Saturday 28 January 2012


“Music, even in situations of the greatest horror, should never be painful to the ear but should flatter and charm it, and thereby always remain music.” - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Yesterday was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s birthday, so for Song Saturday and Saturday Sareenity, what better than a beautiful Mozart adagio? Here is W. A. Mozart’s (1756-1791). Adagio for Violin and Orchestra in E major K261. Andrew Manze is playing baroque violin and conducting The English Concert on authentic instruments.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was no doubt the greatest child star that ever lived. He was traveling all over Europe playing music by the time he was six. Because of his constant travels, Mozart eventually learned to speak fifteen different languages.   He wrote his first sonata for the piano when he was four and composed his first opera when he was twelve. Mozart could compose anywhere - at meals (he loved liver dumplings and sauerkraut), while talking to friends, while playing pool and even while his wife was having a baby.

During his lifetime, Mozart was very well-known but unfortunately, spent money faster than he could earn it. He was poor and in debt when he died of kidney failure at the age of 35 and was buried in an unmarked grave. Mozart is considered by some to be the greatest composer who ever lived. While most composers specialise in certain genres of music, Mozart created masterful works for almost every category of music - vocal music, concertos, chamber music, symphonies, sonatas, and opera.

He composed very quickly and wrote huge amounts of music. It would take over 8 days to play all of his music, one piece after the next, without stopping. He wrote over 600 works during his lifetime, including 41 symphonies, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, and 27 piano concertos. Three of his most famous operas include “The Marriage of Figaro”, “The Magic Flute” and “Don Giovanni”. He is also famous for the last piece he ever wrote, his Requiem mass, which he left incomplete.

Thursday 26 January 2012


“My salad days, when I was green in judgment.” - William Shakespeare
It was a rather quiet day at work today as many people had taken Friday off as a leave day so that they could have an extra long weekend from Thursday to Sunday. Consequently I got rather a lot done, without many interruptions. Our Summer weather is continuing with fine, sunny days on the rather hot side. Nevertheless, the plane trees outside our house have started to put on their autumn colours and many leaves are already falling. I can’t believe that January is nearly over already – it seems only yesterday that we were celebrating New Year’s Day …

For Food Friday today some salad recipes. We eat salad almost every day, as an accompaniment to our meal, or sometimes only a substantial salad being our dinner, with no other food (except of course some cheese and bread). We love the seasonal vegetables and it is a bonus when we can gather some from our garden, which although not a vegetable garden provides us with fresh vegetables and herbs almost all seasons. We have our mild climate to thank for that, as well as the companion gardening, with herbs and vegetables happily coexisting with roses, bulbs, other flowers, shrubs and trees.

The citrus fruits are almost all depleted with only a few ripe lemons, grapefruits and oranges still on the trees. However, it is heartening to see the small green fruits already getting ready for their first crop in late autumn and then throughout winter. The tomatoes, zucchinis, eggplants, cucumbers and onions are still going strong and we are already selecting the autumn plantings once these finish up. An abundance of fresh herbs is always available: Chives, rosemary, mint, parsley, dill, oregano, thyme, peppermint, costmary, pennyroyal, lemon verbena, lemon balm, lemon geranium. Not only for use in cooking but some also splendid for tisanes.

            • 2 witlofs (chicory shoots)
            • 2 old fashioned tomatoes
            • 2 Lebanese (i.e. baby) cucumbers
            • 2 spring onions, chopped
            • Salt, pepper, chopped oregano, dill, capers
            • Vinaigrette (equal quantities of olive oil and Italian “balsamico” vinegar)
            • 1/2 tsp dry mustard (dissolve in vinaigrette)

Make the salad when ready to serve it. Chop the witlof up and slice the tomatoes and cucumbers on top of it. Add the onions, season and dress with the vinaigrette, tossing thoroughly.

