“When we lose one blessing, another is often most unexpectedly given in its place” - C.S. Lewis
Robert is hosting a Psalm Sunday meme and this entry is for inclusion in his list of beautiful religious posts. Thank you, Robert!
This is a Greek Orthodox psalm to the Virgin Mary, asking for her intercession with God to be mankind’s saviour.
«Υπεραγία Θεοτόκε, σώσον ημάς. Πολλοίς συνεχόμενος πειρασμοίς, προς σε καταφεύγω, σωτηρίαν επιζητών· Ω Μήτερ του Λόγου και Παρθένε, των δυσχερών και δεινών με διάσωσον».
“Most Holy Mother of God, save us. Having many temptations constantly around me, I seek refuge in You, wanting my salvation. You, mother of the Word of God and Holy Virgin, save me from all difficulties and suffering.”
It’s been a very rainy Saturday in Melbourne and the rain has been pouring on and off day and night. The gardens like it, but drivers on the road seem to get cranky and small children confined indoors get cabin fever!
What better for Song Saturday than Joe Satriani’s classic “Tears in the Rain”?
I was at a conference again today and it was good to see that there was a wide variety of food available for lunch, including some healthful options. There were some vegetarian choices and some fresh salads, sandwiches that were vegetable based and also those with fish instead of meat fillings. As well as that, for those with a sweet tooth there some delicious cakes and slices, including a very nice dried fruit slice that was very nice. Seeing I have several sweet teeth, I was delighted to sample this slice and then had a second piece as I only had some salad for lunch.
A little inspection of the web this afternoon yielded the recipe of this delicious slice (or if not the exact one a very good imitation!). Here it is: Dried Fruit Slice Ingredients
280 g plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
100 g brown sugar
200 g unsalted butter, chopped up
2 tbsps lemon juice
350 g chopped dried fruits (mixed peel, glacé cherries, dried apricots, sultanas, raisins, dates, etc)
180 mL orange juice
Preheat the oven to 180˚C, and line a lightly greased 20 x 30 cm shallow tin with non-stick baking paper, overhanging the opposite sides.
Put the flour, spices, sugar and butter in a food processor, processing using the pulse action until fine and crumbly.
Add the lemon juice and process briefly until mixture is well moistened.
Set aside a cup of this pastry mixture (in the fridge) and press the rest firmly into the tin with the back of a spoon.
Smooth the surface of the pastry base and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Leave to cool completely.
Put the chopped dried fruit and orange juice in a pan heat and stir for 10-15 minutes or until the liquid is evaporated and the fruit is soft (careful it doesn’t burn!). Leave to cool.
Spread over the pastry evenly to form a layer of fruit.
Crumble the reserved pastry mixture on top of the fruit and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden.
Allow to cool and cut into slices.
You may serve with some optional double cream or mascarpone.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” - John F. Kennedy
Thank you. Thanks! I’m indebted to you. I am grateful. Simple words, some would say formulaic and conventional, added to our conversation to bulk it up. Or maybe automatically uttered – a conditioned reflex with some of us. Of the same ilk as: Pardon me, sorry, my apologies… The cynical would classify these utterances as hollow niceties mumbled without conscious effort or thought, white lies of circumstances, a concession to our social instinct that allow us to live with others of our kind in relative quietude.
And yet, I am hearing the words “thank you” less and less nowadays. With some people I’m lucky to get a grunt in place of thanks. With others, a more polite one would say, “cheers” to replace the word “thanks”. I want to hear the word thank you as much as I say it, not because I expect people to feel gratitude and express it to me in repayment for what I have done, but perhaps because uttering sincere thanks is an acknowledgement that ingratitude is a vile and uncivilised offence, a stain on one’s character, a wet sponge that rubs out totally one’s qualifications, education, breeding.
How many things in our everyday life we have that we should be grateful for! The list goes on and on… Speaking for myself, I realise that I am one of the privileged few that enjoys a comfortable life, has food on the table every day, a shelter over my head, a bed to lie down upon at night. I am grateful for the people around me who love and whom I can love back, my friends to whom I can turn when in need, with whom I can rejoice for my own or their successes, celebrate their or my achievements. I thank life for all that.
