Saturday 18 September 2010


“The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.” - Tennessee Williams

Another busy Saturday today with lots of chores done around the house and garden and also some shopping. Tomorrow I am leaving for Perth to spend three days there for work. Not the best way to spend one’s Sunday – airports and planes, but once again we have to please our regulators and when they say “jump” we can only reply, “how high?”

We had all sorts of weather today: Rain, sunshine, warm, cold… We did a bit of work in the garden in one of the sunny spells and it’s beginning to look greener with many more flowers beginning to bloom.

Here’s a very spring-like Beethoven piece. The first movement from his Septet in E flat.

The Septet in E-flat major, Opus 20, by Ludwig van Beethoven, was first performed in 1800 and published in 1802. Scored for clarinet, horn, bassoon, violin, viola, cello, and contrabass, it is in six movements:

1. Adagio; Allegro con brio 2. Adagio cantabile 3. Tempo di minuetto 4. Tema con variazioni: Andante 5. Scherzo: Allegro molto e vivace 6. Andante con moto alla marcia; Presto

The overall layout resembles a serenade but Beethoven expands the form by the addition of substantial introductions to the first and last movements. The main theme of the third movement had already been used in Beethoven's Piano Sonata, (Op. 49 No. 2), which was an earlier work despite its higher opus number. The finale features a violin cadenza. The Septet was one of Beethoven's most successful and popular works and circulated in many editions and arrangements for different forces. In about 1803 Beethoven himself arranged the work as a Trio for clarinet (or violin), cello and piano, and this version was published as his op. 38 in 1805.

Thursday 16 September 2010


“The work of righteousness shall be peace and the effect of righteousness quietness and confidence for ever.” – Isaiah 32:17

Today is the most important holiday of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement. Even those Jews who do not observe any other Jewish holiday or custom, will not work, will fast and attend synagogue  on this day. Yom Kippur occurs on the 10th day of the Jewish month Tishri, as instituted at Leviticus 23:26 et seq.

The day is set aside to “afflict the soul” and atone for the sins of the past year. It is a day of awe when God inscribes all the names of the faithful in His book. On Yom Kippur, the judgment entered in these books is sealed. This day is, essentially, one’s last appeal, one’s last chance to change the judgment, to demonstrate one’s repentance and make amends. Yom Kippur atones only for sins between man and God, not for sins against another person. To atone for sins against another person, you must first seek reconciliation with that person, righting the wrongs you committed against them if possible. That must all be done before Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur is a complete Sabbath; no work can be performed on that day. It is written that people should not eat or drink (even water) on Yom Kippur. It is a complete, 25-hour fast beginning before sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur and ending after nightfall on the day of Yom Kippur. The Talmud also specifies additional restrictions that are less well-known: Washing and bathing, anointing one’s body (with cosmetics, deodorants, etc.), wearing leather shoes (Orthodox Jews routinely wear canvas sneakers under their dress clothes on Yom Kippur), and engaging in sexual relations are all prohibited on Yom Kippur.

As always, any of these restrictions can be lifted where a threat to life or health is involved. In fact, children under the age of nine and women in childbirth (from the time labour begins until three days after birth) are not permitted to fast, even if they want to. Older children and women from the third to the seventh day after childbirth are permitted to fast, but are permitted to break the fast if they feel the need to do so. People with other illnesses should consult a doctor and a rabbi for advice.

Most of Yom Kippur is spent in the synagogue in prayer. In Orthodox synagogues, services begin early in the morning (8 or 9 a.m.) and continue until about 3 p.m. People then usually go home for an afternoon nap and return around 5 or 6 PM for the afternoon and evening services, which continue until nightfall. The services end at nightfall, with the blowing of the tekiah gedolah, a long blast on the shofar.

It is customary to wear white on the holiday, which symbolizes purity and calls to mind the promise that our sins shall be made as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). Some people wear a kittel, the white shroud in which the dead are buried.

Jewish families traditionally eat a Meal of Cessation (Seudat Mafseket) before the Yom Kippur fast. A good way to o this is a meat meal for lunch, and then high carbohydrate dairy dinner directly before the fast. The meat menu could include, for example, low-salt vegetable soup, breaded chicken, potatoes and dessert. The dairy menu includes egg soufflé, whole wheat bagels with various spreads and fruit salad. At the end of Yom Kippur, traditionally  a joyful Break Fast meal is shared with family and friends. The Yom Kippur Break Fast is generally a festive breakfast menu consisting of foods such whole wheat bread or bagels with various spreads such as tuna, egg salad, cheeses, butter and jam. Egg soufflé may also be served again.

