Saturday 24 April 2010


“I didn't want my picture taken because I was going to cry. I didn't know why I was going to cry, but I knew that if anybody spoke to me or looked at me too closely the tears would fly out of my eyes and the sobs would fly out of my throat and I'd cry for a week. I could feel the tears brimming and sloshing in me like water in a glass that is unsteady and too full.” - Sylvia Plath

A very busy day today spent running around doing chores, shopping and housework. It was good to relax in the afternoon and watch a movie on TV.

For Music Saturday today a most famous piece by John Dowland, his lute piece “Lachrimae Pavan” played on the guitar by Nataly Makovskaya.

John Dowland, English composer and lutenist was born in 1562/63, Westminster, London, Eng. and died Jan. 21, 1626, London. He was educated at Oxford, but was refused a court position in 1594 and, believing his adoptive Catholicism had been the cause, he left for the continent. There he travelled extensively and took a position at the Danish court. In 1612, when his compositions had made him famous, he was finally appointed lutenist to the English court. He published three collections of songs, including about 90 works for solo lute and some 80 lute songs, including “Come again, sweet love does now invite”, “Flow my tears” and “Weep you no more, sad fountains”. His Lachrimae (=tears) is a collection for viol-and-lute ensemble.

Friday 23 April 2010


“The heart remembers what the head erased.” – Korean proverb

I was in Sydney for the day today for work. I attended a special Australia-Korea partnership for the future Business Briefing Forum supported by the Australia-Korea Business Council. The event was very good in that if nothing else it allowed some serious networking to occur, by bringing under the same roof people who had the same goals and strategies. The Ambassador of Korea to Australia, H.E. Dr Woosang Kim gave a very informative and engaging talk and the Australia Government was represented by two parliamentary secretaries to ministers.

The event was catered for very well and during the morning break there was entertainment also in the form of a Korean folk dancer who performed two traditional dances, the flower dance and the fan dance. For lunch I joined an educational envoy and two of his staff and we enjoyed a traditional Korean meal at the Daejangkum Restaurant. This was a very warm and friendly restaurant with some very good food. Most people think that Korean food is like Chinese or Japanese, but in fact, it has its own distinct style and uses ingredients in special and locally defined ways.

I read about the influence of Korean culture and religion on food, and there are some extremely interesting and admirable things about it. For example, Buddhist monk Dae An, owner of Balwoo Gongyang Temple restaurant, says about food:
“It is important that temple food does not run counter to nature. It minimises the use of artificially processed foods by insisting on seasonal natural produce. The food is simple and plain. We make only what we can eat; no leftovers are allowed. We should be grateful for our food, always aware of the travail of the farmer and nature in bringing a single grain of rice to fruition…”

How simple and fundamental and wise this statement is. How we could learn from it and apply it to our own table…

Both Busshism and Confucianism are widespread in Korea and these two philosophies have elegant, simple precepts whose observance leads to a harmonious coexistence with other people, animals, nature and the environment. Confucianism teaches Koreans to respect their elders as a matter of course and respect other people as a show of good etiquette. In meals this translates thus:

“Respect for elders dictates that you do not pick up your spoon or chopsticks until an older person has begun to eat. Conversely, you should be careful not to continue eating after an older person has finished. When drinking wine, etiquette dictates that you should turn your head away from the older person.

It is considered uncouth to make noises while eating. You should not slurp soup and noodle dishes. Do not talk with your mouth full and if you need to talk do it quietly and limit the conversation to the essentials. In earlier times, all meals were conducted in silence, but this has been relaxed somewhat nowadays. Do not lift your rice or soup bowl from the table (as the Chinese often do), as this is considered impolite.

Eat with an awareness of hygiene. A meal is a very sociable occasion in Korea and much sharing of side-dishes or even main courses occurs. Do not rummage through the side dishes with your chopsticks. Use the serving spoons provided. Wrap meat and fish bones in a paper towel and dispose of them discreetly without the other people being aware of it. Turn aside to sneeze, use your handkerchief to cover your mouth and nose and preferably wash your hands before resuming your meal.”

I really like these rules!

