Saturday 11 December 2010


“For you see, each day I love you more; Today more than yesterday and less than tomorrow.” - Rosemonde Gérard

A busy day again today, only this time at home and in the garden. Then shopping and finally in the evening the sweet delights of love…

A delicious moment from Henry Purcell’s opera “The Faerie Queen” – If Love’s A Sweet Passion:

If love's a sweet passion why does it torment?
If a bitter, oh tell me, whence comes my content?
Since I suffer with pleasure, why should I complain,
or grieve at my fate, when I know it’s in vain?
Yet so pleasing the pain is so soft as the dart,
That at once it both wounds me and tickles my heart.

Friday 10 December 2010


“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.” - Ovid

We had our work Christmas function this evening. It was initially thought by all that the choice of venue was not ideal as it was in St Kilda, whereas our campus is in the City Centre. We usually have our Christmas do’s in the City, where it is central and people are familiar with the public transport and how to get home. It was a 40 minute drive from the City to St Kilda, and as much on the trams. Peak hour traffic close to Christmas on a Friday night was the reason for that, even though St Kilda is only about 6 km south of the City Centre.

Nevertheless, once everyone got there, it was good and we were able to have drink, relax, nibble on some food and generally relax and have a good time. The function was at “La Kitchen”, a bar/bistro and Breakfast Restaurant associated with the Cosmopolitan Hotel at 2-8 Carlisle St in St Kilda. These were my old haunts as we had lived around that neighbourhood, in Elwood during my secondary school years. The place ha changed quite a lot, obviously, but there was still the same feeling of familiarity, while nostalgia for days long gone overtook me. Several familiar landmarks are still there of course, like the Luna Park, The Esplanade, the Palais Theatre and the familiar streetscapes of Acland St, Fitzroy St, the parks and the hustle and bustle of this most cosmopolitan of Melbourne suburbs (until not too long ago, the red light suburb!).

“La Kitchen” is a centrally situated breakfast-only restaurant that mixes chic and homely stylings with its white-brown-red colour scheme wooden tables and chairs with a red retro ottoman, on polished tiled floors. An outdoor patio looking over Carlisle Street is an extra attraction special to La Kitchen. We were the only ones present as the venue was booked out for us. It ended up being quite nice affair, with an open bar, canapés and finger food, friendly staff and a chatty, sociable group of work colleagues, some family and friends.

I certainly did not stay until the end of the night as it was a late night last night and a very busy day again today. However, it was good to see everyone having a good time and as far as work Christmas are concerned, this was quite a nice quiet affair. I forgot to mention that we had an entertainer booked who amused the crowd with magic card tricks. Cute idea…

Another year nearly over, another year that has flown by!

Thursday 9 December 2010


“Plough deep while sluggards sleep.” Benjamin Franklin

I’ve had a day in Adelaide today for work. Much of my job relates to maintaining our organisational compliance with regulating bodies, legislators and professional bodies. Today’s trip was very much in relation to this aspect of my work. I also took the opportunity to have a staff meeting and do some staff training. I checked out the library on our Adelaide campus and had a nice chat with our librarian. He is very technology-savvy and has a keen interest in online learning. He is in fact the “Virtual Librarian” of our Perth campus (which he also visits regularly!).

As is usual with these day trips away from Melbourne, I leave at the crack of dawn and end up returning home late at night. Thus I manage and squeeze as much as possible into the trip, which leaves me with hardly any time to do anything else except work, work, work! Makes for a very long day, but the benefit is that I can sleep in my own bed, rather than staying overnight in a hotel room. Once one has travelled for work for a while, travel loses its mystique and it becomes just another commuting trip.

I am glad the weekend is looming ahead as this week has been very busy and very tiring. It will be a lazy weekend of relaxation if I can help it, but with Christmas looming ahead, I think Saturday at least will be just as hectic as the week has been. Friday night we have our Christmas work function and it could not have come at a worse time. I know that many people will not be attending as the venue is inconveniently located for most and this week has been very full for everyone. However, as befits my position I have to be there and press the flesh…

One of the places I do try to visit if I stay in Adelaide for more than one day is Glenelg. This is located about 10 km from the Adelaide city centre and it is a seaside suburb that has the air of a cosmopolitan resort. It faces the ocean, built on the shores of Holdfast Bay, and has many sandy white beaches, as well as a modern marina. One may catch glimpses of dolphins and seals sporting in the pristine ocean waters and the sunsets are quite magnificent. There are many shops, galleries and museums, restaurants, bars and cafés, as well as an abundance of hotels and motels.

