Saturday 19 June 2010


“Musical compositions, it should be remembered, do not inhabit certain countries, certain museums, like paintings and statues. The Mozart Quintet is not shut up in Salzburg: I have it in my pocket.” - Henri Rabaud

For Music Saturday, a beautifully perfect piece of music by Mozart. The divine Clarinet Quintet by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart K. 581, written in 1789 for the clarinetist Anton Stadler. Although originally written for basset clarinet, today it is almost always played on a clarinet in A or B-flat. It was Mozart's only completed clarinet quintet, and is one of the earliest and best-known works written especially for the instrument.

Here is the Allegro movement played by Clarinetist Bruce Nolan and the Sierra String Quartet.

Friday 18 June 2010


“You can say this for ready-mixes - the next generation isn't going to have any trouble making pies exactly like mother used to make.” - Earl Wilson

Today, I’ve had a very full day of hard work, but I am very satisfied as I achieved quite a lot. I worked on several projects at once and had to deal with some emergencies whereby I helped some colleagues get out of potentially messy situations. It’s always good when one can rescue someone who is feeling rather frazzled. Often in situations like that, all that is needed is looking at the matter with fresh eyes and a solution is apparent to the person viewing the problem from a different perspective.

The weather has been wintry and cold and as I was coming home in the train today it started to rain. It was already dark and when one starts work early and finishes late in winter, it’s really hard to realise that the day has been and gone... Especially so, if one sits at one’s desk inside the building and doesn’t venture out…

Seeing it’s winter, another traditional, sweet and warming recipe tonight. Comfort food time again!

•    10 sticks of rhubarb
•    4 tbsp water
•    8 tbsp caster sugar
•    1 tsp powdered ginger
•    110g butter, softened
•    110g demerara sugar
•    180-200g flour
•    Double cream to serve with

1) Preheat the oven to 180C
2) Cut the rhubarb into 7½cm long sticks and place on an oven tray, sprinkle with the water and caster sugar and roast in the oven for 10 minutes.
3) Once cooked, remove from the oven, sprinkle over the ginger and mix well.
4) Fill an ovenproof dish about 4cm deep with the rhubarb.
5) Rub the butter into the flour and sugar to make the crumble topping. Sprinkle over the rhubarb and bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the crumble topping is crisp and golden-brown and the rhubarb filling has softened and is bubbling.
6) Remove and allow to cool slightly before serving with double cream.

Thursday 17 June 2010


“A good book is never exhausted. It goes on whispering to you from the wall. Books perfume and give weight to a room. A bookcase is as good as a view, as the sight of a city or a river. There are dawns and sunsets in books – storms, fogs, zephyrs.

I read about a family whose apartment consists of a series of spaces so strictly planned that they are obliged to give away their books as soon as they’ve read them. I think they have misunderstood the way books work.

Reading a book is only the first step in the relationship. After you’ve finished it, the book enters on its real career. It stands there as a badge, a blackmailer, a monument, a scar. It’s both a flaw in the room, like a crack in the plaster, and a decoration. The contents of someone’s bookcase are part of his history, like an ancestral portrait.” - Anatole Broyard

I was able to go into the State Library of Victoria this week as I was researching for a submission that I was writing, and when I finished my job quite rapidly (given the efficiency of the librarians!) I went up to the Dome Galleries and had a look at the special exhibition there. The library is an architectural and cultural gem in our City, at the corner of Swanson and LaTrobe Sts. Melbourne architect Joseph Reed, who later designed the Melbourne Town Hall and the iconic Royal Exhibition Building won the commission of the Library building in 1853. The first part of the building was completed in 1859, but the magnificent dome was not finished until 1913. The library underwent major refurbishments between 1990 and 2004.

The “Mirror of the World” exhibition, which is housed in the Dome Galleries on levels 4, 5 and 6 showcases many of the rare, beautiful and historically significant books held in the Library’s collections. These galleries overlook the magnificent La Trobe Reading Room and one not only enjoys the superlative collection of books on show, but also admires the architecture of the library and has bird’s eye views of the reading room. The exhibition’s title is taken from William Caxton’s “Myrrour of the Worlde” (1490), one of the first illustrated books published in England, which is displayed in the exhibition.

