Saturday 3 September 2011


“Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower” - Albert Camus

A full day today again, with much done around the house and garden. The day was warm and sunny, a perfect Spring day. Started it off with a walk and then we went out for shopping and to price some garden furniture as we have put up a new gazebo (the old one had rusted badly)… We came back home, had lunch and then did some gardening, and moved a pond form one part of the garden to another. Then tonight it was out to dinner with some friends. They live in South Wharf and they have a beautiful view over the marina, as you can see from the picture above.

While it is springtime in Australia, in the Northern hemisphere Autumn is approaching and the song for this Song Saturday comes from the 70s, with Justin Hayward: “Forever Autumn”.

A gentle rain falls softly on my weary eyes
As if to hide a lonely tear
My life will be forever autumn
‘Cause you’re not here...

Justin Hayward (born 14 October 1946 in, Swindon, Wiltshire, England) is an English musician, best known as singer, songwriter and guitarist in the rock band ‘The Moody Blues’. Hayward was awarded the first of numerous awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) for songwriting in 1974. In 1985, the Moody Blues picked up the Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music, and in 1988 Hayward received the Novello, among other honours, for Composer of the Year (for “I Know You're Out There Somewhere”). In 2000, he was one of a handful of British artists to receive the “Golden Note” award for lifetime achievement by ASCAP. In 2004, Hayward was awarded the “Gold Badge” for lifetime achievement by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA).

Thursday 1 September 2011


“Man can and must prevent the tragedy of famine in the future instead of merely trying with pious regret to salvage the human wreckage of the famine, as he has so often done in the past.” - Norman Borlaug

Twenty six years ago, the world’s pop stars gathered together at Live Aid in order to relieve the famine crisis in the Horn of Africa. They managed to raise $230 million for relief efforts in 1985 and a great humanitarian disaster was stemmed. We are now witnessing the return of the spectre of famine with millions of impoverished Ethiopians and Somalians facing the threat of worsening famine in what is shaping up to be the country’s worst food crisis in decades.

Declaring that a country’s population is suffering from famine is a political decision. While it awakens worldwide public awareness and can bring millions into aid programs, it is widely seen by the international community as a political failure of the incumbent political leader. The Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission of Ethiopia is charged with preventing famines of the 1984-85 type, and generally the government supports these activities as the famine of the mid-eighties is the sort that can bring down governments. However, widespread political instability, conflict, economic mismanagement, corruption and extreme weather conditions have all conspired to bring back a critical situation that is claiming thousands of lives daily.

Practically, the difference between a food crisis and a famine is whether enough aid arrives to keep the starving populace alive. While the scope of the problem can be measured in the number of hungry people, the severity depends on the generosity of those in the rich, fed world. And this year the fat nations have been miserly with their aid. Despite the promise of G8 leaders to provide funds to improve food security in poor countries, contributions have slumped dramatically over the last few years as donor states have shifted priorities to supporting their banks and stimulating their own economies. The international community therefore is not living up to its promise to the World Food Program.

In mid July this year, famine was officially declared in two regions of southern Somalia – the first time a major famine has been announced since the famine in the Somali region of Ethiopia in 2000. This declaration of famine confirms that the Horn of Africa emergency is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world now. The United Nations is warning that if the international community does not act decisively, famine will spread to all areas of southern Somalia within the next few months. Across Somalia, more than four million people (more than half the entire population) are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. In some areas in the south, nearly half the population is malnourished. These areas have the highest malnutrition rates in the world.

Across the three worst-affected countries of Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, more than 11 million people need immediate food assistance.  To respond to the growing humanitarian crisis, it is essential for international donors to commit funds to this emergency immediately to provide lifesaving aid to people affected by the famine and food crisis. The current humanitarian response is inadequate due to lack of funding and of access. The worst drought in 60 years has caused the world’s most severe food crisis in East Africa with more than 12.4 million people currently in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. People are crying out: “Please tell the world for us, that we need help, and that we need it now. We cannot last much longer…