Rice is the staple food of Korea and it is the basis for highly nutritious and delicious dishes. Rice and products, prepared in all sorts of different ways can form the foundation of many a meal, and be prepared in endless varieties of savoury and sweet ways. The Korean word for rice is “bap” and this turns up in many a recipe. For example, steamed rice is “ssalbap”, while “bibimbap” (= mixed rice) is a savoury rice dish served with seasonal vegetables served on top of it.

A variant of this is dolsot bibimbap (“dolsot” meaning stone pot), which is bibimbap served in a very hot stone bowl in which a raw egg is added last and it is cooked against the sides of the bowl. The bowl is so hot that anything that touches it sizzles for minutes. Before the rice is placed in the bowl, the bottom of the bowl is coated with sesame oil, making the dish fragrant, but also the layer of the rice touching the bowl becomes golden and crispy. Numerous side dishes usually accompany the meal and these are flavoursome, spicy, sour, crisp, sweet and tart. Fermented dishes and pickles are also favoured.

Gogi gui, (Korean barbecue) refers to the Korean method of grilling various meats in a distinctive way. Such dishes are often prepared at the diner’s table on gas or charcoal grills that are built into the centre of the table itself. Most diners enjoy doing their own grilling at the table. Some Korean restaurants that do not have built-in grills provide portable stoves for diners to use at their tables.

At lunch we had the traditional dolsot bibimbap with various side-dishes. It was delicious and a wonderful vegetarian meal, which was healthful as well as tasty.

Wednesday 21 April 2010


“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” - Chief Seattle

Millions of people around the world will celebrate Earth Day today, especially so this year, as 2010 marks its 40th anniversary. The idea behind the day, celebrating our planet and all living things that inhabit it, began during the early 1960s hippy movement, as Earth Day bloomed into a grassroots cause that eventually culminated in the first USA observance in 1970. The first Earth Day in 1970 brought more than 20 million people out into the streets to protest against environmental destruction and changed history.

Senator Gaylord Nelson of the USA was instrumental as the driving force behind the establishment of Earth Day and this link explains how it occurred to him in his own words. As all ideas that are ripe for their time do, Earth Day took root, grew and blossomed into the “greening” movement that is now part of the way that we live.

Presently, in many parts of the world there is a move to extend Earth Day celebrations for an entire week thus increase awareness of greening, recycling, better energy efficient communities. In 2010, there is major campaign in a Billion Acts of Green to help to get the entire planet involved in recycling, planting a tree, saving energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions or any other action to better the earth.

One of the symbols of Earth Day is the “Earth Flag”. This uses an image of the earth as taken from space and it highlights the fragility of our “spaceship earth” in which all of the living creatures on the earth’s surface share its limited resources and depend on each other for survival.

Seeing that I planted two trees at the weekend, my pledge is to plant a few more until the end of the year. Here are the instructions on successful tree-planting:

•    Select the right time of year for planting the tree. Do not plant in late spring or summer because the heat will stress the plant and may cause it to die. The best time to plant a tree is fall (autumn) or early spring.

•    Check to see if there are any local requirements concerning digging deep holes if  you need to dig near telephone and other cables (for example, in urban areas).

•    Choose a suitable tree for the region, climate, and space. It is best to choose a tree native to the region where you will plant it. considering, including how quickly and how large they grow, how much clean-up the need, and their tolerance to diseases, drought, and pests. Be sure you know  the growth habits of the tree you will plant, the shape and size that your tree will have when it is mature.

•    Select a healthy tree. If there are leaves on it, look at the condition of the leaves, but remember that the best time to plant many deciduous trees is when they are dormant.

•    Decide where you want the tree. Many people forget that trees will grow large, so in addition to arranging it according to how you want the area to look, think ahead. Will it shade other plants? Will its branches affect power lines or neighbours’ property? Will it cause or be affected by flooding?

•    Once you’ve decided on the tree and location, take a suitable shovel and dig a hole. The size of the hole depends on the plant, but always dig it a little larger so that your plant ‘s root ball will easily fit . Dig a hole 2-3 times the width of the root ball, not just enough so it will fit. This allows good root growth. Water the base of the hole and let the water seep through into the surrounding soil.

