Saturday 28 April 2012


“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” - Mother Teresa

A lovely day, full of the little pleasures of routine and rest. No better way to end it than the Larghetto from Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A Major, K 581.

Friday 27 April 2012


“You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I'm not hungry enough to eat six.” - Yogi Berra

I first tasted this pizza at a friend’s house and then have tried it at a couple of restaurants. It is nice change from the usual capricciosas and napolitanas. It is easy to prepare and a couple of slices make for a tasty entrée.

Smoked Salmon Pizza
2 cups plain Flour

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp Sugar

2 tsp fast-rising Yeast
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
3/4 cup warm Water

1 small red Spanish Onion, sliced thinly

freshly ground Pepper

2 Tsp chopped fresh Dill

2 cups grated fresh Asiago Cheese

110 g smoked salmon cut into bite-size pieces

1 Tbsp Capers, drained
Homemade mayonnaise (no sugar in it)
Salmon roe for decoration (optional)

For the dough, mix 1 cup of the flour with the salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl.
Pour the oil into the water, stir and add to yeast mixture. Mix thoroughly until all ingredients are well mixed.
Add remaining flour and knead for 3 to 5 minutes on a floured surface.
Put in a greased bowl, cover and place in a warm spot for 40 minutes to rise or until needed.
Spread the dough out on a medium pizza pan just before you are ready to assemble the pizza.
Preheat oven to 240˚C.
Brush dough with olive oil. Sprinkle Asiago cheese on pizza crust.
Spread the onion slices evenly on the cheese.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes on lower rack of oven.
Remove from oven. Spread smoked salmon and capers on top; return to oven for 3 minutes.
Drizzle mayonnaise on top, sprinkle with chopped dill and decorate with salmon roe if desired.

This post is part of the Food Friday meme,
and also part of the Food Trip Friday meme.

Thursday 26 April 2012


“Do not act as if you shall live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good.” - Marcus Aurelius
April 26th is the birthday of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (April 26, A.D. 121 - March 17, A.D. 180). His parents were Annius Verus and Domitia Lucilla, although he was adopted by Emperor Antoninus Pius when at the age of 17 or 18 as part of an agreement Antoninus Pius had made with Emperor Hadrian. Marcus Aurelius' wife was Faustina, daughter of Hadrian, and they had 13 children, including Commodus Marcus Aurelius.

I have rather a lot of time for this Roman Emperor, as firstly he was a Stoic philosopher and secondly one of the “five good Roman emperors”, reigning as Caesar between A.D. 161 and A.D. 180. His Stoic philosophical writings are known as the “Meditations of Marcus Aurelius”. He was considered the last of the five good emperors and was succeeded by his son the infamous Roman emperor Commodus. It was during the reign of Marcus Aurelius that the Marcomannic War broke out at the northern frontier of the empire. It was also the time of the important physician Galen who wrote about a particularly virulent pandemic that was given Marcus Aurelius' family name.

The Augustan History says that it was when Marcus was adopted as heir that he was first called “Aurelius” instead of “Annius', which was his birth name. Antoninus Pius made Marcus consul and Caesar in A.D. 139. In 145, Aurelius married his sister by adoption, Faustina, daughter of Pius. After they had a daughter, he was granted tribunical power and imperium outside Rome. When Antoninus Pius died in 161, the Senate awarded the imperial power to Marcus Aurelius, however, Marcus Aurelius gave joint power to his brother (by adoption) and called him Lucius Aurelius Verus Commodus. The two co-ruling brothers are referred to as Antonines (as in the Antonine plague of 165-180).

As Marcus Aurelius was preparing for the Marcommanic War (along the Danube, between Germanic tribes and Rome), a plague broke out killing thousands. The Antonini (Marcus Aurelius and his co-emperor/brother-by adoption) helped with burial expenses. Marcus Aurelius also aided the Romans in time of famine and so is thought of as a particularly benevolent ruler.

Marcus Aurelius died in March A.D. 180. Before his funeral he had already been declared a god. When his wife, Faustina, had died in 176, Marcus Aurelius asked the Senate to deify her and built her a temple. The Augustan History (always a good read as it is gossipy and entertaining) states that Faustina had not been a chaste wife and that it was considered a stain on Marcus Aurelius' reputation that he promoted her lovers. Marcus Aurelius' ashes were put in Hadrian's mausoleum. Marcus Aurelius was succeeded by his biological heir, in contradistinction to the previous four good emperors.