The exhibition highlights the invaluable place that books have in our hearts and minds. It provides an overview of the history of book production, design and illustration, with well-chosen fine examples of amazing books from the Library’s collections dating from the Middle Ages to the present day. For a bibliophile like me, this exhibition was an amazing experience and I lingered there all through my lunchtime, forgetting hunger, forgetting food, not even thinking of eating. The nourishment of my soul took precedence and I could almost taste a pleasurable sweetness in my mouth as my eyes took in the marvels of the exhibition.

The exhibition is divided into five major themes:
•    “Books and Ideas”, outlining the early history of books and printing;
•    “The Book and the Imagination”, which looks at the way books and texts are imaginatively created, while at the same time acting imaginatively upon us;
•    “Exploring the World” that investigates how books have been used to explore and document the world including, its landscape, topography, inhabitants, flora and fauna;
•    “Art and Nature”, looking at how botanical illustrations unite the scientific and artistic worlds; and,
•    “The Artist and the Book”, which highlights the art of the book and the role of the artist in its production.

If you are in Melbourne and have not been to see this exhibition, do go and see it, it definitely worth it!

bibliophile |ˈbiblēəˌfīl| noun
A person who collects or has a great love of books: He is such a bibliophile that he had to extend his house in order to have room for his ever-growing collection of books.
bibliophilic |ˌbiblēəˈfilik| adjective
bibliophily |ˌbiblēˈäfəlē| noun
ORIGIN early 19th century: From French, from Greek biblion ‘book’ + philos ‘loving.’

Tuesday 15 June 2010


“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” - Martin Luther King, Jr

The World Soccer Cup in South Africa has given the world the opportunity to glimpse the changed society of post-apartheid South Africa. I visited South Africa in the late 1990s when apartheid was still fresh and the bad memories still fresh. It was a revelation and I met some of the most amazing people I had met until then. It was a country that still displayed its scars but there was such a feeling of hope and optimism in the air that it was difficult not to be overtaken by it. Walking in Soweto and talking to the people was a revelation. Seeing faces full of dreams, confidence, dignity and positivity was a joyous thing.

Now that apartheid is well and truly over and the South African people have been allowed to fulfil their destiny, the celebration of the Soccer World Cup is a way of showing the world how their nation is capable of great things. The magnificent Soccer City stadium in Soweto in Johannesburg, with a design inspired by traditional African pottery and a capacity for 104,000 fans is a showcase of this country’s confidence and optimism for the future. A way of showing the world that the new climate of multiculturalism and equality will allow the country to move forward and upward.

Apartheid in South Africa was a system of legal social segregation that was enforced by the white National Party government of South Africa between 1948 and 1994. This was a shocking situation where the rights of the majority non-white people were curtailed and minority rule by the whites was maintained. Many basic human rights of the non-whites were ignored or actively suppressed and the rule was one of tyranny and repression, with non-whites victimised, disadvantaged, underprivileged, powerless, abused and maltreated.

June 16th has been observed as the International Day of Solidarity with the Struggling People of South Africa. This date was chosen to commemorate the massacre in Soweto on June 16th 1976, when hundreds of unarmed school children were brutalised and killed by the police as they demonstrated against the imposition of the Afrikaans language and the Bantu system of Education. The Soweto Uprising was a turning point in the liberation struggle in South Africa. Prior to this event, the liberation struggle was being fought outside of South Africa, mostly in Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe), South West Africa (later Namibia) and Angola. But from this moment onwards, the struggle became internal and the government security forces were split between external operations and internal operations.