•    Put a mixture of charcoal chunks mixed with sand and spoil in the centre of the hole so that it forms a pedestal on which the root ball will sit. This encourages good drainage.

•    Prepare your tree for planting by taking it out of the pot or cutting the hessian around the root ball if it is a larger tree.

•    Place the tree into the hole gently. Be sure the hole isn't too deep or too shallow. The ground level of the plant in the pot should match up with the ground level after you fill the hole in. Do not bury over the crown (where the stem changes to root) or leave any roots exposed.

•    Add fertiliser only after the hole is dug. All plants need fertiliser to thrive, but too much and you will burn the leaves or kill the plant (more is not better!). A good choice is slow release fertiliser, available from nurseries. Use some compost or composted manure instead of fertiliser if you have some. Compost or composted manure is essential if you are planting fruit or nut trees.

•    Pack the soil and compost firmly around the tree and water. Allow settling, backfill the remaining soil, and water again. This will eliminate air pockets. Water 4 litres for every 20 cm of tree height.

•    Cover the planting hole with 5 cm of shredded hardwood or leaf mulch to keep water in and most weeds out. Do not put mulch against the trunk or it will rot. Mulch out to the level of the tips of the branches.

•    After the planting is finished come back in about an hour and water one more time. You may need to stake the tree also so now is a good time to do it. Drive the stake beside the tree, hammering in until it is strong and stable. Tie the tree loosely around the stake so that the tie does not dig into the bark and damage your tree.

•    Water regularly until the tree is established. The stake can usually be removed after the first year.

•    Enjoy your labours, and as an old Greek proverb says, “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in”.


“An age which is incapable of poetry is incapable of any kind of literature except the cleverness of a decadence.” – Raymond Chandler

Byzantium, was the Greek city by the Propontis (the Sea of Marmara), at the southern end of the Bosporus on the European side, later renamed Constantinople, and now Istanbul. It was magnificently situated, commanding the two opposite shores of Europe and Asia with the advantages of security and great ease of trade. It was originally founded by Megarians in the seventh century BC, opposite Chalcedon (the ‘city of the blind’, so called by the Delphic oracle because its earlier Megarian founders had failed to choose the superior site of Byzantium).

Ruled by Persia from 512 to 478 BC, then alternately under Athenian and Spartan dominion in the fifth and fourth centuries, Byzantium was a formal ally of Athens from c.378 to 357 BC, and then again when successfully resisting Philip of Macedon in the famous siege of 340–339 BC. The help supposedly given by the goddess Hecatē on this occasion was commemorated on Byzantine coins by her symbol of crescent and star (adopted by the Turks as their device after they captured the city in AD 1453). The city suffered severely from the Celtic (Gallic) invasions of the third century BC and subsequently passed into the Roman empire, while remaining Greek in culture. It was chosen by the emperor Constantine for his new capital (AD 330), to be known thereafter in the West as Constantinople.

When the Roman empire in the West finally collapsed in the fifth century under barbarian invasions the eastern empire and its capital, firmly in the Greek world, flourished. The city's position as the capital of the eastern empire was interrupted in 1204 when it was captured by the French and Venetians (collectively known as Latins) during the Fourth Crusade, and became the seat of the Latin empire until restored to Greek possession in 1261. The last emperor, Constantine XIII, was killed when the city and empire fell to the Turks in AD 1453, under whose rule it has remained to this day as Istanbul.

I wrote the following poem after visiting the city some years ago…


Byzantium, on heavy golden crown
You are the brightest jewel!
On the crossroads of history
You soar like a double-headed eagle.

Byzantium, dressed in royal purple,
You temper time with a steel sceptre.
With pen, coloured mosaic, faith and spirit
You light the dark corridors of the centuries.

Byzantium, you’re overtaken by dusk,
You’re oppressed by the melancholy of the Bosporus.
In Saint Sophia’s lofty halls, expires
The pitiful flame of the last votive candle.

Byzantium, you draw your last breath,
When minaret rises and wounds the blue sky.
The eagle-sun dies in the west
And dyes the white and blue incarnadine.

Byzantium, in blood-red skies now
The crescent moon now promenades.
And in its faint, borrowed light,
Only your eternal sadness in the night will reign.