"Meditations" (“Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν”, - Ta eis heauton, literally “[thoughts/writings] addressed to oneself”) is a series of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius, setting forth his ideas on Stoic philosophy. They are written in a highly educated and elegant form of Koiné Greek, current at the time and spoken/read by educated Romans. The “Meditations” is divided into twelve books that chronicle different periods of Marcus' life. Each book is not in chronological order and was written for no one but the emperor himself. The style of writing that permeates the text is one that is simplified, straightforward, and perhaps reflecting Marcus' Stoic perspective on the text itself.

Marcus' style is not viewed as anything regal, but rather a style a man adopts when among other men, which allows the reader to relate to the wisdom divulged. A central theme to the “Meditations” is to analyse one's judgement of self and others and to thus develop a cosmic perspective. He states: “You have the power to strip away many superfluous troubles located wholly in your judgement, and to possess a large room for yourself embracing in thought the whole cosmos, to consider everlasting time, to think of the rapid change in the parts of each thing, of how short it is from birth until dissolution, and how the void before birth and that after dissolution are equally infinite.”

His central thesis is to find one's place in the universe and as he states that everything came from nature, he concludes that everything shall return to it in due time. Another strong theme is of being focussed and being without distraction, all the while maintaining strong ethical principles such as “Being a good man”. His Stoic ideas often involve avoiding indulgence in sensory affections, a skill he says, will free a man from the pains and pleasures of the material world. He claims that the only way a man can be harmed by others is to allow his reaction to overpower him. An order or logos permeates existence. Rationality and clear-mindedness allow one to live in harmony with the world. This allows one to rise above faulty perceptions of “good” and “bad”.

Wednesday 25 April 2012


“All wars are civil wars, because all men are brothers.” - François Fénelon

ANZAC Day, celebrated on the 25 April is probably Australia’s most important national occasion. The day marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers in those forces quickly became known as ANZACs, and the pride they took in that name endures to this day.

In 1914, when WW1 broke out, Australia had been a federal commonwealth for only 13 years. The new national government was eager to establish its reputation among the nations of the world. In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. The ultimate objective was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul in Turkey), the capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany.

The Australian and New Zealand forces landed on Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated, after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers had been killed. News of the landing on Gallipoli had made a profound impact on Australians at home, and 25th of April soon became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in the war.

Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives, the Australian and New Zealand actions during the campaign left us all a powerful legacy. The creation of what became known as the “ANZAC legend” became an important part of the identity of both nations, shaping the ways they viewed both their past and their future.

The End

After the blast of lightning from the east,
The flourish of loud clouds, the Chariot throne,
After the drums of time have rolled and ceased
And from the bronze west long retreat is blown,

Shall Life renew these bodies? Of a truth
All death will he annul, all tears assuage?
Or fill these void veins full again with youth
And wash with an immortal water age?

When I do ask white Age, he saith not so, -
“My head hangs weighed with snow.”
And when I hearken to the Earth she saith
“My fiery heart sinks aching. It is death.
Mine ancient scars shall not be glorified
Nor my titanic tears the seas be dried.”

Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen, the son of a railway worker, was born in Oswestry, Shropshire, England, on 18th March, 1893. He was educated at the Birkenhead Institute and at Shrewsbury Technical School, and worked as a pupil-teacher at Wyle Cop School while preparing for his matriculation exam for the University of London. After failing to win a scholarship he found work as a teacher of English in the Berlitz School in Bordeaux. Although he had previously thought of himself as a pacifist, in October 1915 he enlisted in the Artists’ Rifles. Commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, he joined the Manchester Regiment in France in January, 1917.

While in France Wilfred Owen began writing poems about his war experiences. In the summer of 1917 Owen was badly concussed at the Somme after a shell landed just two yards away. After several days in a bomb crater with the mangled corpse of a fellow officer, Owen was diagnosed as suffering from shell-shock. While recovering at Craiglockhart War Hospital he met the poet Siegfried Sassoon. Owen showed Sassoon his poetry who advised and encouraged him. So also did another writer at the hospital, Robert Graves. Sassoon suggested that Owen should write in a more direct, colloquial style.

