Saturday 23 October 2010


“Coffee makes us severe, and grave, and philosophical.” Jonathan Swift

The day dawned gray and dreary today, so it was a lazy breakfast with plenty of hot coffee, toast, orange juice and some beautiful classical music on the weekend breakfast show on radio. We then went out and did some grocery shopping and came back to watch a movie. In the evening it was time to relax and listen to some more music, this time with some wine and in a little bluer mood. And then, there’s nothing like strong black coffee just before bed!

Here is KD Lang singing “Black Coffee” being as laid back as they get!

Thursday 21 October 2010


“It is better to rise from life as from a banquet - neither thirsty nor drunken.” – Aristotle

One of the most concerning and recurring items in the news nowadays is the epidemic of obesity and obesity-related diseases that plague the Western, industrialised nations. One of the most worrying aspects of it is that younger and younger children are becoming obese and affected with an alarmingly high incidence of diseases such as diabetes and heart problems. The abundance of food (and especially so of the readily accessible and cheap “fast food”) is partly to blame, but some of the blame lies with lifestyle, where most of us lead sedentary existences in front of the TV, sitting behind a desk all day, on the couch or in bed.

Traditional diet in Asia, around the Mediterranean, Central and South America, as well as the active lifestyle in all of these countries is associated with a low incidence of obesity and its attendant misfortunes. It seems the more civilised we become, the more urbanised and technologically advanced we are, the greater the risk of moving away from the healthy lifestyle and the good diet that our ancestors enjoyed.

There is also of course the other side of the coin: Body image and weight has become a status symbol in highly industrialised societies of the Western world. To be trim and slim with a fit and healthy body is a highly desirable body image to have and the higher the social status, the more one will find pressures to adhere to this “body beautiful” image. To this end, there are large numbers of personal trainers, dietary advisors, bariatric specialists, surgeons and special services all dedicated to manufacturing the desired body shape and weight, that projects “wealth and high status”. Needless to say that this is another extreme, which itself can lead to disease and complications.

As is the case with all things, the middle way is the best policy. No obesity but no extremities of slimness, either! No excesses of eating, but also no starvation. A balance in diet and a reduction in the calorie consumed will lead to reasonable body size and weight. We must say no to inactivity and the sedentary lifestyle, but also no, to a stringent exercise regime that can damage the body and lead to muscle, joint and bone problems.

Here is a traditional Mediterranean recipe, which is vegetarian but also delicious and stuffed full of fibre, vitamins, minerals and complex carbohydrates.

Greek Stuffed Peppers

•    1/4 cup olive oil

•    2 cups chopped onions
1 cup uncooked rice
1/4 cup freshly roasted pine nuts
•    1 1/4 cups water
•    1 teaspoon tomato paste
•    1 can of peeled tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
•    1 teaspoon allspice
•    1/3 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
•    2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
3 tablespoons lemon juice
•    Eight small to medium sized green bell peppers
•    1 cup water
•    Lemon wedges for garnish

•    Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over moderate heat and sauté the onions, stirring frequently, until light brown.
•    Add the rice and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Add the toasted pine nuts and cook no longer than an additional minute.
•    Add the water, tomato paste, tomatoes, salt, pepper, allspice, and nutmeg, and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes.
•    Add the mint, parsley and lemon juice and toss gently with a fork to mix and fluff the rice.
•    Cut the top of the peppers about 1 cm down from the top and seed them carefully so that they remain whole.
•    Stuff the peppers with the rice mixture, place the tops on them again and put the stuffed peppers in a baking dish so that they remain standing next to each other.
•    Add 1 cup water to the bottom of the baking dish and bake covered in a preheated 170˚C oven for 45 minutes, or until the peppers are tender. Allow to cool and remove the remaining water from the bottom of the baking dish.
•    Chill the peppers in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, or overnight. Serve chilled or at room temperature, garnished with lemon wedges.

Wednesday 20 October 2010


“I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” - Anna Quindlen

I love books, as you may know if you are a regular reader of this blog. It goes without saying that I love reading, yes, but I also love the physical, printed, paper-based book as opposed to the electronic book. There is something wonderful about holding a book and leafing through the pages, feeling the texture of the paper against one’s skin, smelling that wonderful odour compounded of ink, paper and in many cases, of age (aren’t the best books old ones?). A happy room is a room full of books and I am glad to say that most rooms in our house are happy rooms.

About ten years ago we extended our house so that all of our books would fit and we ensured there was space to spare too! Needless to say that ten years afterwards we have run out of space for our books, again. It is a constant battle to find a little bit more room to fit another bookcase, put a shelf for a few more books. We have tried stopping buying books, but it is impossible! We have also tried to do a cull, but it ended up as an extended reading session, each of us surrounded by open books and showing each other the treasures we found. We cannot extend any more so some solution has to be found and it has to be found quickly!