I am indebted to my family that raised and educated me, instilling in me an appreciation of beauty, a respect for my fellow human beings, tolerance for others who are unlike me, who may differ in their beliefs or have different faiths. I am grateful for being able to hear music, see the wonders of the world, admire what humans have wrought, enjoy the blessed routine of everyday life.
I thank providence for my job, my ability to earn enough to live comfortably. To work at something that fulfils me and allows me to use my talents. A job that helps me make the world a better place. I am grateful for my co-workers, my boss, my colleagues working in the same field – some of them on the other side of the world – who give me their support when I need it. I am grateful for all that and more.
Americans celebrate Thanksgiving today, and for that they should be grateful. A day set aside specially to say thanks. A beautiful holiday when families gather, sit around a table and join hands to be grateful for all the things that life has given them. And not only things! Perhaps even more than things, a day to be grateful for the presence of each other around that table that is laden with the fruits of the earth and people’s toil.
Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it formally as a Public Holiday. To all others, why not celebrate it within your heart. Stop, think of all that you are grateful for and go say thank you to someone who is special to you…
“A man without a mustache is like a cup of tea without sugar” - English Proverb
The last two days have been a great rush at work as we were busy finalising a submission to a government department. Thankfully it all got done and it was put in the mail by the due date and on time! Nevertheless, it was quite an arduous task and many people worked very hard for it. Tomorrow and the day after I am attending an education conference here in Melbourne, at which I am presenting a paper. I also attended last year’s conference and it was a very interesting one, so I am looking forward to this.
Many of the men at work are sporting moustaches now, all part of the “Movember” initiative. They join many hundreds of thousands of others during November each year, who are sprouting of moustaches in Australia and around the world. The aim of this is to raise vital funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and depression. On the 1st of November (sorry, that should be Movember!) men register at www.movember.com with a clean-shaven face and then for the rest of the month, these men (known as “Mo Bros”), groom, trim and wax their way into full moustachiosness. Mo Bros raise funds by seeking out sponsorship for their Mo growing efforts.
For all 30 days of November, the moustache-sporting Mo Bros effectively become walking, talking advertisements, and through their actions and words raise awareness by prompting private and public conversation around the often ignored issue of men’s health. At the end of the month, Mo Bros and their female supporters (known as “Mo Sistas”) celebrate their efforts by either throwing their own Movember party or attending one of the infamous “Gala Partés” held around the world by Movember, for Movember.
Movember began modestly in Melbourne, Australia, and has now grown to become a truly global movement inspiring more than 1.1 Million Mo Bros and Mo Sistas to participate, with formal campaigns in Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada, the UK, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa and Ireland. In addition, Movember is aware of Mo Bros and Mo Sistas supporting the campaign and men’s health cause right across the globe, from Russia to Dubai, Hong Kong to Antarctica, Rio de Janeiro to Mumbai, and everywhere in between.
Diseases that primarily affect men claim millions of lives around the world annually. Men have a rather poor track record as far as taking care of their health. They tend to not visit the doctor as often as women do and they are more likely to ignore warning signs of disease. As a consequence they present later with disease that could have been treated easier or even cured, were it caught at an earlier stage.
In Australia, around 3,300 men die annually of prostate cancer. This is equal to the number of women who die from breast cancer annually, and yet not as much is heard about this disease as is heard about breast cancer nor do men take the same steps in early diagnosis and treatment of their cancer. Around 20,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in Australian every year. Yet, if detected and treated while still confined to the prostate gland, the cancer can be cured. The diagnostic tests for prostate cancer are the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test and the digital rectal examination (DRE). These tests do not give a conclusive diagnosis of cancer but can indicate the presence of prostate cancer.
The older a man is, the greater the risk of prostate cancer occurring, with most cancers being diagnosed in men over the age of 50 years. However, younger men with a history of prostate cancer in their family are at greater risk. What is complicated with prostate cancer is that some cancers grow very slowly and don’t threaten life, whilst others grow more rapidly and do. Diagnosis of the cancer involves making some informed decisions about treatment where the patient takes an active role in his decision on testing, treatment and management of the disease. The Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia is a major sponsor of Movember.