            • 1 red lettuce
            • 1-2 radicchio
            • A few tablespoons of chopped watercress
            • Chopped chives (to taste)
            • Radish sprouts (to taste)
            • Salt, pepper, chopped dill
            • Citronette sauce:
                        - Juice of a lemon
                        - Juice of one lime
                        - Juice of half a small orange (all citrus juices adding up to about 1/2 cup)
                        - Equal quantity to juices, plus one tablespoon more of olive oil (Greek
                          “agoureleo” is lovely)
                        - 2 tablespoonfuls of mayonnaise

Wash the vegetables thoroughly and drain very well.  Chop up the vegetables with a knife into bite size morsels.  Shake the oil and citrus juices until emulsified and add the mayonnaise, shaking it in well.  Pour the citronette over the salad and season with rock salt and freshly ground pepper.

            • 1 cup of rocket leaves
            • 2 cups of baby spinach leaves
            • 2 small, very fresh grated zucchini (Better of course if you have grown them!)
            • 1 cup onion sprouts
            • 50 g crumbled blue vein cheese (or more – to taste; can substitute other sharp cheese)
            • 1 witlof, chopped
            • Salt, pepper, chopped fresh mustard sprouts
            • Vinaigrette (equal quantities of olive oil and Italian “balsamico” vinegar)
            • 1/2 tsp dry mustard (dissolve in vinaigrette)

Mix the rocket and baby spinach leaves with the chopped up witlof. Add the onion sprouts and grated zucchini, sprinkling with the cheese. Season and dress with the vinaigrette, tossing thoroughly.

Wednesday 25 January 2012


Australian of the Year 2012: Geoffrey Rush; Senior Australian of the Year 2012: Laurie Baymarrwannga; Young Australian of the Year 2012: Marita Cheng; Australia’s Local Hero of the Year 2012: Lynne Sawyers. Congratulations!

Today 26th January, is Australia Day, which is our country’s National Day, celebrated across the nation, and an official public holiday. The tradition of having Australia Day as a national holiday on 26th January is a recent one. Not until 1935 did all the Australian states and territories use that name to mark this date. Not until 1994 did all the states and territories begin to celebrate Australia Day consistently as a public holiday on this date.

The tradition of celebrating on 26th January began early in the nineteenth century with Sydney almanacs referring to it as “First Landing Day” or “Foundation Day”. On January 26th, in 1788 Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of the First Fleet of eleven convict ships from Great Britain and the first governor of New South Wales, arrived at Sydney Cove. Immediately he and his crew landed, they raised the Union Jack symbolizing British occupation of the eastern half of the continent claimed by Captain James Cook on 22nd  August, 1770.

Some immigrants who prospered in Sydney (especially so those who had been convicts or the sons of convicts), began marking the colony’s beginnings with an anniversary dinner, called rather grandiloquently “an emancipist festival” to celebrate their love of the land they lived in. Governor Lachlan Macquarie, the emancipists’ friend, made the thirtieth anniversary of the day in 1818 a public holiday, thirty guns counting out the years of British civilisation, a tradition Macquarie’s successors continued.

In 1888, to celebrate the centenary, representatives of the Australian sister colonies (now five in number), went to Sydney to celebrate with New South Wales in 1888. New Zealanders were also present. Victoria had separated from New South Wales in 1851, and Queensland in 1859. In 1863 control of the Northern Territory passed from New South Wales to South Australia. Only Western Australia was not self-governing by 1888, having a smaller population and developing more slowly, even after taking convicts between 1850 and 1868. Essentially transportation to New South Wales had ended in 1840. Van Diemen's Land, with self-government by 1856, had gained a new name, Tasmania, having ended transportation a few years before.

Celebrations surrounding the inauguration of the new Commonwealth of Australia on 1st of January in Sydney and at the opening of its first Federal Parliament on 9th May in Melbourne overshadowed “Anniversary Day” in 1901. Federation had been a remarkable political achievement, so it is understandable that any other commemoration faded into insignificance. However, it is also important to remember that although the colonies chose to be self-governing, they remained within the British Empire, and did not become independent outside it. The colonies with nearly four million population may have been Australian, but they were also British.

In 1938, at the time of the sequicentenary, Australians wer still 98 per cent British in background and had found agreement on the name, timing and nature of the day's celebration they had come to share. The nation now had its own capital, Canberra (in the Australian Capital Territory, marked out of New South Wales in 1908) and a provisional Parliament House. The Northern Territory, controlled by the federal government from 1911, was not to gain self-government until 1978.