The image above is taken by Brendan Bannon who is a photojournalist. Journalist Paula Nelson writes:
“I first went to the Dadaab refugee camp, close to the border between Kenya and Somalia, at the end of 2006…. Dadaab has become the largest refugee camp in the world, and Kenya’s fourth largest city: 440,000 people have gathered in makeshift shelters, made of branches and tarps. Experiencing Dadaab again last week was profoundly humbling. I was confronted with deep suffering and need. Slowing down and talking to people, I heard stories of indomitable courage and determination and of making horrible choices. Most of these people have survived 20 years of war in Somalia, two years of drought, and it’s only now that they are fleeing their homeland. They are accomplished survivors. One morning, I was talking to a family of ten. I poured a full glass of water from a pitcher and passed it to a child. He took a sip, and passed it on to his brother and so on. The last one returned it to me with enough left for the last gulp. Even in the camp, they take only what they need to survive and share the rest. What you see on the surface looks like extreme fragility, but it’s actually tremendous resilience and the extraordinary affirmation of their will to live…”

You can help by donating to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and be assured that 90% of your donation will go directly to the field to help people in need.

Wednesday 31 August 2011


“Everyone ought to worship God according to his own inclinations, and not to be constrained by force.” - Flavius Josephus

Today is the first day of the calendrical southern Spring and the first day of northern Autumn. All sorts of notable events are celebrated today. Firstly, some famous birthdays:

, Persian mystic (6th century BC);
Lydia Sigourney, author (1791);
Engelbert Humperdinck, composer (1854);
Edgar Rice Burroughs, author (1875);
Jack Hawkins, actor (1910);
Vittorio Gassman, Italian actor (1922);
Yvonne De Carlo (Peggy Yvonne Middleton), actress (1922);
Rocky Marciano, pugilist (1923);
Conway Twitty, US musician (1934);
Seiji Ozawa, conductor (1935);
Lily Tomlin, US actress (1939);
Gloria Estefan, singer (1958).

The common fumitory, Fumaria officinalis, is today’s birthday plant.  Astrologically, it is ruled by Saturn and governs the spleen.  The language of flowers ascribes the meaning “ill at ease” to the plant.

The Anglican Church and some regional Catholic Churches celebrate the feast of St Giles who was a 7th century hermit living in Provence.  He loved wild animals and on one occasion he saved a hind which was pursued by hunters by causing thick bushes to spring around it and conceal it.  The hind is his symbol and he is the patron saint of cripples.  Many fairs were held on this day.  St Giles’s fair in Oxford is one of the oldest surviving British fairs.  Eccles Wake in Lancashire is another one, celebrated around the Parish church dating from 1111 AD, although most of the modern building is from the 15th century.  This is where Eccles Cakes were first made about 300 years ago.  Eccles Cakes may be bought in many bakeries and pastrycooks’ shops in Britain but the original recipe is a prized secret of Messrs Bradburn & Co, a family firm in Lancashire’s Eccles Borough.

Eccles cakes are made from a rich butter puff pastry and are round, about 3 inches (≈ 7.5 cm) in diameter.  They are filled with currants, butter and sugar that are wrapped in the pastry.  The cake is rolled twice, dusted with sugar and three light diagonal cuts are made over its surface.  The cakes are baked, sugar-side up, in a very hot oven for 15 minutes.  They are served cold.  Closely related to Eccles Cakes are Coventry Godshead, Chorley and Hawkshead Cakes.

The Greek Orthodox faith celebrates its Indiction today, which marks the beginning of the ecclesiastical year. This is marked by a particularly resplendent and celebratory liturgy, attended by all clergy and officiated by high-ranking clergy. We are accustomed to think of January 1st as the beginning of the year. But the tradition of computing the start of a new year with autumn was common to the lands of the Bible and to all the lands around the Mediterranean. The summer harvest was at an end, the crops were stored, and people prepared for a new agricultural cycle. It was an appropriate time to begin a new year.

It is also the Greek Orthodox feast day of St Simeon Stylites, (c. 390 AD – 2 September 459 AD), who was a Christian ascetic saint who achieved fame because he lived for 39 years on a small platform on top of a pillar near Aleppo in Syria.

