Saturday 8 September 2012


“A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints” - Wilfred Peterson

Routine in our life can be a stabilising influence, a source of comfort and give us a sense of continuity and provide us with something to look forward to, if such a routine is a pleasant one. On the other hand a dull and necessary routine of an unpleasant chore or a regularly occurring inconvenience can be quite demoralising and fill our life with dullness and annoying interruptions to the things we really like doing.

Disruption to one’s routine can be unpleasant or pleasant depending on the underlying reason. If one voluntarily changes one’s routine, one would presume that it would be for the better. The break in routine would be quite welcome and the new experience may bring about much enjoyment. However, if routine is disrupted by external factors, then the result can be quite unsettling and the change in schedule can cause much distress. This may occur even if the routine is one what we normally dislike. Any disruption to the simple recurrences of our life may destabilise our sense of our daily reality, and the reality of the world about us; the moment we pass out of our habits we lose all sense of permanency and routine.

Tonight, my pleasant routine has been disrupted and it is not because I chose so. My Saturday evening habits being of the pleasant kind, have been interrupted by circumstances beyond my control and thus I sit quite miserable and I rue the events that have led to this melancholy situation. But this too shall pass and next Saturday will be much better I am sure…

What better consolation to turn to than some delicious music that will rest the body, calm the mind and assuage the violent emotions? Here is Pietro Antonio Locatelli’s (1695 † 1764) Sonata da camera No.12 for Violin and Basso Continuo in D minor, Op.6: 1. Adagio; 2. Allegro; 3. Andante; 4. Allegro. The performers are Fabio Biondi, (Violin); Maurizio Naddeo, (Violoncello); Giangiacomo Pinardi, (Guitar); Sergio Ciomei, (Harpsichord).

The painting above is Claude Lorrain's "View of Delphi with a Sacrificial Procession".

Friday 7 September 2012


“To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomatist -- the problem is entirely the same in both cases. To know exactly how much oil one must put with one’s vinegar.” - Oscar Wilde

Some years ago, I thought that beetroot was a vegetable rootstock that one ate only cooked. We had had it frequently at home, boiled and sliced, served with its greens, as one of the basic ingredients in borscht and of course pickled. I then tried raw beetroot at a restaurant and it won me quite over. Since then we frequently have this beetroot salad.

Beetroot’s main benefits are that it contains no fat, very few calories and is a great source of fibre. Beetroot has for many years been used as a treatment for cancer in Europe. Specific anti-carcinogens are bound to the red colouring matter which supposedly helps fight against cancer and beetroot also increases the uptake of oxygen by as much as 400 percent. Additional studies are taking place to add support to these claims. The green leafy part of the beetroot is also of nutritional value containing beta-carotene and other carotenoids, which function as antioxidants. The leafy part of the beet also contains lots of folate, iron, potassium and some vitamin C.


2 carrots very finely grated
2 beetroot very finely grated
The tender leafy parts of the beetroot (discard the stalks and tough leaves) finely chopped
2 Lebanese (small, gherkin type) cucumbers, julienned
3 spring onions, finely chopped
Salt, pepper to taste
1 teaspoonful dry mustard powder
Vinaigrette dressing (3 parts olive oil, 1 part balsamic vinegar)

Mix all ingredients together except for the condiments and dressing. Dissolve the salt, pepper and mustard powder in the vinegar and then make the vinaigrette. Pour the dressing over the salad, mix well and serve with fresh, crusty bread.

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

Thursday 6 September 2012


“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” - Kenji Miyazawa

I read a story once about someone who could not feel pain. The point of the story was that he felt invulnerable physically and just kept on going. The bad thing about this of course is that the inability to perceive pain is a severe danger because the person has no way of understanding when his body is being put in mortal danger by way of cuts, punches, blows, burns, or even gunshots. The awareness of painful stimuli is an evolutionary necessity to avoid injury and death.

Congenital analgia, is seen in a cluster of rare conditions where a person cannot feel (and has never felt) physical pain. There are generally two types of non-response exhibited. Insensitivity to pain means that the painful stimulus is not even perceived: A patient cannot describe the intensity or type of pain. Indifference to pain means that the patient can perceive the stimulus, but lacks an appropriate response: They will not flinch or withdraw when exposed to pain.

Congenital analgia is very serious. Few people with the condition live past the age 25 years, because they are assailed by serious damage and injury, and they fail to react. Whether these people fracture bones, burn their skin, scald themselves drinking boiling water, the lack of pain can cause immense and life-threatening damage to the body, which can be left untreated.