The NSW government, seeking to match Victoria’s celebration of its centenary in 1934, had chosen as its centrepiece the re-enactment of Captain Phillips’ arrival and flag-raising at Sydney Cove, followed by a pageant. There were 120 motorised floats, stretching 1.5 miles, which took one and a half hours to pass through the streets of Sydney. The pageant’s theme, March to Nationhood, became the title of a film documenting the celebrations. The first float depicted traditional Aboriginal life, followed by the pastoral and other industries. There was no mention of convicts, following a decision of the executive committee of the Celebrations Council, endorsed by the president of the Royal Australian Historical Society.

On that Australia Day of 1938, there were also about one hundred Aborigines in Sydney who had come to present a different view of the celebrations. For them and those they represented, Australia Day was a “Day of Mourning”. The meeting of Aborigines at the Australian Hall on “…the 150th Anniversary of the Whitemen’s seizure of our country…” passed unanimously a resolution  protesting at the Whitemen’s mistreatment of Aborigines since 1788 and appealing for new laws ensuring equality for Aborigines within the Australian community. Among their leaders pressing for Aboriginal rights were William Cooper, founder of the Australian Aborigines’ League in Victoria in 1936, and Jack Patten, Bill Ferguson and Pearl Gibbs, who headed the Aborigines’ Progressive Association, formed New South Wales in 1937.

To celebrate the bicentenary, on Australia Day 1988 Sydney Harbour was the centre of attention. It was an extraordinary spectacle that attracted about two million people to its shores, witnessing the arrival of Tall Ships from around the world and the First Fleet re-enactment. By contrast, the “Tent City” of the Bicentennial Exhibition travelled the country visiting thirty-four cities and towns to involve Australians in the celebration. Aborigines declared their opposition to the celebrations of 26th January 1988 with land rights flags at Lady Macquarie’s Point on Sydney Harbour, the Bondi Pavilion protest concert, and the gathering of Aboriginal marchers and white supporters at Belmore Park. Posters summarised their protest: “White Australia has a Black History — Don’t Celebrate 1988”; and “Australia Day = Invasion Day 1988”. Some of the rights sought by Aboriginal protesters in 1938 had been achieved, but there was still great inequality between Aborigines and other Australians.

From 1993 the National Australia Day Council formally recognised the need to encourage reconciliation between Aboriginal and other Australians in Australia Day celebrations. Later the Council worked with Reconciliation Australia, the private organisation, which in 2001 succeeded the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, to develop a Reconciliation Action Plan for implementation in 2007. This initiative suggested a healing role for the Council in bringing Australians together, despite the difficulties of the date’s associations and the alienating symbolism of the flag.

New South Wales, and Sydney especially, has long celebrated 26th January to mark the beginning of British occupation of Australia. Victoria and the other Australian states and territories, persuaded by the Australian Natives’ Association, came to accept Australia Day by 1935, celebrating it together with a long weekend. Since 1979, federal government promotion of an Australia Day that was less British and more Australian gave the day a higher profile in the hope of unifying Australia’s increasingly diverse population. The long weekend gave way to the day itself in 1994, and ten years later Canberra displaced Sydney as the day’s focal point.

However, Aboriginal Australians have continued to feel excluded from what has long been a British pioneering settler celebration, symbolised by the raising of the Union Jack and later the Australian flag which bears the British flag. Debate over the date and nature of Australia Day continues as the National Australia Day Council seeks to meet the challenge of making 26th January a day all Australians can accept and enjoy.


“Half of the secular unrest and dismal, profane sadness of modern society comes from the vain ideas that every man is bound to be a critic for life.” - Henry Van Dyke

Today is a Dismal Day but also, the Conversion of St Paul Day (RC).