The climate is Mediterranean with temperature maxima around 30˚C during the dry summer months and around 15˚C in winter. This lends itself to many sporting activities and water-based leisure. One may take the tram from the city centre and 25 minutes later be in a cosmopolitan resort with vibrant nightlife and sun-filled relaxing days.

Glenelg is the site of South Australia’s original mainland settlement in 1836. In 1836 between July and December eight ships came across to Kangaroo Island and aboard two of those boats were Colonel William Light, aboard the HMS Rapid and George Strickland Kingston aboard the HMS Cygnet. Light and Kingston both set off to survey the coastline and find a bigger land mass for the colonists to settle on. This is when they came across what is now known as Glenelg. Glenelg was named after Lord Glenelg the Secretary of State for the Colonists. In December 28th 1836 Captain Hindmarsh arrived aboard the HMS Buffalo. There was a replica of this ship made and is running as a restaurant in Wigly Reserve today.

The 381 metre Jetty Glenelg Jetty (“The Pier”) was built in 1859. In 1873 the lighthouse that was situated at the end of the jetty caught on fire, completely destroying it. Then in April 1948 Glenelg was hit by a hurricane and the jetty was washed away. This only left the kiosk and aquarium, which was unsafe and therefore had to be demolished. In 1969 the jetty was rebuilt, but this time only being 215 metres long.

The Pier Hotel (Stamford Grand) was the first building to be built in 1856 and was a lot smaller than the Stamford Grand is today. It was then removed and replaced by a 3 storey building in 1912. The building was demolished again in 1990 and replaced with a more modern and stylish Stamford Grand.

The HMS Buffalo is located in Wiggly Reserve and is a replica of the ship that came out in 1836, with the first Governor (Hindmarsh) from England. The replica of the Buffalo is today used as a restaurant, but there are many artifacts from the actual Buffalo in the restaurant for the visitor to look at.

The town hall was built in 1875 and was designed by Edmund Wright, but without the clock and the clock tower, its purpose originally being to be used as the Institute building. In 1887 the Glenelg Council bought the building and was thereafter used as the Town Hall. In 1997 the Glenelg and Brighton council formed the Holdfast Bay Council and the town hall was no longer being used, this is when it turned into the historical museum.

Tuesday 7 December 2010


“Healing rain is a real touch from God. It could be physical healing or emotional or whatever.” Michael W. Smith

Another busy at work today, interrupted only by a stroll to the shops at lunchtime as I wanted to busy some stationery. The Christmas shopping fever has started and the carols are to be heard everywhere, while the garish decorations are up and tinsel has spread like a lurid fungus over every available support. People are rushing everywhere buying every sort of shlocky merchandise, gimcrack gewgaws and kitschy contraptions. Christmas, bah – humbug! Well, at least as far as Christmas in the shopping centre is concerned. Passing by a church, a modest sign was declaring: “Peace, joy, love, good tidings – Christmas!” Now, that is more like the sort of Christmas message that I want to see…

It was a warm and rainy day again in Melbourne today and I avoided getting wet as I took my umbrella with me. Not that I had occasion to use it, but it is a well known fact that if you take your umbrella with you, it will not rain while you are out. Forget it and it is bound to pour! Nevertheless, once I was safely back in the office (and yes I had my umbrella with me, I did not forget anywhere), the heavens opened up and I was reminded of subtropical summer rains and tropical monsoons.

It is Poetry Wednesday today and I inspired by the falling rain and the train trip home in a packed commuter carriage:

Summer Rain

A leaden sky,
The heat oppressive.
The sweaty body next to me
Reeks of rue-scented sweat.
Sighs of discomfort in the crowd –
Short tempers and eyes so hard
They’ll even scratch a diamond.

Electric sparks
Seem to connect the floppy bodies
Of the commuters,
And if they touch perchance,
There is communicated tension
That erupts into disquietude,
Perturbation, conflict, quarrel.