This is serious problem for parents bringing up such children, and later on, for these people themselves for when they become older. Furthermore, these individuals have nothing wrong that can be found with their nervous system. They have normal intelligence, they have normal nerves, the nerves seems to conduct signals normally, their brain seems to be put together normally, and it doesn’t make any sense by the current theories of how pain is controlled. The condition has been traced down to a gene called SCN9A, and in affected people, the normal way in which this gene functions is disturbed.

When we are in pain we tend to feel bad about it and pray that the pain goes away. This is especially true in situations where people suffer from constant and chronic pain, for which they must be prescribed strong analgesic drugs. In other case as after an injury or an operation, we feel intense pain that makes our life miserable. We may curse pain and see it as the enemy from within. But pain has a reason and its existence serves a useful purpose, which is fundamental to our survival. Pain is like a good friend who gives us honest but unpleasant advice, which although we may not like, we know is best for our well-being.

Wednesday 5 September 2012


“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” - Mahatma Gandhi
Our health is often taken for granted, especially so if we don’t suffer from any major disease. The everyday little hurts, aches, pains, the colds, minor infections, mild allergic reactions and short-lived sporting injuries are all of nuisance value and except for the tiny inconvenience they cause, they are all but forgotten when they pass and we get on with enjoying life. However, when a serious disease strikes or when there is need for medical or surgical intervention, when we feel miserable or perhaps when confronted with our own mortality, we realise (in some cases too late) the inestimable value of a clean bill of health.
Yet how many of us take care of our bodies? How many of us are actively involved in preventative health on an everyday basis? Do we look after our diet, do we exercise regularly? Do we take steps to reduce the risks of injury and disease? Do we live in a manner that contributes to our mental, physical and social well-being? Increasingly people are becoming aware that they are the keepers of their own health. The government, the media, medical practitioners and one’s family and friends can only do so much. Ultimately, one’s health depends on oneself.
When we get sick, especially if the disease is a serious one, the first question we may ask is: “Why me?” Unfortunately the answer in a great number of cases is: “Because you did not look after yourself!” This is not something new, people have been aware of this for millennia. Buddha has said: “Every human being is the author of his own health or disease.” The ancient Greeks wrote extensively on the topic and even folk knowledge has many proverbs and sayings that affirm the same.
Yet how many people regard a healthy life as a boring one where the only way to be healthy is to eat and drink what you don’t like, do what you would rather not and plan everything to reduce your risk of disease and injury. Doesn’t sound like much fun! And the younger one is the more heedless one tends to be of such practices of preventative health. Nowadays of course, there are many healthful food products that are nutritious and reduce one’s risk of serious long-term disease. Exercise programs can be fun and it is well known that regular exercise has not only beneficial effects, but is also pleasurable. One can take less risk and have fun at the same time.
However, the bottom line is that some preventative health measures are a drag… One need remember in that case, that “no pain, no gain!”

Tuesday 4 September 2012


“Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves - regret for the past and fear of the future.” - Fulton Oursler

The Magpie Tales creative meme has challenged participants this week with “Summer Night”, a work by American artist Robert Bloch (August 2, 1882 – March 23, 1961). He was a Modernist artist and the only American artist associated with Der Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider), a group of early 20th-century European modernists. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He first studied art at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts. In 1901-03 he produced comic strips and cartoons for the St. Louis Star newspaper. Between 1905 and 1908 he worked as a caricaturist and illustrator for William Marion Reedy’s literary and political weekly The Mirror. From 1909 to 1921, Bloch lived and worked mainly in Germany. After the end of World War I, Bloch returned to the United States, teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago for a year, and then accepting a Departmental Head position at the University of Kansas until his retirement in 1947.

The Dead Amongst Us

The dead amongst us walk,
They see, they hear, they talk;
The shades of those that lived
Of those departed, grieved,
Are here and stand and wait.

Those loved, and hated ones,
Ancestors, friends and sons
The daughters, parents, foes
And everyone of those
That influence our fate.

Dead hopes, and wishes too,
Our dreams, and a desire or two,
All patient stand and bide their time
Until the ticking clock will chime
And all shall stir, revive.

Dead loves, and passions fierce,
All that our heart did pierce,
The dead amongst us walk
They see, they hear, they talk
And keep all our regrets alive.

Monday 3 September 2012


“Violence isn’t always evil. What’s evil is the infatuation with violence.” - Jim Morrison

We had a very beautiful Spring day yesterday so it was good to go out and enjoy the sunshine a little. There was definitely a warmth in the air, the sun was shining and the Spring flowers have really started to put on a show. Nevertheless, we managed to see our movie as well, which proved to be just the thing after our walk, although it turned out to be quite a dark and sombre film.

It was the 2010 George Tillman Jr movie, “Faster”, starring Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Carla Gugino and Maggie Grace. It was the typical “dick flick” genre with some elements of film-noir thrown in for good measure. In any case, there was lots of action, car chases, double-crossing, double dealing, violence, drugs and a tale of vengeance and betrayal. It was also quite intelligent and had a moral.