Dismal days are unlucky or evil days, dismal itself being a word derived from the Latin dies mali (evil days).  These days are also known as Egyptian Days as they had been computed by Egyptian astrologers, or as some maintain had some connection with the Biblical Egyptian plagues of Moses.  They are: 1/1; 25/1; 4/2; 26/2; 1/3; 28/3; 10/4; 20/4; 3/5; 25/5; 10/6; 16/6; 13/7; 22/7; 1/8; 30/8; 3/9; 21/9; 3/10; 22/10; 5/11; 28/11; 7/12 and 22/12.

The birthday of:
St Edmund Campion, scholar and jesuit martyr (1540);
Robert Boyle, Irish physicist/chemist (1627);
Joseph Louis Lagrange, mathematician (1736);
Benedict Arnold, famous spy/traitor (1741);
Robert Burns, Scottish poet (1759);
Lord Lonsdale (Henry Cecil Lowther), sportsman (1857);
William Somerset Maugham, writer (1874);
Virginia Woolf  (Adeline Virginia Steven), writer (1882);
Wilhelm Furtwängler, conductor (1886);
Paul Spaak, first president of the UN (1899);
Witold Lutoslawski, composer (1913);
Antonio Carlos Jobim, Brazilian composer (1927);
Edvard Schevadnaze, Russian perestroika foreign minister (1928);
Maria Corazon “Cory” Aquino, Philippino politician (1933);
Jacqueline du Pré, British cellist (1945);
Gloria Naylor, writer (1950).

Motherwort, Leonurus cardiaca, is today’s birthday flower.  It symbolises concealed love. The astrologers give this plant to Venus in Leo. The herb has several medicinal uses relating to gynaecological diseases (hence motherwort) and also relating to heart problems (cardiaca).

The first New Moon of the year after New Year’s Day should be greeted in the following manner: Go out and stand astride a gate or stile and while looking at the moon say:
            All hail to the Moon, all hail to thee!
            I prithee good Moon, reveal to me
            This night who my husband (or wife) must be.
You must then go to bed and you shall dream of your future consort.

The following divinatory rhyme was in the past recited on St Paul’s Day:
            If the day of St Paul prove clear
            Then shall betide a happy year;
            If it chance to snow or rain
            Then shall be dear all kinds of grain;
            But if high winds shall be aloft
            Wars shall vex this realm full oft;
            And if thick mists make dark the sky
            Both beasts and fowls this year shall die.

Monday 23 January 2012


“A hungry man is not a free man.”  Adlai E. Stevenson
Food seems to be something that holds a special fascination for us humans. One only has to think of the pomp and ceremony of grand state dinners, the splendour of elegant restaurants, the thousands of gourmet recipes, cordon bleu cooking schools, the vast number of cookbooks published each year, the huge number of cooking shows on TV, etc, etc, etc… That food and eating seems to also figure prominently in our relationships is no surprise. How often do we not call the objects of our affection by a culinary pet name? “Honey”, “Pumpkin”, “Cream puff”, “Cupcake”, (“mon petit choux-fleur” – my little cauliflower, if you’re French).

The lips and mouth as an erogenous zone need not be dwelt upon, given the important part they play in our mating rituals. “My darling you are so beautiful that I want to gobble you up whole!”… Artists and poets have analogised the sexual act to a cannibalistic ritual and it is not unheard of that a lover kills and eats their other half as an ultimate expression of love, of joining the two into one – a little extreme perhaps, but I am making a point. It is a love bite carried to the extreme…

The prompt from Magpie Tales today was a little repulsive but funny at the same time for me. I could not really see it as artistic, or if I were hard-pressed, I would see it as art of the advertising industry type designed to sell products. All it needed was the copy relating to the sushi restaurant down the street that wanted to advertise its wares. Perhaps it is a cannibals’ sushi restaurant? But an interesting prompt nevertheless (I could not resist the sushi superpositions, with apologies to Boris Hoppek – who incidentally is no stranger to advertising art).


The pangs of hunger have bony hands
With sharp nails and sallow skin,
That claw at my stomach relentlessly,
Deepening its bottomless pit,
Excavating my hollow emptiness
To abysmal proportions.

I miss you, ravenously,
And your absence has starved me
Of your epicurean banquet.
My body robbed of your sustenance
Wastes away, malnourished,
Languishing from your imposed starvation.