Tuesday 20 April 2010


“It is clear that the way to heal society of its violence... and lack of love is to replace the pyramid of domination with the circle of equality and respect.” – Manitonquat

Some of you who read my blog regularly may know that I commute to work on the train. This is a convenient and “green” way to get to work, as well as allowing me some time while on board to do all sorts of things: Read, write, listen to music, etc. I have my computer with me on board and it’s amazing how much one gets done in even 20 minutes of travel time. At other times I observe my fellow travellers and it amuses me to imagine their lives, simply by looking at them – they way they cut their hair, their jewellery, their clothing, even the perfume they wear. Overall, I enjoy my commuting time and most of my fellow travellers seem to do so as well. Occasionally there are some unpleasant commuters, you know the kind, those who have their iPods on too loud, those that take up three seats, the ones who are openly rude and impolite.

However, this morning in Clayton, a suburb a few kilometers away, a man was stabbed in the morning rush hour at the railway station. The victim in his 20s was stabbed up to eight times just outside the Clayton station, at about 8:15 a.m. He died in the station car park with commuters in shock as they filed past his body covered with a blood-stained cloth, to get to their train a few metres away. The murderer was not deterred by the broad daylight, the hordes of commuters going to work, no the very public place.

We are living in times where our life is forfeit from the one minute to the next. Being in a crowd or being locked up at home makes no difference. Death could be waiting to confront us at any time. Who knows whether the poor victim could have imagined last night that the day he had lived would have been his last? Did his family suspect that yesterday was the last time they would have seen him alive? His friends who perhaps waved to him from the train, did they see the murderer amongst the crowd?

Why was he stabbed? Robbery? Settling of accounts? A matter of the heart? An act of ethnic motivated hate? A victim of a psychopathic rage? Who knows? Will we ever find out? Apparently both men were Asians and according to witnesses an argument may have preceded the stabbing. There may be photographs of the murderer on security cameras and police appear to be hopeful of capturing the perpetrator, but how often have we heard that and how few times is it true? In any case the young man who died will not be catching another train, ever again.

One of the most upsetting thing about the case for me was that hundreds of people walked by the dying victim and did nothing to help. Only one young psychology student stopped to help and he heard the incomprehensible dying words of the young man as he lay in the pools of his blood. About 15 other people just stood by and watched the scene in morbid fascination… Who knows what the dying victim was trying to say as he lay dying? His murderer’s name, if he had recognised him perhaps? An appeal for help? A message of his loved ones? The name of his wife, girlfriend, mother?

In the meantime our city, like so many other large cities around the world is experiencing a wave of knifings. Wild, vicious stabbings where youth are often implicated. The problem is enormous and “Knives Scar Lives” campaign here in Australia doesn’t seem to be helping. Increasing numbers of such horrible crimes are being reported on a daily basis.

O tempore, o mores!

Monday 19 April 2010


“The tragedy of sexual intercourse is the perpetual virginity of the soul.” - William B. Yeats

Please read this poem:

Absent from Thee I Languish Still;

Absent from thee I languish still;
Then ask me not, when I return?
The straying fool 'twill plainly kill
To wish all day, all night to mourn.

Dear! from thine arms then let me fly,
That my fantastic mind may prove
The torments it deserves to try
That tears my fixed heart from my love.

When, wearied with a world of woe,
To thy safe bosom I retire
where love and peace and truth does flow,
May I contented there expire,

Lest, once more wandering from that heaven,
I fall on some base heart unblest,
Faithless to thee, false, unforgiven,
And lose my everlasting rest.

It is a poem written by John Wilmot (1647 – 1680; Oxfordshire - England). Most of you will probably not know this poem nor the poet. What if I say he was also the Second Earl of Rochester? Some of you may recognise him now, but still, for the most part, most people would not have a clue as to who he is. Judging from the poem, you might guess he was some young, noble and romantic Englishman who spent his life sniffing the roses and delighting his virginal love with delightful poems such as this.