The plot centres on Driver (Dwayne Johnson, “The Rock!”) who after serving 10 years in prison for bank robbery, has only one mission in life, to avenge the murder of his older brother who was executed in front of his eyes when they were double-crossed after the heist. Driver obtains the names and addresses of the double-crossers, and begins to get rid of them systematically. There appear to be nothing on earth that can stop him from killing all of them, except two people that are hunting him. A veteran cop (Billy Bob Thornton) only days from retiring and a young hit man (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). The plot is pretty simple, but relies on the action mainly (OK, and a couple of twists)…

Dwayne Johnson I believed has potential as an actor, however, his choice of roles has been pretty dismal since he left the world of wrestling. “The Scorpion King” was bad enough, but when one considers “The Tooth Fairy”, well, what can I say? In this film, Johnson shows that he has what it takes to play a serious tough guy role, playing it well and with restraint. He is cast perfectly as the vengeful Driver, out to deliver justice to the killers of his brother. Billy Bob Thronton is also cast well as the sleazy, drug-taking cop, while Oliver Jackson-Cohen is also good as the pretty boy killer who seems to be in it for the thrill of it rather than the money. Carla Gugino plays the tough woman cop well and Maggie Grace looks mainly decorative.

This was a violent movie, but oddly, quite entertaining too. The action and violence were not mindless and although the main theme was vengeance, this was counterpointed with forgiveness and redemption. The dialogue is sparing and there are some excellent one liners delivered with great aplomb by Thornton mainly. Original Music by Clint Mansell is very good and the cinematography by Michael Grady excellent. Overall, a good movie.

Sunday 2 September 2012


“Thomas Eakins was a man of great character. He was a man of iron will and his will to paint and to carry out his life as he thought it should go. This he did. It cost him heavily but in his works we have the precious result of his independence, his generous heart and his big mind. Eakins was a deep student of life, and with a great love he studied humanity frankly. He was not afraid of what his study revealed to him.” – Robert Henri

We are celebrating Father’s Day here in Australia this Sunday (first Sunday in September), contrary to the date of this celebration in other parts of the world (USA, for example celebrates it on the third Sunday of June). Father’s Day is a celebration honouring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society. Father’s Day complements Mother's Day, a celebration that honours mothers and motherhood. In celebration of this day, here is a painting of a father by his artist son, Thomas Eakins.
Thomas Cowperthwait Eakins (July 25, 1844 – June 25, 1916) was an American realist painter, photographer, sculptor, and fine arts educator. He is widely acknowledged to be one of the most important artists in American art history. For the length of his professional career, from the early 1870s until his health began to fail some 40 years later, Eakins worked exactingly from life, choosing as his subject the people of his hometown of Philadelphia. He painted several hundred portraits, usually of friends, family members, or prominent people in the arts, sciences, medicine, and clergy. Taken en masse, the portraits offer an overview of the intellectual life of Philadelphia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; individually, they are incisive depictions of thinking persons.

As well, Eakins produced a number of large paintings, which brought the portrait out of the drawing room and into the offices, streets, parks, rivers, arenas, and surgical amphitheaters of his city. These active outdoor venues allowed him to paint the subject, which most inspired him: the nude or lightly clad figure in motion. In the process he could model the forms of the body in full sunlight, and create images of deep space utilising his studies in perspective.

No less important in Eakins’ life was his work as a teacher. As an instructor he was a highly influential presence in American art. The difficulties which beset him as an artist seeking to paint the portrait and figure realistically were paralleled and even amplified in his career as an educator, where behavioural and sexual scandals truncated his success and damaged his reputation.

Eakins also took a keen interest in the new technologies of motion photography, a field in which he is now seen as an innovator. Eakins was a controversial figure whose work received little by way of official recognition during his lifetime. Since his death, he has been celebrated by American art historians as “the strongest, most profound realist in nineteenth-and early-twentieth-century American art”.

The sitter is the artist’s father, Benjamin Eakins (1818–1899). He was the son of Alexander Eakins, who emigrated from Ireland with his wife Frances and established himself as a weaver. Benjamin was born on a farm in what is now Schuylkill Township, near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. As a young man, he went to Philadelphia and became a writing master, teaching the old copperplate style of calligraphy in the city’s schools and engrossing deeds, diplomas, and other documents. In 1843, he married Caroline Cowperthwait, a daughter of a Quaker cobbler, and in 1857 they moved to 1729 Mount Vernon Street, where he spent the rest of his life. Benjamin Eakins encouraged his son to become an artist and served as his model on several occasions. This picture was first shown at the annual exhibition of the Society of American Artists in New York in 1883, where it was received with mixed reviews.