For the state, the Soweto Uprising marked the most fundamental challenge yet to apartheid and the economic and political instability it caused was heightened by the strengthening international boycott. It was a further 14 years before Nelson Mandela was released, but at no point was the state able to restore the relative peace and social stability of the early 1970s as black resistance grew. Many white South African citizens were outraged at the government's actions in Soweto, and about 300 white students from the University of the Witwatersrand marched through Johannesburg’s city centre in protest of the killing of children. Black workers went on strike as well and joined them as the campaign progressed. Riots also broke out in the black townships of other cities in South Africa. Most of the bloodshed had abated by the close of 1976, but by that time the death toll stood at more than 600.

Fitting for this day, a poem by Maya Angelou, born 1928, an author, poet and an active campaigner for human rights and racial equality.

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou


“Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

From a very young age, I was brought up to be courteous and respectful at home. This gradually extended to my interactions with people in the community at large. Both my parents and grandparents instilled into me certain rules of etiquette and common courtesy that corresponded to the “good manners” of the time. This included being respectful to my elders, not to talk back, to be helpful to others if they were in need of help, to give up my seat on the bus if someone needed it more than me. “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all…” was a motto that I had to learn. “Be careful that you don’t hurt people’s feelings”, I was told. “Better to be tactful than apologetic”, I had to learn. When in a public place, I had to learn to watch my behaviour so that it did not offend others, I was not to be obnoxious, or loud, or disrespectful, or annoying.

You may say that I had a pretty miserable childhood, but in fact I enjoyed myself immensely and after a while found that what I did, I did because it gave me pleasure and because I could saw that other people were pleased by my behaviour. These few simple rules have stayed with me until the present time and as I grow older, I find myself to be in a minority group. People’s behaviour in public is appalling and often I watch aghast as young people especially (but not only!) behave in a manner that is selfish, offensive, vulgar, uncouth, hurtful, abusive and disrespectful towards their fellow humans.

One of the most common places for this type of behaviour to manifest itself is on public transport. During peak hour, commuters will often push and shove, jostle and jockey for a seat. Nimble high school children will rush in and occupy seats in groups and then spend the whole trip shouting to each other, utter obscenities designed to shock and engage in behaviour that is quite offensive (you may be starting to think that I am an old and bitter fuddy-duddy who has forgotten how exhilarating it was to be a carefree youth, however, this type of behaviour has also been identified as obnoxious by young people. Many people sit on the train and listen to their iPods at full blast and even if they use earphones, the music is so loud (and they are so deaf, presumably) that it creates a distracting and annoying sound pollution around them.

How many young, able-bodied people I have seen sitting in seats reserved for the elderly and infirm while a frail old man stands next to them. How many young women are sitting down leafing through magazines while a heavily pregnant woman stands next to them, obviously uncomfortable. How many people I have seen shouting into their mobile phones, engaged in a very private and intimate conversation, blithely unaware that they are embarrassing those around them. How many drunk and obnoxious passengers I have observed making the train ride uncomfortable for their fellows! Am I old fashioned? Am I an old fuddy-duddy, all bitter and twisted? I think not!

A Melbourne man finally became fed up waiting for train passengers to offer a seat to his pregnant wife. He designed a badge that she could wear to make it clear that she is pregnant. Drew Okawa created the badge after his wife’s daily trips to work each day were becoming frustrating and a source of discomfort and pain. Her state was ignored and it was unusual for someone to offer her their seat. Okawa has become organised and he has started a wide campaign to relieve the situation. The couple maintain that their campaign is basically about caring about the needs of others and feel that our community should become a little more courteous, a little more unselfish and a little more caring. The couple are so passionate about the issue that they have ordered 5000 of the badges, labelled “Pregsafe”, and started distributing them to other pregnant public transport users through medical clinics and online at their site.

This idea is not new, the concept has been operating successfully on public transport in Tokyo since 2005. Small badges (Maternity Marks) are part of an initiative in Japan to make public transport and workplaces more pregnant-friendly. When one sees the badge, one can take extra care not to bump into the woman, offer her a seat, if outside not smoke so that she inhales the smoke passively, etc. The Japanese have adopted the idea with gusto and their natural politeness redoubles when the maternity badge is observed.