Today I had a meeting in the City and on my way back I popped into the State Library of Victoria (illustrated above). This is one of my favourite haunts in the City and whenever I can I duck in, even if it just for a few minutes. There is always something going on in there, special exhibitions, books displays, cultural events, art exhibitions, but also of course the books themselves! The great Dome Reading Room is a magnificent temple of knowledge and sitting in the midst of it, seeing all of the galleries of books around, one feels warm, content and secure. And the joy of having all those billions of printed words just screaming out to be read!

One of the things that is advertised in the library is a donation program. One may donate worthy tomes to the State Library, which I guess is a fate that all good books in private home libraries aspire to. We may consider this option when the situation at home gets insupportable. The books in the State Library belong to all of us and I can go and access them whenever I like. It’s just that I want my books at hand, near me, in my house, within reach!

library |ˈlīˌbrerē; -brərē| noun ( pl. -braries)
A building or room containing collections of books, periodicals, and sometimes films and recorded music for people to read, borrow, or refer to: A school library | [as adj. ] A library book.
• A collection of books and periodicals held in such a building or room: The Institute houses an outstanding library of 35,000 volumes on the fine arts.
• A collection of films, recorded music, genetic material, etc., organized systematically and kept for research or borrowing: A record library.
• A series of books, recordings, etc, issued by the same company and similar in appearance.
• A room in a private house where books are kept.
• (Also software library) Computing a collection of programs and software packages made generally available, often loaded and stored on disk for immediate use.
ORIGIN late Middle English: Via Old French from Latin libraria ‘bookshop,’ feminine (used as a noun) of librarius ‘relating to books,’ from liber, libr- ‘book.’

Tuesday 19 October 2010


“By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth.” - Bible - Song of Songs, Solomon

A date to remember today, 20102010! Funny how we humans seek patterns and significance in the most insignificant and arbitrary of details… But to be playful is within our nature and to seek order, pattern and rule is part of the joy and curse of being human. I remember lying in bed when a child and gazing at the cracks of the ceiling trying to make out shapes and figures, pictures and whole scenes. Or looking at the clouds and seeing monsters, angels, animals, a thousand objects everyday or fanciful.

I had a phone call from a friend today, with whom I had not spoken for a while. He has been divorced for about five years now and was living the life of a bachelor all over again, enjoying it shortly, but then becoming increasingly miserable as he was used to married life and loving before that. He was ecstatic when he talked to me revealing he had fallen in love all over again. I shared his happiness with him and we prattled on for a while, until I asked him if she was in love with him too. And then he clouded over, became insecure, stuttered, was tongue-tied in fact and finally admitted that he thought so but had so many doubts…

How hard it is to love! I jotted down a poem and I dedicate it to LB.


It’s hard to love and love full well,
Giving one’s heart, risking its breakage.
It’s hard to give one’s all, and be so vulnerable
As to chance an utter devastation.

It’s hard to make one selfless, weak, and put
Another person’s happiness above one’s one.
It’s hard to willingly be hurt, weep, pine
While floundering in uncertainty and doubt…

It’s hard to live beholden to one’s beloved;
Breathing each breath, as though it’s borrowed.
It’s hard to lie awake and nourish oneself
Only with tears, sighs and gray disquiet.

But how easy to love when the beloved’s sun
Shines bright and one smiling glance is enough
To vapourise all misfortunes, apprehensions,
And answer all questions in the affirmative.

How easy to love when one touch reassures,
A kiss that’s freely given, a priceless treasure;
When blissful joys are shared by two
And raise both lovers clear to heaven!

Monday 18 October 2010


“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” - William Shakespeare

I was printing a confidential document on a shared colour printer at work the other day and before printing it, I ensured that people nearby knew that it was confidential and that I would go there to pick it up immediately. Between the time I clicked on the “print” button and when I went to the printer to pick up my document I saw the staff member that I had warned about the confidentiality of the document, reflected on the window glass opposite the printer. She was sneaking a look at my document, and then blissfully unaware that she had been observed, she quickly went back to her desk…

Common enough scenario? I am sure that you have similar stories to tell. The snoop with the long nose is alive and well and lives in every office. How often have we experienced this situation and we have realized this s one of the ways that “leakages” occur in work situations. Sensitive information is disseminated around the office in this way and then one wanders where the leak occurred. If you smiled wryly and thought: “We have a woman like that at my office”, think again!

A study carried out by Canon Australia last August and September found that although women are more likely to peek at a work colleague’s printout, men are more likely to linger and thoroughly read it! So much for stereotyping! And as far as printing is concerned, the same study found that nine out of ten workers, on average, were likely to print personal documents at the office. No wonder people don’t want others to have a look at their print-out! Another interesting finding was that one in three women was likely to print something at least twice every hour, compared to one in six men. Maybe this is why women thought that they were the only ones who refilled the paper trays in the printers and copiers (twice as many women thought this compared to men).