Over the next few months Owen wrote a series of poems, including Anthem for Doomed Youth, Disabled, Dulce et Decorum Est and Strange Meeting. Sassoon introduced Owen to H. G. Wells and Arnold Bennett and helped him get some of his poems published in The Nation. Owen also had talks with William Heinemann about the publication of a collection of his poems. In August 1918 Owen was declared fit to return to the Western Front. He fought at Beaurevoir-Fonsomme, where he was awarded the Military Cross. Wilfred Owen was killed by machine-gun fire while leading his men across the Sambre Canal on 4th November 1918. A week later the Armistice was signed. Only five of Owen’s poems were published while he was alive. After Owen's death his friend, Siegfried Sassoon, arranged for the publication of his Collected Poems (1920). He is considered to be one of the greatest English war poets.

Tuesday 24 April 2012


“You are precisely as big as what you love and precisely as small as what you allow to annoy you.” - Robert Anton Wilson

Do you ever get in a crotchety mood where everything seems to vex and irritate you? I was in such a mood today so I felt crabby and went around muttering to myself and growling at the irritants and irritators. Maybe the weather had something to do with it as it was cold and rainy and grey all day long. Maybe I got out of the wrong side of the bed. Maybe I just tripped up against too many irritating things.

What are some of the tings that irritate me? Well let me make a list:
1)    Bottled water which sells at exorbitant prices (more expensive than petrol per litre) and is peddled in a country like Australia that has excellent tap water
2)    Imported bottled water from some far-flung corner of the earth sold at even more exorbitant process than the local bottled stuff and has snob value
3)    Non-recyclable packaging – no excuse nowadays
4)    Too much packaging – bags within bags within packets within boxes…
5)    People who use their cars even when there is no need to – i.e. a pleasant walk down the street to the local shops to busy milk and bread, or using the car to get to work when a good public transport system will get them there sooner and with less stress
6)    Advertising material that is put into letter boxes that have “No Junk Mail” clearly marked on them
7)    People that talk at you all the time and don’t want to listen to anyone else
8)    People that talk loudly all the time
9)    Impolite people in general
10)    Commercial advertisements on subscriber-paid TV (I make a point of never buying their products or using their services)
11)    DVDs and BR discs that don’t have subtitles for the hearing impaired – no excuse nowadays
12)    DVDs and BR discs that will not allow fast navigation or skipping through the trailers and all the guff before the main menu or feature film, wasting one’s valuable time
13)    New products that are faulty a soon as they come of their box (where, oh where did quality control go?)
14)    Check-out people who say: “Is that all?” to you even if you have bought a trolley full of stuff
15)    Supermarkets that put stock that has expired past its use-by date on their shelves.
16)    And lots, lots, lots more…

I think I must be getting seriously old if these things make me crabby. Or maybe it is the stress of modern life? In any case, what the remedy for me seems to be is humour. Joking about these things that irritate me takes the edge off my vexation and laughing about them with someone else (who is equally annoyed by them) seems to dissipate my bad mood, until the next time…

Well, that’s me, what gets your goat up?

Monday 23 April 2012


“No adultery is bloodless.” - Natalia Ginzburg

We watched an excellent film at the weekend, Santosh Sivan’s 2007 movie, “Before the Rains”. It starred Linus Roache, Rahul Bose, Nandita Das and Jennifer Ehle, with some more excellent actors in supporting roles. It was an excellent Anglo-Indian production, which treated of some social issues with sensitivity and poignancy.

The plot centres on an English plantation family, the Moores, who live in Kalpetta Township in Kerala, India, during the British Raj, in 1937. Henry Moore (Roache), who lives there with his wife, Laura (Ehle), and their son, Peter, wishes to expand his tea plantation venture by branching out into spices. To this end he embarks on making a private road up the mountains in order to make fertile land accessible. He gets a bank loan and enlists the local villagers to build the road. His faithful right hand man is the local TK Neelan (Bose) who is English-educated, but very much a local, whose family is amongst the elders of the village. Sajani (Das) is a local married woman who works as a maidservant in the Moores’ household. An illicit affair develops between Henry Moore and Sajani, which is discovered first by TK Neelan, who keeps silent about it, but also by two village children who alert the village that Sajani was seen in the forest with a man who wasn’t her husband. The plot involves also the rising “Quit India” movement and plays upon TK’s divided loyalty – to his country and countrymen and to his employer and English friend, Henry Moore. The story builds to a tragic climax in which a bitter choice must be made.