Blessing on you on this holy day of Yom Kippur!

Kosher Egg Soufflé

•    1/4 cup flour
•    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
•    1/2 teaspoon salt
•    pepper
•    6 eggs
•    1 cup cottage cheese
•    2 cups (250 grams) grated cheese
•    1/2 stick (60 grams) butter, melted
•    1 small onion, finely chopped
•    120 grams sliced mushrooms
•    1 tomato, sliced
•    fresh parsley

1.    Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C). Grease a 9x9 inch casserole dish.
2.    Mix flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Set aside.
3.    Beat eggs. Add all cheeses, butter, onion and mushrooms. Mix well.
4.    Add flour mixture.
5.    Pour into casserole dish.
6.    Place slices of tomato on top and push in slightly. Sprinkle with parsley.
7.    Bake at 180° C for 40 minutes.
8.    Serve with bagels or toast and fresh fruit salad.


“When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves.” - David Orr

Today is the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, as declared by the United Nations (UN). The day commemorates the signing of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer on September 16th in 1987. The meeting of representatives from 24 countries in 1987 had a conference and announced to the world that it was time to stop destroying the ozone layer. In so doing, these countries committed themselves, via the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, to rid the world of substances, such as fluorocarbons, that threaten the ozone layer. On December 19, 1994, the UN General Assembly proclaimed September 16th to be the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer. The day was first celebrated on September 16, 1995.

The earth’s ozone layer plays an important role in protecting human health and the environment. In 1974, U.S.A chemists Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina were the first to sound the alarm about ozone layer depletion. That year, they published the first scientific article predicting the near disappearance of the ozone layer in 75 years. They were remarkably accurate; in the early 1980s, a hole in the ozone layer was observed for the first time at the Earth’s poles. And the numbers were frightening. Over the Antarctic, 70% of the protective gas had disappeared, while 30% had been depleted over the Arctic. Rowland and Sherwood won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1995 for their work in atmospheric chemistry.

Ozone is present is two layers of the atmosphere. About 10% of ozone is present in the troposphere (lower layer of atmosphere), located at a distance of about 10-16 km from the surface of the earth. The major part of ozone comprising of the remaining 90% is present in the upper layer of atmosphere called stratosphere located at the distance of about 50 km from the surface of the earth. It is this layer that is called the ozone layer. The sun radiates large variety of radiation including ultraviolet radiation, which is very harmful to humans. The ozone layer absorbs ultraviolet radiation and prevents it from coming to the surface of the earth thus saving human beings from harmful rays. This ozone layer in the stratosphere is considered to be “good ozone.” The ozone layer occurring naturally in the lower layers of the atmosphere helps remove the pollutants from the surface of the earth.

On this day primary and secondary school teachers around the world organize classroom activities that focus on topics related to the ozone layer, climate change and ozone depletion. Other activities are organized by different community groups, individuals, schools and local organisations across the world and include: The promotion of ozone friendly products; special programs and events on saving the ozone layer; the distribution of the UNEP’s public awareness posters to be used for events centered on the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer; and the distribution of awards to those who worked hard to protect the earth’s ozone layer.

ozone |ˈōˌzōn| noun
A colourless unstable toxic gas with a pungent odour and powerful oxidising properties, formed from oxygen by electrical discharges or ultraviolet light. It differs from normal oxygen (O2) in having three atoms in its molecule (O3).
• Short for ozone layer .
informal Fresh invigorating air, esp. that blowing onto the shore from the sea.
Ozonic |ōˈzänik| adjective
ORIGIN mid 19th century: From German Ozon, from Greek ozein ‘to smell.’

Wednesday 15 September 2010


“Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.” - Rainer Maria Rilke

I had a very busy day at work today, catching up at my desk after the day in Sydney. My secretary brought in a bunch of Spring flowers and their fragrance filled the office. The day outside was cool and wet, still gray, but the flowers and a few errant beams of sunlight promised that Winter was on its way out. Thoughts of Spring and a few flowers, a stray sunbeam here and there are enough to put one in a silly enough mood to write doggerel!


In early Spring as rain still falls and falls
And nights are cold and mornings gray,
The sleeping sun awakes and gently calls
To warm and lengthen more each day.

The roses start to bud and leaves unfurl
The bulbs all bloom, bright as a rainbow;
The daisies smile and like a youthful girl
Shine full of beauty, eager up to grow.