It is Libya’s National Day (since 1951); Mexico’s President’s Message Day; Syria’s United Arab Republics Day. Libya needs no introduction, these days as it so much in the news. However, geographically speaking, it is a North African country on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. It has an area of 1.76 million square km and a population of 6.4 million people. Its capital city is Tripoli and other towns are Nalut, Sebha, Sirte, Tobruk and Benghazi. The country is almost all desert with practically no rainfall. The moister coastal plains are the most densely populated and are the areas where agriculture produces oranges, grapes, peanuts, wheat and barley. Oil is the main export.

indiction |inˈdikSHən| noun historical
A fiscal period of fifteen years used as a means of dating events and transactions in the Roman Empire and in the papal and some royal courts. The system was instituted by the Emperor Constantine in AD 313 and was used until the 16th century in some places.
Its use is still reflected in the Christian church calendars. The indiction in the Orthodox Church is on September 1.
• [ with numeral ] a particular year in such a period.
ORIGIN from Latin indiction-, from the verb indicere ‘proclaim, appoint,’ from in- ‘toward’ + dicere ‘pronounce, utter.’

Tuesday 30 August 2011


“And Life is Colour and Warmth and Light and a striving evermore for these; and he is dead, who will not fight; and who dies fighting has increase.” - Julian Grenfell

I worked from home today and except for a 90 minute Skype meeting with people around the country, I had no interruptions and was able to get a lot done. I must finish a Teaching Handbook in time for our Academic retreat later this month in Brisbane, so today I did a great deal to break the back of the task.

The image above for this week’s Magpie Tales creative challenge, is now a pleasant diversion. A ripple in the calm still waters of my work-filled day and a dash of colour in the grayness of my intellectual pursuits of the day’s tasks.

A Red Umbrella

My life a silent movie:
Shades of gray,
Exaggeration of emotions – grimace-like,
Bad acting, jerky camera work,
A simple script and lines of text,
That punctuate its scenes with homespun homilies.

My street a colourless ghetto:
Gray crumbing walls,
Dirty sidewalks, litter dancing in the wind,
Concrete, asphalt, peeling paint, black graffiti,
An excess of signs full of warnings,
And quotes from council ordinance and by-law numbers.

My house a dark, dank cube:
Gray walls, gray furniture,
An empty, silent cage,
Full of melancholy routines,
And where each holiday
Adds a day more to my already long sentence.

My habits mirror my reality:
Work, eat and sleep full of gray dreams,
People I know who use and abuse me,
My friends distant, absent, silent,
A family I have chosen to disown,
And an ex-lover who still parasitises my heart.

My red umbrella today a bold decision:
To banish the grays of my existence,
To affirm my life’s worth,
To paint the pages of my life,
To exorcise the black past and colour my present.

A red umbrella and a red rose bouquet,
My gift to my new self.
An affirmation, a new life resolution,
A red umbrella to shelter my aquarelle dreams
So that their colours won’t run away.

Monday 29 August 2011


“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change (as the poet said), windows on the world and lighthouses erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind.  Books are humanity in print.” — Barbara W. Tuchman

I was on my way to a meeting off-campus this afternoon and I went by a new bookshop that has only been open for just under four weeks. As I had a little time before my meeting started I went in, not being able to resist, for as Henry Beecher says “Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?”. The shop is called Embiggen Books and is situated at 197-203 Little Lonsdale Street Melbourne, Victoria, 3000, directly across the road from the State Library’s southern side, close to the corner of Russell Street.

If you have read my post on the closure of the Borders Bookstores you are also aware of the recent closures of several others in Melbourne (and considering the dicey state of the economy and the incertitude of the times), it may be considered an ill-advised move to open a new large bookshop in the City. However, the minute I walked into this shop, I felt a warm and welcoming atmosphere and the look and feel of this shop was so different to the large chain bookstores that I was pleasantly surprised. The shopkeeper was discreet and after greeting me continued working in his little nook, while I explored. He was most helpful and pleasant when I requested some information.