Public transport in Australia is getting busier and plans are afoot to greatly increase the number of commuters per bus, train and tram. Public awareness of pregnant women, parents with small children, disabled travellers, and the elderly must be heightened and our sensitivity to those with special needs must be made keener. Mr Okawa hopes that his initiative will help us as a community to become more polite and thoughtful of these people with a need greater than us.

It is interesting that Melbourne’s transport service Metlink does not support this plan. Metlink’s Donna Watson said: “Pregnant women could wear the badge if they think it will help. However, we don’t believe badges are required.” How out of touch you must be with our public transport, Ms Watson. I wonder how often you travel by public transport! Perhaps it may be worth your while to strap on a lead belt weighing 4 or 5 kg for the day at work, and then catch the peak hour train home and remain standing for the 45 or 50 minute trip?

Monday 14 June 2010


“Only the man who has enough good in him to feel the justice of the penalty can be punished.” - William Ernest Hocking

Today was the Queen’s Birthday holiday here in Australia and we went for a drive in the morning to the City. There were relatively few people around and not much traffic, most people making most of the long weekend to go away, it seems. We then came back home for lunch and afterwards worked in the garden, pruning some rosebushes. We have over 70 rosebushes in the back and taking care of them is hard work. The abundant roses we have for quite a few months of the year makes the hard work worthwhile. Thorns and all…

This evening we watched a 1995 film directed by Tim Robbins, based on the autobiographical book by Sister Helen Prejean, “Dead Man Walking”. This was quite a harrowing film and at just under two hours it made watching it rather gruelling. Nevertheless it was an excellent film that explored some valid questions about crime and punishment, redemption, vengeance, religion, forgiveness and unconditional love. Susan Sarandon received a best actress Oscar for her sterling performance in this role and both Sean Penn and Tim Robbins were also nominated for best actor and best director. Both nominations well-deserved.

The plot of the film concerns Sister Helen Prejean (Sarandon), who works in the poor African-American St. Thomas Projects of New Orleans, doing much to educate and enlighten the children in this slum. She receives a desperate letter from the convicted murderer, Matthew Poncelet (Penn), on death row, who is trying to find help to avoid his execution for murder. She responds to Poncelet’s letter, which leads her to visit him in gaol. Sister Prejean is completely inexperienced in criminal chaplaincy, but his plight and her doubt over his guilt persuade her to be Poncelet’s spiritual counsellor. She gets Poncelet a lawyer, Hilton Barber, who helps Poncelet appeal his conviction with the State Board of Capital Punishment, Governor Benedict of Louisiana, and the State of Louisiana Supreme Court. However, all these interventions are without success and Poncelet remains on death row.

As the nun gets to know the convict, she begins to feel empathy, not only for the criminal, but also for the victims and their families. The families cannot understand how the nun can help a man who committed such heinous crimes, killing a young man and woman and raping the woman before he killed her. The anguish the nun feels while attempting to make the murderer become spiritually aware and take responsibility for his actions, achieving redemption, while trying to care for the victims of crime makes for a confronting film.

The major point of the film is the whether capital punishment can ever be justified and it makes the viewers examine their own views on this topic. The shocking images of the actual crime are intercut with Sister Prejean’s attempt to make Poncelet achieve a state of contrition and redemption. This is heart-rending, especially as the parents of the murdered teenagers talk lovingly of their murdered children to the nun, who is also the spiritual counsellor of the rapist and murderer. The murder’s mother and his brothers are also superimposed on the action, and their reactions further add to the pathos of the situation.

We found ourselves, as we watched, debating the type of punishment that society must mete out to such hardened criminals. Whether capital punishment is ever an answer and whether the Old Testament “an eye for eye and a tooth for tooth” is ever justified, given the New Testament’s emphasis on forgiveness and redemption. Religion aside, sociologically one considers the terrible dilemma we find ourselves in: The shocking cruelty and heinous violence of the crime committed, the everlasting pain of the victims’ families that makes one really think on what can possibly be a suitable punishment for the perpetrators. This is especially true if one is morally opposed to capital punishment.