In Australia, one in six men suffer from depression at any given time. Four times more young men than young women commit suicide. Depression in men is associated with an increased risk of a variety of disorders, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The experience of male depression is complicated by the fact that men are more likely than women to shy away from medical treatment of any kind. Instead of discussing psychological problems, or seeking appropriate treatment, men may turn to alcohol or drugs when they are depressed or anxious.
The statistics for teenage boys and young men are a concern. In the past 30 years, the suicide rate for males aged 15 to 24 years tripled. For older Australian men (aged 65 years and over) the suicide rate remains very high. Risk factors for depression and suicide for this age group include death of a spouse, isolation, physical illness and chronic pain.
Beyondblue is an Australian national, independent, not-for-profit organisation working to address issues associated with depression, anxiety and related disorders in Australia. It promotes research and public education campaigns about depression and supports community initiatives on these disorders. Beyondblue is a major sponsor of Movember in Australia.
“One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can't utter.” - James Earl Jones
To love we have to make ourselves vulnerable, let down our defences, allow another person access to our heartland. And once the drawbridges are down and once the walls have been demolished the sense of insecurity is immense… “Do you love me?” is the question that often remains unspoken, even though we may shout it out inside our hollow heart. Or if it is spoken, what answer may be given (or not given) may make us more miserable than before.
Magpie Tales this week has given us an image of one the great and most long-lasting couples of Hollywood. The theme is obviously “love”!
Do you Love me?
“Do you love me,” she said, “do you love me?”
And I – I stood silent and looked on, transfixed.
“Do you care for me,” she asked, “do you?”
And I – I turned away and looked at her no more.
“Why are you silent?” she spoke again,
And I – I searched inside me, for words
Were hard to find and language failed me.
“Speak, answer, tell me!” she commanded.
My eyes looked upon her and all I could think of
Were bright red thoughts and chords of A major joy.
Sweet tasting sherbet melodies and cooling draughts
Of pure spring water on a summer’s day.
“Do you love me,” she said, “do you love me?”
And I – I stood silent and looked on, transfixed.
“Do you care for me,” she asked, “do you?”
And I – I turned towards her and looked deep in her eyes.
And there were velvet leaves in my gaze,
On mellow September afternoons;
And my fingers were extended in silken threads
To bind our hands together like steel gossamer.
And my tongue moved powerless in the prison of my mouth
Forcing volumes of words unspoken down a dry throat.
My lips painted a sunset of a smile, and my eyes
Spoke only three eloquent words, silently,
So softly that only she could hear them with her heart
That resonated perfectly with their insistent rhythm.
“Hush, love!” she said, “not so loudly!
For we must not tempt jealous fate with our bliss;
The gods have punished mortals for lesser offences than
This sweetest hubris…”
“What is history? An echo of the past in the future; a reflex from the future on the past” - Victor Hugo
We watched an interesting historical/biographical 2009 film at the weekend, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée and scripted by Julian Fellowes. It stars Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Paul Bettany and Jim Broadbent. It was a very good Victorian costume drama “The Young Victoria” that dealt with the young Princess Victoria, her accession to the throne, her courtship with Prince Alfred and the early years of her reign and marriage.
Emily Blunt plays Princess Victoria, who is in line for the throne of England, as her uncle, King William (Jim Broadbent) is without a direct male heir, and is not well and does not have long to live. The Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson) Victoria’s mother and Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong) her aide (and reputed lover, also), attempt to force Victoria to sign papers declaring them to be the “regents” until she is older, since she is only 18 years of age. The princess refuses, despite Sir John ultimately becoming violent. Victoria seems to have a strong will and wishes to do what is best for her country. When King William IV dies, Victoria becomes Queen, knowing full well that she has a heavy duty before her and much to learn.
She becomes close to the dashing Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany) who, although an older man, has been mentioned as a suitor for Victoria. He has a strong influence on her, and makes Victoria appear to be taking a partisan approach in her reign. This is unacceptable behaviour that displeases many politicians and infuriates many of her subjects. In Europe, Victoria’s single status hatches some plots in which the German and Belgian royal houses wish to benefit politically from what they see as a “pliable young girl” whom they can influence through a princely consort sympathetic to their cause. Handsome Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg Gotha (Rupert Friend), and Victoria’s first cousin is prodded by the royal courts of Belgium and Germany to approach the the young English queen. Once he arrives at the palace, however, he falls in love and the feeling seems to be reciprocated by Victoria. The film continues from this point to show their relationship, as well as Victoria’s increasing experience and ability to become the great head of state that she ultimately became.