This was a beautifully photographed movie with excellent cinematography also by Santosh Sivan (who directed the movie). The music by Mark Kilian was supportive of and sympathetic to the action and locale, while the costumes and props were also very authentic. The story itself was simple, superficially, but the plot is only an analogy for the imperialistic era and its consequences in the countries colonised and exploited by the imperialistic powers.

Henry Moore symbolises Western civilisation, bending the world to his will through his might and superior technology. Moore’s know-how is manifested in the film by the building of a road impregnable to the monsoon rains, and his technology symbolised by his pistol, which Moore gives to TK, for his complicity in Moore’s affair with Sajani. Moore has seduced Sajani, who sees in him a perfect lover, a liberator who will free her from her brutal, tradition-bound husband whom she was forced to marry. TK is the most complex character, who is played to perfection by Rahul Bose. He finds himself acknowledging the West’s superior technology, know-how and admires the ways of the British, but at the same time is bound by the ancient traditions and codes of his village. Add to that his awakening nationalism, fanned by his former teacher and mentor, who now spearheads the “Quit India” movement in the area.

The film somehow felt a little too short for the magnitude of themes that it explored and I felt that the exposition of the motives and ideals of some of the lesser characters could have been expanded. Sajani’s role, for example, could have more meat in it and her character’s motivations could have been more explicitly shown, although she did wonders with what little she had in the movie. Village life and a more extended depiction and explanation of the customs and rituals would have added to the movie. At the same time, Jennifer Ehle, as Moore’s wife plays here role excellently and her concise, precise and understated acting tell us a great deal about her character and her motivations.

Overall we thoroughly enjoyed this film and would recommend it most highly. It is an excellent introduction to Indian movies, although the film itself is not 100% Indian. It does, however, possess many of the qualities of good modern, Indian moviemaking. This is due to the talent and skill of the director and the excellent Indian actors who make of this screenplay by Cathy Rabin a memorable and poignant film.

Sunday 22 April 2012


“It is not your paintings I like, it is your painting.”-  Albert Camus

 For Art Sunday today, Grace Cossington-Smith, an Australian artist. Grace Cossington Smith (22 April 1892 – 10 December 1984) was an Australian artist and pioneer of modernist painting in Australia and was instrumental in introducing Post-Impressionism to Australia. Examples of her work are held by every major gallery in Australia.

She is best known for her light-filled still life paintings, landscapes, and home interiors, celebrating the wondrous beauty of creation. In summarising her approach, she said, ‘All form – landscape, interiors, still life, flowers, animals, people – has an articulate grace and beauty, painting to me is expressing this form in colour; colour vibrant with life – but containing this other, silent quality which is unconscious, and belongs to all things created.’

She was born Grace Smith, in Neutral Bay, Sydney, second of five children of London-born solicitor Ernest Smith and his wife Grace, née Fisher, who was the daughter of the rector of Cossington in Leicestershire. The family moved to Thornleigh, New South Wales around 1890. Grace attended Abbotsleigh School for Girls in Wahroonga 1905–09 where Albert Collins and Alfred Coffey took art classes. From 1910–11 she studied drawing with Antonio Dattilo Rubbo.

From 1912–14 she and her sister lived in England, staying with an aunt at Winchester where she attended drawing classes as well as classes at Speck in Germany, and was exposed to paintings by Watteau in Berlin. After returning to Sydney in 1914 she attended Dattilo Rubbo’s painting classes and took an interest in modernist theories.

Her ‘The Sock Knitter’ (1915) was arguably Australia’s first post-Impressionist painting. She adopted the middle name ‘Cossington’ in 1920. Her work was greatly respected by fellow-artists Roland Wakelin and Roy de Maistre. She exhibited with the Royal Art Society of New South Wales from 1915, the Society of Artists from 1919 and Thea Proctor’s Contemporary Group at Adrian Feint’s Grosvenor Gallery from 1926–28, and from 1932 to 1971, at the Macquarie Galleries. Her painting is characterised by individual, square brush strokes with bright unblended colours. Her many paintings of Sydney landscapes, still lifes, and interiors include ‘Kuringai Avenue’ (1943), ‘Fruit in the Window’ (1957), and, arguably her most famous painting, ‘The Lacquer Room’ (1935 - see above). She received acclaim late in her career, and in 1973 a major retrospective exhibition of her work toured Australia.