become jaded with each such similar film loading more and more violence and blood and gore and swearing and car chases and bad guys and guns and…

The plot is easy enough to be comprehended by even the most mentally challenged. Jake Hoyt (Hawke) in Los Angeles has applied for a position as a Narcotics officer in the Police Department. However, in order to be accepted, he must go through approximately 24 hours of training from a veteran Narcotics officer, Alonzo Harris (Washingtom). Harris has a nasty reputation for not treating victims very well, abusing suspects, handling drugs and other evidence in a questionable matter, and opening fire randomly. Harris’s modus operandi is unorthodox to say the least and Jake soon realises that he must be as devious and as unconventional as Harris in order to survive his first day.

Maybe I wasn’t in the mood for it, maybe it was my prejudice against this particular film, maybe I just wanted something light and fluffy, but whatever it was, I disliked this movie intensely. I could not warm up to any of the characters, and even Jake as the “hero” was quite dislikeable for me. Why did we watch it? It was on special offer from the video store and when I was getting it I thought I would give it a chance as a prejudice is bad counsel in most cases. Well, in this case it wasn’t the case. IMDB users give the film 7.6/10. I give it a 5/10.

Should you watch it? Well make up your own mind. If you like Hollywood cops movies with violence, sleaze, car chases and lots of people wanting to kill each other because they happen to possess a gun and want money, go ahead and watch it. This is not an intellectual film nor does it have a special message. It didn’t even have humour in it. It was just a horrible movie about horrible people doing horrible things to each other. Have you seen it? Tell me what you thought of it…


“We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.” - Martin Luther King, Jr

For Art Sunday today, an example of Ndebele art from South Africa. When I visited South Africa several years ago, it was my second trip there. The first time was when I was a young boy. I still remember that first trip very vividly as it was a country that was so different from anything I had experienced and so different from what I had learnt in the textbooks of primary school. The second time around was as surprising because of the crumbling apartheid and the immense social changes it had created. The Ndebele village that I visited the second time was a magical experience.

Although the origins of the South African Ndebele are shrouded in mystery, they have been identified as one of the Nguni tribes. The Nguni tribes represent nearly two thirds of South Africa’s Black population and can be divided into four distinct groups; the Central Nguni (the Zulu-speaking peoples), the Southern Nguni (the Xhosa-speaking peoples), the Swazi people from Swaziland and adjacent areas, and the Ndebele people of the Northern Province and Mpumalanga. The history of the Ndebele people can be traced back to Mafana, their first identifiable chief. Mafana’s successor, Mhlanga, had a son named Musi who, in the early 1600’s, decided to move away from his cousins (later to become the mighty Zulu nation) and to settle in the hills of Gauteng near where the capital, Pretoria is situated.

Ndebele art has always been an important identifying characteristic of the Ndebele. Apart from its aesthetic appeal it has a cultural significance that serves to reinforce the distinctive Ndebele identity. The Ndebele’s essential artistic skill has always been understood to be the ability to combine borrowed exterior sources of stimulation with traditional design concepts inherited from their ancestors. This maintains an identifiable individuality, but also keeps the designs and colours fresh and ever-new.

Ndebele artists demonstrate a fascination with the linear quality of elements in their environment and this is depicted in their artwork. Painting was done freehand, without prior layouts, although the designs were planned beforehand. The characteristic symmetry, proportion and straight edges of Ndebele decorations were done by hand without the help of rulers and squares. Ndebele women were responsible for painting the colourful and intricate patterns on the walls of their houses.

This afforded the traditionally subordinate wife with an opportunity to express her individuality and sense of self-worth. Her innovativeness in the choice of colours and designs set her apart from her peer group. In some instances, the women also created sculptures to express themselves. The back and side walls of the house were often painted in earth colours and decorated with simple geometric shapes that were shaped with the fingers and outlined in black. The most innovative and complex designs were painted, in the brightest colours, on the front walls of the house. The front wall that enclosed the courtyard in front of the house formed the gateway (izimpunjwana) and was given special care (see picture).

Windows provided a focal point for mural designs and their designs were not always symmetrical. Sometimes, make-believe windows are painted on the walls to create a focal point and also as a mechanism to relieve the geometric rigidity of the wall design. Simple borders painted in a dark colour, lined with white, accentuated less important windows in the inner courtyard and in outside walls.

The Ndebele also have considerable skill with beadwork and in jewellery making. The intricate patterns of their art also find expression in these forms of art and craft. Another popular outlet for their creativity is the creation of “fertility dolls”, miniature versions of the women who create them and whose ownership assures them of many descendants (see picture).

When I first saw Ndebele art, of course I was delighted with it. It reminded somewhat of some native American Indian patterns and the colours were also reminiscent of the pre-Columbian cultures in the Americas. It drove home the point for me that no matter where we humans are on earth, our common ancestry and humanity is stronger than any difference that some try to convince us exists amongst us.