I was disappointed I didn’t have enough time to do a proper job of exploring the well-stocked shelves and certainly will go back sooner rather than later. One book did strike my fancy as it was the first one that I laid my eyes on and it is on a topic that fascinates me. It was a copy of Andreas Cellarius’ “Atlas: The Divine Sky” History’s Most Beautiful Celestial Atlas”. It is a collection of celestial maps by Dutch-German mathematician and cosmographer Andreas Cellarius (ca 1566 - 1665) and brings back to life a masterpiece from the Golden Age of celestial cartography. It is  a book first published in 1660 in the Harmonia Macrocosmica. The book that has been reprinted in glorious colour and includes the complete 29 double-folio maps and dozens of unusual details that depict the world systems of Claudius Ptolemy, Nicolaus Copernicus, and Tycho Brahe, the motions of the sun, the moon, and the planets, and the delineation of the constellations in various views. Cellarius’ Atlas is not only a work of science but also has superbly embellished details, richly decorated borders depicting cherubs, astronomers, and astronomical instruments, and features some of the most spectacular illustration in the history of astronomy. This reprint was made from the beautifully hand-coloured and complete copy of the first edition in the Library of the Universiteit van Amsterdam. Mmmm, definitely one on my shopping list!

I loved the strategically placed seats and the ‘special offers’ bins conveniently located nearby – yet unobtrusive. Decorative touches here and there are provided by some tasteful objets d’ art or curios, some architectural detail such as the glimpse of the street through a hole in one of the bookcases and the general look of the shop. There is a children’s book section, but also sections on art, philosophy, science, fiction, history, politics, travel, poetry, social sciences, etc. This is a dark but not dingy store, spacious but not cavernous, well-stocked but not catering to populist tastes, eclectic and conducive to browsing, old-wordly yet modern, quiet but not funereal, and welcoming for every serious bookworm.

I was given a very small and elegant bookmark as I was leaving the store by its agreeable manager and the quote by Barbara Tuchman that begins this post is from the reverse of this bookmark. The obverse is an elegant business card with the name of the shop, its address and contact details surrounded by a delightful border that is in tenor with the ambience of the shop. Oh, and it’s all in black – so Melbourne!

Now before I am accused of having an interest in the place, as I am waxing quite lyrical about it, no, I do not have shares in the place. I just think that it is a delightful place and deserves success as a business venture in these uncertain times. I think the passionate bibliophiles who have opened this shop should be supported, and I for one will be going back to offer them my custom. Duck in and have a look and resist the temptations therein if you can!

Sunday 28 August 2011


“Puberty for a girl is like floating down a broadening river into an open sea.” - Granville Stanley Hall

We watched another Australian film at the weekend, an oldie but a goodie. I remember missing out seeing this when it first came out, and even though we had the video for quite a while, we never had a chance to see it – or perhaps we had neglected to do so. We had heard many positive comments about this and it had won five prizes in the 1987 Australian Film Institute (AFI) awards, including best picture and best director, while being nominated for three more. It also won for its young male lead Noah Taylor, the 1988 Best Male Lead in the Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards.

The film is John Duigan’s 1987 “The Year My Voice Broke”. Duigan also wrote the screenplay, which also won another AFI award. The film stars the young Noah Taylor, Loene Carmen and Ben Mendelsohn, all playing pubescent roles. Familiar faces of Australian Actors in the film include Graeme Blundell, Judi Farr, Nick Tate and Queenie Ashton. Ben Mendelsohn of course has progressed to bigger and better things, but this was a film that launched his career, having worked in TV prior to this. Noah Taylor has also gone to Hollywood, but Loene Carmen has concentrated mainly on TV.

This is a coming of age film set in 1962, in a small outback NSW town. Danny, a young prepubescent boy watches painfully as his best friend and first love, Freya, an older girl, enters into womanhood and falls for Trevor, a thuggish rugby player. This sets off a series of events that changes the lives of everyone involved. The film is simple and honest with natural performances by all the cast, and especially so the three young leads. Danny especially, is played excellently by Noah Taylor. The movie was filmed in Braidwood, New South Wales, and this location (together with good costumes and props) sets the scene of 1960s Australia admirably. The beautiful lonely countryside around the town contributes very much to the atmosphere of isolation, which counterpoints the loneliness that each of the young leads feels as they attempt to cope with their awakening sexuality and try to come to terms with adult relationships.

As Danny watches helplessly when Freya and Trevor begin their liaison, we come to sympathise with him as his feelings of unrequited love overpower him. He writes poetry and tries to emulate rock stars to win Freya over but his voice breaks when he tries to sing. Freya, an adopted child and a wild teenager, shares her every secret with Danny, as they sit in the hideout they share on top of rocky Willy Hill. Danny and Freya are joined because of their loneliness, Danny trying to escape from his macho schoolmates and Freya because she cannot fit into the family that has raised her.