As heady fragrance fills each stirring garden,
Winter starts to depart and then lingers;
It freeze a young shoot, then begs its pardon,
Yielding to sunlight’s caressing fingers.

The birds for so long absent, silent,
Fly back and fill the air with trills;
The leaves young green, lush, vibrant,
The air astir with expectation, thrills.

My blood begins to warm and tingles
As it succumbs to springtide stimulations.
My sleeping flesh rejuvenated kindles
Fires for my heart’s new immolations.

Spring’s here, awake, renew, rejoice!
To chase Winter away, lift up your voice.

Tuesday 14 September 2010


Allegro: “Springtime is upon us. 
The birds celebrate her return with festive song, and murmuring streams are softly caressed by the breezes. Thunderstorms, those heralds of Spring, roar, casting their dark mantle over heaven, Then they die away to silence, and the birds take up their charming songs once more.”
Largo: “On the flower-strewn meadow, with leafy branches rustling overhead, the goat-herd sleeps, his faithful dog beside him.”
Allegro: ‘Led by the festive sound of rustic bagpipes, nymphs and shepherds lightly dance beneath the brilliant canopy of spring.” – Vivaldi, Spring Sonnet for his Concerto.

I was in Sydney for the day for work today and most of the day I spent indoors as we were being audited. A regulatory body audit is dreaded by most businesses, but I don’t mind them at all. In fact some of them I actually enjoy! Today proved to be one that I quite liked, with my team of colleagues and I working well together and answering all questions to the satisfaction of the panel. This outcome was really the result of good preparation and having material that was up to the level of scrutiny that an audit panel subjects such material to. The final oral report was very favourable and we now expect the written report, which will be also favourable.

The day here in Sydney was rainy and cool, so just as well I had to spend the day inside. The sky was quite leaden and the rain kept falling in sheets. Definitely a day of spring showers and lingering winter grays. On the drive to and from the airport, however, there was a sure sign of Spring on the median strip in the form of Gymea lilies (Doryanthes excelsa) that have started to bloom. These are a kind of most imposing and spectacular Australian native flower, with long, one metre leaves that resemble sword blades and a central thick flower spike that grows to two metres tall (and up to six metres!). On its top there is a compact cluster of crimson, nectar-filled flowers.

The wattles and the grevilleas are also blooming and the rose bushes have just started to sprout, their unfurling leaves still dark crimson and russet. The bulbs are making their final show, with daffodils, hyacinths, anemones, bluebells, tulips on their way out and the freesias, ranunculus, grape hyacinths and sparaxis still flowering. Winter may linger but Spring is in the air. One of these weekends coming up soon, we must go to the Botanic Gardens as it is a glorious season to visit it. Although the natives are often not as spectacular as the introduced species, the Botanic Gardens have a good variety of plants, both native, as well as exotics. It’s funny how the rose, the Madonna lily, the chrysanthemum and the lilac are all considered exotic species here in Australia!

Monday 13 September 2010


“If it’s a good movie, the sound could go off and the audience would still have a perfectly clear idea of what was going on.” - Alfred Hitchcock

At the weekend we watched Mel Gibson’s 1995 film “Braveheart” again as we were given a Bluray disc with the 15th Year Anniversary re-release. I had forgotten much about this film, although I remember that I had enjoyed it the first time round. Now, in the comfort of our own living room, quite relaxed and with the remote control firmly grasped (seeing the film was about three hours long, a couple of breaks were required!) we were able to take it in very objectively and with the benefit of having read an encyclopedia entry on William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and Edward I, just before watching it.

The screenplay of the film is based loosely on historical facts, but there are several fictional interpositions and some gross misrepresentations of the historically verified events. For example, Princess Isabelle was only nine years old at the time of Wallace’s death and her son (later to be crowned Edward III), was born in 1312, which is seven years after the death of Wallace and five years after the death of Edward I. Hence there is no way that she was “Princess of Wales” as the film suggests and also there is no way that William Wallace fathered Edward III. But it makes a good story and people love scandal!

The story centres on the historical figure William Wallace, who is a Scottish rebel who leads an uprising against the cruel English ruler Edward I (“Longshanks” as he was 6’2”), who wishes to take the crown of Scotland for himself. When William was a young boy, his father and brother, along with many others, lost their lives trying to free Scotland. Once he loses his wife to the barbarity of the English, William Wallace begins his bloody struggle to make Scotland free once and for all, thus giving assistance to Robert the Bruce, the heir to the Scottish throne, to become the king of Scotland.