Of course, one can immediately see why Canon Australia were very interested in all of these office statistics and behaviours. They can target the advertising and marketing campaigns to the appropriate work groups if they have such information at hand. It’s quite amazing the amount of money that is spent on such studies all for the benefit of big business, however, some time one can garner some interesting information that has some use elsewhere also.

In case you are wondering what happened with my confidential document and what I did with the snoop, I shall tell you: As soon as I picked up my document I warned the colleague that I was going to print another even more sensitive document and would she please make sure that nobody picked it up or looked at it. She nodded her head with alacrity and put her head down. I went back to my computer and printed the following in large, bold type:


When I went to pick up this second document, sure enough the colleague was returning to her desk. She had her head down and did not look at me when I collected it, but at least she was blushing!

Sunday 17 October 2010


“Faster, faster, faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.” - Hunter Thompson

Last weekend we saw the 2001 Tony Scott movie “Spy Game”, starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt. As the title intimates this is a spy thriller all about CIA agent Nathan Muir (played by an ageing Redford) who is about to go to work for his last day before his retirement. Unfortunately for him, he receives a desperate phone call informing him that his protégé Tom Bishop (played by a very young Pitt, comparatively speaking) is in a Chinese prison awaiting execution for espionage. It quickly becomes apparent, that the CIA does not want to “meddle” in this particular “embarrassing” situation as it could damage sensitive trade deals. Muir knows all about the Machiavellian machinations of the CIA and uses all of his skill, experience, knowledge and inside information to try to save Bishop’s life. In the process, he recalls their relationship and developing friendship over the years, which will not allow him to abandon Bishop to his fate.

This is an archetypal “dick-flick” with lots of action, male bonding, war, spies, dirty business involving politics, espionage, double-crossing, capitalism, communism, double standards, terrorism, counterterrorism, revolution, and all of the other things that make our modern times so wonderful to live in… I like a good spy thriller as much as the next guy, however, this one left me a little bit flat. Maybe I expected a lot more and with such high expectations for an A-grade film I was disappointed that it was only a B-Grade one.

Redford does a good enough job, but at times he looks bored with the whole thing and one thinks that, yes, he would rather be in the Bahamas working away at his retirement. Pitt was at one time hailed as the “New Redford” and I certainly saw the resemblance. He could have easily played Redford’ son. He was the fresh-faced young, enthusiastic actor that seemed to outdo the older one. He played with verve and definitely wanted to be on the set doing the movie, the Bahamas could wait.

The direction was slick enough and the flashbacks were done well, the messy storyline was handled well and the “love story” of sorts that threatened the friendship of the two men was portrayed with restraint as befitted the genre of the film. Scott is experienced enough in this type of movie: “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” (2007); “Déja Vu” (2006); “Enemy of the State” (1996) “Crimson Tide” (1993), etc, etc. As one would expect with such credentials, the production was good and the standards high. However, something was lacking – je ne sais quoi!

As far as recommending the film goes, yes I would recommend it as a standard one of its type and most men I think would enjoy it. We watched it with friends and the two women weren’t particularly taken with it, they often chatted between themselves during the film and wouldn’t be drawn by it. As I said, I expected more than I got, but I imagine if my expectations were lower at the outset, I may have enjoyed it more. The verdict? 3.5 out of 5


“A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.” - William Strunk, Jr.

A painting by the French artist Marcel Nino Pajot, today. He was born February 24, 1945 at Vergt, Dordogne. “The subjects of my paintings”, the artist writes, “are rarely premeditated, they emerge at random from my brushes, according to my pleasure or despair ... What counts is the preliminary drawing, of course, and painting as a material, the with colours, lines, scratches, the random mix of inks, gouache, acrylics... Pleasure is also the variety of media, canvas, and especially the paper which materially imposes its most sensual contraints.”

The artist has completed several series of works, two of the most characteristic being Venetian carnival scenes and the story of Don Quixote. His canvases are full of colour, rich detail, humour and often a popular, almost caricature-like immediacy. Even though he is undeniably a painter, Pajot is also primarily a draughtsman as he designs his subjects with a spirit imbued with a keen eye and disconcerting truthfulness. By adding a dose of lyricism, a touch of madness, a festive ambience, a touch of mystery and brilliant colour to his compositions, he is able to give an air of comedy or tragedy to the rich repertoire of moods he depicts on his canvases.

I have chosen a rather sparse and Spartan work of his, more restrained than his usual flamboyant style. It is an archetypal image for me of Cervantes’ immortal heroic duo: Don Quixote de la Mancha and Sancho Panza. The highly dramatic sky and the richly detailed foreground more than make up for the lack of rich colour and the two figures are so immediately recognisable and characteristic, that one gets one’s bearings even with a single glance. It is a frugal work, but one that is very poignant and eloquent in its simplicity.

The artist’s website can be found here, however it is in French.