Emily Blunt shines as Victoria and is well supported by Friend and Bettany. The supporting actors do a sterling job and there is a very believable, convincing creation of palace intrigue and plot hatching by the ensemble work. The cinematography is excellent and the authentic sets and props used contribute to the ambience of the film. The costumes are excellent and the music most well chosen, all contributing to a good costume drama of a fascinating point in British history.
It was an interesting, intelligent, historically accurate film, which pleased on the human level also. The romance between Victoria and Albert is depicted well and injects some approachability and humanity into these two formidable figures that history books tend to present as dehumanised pieces on a geopolitical chessboard. We recommend this film highly and anyone with an interest in history and politics will find fascinating, however, it can also be viewed as an intelligent romantic drama.
“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.” - Douglas H. Everett
Tomorrow is the anniversary of René Magritte’s birth so Art Sunday is dedicated to him. René François Ghislain Magritte was born on November 21st, 1898 at Lessines, a province of Hainaut in Belgium. This surrealist artist is renowned and very popular for his thought-provoking images, which sometimes cause amusement, sometimes shock and often wonder and puzzlement.
Magritte started painting at the age of twelve and his father Leopold encouraged him to pursue his artistic endeavours. When Magritte was fourteen, his mother committed suicide due to depression. The young René was greatly affected after seeing her body, with the face covered. This incident in his life is reflected in his early paintings including “Les Amants”, in which the persons depicted have their faces covered with cloth.
In 1914, Magritte enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels to study painting and learn about the various techniques employed by the Symbolist artists. There, he became acquainted with many of the then famous artists including Pierre Bourgeois, E.L.T Mesens and Pierre Flouquet. Although he was interested in the futurist movement and cubism, his real inspiration was the surrealist works of Giorgio De Chirico.
After completing his studies at the Academy, he married his long time lover Georgette Berger in 1922. For the next four years he found employment as assistant designer in a wallpaper factory until 1926, and it was at this time that he created his first surrealistic work, “The Lost Jockey”. Later in 1927, his first painting exhibition at Brussels received quite adverse criticism, which caused the artist to move to Paris. There, he met André Breton, and subsequently became actively involved in the surrealist movement.
The paintings of René Magritte are considered as a melding of the poetic and philosophical, firmly based on the social as well as intellectual developments of the first half of the twentieth century. Magritte’s manner of depicting ordinary items out of context is often referred to as “magic realism” and this dream-like quality makes his art stand apart from other surrealists. René Magritte died at the age of 68 on August 15th 1967, in Brussels of pancreatic cancer.
Magritte in his art, wishes to put an end to our sense of familiarity with the world. Although he depicted ordinary things in his canvases, he modified them with his imagination and presented them in absurd contexts and with such illusory blends and counter-logical associations that very often the viewers are moved to challenge their beliefs and question their frame of reference. Magritte’s work is thought provoking and his canvases present visual enigmas, which are sure to puzzle and challenge the spectators. Many contemporary artists have been influenced by the remarkable works of René Magritte.
Illustrated here is a re-working of the “Lost Jockey”, this canvas completed in 1942, and obviously based on his 1926 work of the same name. The hallmarks of Magritte’s work are evident in this work. The jockey on his racehorse is galloping out of context in a forest of balusters that are sprouting branches. Or it could be a stage, as the drapery on the right implies. Or all of the above! Clearly the jockey is lost, as the title states, but what is the deeper meaning of this work. The spectator is left to resolve the visual riddle on his own without a clue. It could be a statement about the futility of life, or something equally profound, or it could be a prank of the artist… In any case it is a satisfying artwork that bemuses and amuses, challenges and teases, provokes and stimulates!
I have been blogging daily on this platform for several years now. It is surprising that I have persisted as the world is changing and "microblogging" is now the norm. I blog to amuse myself, make comment on current affairs, externalise some of my creativity, keep notes on things that interest me, learn something new and to surprise myself with things that I discover about this wonderful, and sometimes crazy, world we live in.
I sometimes get the impression that I am on a soapbox delivering a monologue, so your comments are welcome.