Only your presence will assuage my craving,
And your homecoming will be a feast
To banish my famish,
Satisfy my lust,
Sate my yen.

Sunday 22 January 2012


“It’s my belief we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain” - Lily Tomlin
For Movie Monday today, no review, just a gripe about the technology. When videotapes first came into the scene everyone was ecstatic as movies could be enjoyed at home, in the comfort of your lounge room the play and stop button meaning you were in control and the fast forward and rewind buttons adding that extra bit of power in your hands. It was an imperfect system of course, and many times the precious tape of a favourite movie was mangled by the player. Still, movies at home were an increasingly pleasant way to spend one’s evening. The video rental shops proliferated like weeds in the garden and all was good…

All was good until the advent of the new technology, that is. I’ll bypass a few false starts in the next step up and go to the DVDs. When they first came out these were amazing! I mean compared to VHS tapes, we were talking about chalk and cheese. Crystal clear picture quality (compared to video tapes always), no waiting for pesky rewinding of the tapes (didn’t you just hate the people who DIDN’T rewind the tape after watching it?), subtitling in a dozen languages or more, interactive menus, special features instantly available, high quality freeze frames. Oh boy! This was worth investing in. So we threw away our fragile and ever likely to be mangled VHS tapes of classic movies and bought the DVD versions. And all was good!

All was good until the advent of the Bluray discs, that is! They left DVDs behind in terms of clarity, quality and amazing features. So yes, the technology junkies amongst us (OK, I’m raising my hand…) bought a Bluray player and began investing in Bluray discs as they were coming out. Yes, it was so much better! And when the old classics began to be reissued in the new format in restored, crystal clear versions, one had to replace those favourite DVDs with the new and improved Blurays, especially if they were offered on special by your friendly neighbourhood video store, right? Hmmmm, until the advent of something new (and they are trying it at the moment with 3D, but I am not convinced just yet)…

Now comes the serious gripe part. Recently we put a Bluray disc in the player to watch a movie and we got a nasty surprise. First came the company logo and fanfares advising us which company had made the movie. Secondly the logo of the company that had made the Bluray disc of the movie. Then the usual tirade about copyright and penalties for people infringing copyright by copying and selling the copies. Fair enough (although a criminal who is going to copy a movie and flog the illegal copies will hardly take notice of this advice…). Then another warning about illegal copies – this time a video version about how burning illegal copies is destroying the Australian film industry. Tried to fast forward that but was unable to. That really annoyed me! I paid my good money for the genuine article, I sat through one copyright warning, and now this? Why? A bit of overkill, surely.

Maybe we’d get to watch the movie now. Ha! Think again! Trailers for new releases on Bluray disc. OK, let’s skip those. Not really, couldn’t! The darned thing would not let me fast forward or skip. We had to watch four trailers of movies that held no interest whatsoever for us, wasting our precious time and increasing the level of our annoyance. When they were finally over, we thought the movie would start. No, it was the company logos all over again and then the main menu – finally! We wanted to select the option of English captions for the hearing impaired. Well, that was a herculean task as the menu navigation was counterintuitive and the options selected did not clearly show up. We ended up going back to the beginning. Yes the VERY beginning, before there was light – so we had to watch all the copyright guff and all the trailers all over again!

We finally got to watch the movie after wasting about 15-20 minutes and becoming extremely annoyed with the technology. This is not how it was meant to be. Technology is there to make our lives easier, increase our level of contentment, increase our leisure time and make things better. Bluray manufacturers, you seriously need to rethink the way you construct your disc menus and remove the punishment that you mete out to the bona fide customers that have paid good money to buy your products. Such an experience as I have described is not uncommon, although some discs are better than others. And also, I want the option of subtitles on ALL movies on Bluray. As actors are getting less articulate, as background noise and loud background music are becoming ever commoner (even over vital conversation between leads!), as regional slang and strong accents are more widespread, as whispering and comments “off” are part of movies, I find English subtitles essential in even English language films…

That’s it, I’ve had my 5 minutes of complaining. Have a nice week!