Saturday 17 November 2012


“Life is a mirror and will reflect back to the thinker what he thinks into it.” - Ernest Holmes

“Spiegel im Spiegel” is a piece of music written by Arvo Pärt in 1978, just prior to his departure from Estonia. The piece is in the tintinnabular style of composition, wherein a melodic voice, operating over diatonic scales, and tintinnabular voice, operating within a triad on the tonic, accompany each other.

The piece was originally written for a single piano and violin - though the violin has often been replaced with either a cello or a viola. Versions also exist for double bass, clarinet, horn, flute and percussion. The piece is an example of minimal music.

The piece is in F major in 6/4 time, with the piano playing rising crotchet triads and the second instrument playing slow scales, alternately rising and falling, of increasing length, which all end on the note A (the mediant of F). The piano’s left hand also plays notes, syncopated with the violin (or other instrument).

“Spiegel im Spiegel” in German means “mirror in the mirror” referring to the infinity of images produced by parallel plane mirrors: The tonic triads are endlessly repeated with small variations as if reflected back and forth. The English word for this phenomenon is “enfilade”.

Friday 16 November 2012


“In Morocco, it’s possible to see the Atlantic and the Mediterranean at the same time.” - Tahar Ben Jelloun

For Food Friday today, an exotic dish that conjures up the Kasbah and evokes visions of tall minarets and the call of the muezzin. Shady courtyards and delicious smells, the pattern of shadows on brightly coloured walls and the strains of plaintive music played on the oud.

Moroccan Chicken

50 g pine nuts
500 g chicken breast or thigh fillet, cut into 2 cm dice
1/4 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground mild paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 cup sultanas
1 cup (250mL) chicken stock
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander or flat-leaf parsley
1 lemon, juiced

2 cups couscous
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups water or chicken stock
Thick natural yoghurt, to serve

Heat a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add pinenuts, stirring constantly, until just starting to colour. Transfer pinenuts to a plate.
Place seasoned flour in a large bowl, add chicken and toss to coat. Add one tablespoon of oil to the frypan, increase heat to high and cook half the chicken until golden. Transfer cooked chicken to a plate. Repeat with another tablespoon of oil and remaining chicken.
Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in pan. Add onions, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or until golden and softened. Add cooked chicken to frypan with spices, sultanas and one cup of stock. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and cook for 5-10 minutes until heated through and thickened. Just before serving, stir in pine nuts, coriander and lemon juice.
To prepare couscous, bring 2 cups of stock or water to the boil in a small saucepan, stir in couscous and olive oil and turn off heat. Leave for 5 minutes, then use a fork to separate the couscous grains.
Serve chicken with couscous and yoghurt.

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

Thursday 15 November 2012


“A fast is not a hunger strike. Fasting submits to God’s commands. A hunger strike makes God submit to our demands.” - Edwin Louis Cole
Today is the first day of the Orthodox “Little Lent”, that is, the period of fasting that accompanies the Christmas Advent period. Fasting in the Orthodox Church does not mean not eating at all, but is rather the abstention from certain foods (and often, from other distractions, such as television, parties, non-liturgical music, etc). Complete abstention from food and drink is also practiced, with Orthodox Christians eating and drinking nothing after Vespers on the day preceding a day on which the Divine Liturgy is celebrated until the eucharist itself is over.
In contrast to some other religions that emphasise absolute fasting periods or forbid the consumption of certain animals or their products, no food is marked as forbidden in Orthodox thought, following the belief that all things are “made new” in Christ. Orthodox Christians also justify this by citing the dream that St Peter related of being told to eat even those animals deemed unclean in Jewish dietary laws. Fasting is regarded as a spiritual discipline and training for the devout person. It is a self-imposed restriction, an obedience to one’s spiritual father, and a liberation from one’s habits so as to remove ourselves from the tyranny of those habits, to allow us to rule our body rather than be ruled by it.
The basic rule of fasting, as it is practiced in monasteries, is that Wednesdays and Fridays are “strict fast” days, meaning that meat, dairy, fish, alcoholic beverages, and oil are not allowed. Most monks and nuns refrain from eating meat every day in any case, unless they are ill. In addition to the food group restriction, the amount of food eaten is also reduced so as to purposefully reduce the body’s energy level, with the idea of making it easier to pray by quietening and focussing the mind. The money saved by eating less can be used to practice the virtue of compassion, by giving alms to the poor and needy.
There are also various extended fasting periods throughout the year, the most important, of course, being Lent. Lent, often called the “Great Lent” in Orthodox practice, in opposition to “Little Lent” (as the Nativity Fast is sometimes called) begins forty-seven days before Easter Day, forty-seven because the week immediately preceding Easter is counted as Holy Week, a thing unto itself. During the Great Lent, the strict fast applies every day and in keeping with the penitential character of the season, there is also a “eucharistic fast” throughout it, during which the Divine Liturgy is not served (remembering that Saturday and Sunday don’t count).
The fast is not always so strict, however. Even in Lent, if there’s a big feast day that happens to fall during Lent (eg. the Feast of the Annunciation) the fast is relaxed to allow consumption of fish, wine, and oil.  During Bright Week (the week following Easter), in the twelve days after Christmas, and the week between the feast of Pentecost and the feast of All Saints, and the week prior to Meatfare Sunday, fasting is not prescribed at all, even on Wednesdays or Fridays. Some conditions preclude fasting: Pregnant women and nursing mothers, small children, the elderly, the sick. Some of the fasts themselves are simply relaxed ones, also.
The Orthodox strict fasts are:
Great Lent - beginning and ending varies as it is based on the date of Easter, which is a movable feast
Holy Week - week immediately before Easter
Dormition Fast - lasts from the first of August to the fourteenth of August, just before the Dormition of the Virgin on August 15
The Orthodox moderate fasts are:
Nativity Fast (“Little Lent”) - 15 November to 24 December
Ss. Peter and Paul Fast - beginning is variable since it starts on All Saints, which is based on the date of Easter, but it ends on 29 June
In addition, Mondays are sometimes kept as an additional fast day during the year, refraining from eating flesh meats in honour of the Angels or “Fleshless Ones”. Monday is liturgically devoted to the remembrance of angels. All that has been said thus far has been mainly for those under monastic rule. For lay Orthodox Christians, the standard is the same, but can vary widely by parish practice. Generally, decisions on fasting are made by the person involved and his or her spiritual advisor, who is usually the parish priest, but not always. It is for them together to decide what would be helpful and appropriate for any individual.