Trains in the film play an important role, signifying the link with the big City, but are also a constant reminder that there is an escape route available to those who dare to leave the town. The increasingly dark mood of the film is lightened with touches of humour especially as it relates to Danny’s ineffectual use of telepathy and hypnotism. The film draws upon the characters’ belief in the supernatural in order to highlight their mundane problems that harsh reality creates for them. This is a film about the pains of growing up and how we each try and cope with puberty and its mysteries. Unfortunately, some of us make it, others are broken by it.

One thing that didn’t work for me was the use of Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending” in the soundtrack. It just didn’t pass muster as far as its evocation of the Australian landscape was concerned. The music is so English and evocative of green meadows, that to use it in a film set in the Outback is just not on. Otherwise, we enjoyed the film very much and recommend it most highly.


“You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’” - George Bernard Shaw

While in Brisbane I managed to get to the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), which is hosting a major new exhibition of Dali, Magritte, Miró, Picasso, Man Ray and other surrealists in an exhibition titled: “Surrealism: The Poetry of Dreams”. This exhibition highlights Europe’s most extensive collection of surrealist works from the Musée National d’ Art Moderne at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The GoMA, which opened in December 2006, is part of the Queensland Art Gallery building and is found at Kurilpa Point only 150 metres from the Queensland Art Gallery building. The GoMA focusses on the art of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

The Musée National d’Art Moderne, in Paris’s Centre Pompidou, is one of the world’s best museum collections of modern and contemporary art. Its Surrealism collections are the finest in Europe. It is form here that key surrealist works have been selected to stage the GoMA exhibition which presents more than 180 works by 56 artists, including paintings, sculptures, ‘surrealist objects’, films, photographs, drawings and collages. The exhibition is an excellent opportunity to see important art works that rarely leave Paris, and gain a fascinating and comprehensive overview of an  important artistic movement.

A historical record of Surrealism is charted by the art in this exhibition, beginning with the Dada experiments in painting, photography and film, through the metaphysical questioning and exploration of the subconscious in the paintings of Giorgio De Chirico and Max Ernst; to the readymade objects of Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray’s photographs. Gaining ascendency in the early 1920s, the movement’s development is recorded by the writings of Surrealism’s founder André Breton and key early works by André Masson. Paintings and sculptures by surrealists Salvador Dalí, Rene Magritte, Victor Brauner, Joan Miró, Alberto Giacometti, Max Ernst, Fernand Léger and Paul Delvaux are all included.

Film and photography are also represented throughout the exhibition, including films by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, René Clair and Man Ray. Important photographic works by Hans Bellmer, Brassaï, Claude Cahun, Dora Maar, Eli Lotar and Jacques-André Boiffard also feature. The exhibition is rounded out with late works that show the breadth of Surrealism’s influence, and includes major works by Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky and Joseph Cornell. “Surrealism: The Poetry of Dreams” is accompanied by an innovative Children’s Art Centre program, a range of public programs, including talks, discussions and performances, and a full-colour exhibition catalogue.

The Queensland GoMA was closed immediately after the Brisbane floods of January 2011, but reopened in March. In July 2002, Sydney-based company Architectus was commissioned by the Queensland Government following an Architect Selection Competition, to design the Gallery. A main theme of Architectus’s design is a pavilion in the landscape, one which assumes its position as both hub and anchor for this important civic precinct. Critical to this is the building’s response to the site, its natural topography, existing patterns of urban generation, and the river.

The image above is by René Magritte and is titled “Les marches de l’été” (The Steps of Summer) - 1938. It typifies surrealist works, in that incongruous images are superimposed to create a dream-like atmosphere of ambiguous and confronting reality. Magritte’s fascination with fractured mountainous landscapes in which some human elements are placed is shown in this painting, with its cube sky and neatly excavated trench. The female torso on the ledge challenges with its colour and texture. It looks like a classical statue but it its flesh-like upper half and its clay-like bottom half disorient the viewer. Even the title of the work is challenging and mystifies, rather than being explanatory. But such is surrealism: It highlights the creative potential of the unconscious mind by the irrational juxtaposition of often realistically rendered images.