In fact, he was a rake and a libertine, a bisexual and utterly debauched, by all accounts already having a terrible reputation by the age of fourteen years. By the age of 33, John Wilmot, second Earl of Rochester was dying, of syphilis, gonorrhea, other venereal diseases, as well as the effects of alcoholism. However, you may be pleased to learn that he repented on his deathbed… He was the ultimate restoration rake, immoral and dissolute, promiscuous and decadent. His short life was a surfeit of excess, and yet his fine mind was capable of logical, rational, original and creative thought.

All of this of course would make a marvellous film! And so I thought, when I chose the DVD of Laurence Dunmore’s 2004 film “The Libertine” with Johnny Depp playing Rochester and John Malkovitch playing Charles II. Stephen Jeffreys who wrote the play that the film is based on, was also responsible for writing the screenplay. I was not familiar with the play, but I knew of the Earl of Rochester and his (s)exploits as well of his poetry.

The film follows fairly accurately the biography of Rochester, and sets a realistic scene in Restoration England around the 1660s. The return of Charles II to the English throne allowed the English to return with gusto to the previously forbidden pleasures of theatre, visual arts, scientific enquiry and promiscuity. In the 1670s, in the middle of critical political and economic problems, Charles II asks the return of his friend John Wilmot, second Earl of Rochester, from exile to London. Although his friend John is a dissolute drunkard and cynical poet, the King asks him to help him raise funds by preparing a spectacular play for the French ambassador to earn the financial support of France. John in the meantime meets the aspirant actress Elizabeth Barry in the theatre and decides to make her a great star. He falls in love with her, and she becomes his mistress – to the dismay of his wife, Elizabeth Mallet. The play Rochester presents is a pornographic romp which openly satirises the king, causing John Wilmot’s banishment once again…

The film is bawdy and sometimes verging on the pornographic, so in this respect it is not suited to viewing by prudes. The playwright stretches his point and the director gleefully follows suit. The licentiousness of the Restoration after the strait-laced rule of the Puritans is accented to such an extent that it appears almost a caricature. Yet, much of the literature, the art, the documentary evidence of the time shows that our official history books (especially if they are deemed suitable for use in schools) must be necessarily bowdlerised.

The acting in this film is very good and Depp gives an excellent performance as does John Malkovitch. There is something very disturbing about Rochester’s initial speech that begins:
“Allow me to be frank at the commencement. You will not like me. The gentlemen will be envious and the ladies will be repelled. You will not like me now and you will like me a good deal less as we go on. Ladies, an announcement: I am up for it, all the time...”
It sets the stage and prepares the viewer for the onslaught that follows.

It is not an enjoyable film to watch, but nevertheless, one which puzzles and confounds the viewer at times. There is much there to digest and the questions about morality it asks are sincere and should generate much cogitation. I would recommend it with reservations and only to people I know would rise to the challenges of this film, which when viewed superficially could be dismissed as sensational and pornographic.

Sunday 18 April 2010


I wanted to make the violence beautiful in order to heighten our revulsion. – Edward Hall

We had a very quiet Sunday today, going out for a short drive in the morning and then passing by a Sunday Market on the way back home. The weather has been very changeable, but warm. Certainly the last throes of a Summer, which has been mild this year. The days continue to shorten and the sun is losing its fierceness. Autumnal days of warm contentment.

For Art Sunday today (upon the suggestion of a friend), I am featuring Dave Cooper. This is an American cartoonist, illustrator and artist, born in Brooklyn NY in 1967. He presently resides in Ottawa, Canada, and is presently mostly working on fine art, to the dismay of his comics fans. Cooper first came to the public eye in his teens when his sci-fi comics were published in Barry Blair’s Aircel Comics. Blair mentored the young Cooper and although there were never any accusations of molestation, Cooper has described their relationship as “inappropriate”. Cooper spent several years in a band and then returned to comics in his 20s, producing disturbing and strangely erotic work.

Increasingly, Cooper spent more time concentrating on paintings, which have a popular art appeal and are often inspired by the images, colour and clean lines of the comics he initially drew. The images of his art are often grossly misshapen and gaudily disturbing. The erotic mingles with the repulsive and the amusing with the disconcerting. In any case, whether one likes his art or not, his imagery is hard to ignore and will certainly raise an intense emotional response – as should all art.

Readers who wish to find out more about this artist are directed to the Wikipedia article and Cooper’s own personal website 1 and website 2.