A raindrop falls,
And then another, and another.
Big, fat, splashy drops
That coalesce and run in rivulets,
Soaking earth, wetting the concrete;
The asphalt steams and shines,
Catalysis occurs.

The atmosphere is cleaned,
The current stopped,
The static discharged,
The circuits shorted.

As blessed rain falls in sheets
I’m soaked and forget the fusty
Closeness of confinement
In packed commuter train carriage.


“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”  Henry Ford

After a very busy day at work today, I had to attend a retirement dinner given in honour of a former colleague of mine at my last place of employment. It was something that I was looking forward to, as I had not seen many of my former colleagues for several months, some of them for longer than that. I have always been lucky in my work environment as in the several jobs I have had over the years I have worked with (for the most part) very agreeable people and there has mostly been a very good climate of teamwork and collegiality. I could not but feel a little nostalgic. Not because I am not enjoying my new job, nor because I don’t have good colleagues presently; but rather because I had spent many, many years in my previous job and had a very good relationship with my colleagues.

There were 24 of us present and I knew 19 of these people, the remaining five being new, having joined the University after I left it. The function was held in an Italian restaurant in one of the Eastern outer suburbs of Melbourne and the food was fine. After all it was the company and the function that we were all there for. It was great to have a chat with everyone and catch up on all the news and the latest happenings in people’s lives.

After the dinner, there was the customary speech of farewell and response by the retiree. The latter was an excellent speech and it got me thinking as it concentrated on the things that make us enjoy our job. The main thrust of this talk was around three important desiderata for a good workplace: Camaraderie, teamwork and inspiration. It was gratifying to hear that our retiring colleague had found all of those in ample amounts in her workplace. She singled out three people that represented those qualities to her. Her closest work colleague she identified with teamwork, a lecturer in the department she had representing camaraderie and me, as her supervisor she had chosen to embody the notion of inspiration for her.

I was very much touched and flattered by this choice. I was very pleased during my time at the former University I worked, that my Unit was the most efficient, the most united, the best performing in the whole Department. I think that the teamwork, camaraderie and inspiration were qualities shared by all unit members and we all felt part of the team, worked together as “comrades-in-arms” and we managed to inspire one another on a daily basis.

We dealt with problems as they arose and put in place strategies to pre-empt disasters. We supported each other, forgave each other’s foibles, applauded the successes of each individual and celebrated the achievements of the team. We were sensitive to each other’s needs and whenever possible we helped one another to do the job better. I think leaving this team was the most difficult decision I had to make when assessing whether or not to move on and accept another offer of a job.

Now in my new place of employment, I have set about the task of creating once again the same environment. People working together as teams with integrity, ever mindful of the quality of their work and devising ways of improving it. Working in a team-empowered manner so as to accomplish all that each person is capable of in an environment of trust and respect for each other. Sounds simple, but in practice there are many obstacles to overcome, as there are always some “difficult” people that try to subvert the process. Persistence and goodwill wins over some, while some others unfortunately have to leave the team, just like a rotten apple has to be removed from the barrel to prevent spoilage of the rest…

Sunday 5 December 2010


“Love is being stupid together.” - Paul Valéry

Last weekend we watched a very lightweight movie, a typical romantic comedy chick-flick. It nevertheless was easy to watch (yes, I dozed a little!) and even managed a couple of poignant moments (I’m getting mushy in my old age, OK?). However, for the most part it was formulaic Hollywood and it even managed to make Los Angeles look like it was heaven on earth. The film was Garry Marshall’s 2010 “Valentine’s Day” which gets a 5.7/10 on IMDB. This may be quite a good mark given the quality (or lack of) in the film.

It reminded me a little (slight resemblance!) of Richard Curtis’s 2003 “Love Actually” which IMDB rates at 7.8/10. I agree with the ratings, “Love Actually” was a much better film. Similarly, it reminded me superficially of the 1999 “Magnolia” - Paul Thomas Anderson’s dramatic and intense film, also much superior and rated at 8.1/10 on IMDB.

Now back to “Valentine’s Day”. It is fluff and nonsense, manufactured for a certain market and produced quickly with small regard to “artistry” or deeper meanings. Even the poignancy is trite and the storyline predictable. The last few minutes of the film attempt to inject some surprise, but even this fails to save the whole of the movie. The movie is pink through and through and calculated to please the crowd that “oohhs and aaahs” over red Valentine hearts and stuffed cute animals. An added bonus for this audience is the cavalcade of stars that act in the film, including a very old Shirley MacLaine as well as the more recent spunks to lust over.