Wednesday 14 November 2012


“No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means.” - Maimonides
November 14 is World Diabetes Day. The World Diabetes Day campaign is led by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and its member associations. It engages millions of people worldwide in diabetes advocacy and awareness. World Diabetes Day was created in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat that diabetes now poses. World Diabetes Day became an official United Nations Day in 2007 with the passage of United Nation Resolution 61/225. The campaign draws attention to issues of paramount importance to the diabetes world and keeps diabetes firmly in the public spotlight.
World Diabetes Day is a campaign that features a new theme chosen by the International Diabetes Federation periodically, to address issues facing the global diabetes community. While the themed campaigns last the whole year, the day itself is celebrated on November 14, to mark the birthday of Frederick Banting who, along with Charles Best, first conceived the idea, which led to the discovery of insulin in 1922. Diabetes Education and Prevention is the World Diabetes Day theme for the period 2009-2013.
Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease that significantly affects the health of Australians. It may lead to a range of complications, which can cause disability, and reduce people’s quality of life and life expectancy. Diabetes is responsible for an enormous public health and social burden, and is one of the top 10 causes of death in Australia.

Diabetes is a long-term (chronic) condition in which the body loses its ability to control the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Insulin is a hormone produced by special cells in the pancreas that helps the body to convert glucose from food into energy. People with diabetes either don’t have enough insulin or their body cannot use insulin effectively, so glucose stays in the blood instead of being turned into energy, causing blood sugar levels to become high. Different insulin abnormalities cause different types of diabetes. Four main types of diabetes exist: Type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes and other forms of diabetes.
4% of Australians have diabetes. That’s around 898,000 people. This rate has risen from 1.5% in 1989.Between 2000 and 2009, 222,544 people in Australia began using insulin to treat their diabetes. 1 in 20 pregnancies are affected by diabetes. That was 44,000 women between 2005 and 2007. The proportion of people with diabetes in the Indigenous population compared to the proportion of people with diabetes in the non-Indigenous population 3 to 1.  Over half of adult Australians are overweight or obese, which puts them at greater risk for developing diabetes. 3 in 5 of people with diabetes also have cardiovascular disease. $990 million was spent on treating diabetes in 2004–2005, which is 1.9% of all health expenditure.
The World Diabetes Day logo is the blue circle - the global symbol for diabetes ,which was developed as part of the Unite for Diabetes awareness campaign. The logo was adopted in 2007 to mark the passage of the United Nations World Diabetes Day Resolution. The significance of the blue circle symbol is overwhelmingly positive. Across cultures, the circle symbolises life and health. The colour blue reflects the sky that unites all nations and is the colour of the United Nations flag. The blue circle signifies the unity of the global diabetes community in response to the diabetes pandemic.

Tuesday 13 November 2012


“There was never a good war or a bad peace.” - Benjamin Franklin

Remembrance Day here is commemorated on November 11 each year in Australia. This is because the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month marks the signing of the Armistice, on 11th November 1918, which signalled the end of World War One. At 11 a.m. on 11th November 1918, the guns of the Western Front fell silent after more than four years of continuous warfare. Initially, when WWI ended, the day was known as Armistice Day but was renamed Remembrance Day after WWII. In the USA the day is known as Veterans’ Day.