The film was good enough and Mel Gibson manages to direct well and star in it at the same time. Sophie Marceau looks delightful as the Princess. The cinematography is truly stunning and some of the Scottish landscapes are absolutely breathtaking. The brutality of many of the scenes is quite striking and seeing that Gibson got into trouble with “The Passion of the Christ” for excessive violence, I am wondering if this is one of his trademarks or some penchant of his… There are crucifixion-like images in the film and visual imagery of martyrdom, too.  It is a formulaic Hollywood film and panders to the Scottish nationalistic ideals. The English are depicted as absolute barbarians and heartless, cruel oppressors – which may have an element of truth in it, however, the Scots are no angels either, considering the treachery of some of their lords, also shown in the film.

The movie failed to move me somehow. It was entertaining, amusing, diverting, rousing, sometimes sad, but there was a lack of true emotion and poignancy in it. There was a feeling of authenticity in some scenes, but in others I felt that it was a little phony and the Hollywood view of the history of the world came through more strongly than the illusion of reality. Now why wasn’t it emotionally engaging? I don’t know. Maybe it was Gibson and his hair – we couldn’t take his long locks seriously! Maybe it was the obvious embellishments in the real history to make it more cinematic? Maybe it was the whole package?

Nevertheless, the film is enjoyable and worth seeing (or seeing again, to see what you think 15 years later). It won five Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Cinematography and Best Director – which doesn’t mean much, except that it followed Hollywood’s rules and Hollywood recognised these efforts. And did I mention the music by James Horner? Nice unobtrusive generally Celtic-sounding music that sounded a lot like the “Titanic” music. I’m being overly critical maybe, but no, we enjoyed it, truly…

Sunday 12 September 2010


“We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.” - Pablo Picasso

Trompe l’ oeil is a French term that literally means ‘deceives the eye.’ It describes visual illusion in art, especially as used to trick the eye into perceiving a painted detail as a three-dimensional object. Usually it applies to hyper-realistic art that is contrived in such a way that through the use of context and perspective it creates a powerful optical illusion that what is depicted ‘jumps out’ at the viewer in verisimilitude of life.

Anamorphosis is a technique where a distorted projection or drawing appears normal when viewed from a particular point or with a suitable mirror or lens. The angle that one views an anamorphic drawing or painting may be crucial to viewing the image correctly, or alternative, one may not view it at all except through special equipment, such as curved mirrors, lens arrangements or special projection equipment.

For Art Sunday today, an exponent of both trompe l’oeil and anamorphosis, Julian Beever, who is an English artist famous for his art on the pavements of England, France, Germany, USA, Australia, Belgium and many more countries. Beever gives his drawings an anamorphic view, with his images drawn in a way that gives them three-dimensionality when viewing from the correct angle. Since the mid 1990s, this artist has created pavement drawings for over ten years, using chalks and pastels to create impermanent masterpieces that are soon washed away by the rain and erased by the shuffling feet of people on the pavements that he uses as his canvas. The pavement drawings have included both renderings of old masters plus a wealth of original inventive pieces of work.

Besides this pavement art, Beever also paints murals in acrylics, replicates the works of masters, paints in oils and creates collages. Some of his other works are drawings, typically with a musical, whose size may measure up to 7 metres long by 7 metres high.

Beevers’ art has mass appeal and is easily appreciated by a delighted crowd. He is often sponsored by advertisers, who pay for his efforts, this ensuring his art stays accessible and acknowledged by his public. He says: “My art is for anybody, it’s for people who wouldn’t go into an art gallery. It’s art for the people. Art shouldn’t be locked away in galleries and libraries and books. Art should be for everybody and not just art boffins, historians and so-called experts.”

And yet, there are some who consider his art as “just graffiti” and a defacement of public thoroughfares. Once in Birmingham his drawing was swilled away from the pavement due to a mix up with permissions from the local council. Beever takes it all in his stride and even if he has worked for a few days on one of his pieces, he doesn’t blink an eyelid as it gets washed away, as long as he has taken a photograph of it. “The important thing for me is to get a photo of it at the end. For me, I’m working towards building a photograph as my end result, and if I get that I’m happy.”

I like this artist. He has fun and he gives the viewers of his art great delight and pleasure. He demystifies art and brings it to the masses. He inspires and engages people who may otherwise have never gone into a gallery or a studio and he interacts with people in a positive and accessible way. Art is a firing up of the imagination, an invitation to journey to unknown lands, an adventure and a thrill. Beever’s escapades engage and stimulate the public. Here is a time-lapse video of the artist creating one of his pieces.