One of the most chilling scenes in the movie we found to be the execution of Poncelet, with the parents of the murdered teenagers watching on as the lethal injection is administered. The figure of the murderer splayed out like a man crucified waiting to die while the parents watch on, as justice is being done, sent shivers down my spine. Yet, the man was guilty by his own admission and no amount of contrition could bring those who were foully murdered back. I kept feeling that this punishment was unjust, perhaps because the criminal had his misery cut short. There was no time for him to dwell on his remorse…

I recommend this film most highly. It is an intelligent one, made with care and gives due consideration to both the criminal and his victims of his crime. The insurmountable problems that our society has in dealing with such situations is personified in Sister Prejean who has to deal with the conflicting emotions of mercy, forgiveness, religious clemency and her rising anguish, disgust and horror as she confronts the magnitude of the crime and its effects on the families of the survivors as well as the murderer’s own family. The music of the film provides an excellent counterpoint to the action and the direction is extremely good.

Sunday 13 June 2010


“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for.” - Georgia O’Keeffe

For Art Sunday today, a great Australian artist, Clifford Possum Japaltjarri. Clifford Possum was born in 1932 on Napperby Station. He worked extensively as a stockman on the cattle stations in and around his tribal country. At this time he developed an excellent knowledge of the Dreaming Trails that criss-cross the area to the north of the western McDonnell Ranges, which he depicts in painting his Dreamings.

His career as an artist began in the 1950’s when he carved snakes and goannas. By the 1970’s he was one of the most accomplished carvers in Central Australia. His first opportunity to paint came when one of Albert Namatjira’s sons gave him acrylic paints and he began his work. Clifford, living at the Papunya Community was one of the first artists to be involved with the Aboriginal Art Movement.

The art of Clifford Possum is notable for its three-dimensional aspects, although he uses traditional two-dmensional aboriginal art conventions. Many of his paintings have figurative elements, which stand out from the highly stylised dotted backgrounds. In the late 1970’s he expanded the scope of Papunya Tula painting by placing the trails of several ancestors on the same canvas in the fashion of a road map. Within this framework, he depicted the land geographically. This laid the foundation for traditional Aboriginal Iconography to be placed on canvas. The other artist working with him took his lead and removed any elements of European Art from their work. In doing so Clifford, as well as the other artists involved with the Papunya Tula Movement helped to develop the true definition of Aboriginal Art, an art revolving around a culture, The Jukurrpa.

In some of his paintings Clifford gives a visual impression of sunlight, cloud, shadow and earth to denote specific times of the day. His paintings show superlative skill, incredible inventiveness of form and are visually spectacular. Clifford's work is contemporary but essentially Aboriginal in inspiration. To appreciate its full significance it is essential to not only see its colour, composition and balance, but also its mythological context. One of the extraordinary qualities of Clifford's work and other Western Desert artists is that they are a visual writing and speak to the Aboriginal as books do to Europeans. When asked why he became an Artist, he answered:

“That Dreaming been all the time. From our early days, before European people came up. That Dreaming carry on. Old people carry on this law, business, schooling for the young people. Grandfather and grandmother, uncle and aunty, mummy and father, all that, they been carry on this, teach ‘em all the young boys and girls. They been using the dancing boards, spear, boomerang all painted. And they been using them on body different times.

Kids, I see them all the time, painted. All the young fellas they go hunting and the old people there, they do sand painting. They put down all the story, same like I do on canvas. All the young fella they bring ‘em back kangaroo. Same all the ladies, they been get all the bush fruit, might be bush onion, plum, might be honey ants, might be yala, all the kungkas (women) bring them back. Because everybody there all ready waiting. Everybody painted. They been using ochres all the colours from the rock. People use them to paint up. I use paint and canvas that's not from us, from European people. Business time we don't use paints the way I use them, no we use them from rock, teach ‘em all the young fellas.”

Clifford passed away in Alice Springs on the 21st June 2002, after recently being recognised for his contribution to Australian Art and culture, by being made an “Officer of the Order of Australia”. His final days where spent at the Hetty Perkins Nursing Home Alice Springs where he passed away surrounded by close family and friends.