The film is constructed of interconnected stories all of which are tied in one way or another with florist Reed (Ashton Kutcher) who is struggling with a foiled romance and a refusal to his proposal on Valentine’s Day, while he is also trying to work through the busiest day of the year for florists. A whole crowd of people around Reed act in predictable situations, and there are many clichés that make this romantic comedy quite trite and overly long (125 minutes – cut version!).

Three couples wake up together, but each of their relationship will have to navigate rough straits. A TV sports reporter gets an assignment to find romance in LA and can’t cope with the mush. A primary-school boy wants to buy flowers for his first true love. A high school couple of students plan first-time sex at noon on Valentine’s Day. An ageing star football player contemplates his future and his lack of family. Two strangers meet on a plane and they are both connected with the story. Grandparents (of the primary school boy) face a relationship crisis, and an “I Hate Valentine's Day” dinner of the lonely and the betrayed initially looks as though it may doomed, but suddenly is well-attended.

The movie was made fairly quickly and is a pot-boiler. Don’t go looking for artistic effects, expert direction, good editing and stand-out performances. All is adequate and even the big stars (e.g. Julia Roberts) end up having almost cameo roles. The humour is not subtle, but also lacks class and one may giggle once or twice, but no belly laughs. The poignant scenes are calculated and inserted for best effect at appropriate points. There are token racial-, sexuality- and gender-based choices in the story and each of the subplots is neatly resolved – it is a romantic comedy after all.

OK, should you watch this movie? Well, do not go out of your way to find it, unless you think 1.5 tall white stuffed toy gorillas carrying love hearts delivered on Valentine’s Day to your place of work is “just adorable”. If you happen to catch this movie playing on TV or cable and there is nothing else around and you have a couple of hours to kill (or even steal forty winks), then yes, by all means watch it. Simalarly if your video store has it on special get it if you want something mindless and predictable.


“Some say they see poetry in my paintings; I see only science.” – Georges Seurat

For Art Sunday today, Georges Seurat (1859-1891). He was the founder of the 19th-century French school of Neo-Impressionism whose technique for portraying light and colour using tiny brushstrokes of contrasting colours became known as Pointillism. Using this technique, he created large compositions with tiny, detached strokes of pure colour too small to be distinguished when looking at the entire work from a distance, but making his paintings shimmer with brilliance. Seurat was the ultimate example of the artist as scientist. He spent his life studying colour theories and the effects of different linear structures. His 500 drawings alone establish Seurat as a great master, but he is remembered for his technique of pointillism, or divisionism.

Seurat studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1878 and 1879. His teacher was a disciple of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Young Seurat was strongly influenced by Rembrandt and Francisco de Goya.  After a year of military service at Brest, Seurat exhibited his drawing “Aman-Jean” at the official Salon in 1883. Panels from his painting Bathing at Asnieres were refused by the Salon the next year, so Seurat and several other artists founded the Societé des Artistes Indépendants. His famous canvas “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grande Jatte” was the centrepiece of an exhibition in 1886.

By then Seurat was spending his winters in Paris, drawing and producing one large painting each year, and his summers on France's northern coast. In his short life Seurat produced seven monumental paintings, 60 smaller ones, drawings, and sketchbooks. He kept his private life very secret, and not until his sudden death in Paris on March 29, 1891, did his friends learn of his mistress, who was the model for his painting “Young Woman Holding a Powder Puff”.

Here is his “Une Baignade, Asnières” (Bathing at Asnières) of 1883-84 (retouched 1887). This is a huge canvas, 2 metres by 3 metres, and it was Seurat’s first large-scale work. The picture was exhibited at the first Salon des Indépendants in 1884 and in 1886 was one of the “Works in Oil and Pastel by the Impressionists of Paris” exhibited by Durand-Ruel at the National Academy of Design in New York. Too original to find immediate favor either in Paris or New York, it received harsh criticism. The critic in an American paper who described “Une Baignade” as the product of “a vulgar, coarse and commonplace mind” seems with every epithet to present the exact opposite opinion to that with which the work is regarded now.