Each year Australians observe one minute’s silence at 11 a.m. on 11th November, in memory of all those men and women who have died or suffered in all wars, conflicts and peace operations. This is a simple yet very effective way of remembering the massive loss of life and immense suffering that humankind has been subjected to in all of the various armed conflicts that have blotted recorded history.

Magpie Tales this week has provided a prompt (Verdun, 1917 by Felix Vallotton) in harmony with this day of Remembrance. Here is my contribution.

The Rabbit, III

Run, run, run
Rabbit run!

The gun spits out death.

A flash, a bang, an echo

And the pungent smell

Of gunpowder...


Bang, bang, bang
All stops in mid-jump.
One, two, three
And inside me

My noontime meal

Turns to poison.


Kill, kill, kill
Blood, death, terror

In the falling evening.
Life is death

Love is life

Death is love.


Eyes, eyes, eyes
Hard eyes, soft eyes.

Love is hard, sharp, jagged glass

Death is soft, yielding velvet

Life is soft, hard, sharp,

Smooth, tender but unbending.

Life is death

Hard, sharp like broken glass

Soft, smooth like velvet.

Monday 12 November 2012


“I had a hard time with bullying. I ate lunch in the bathroom.” - Julianne Hough
Sometimes one wants to sit in front of the TV and watch junk food for the brain. Something light and non-challenging in terms of content, storyline, acting and meaning. Just for those days when one’s brain hurts and needs a bit of a respite from the deep and meaningful… Hollywood, of course, is well-suited to producing a host of such films and they are quite popular with viewers who are on the scrounge for easily consumed, predigested pap that satisfies one’s sweet tooth of the brain.
We watched such a film at the weekend as we were tired and had had a challenging previous couple of days. The film was mildly amusing, virtually non-offensive, adhered to standard type-casting, very light-on and was something one could watch while concentrating on various other things too. It was the 2010 Andy Fickman feature “You Again” starring Kristen Bell, Odette Annable, Jamie Lee Curtis, James Wolk, Betty White and Sigourney Weaver. It was written by Moe Jelline, better know as the writer of the TV sitcom “Love and Marriage” of 1996.

The plot revolves around Marni (Bell) a geeky, ugly kind of teenager that boys aren’t interested in and easy prey for the taunts and torments of the mean girls. Her arch nemesis is the popular and beautiful Joanna (Annable), the head cheerleader. Fast-forward several years, when Marni has become a successful woman with a good job in PR. She goes back home for her brother Will’s (Wolk) wedding and to her horror discovers that her brother is about to marry Joanna. When they meet she wants Joanna to apologise to her for the way she treated her in High School, but Joanna pretends she doesn’t even remember Marni. Marni tells her mother, Gail (Curtis) about the situation with Joanna, but Gail tells her to leave the past alone. However, when Gail learns that Joanna’s aunt Mona (Weaver) is her old friend from High School, Ramona, she changes tune. It turns out that the relationship between Gail and Ramona wasn’t all that rosy either. When Marni learns that Joanna really does remember her, she sets out to expose her true bitchy colours to her brother. But things will get a little more complex…

Now that I have written the summary I realise how even more inconsequential this movie was, but like junk food, so easily consumed. Although the film is hardly a romantic comedy, it is a chick flick in that it has a strong female cast that does its best with the material it has been handed. Betty White as “Granny Bunny” tries her best to get laughs, but the material she has is quite weak. Weaver and Curtis that are quite accomplished actresses and have obviously done this film in order to pay the bills. They try their best to do what they can with the often childish plot and lines.

The moral of the story is based on bullying and the terrible effects it has on people, but unfortunately this was trivialized and sugar-coated and the fluff got in the way of making a point about the lives that can be destroyed by bullying. Watch the film at your peril, but as I said, sometimes only mindless pap will do…

Sunday 11 November 2012


“Women marry men hoping they will change. Men marry women hoping they will not. So each is inevitably disappointed.” - Albert Einstein

William Hogarth (born Nov. 10, 1697, London, England—died Oct. 26, 1764, London) was the first great English-born artist to attract admiration abroad and best known for his moral and satirical engravings and paintings, eg, “A Rake’s Progress” (eight scenes, begun 1732). His attempts to build a reputation as a history painter and portraitist, however, met with financial disappointment, and his aesthetic theories had more influence in Romantic literature than in painting.

Hogarth is unquestionably one of the greatest English artists and a man of remarkably individual character and thought. He was one of the first the great innovators in English art. On one hand, he was the first to paint themes from Shakespeare, Milton and the theatre, and the founder of a wholly original genre of moral history, which became known as “Hogarthian”. On the other hand, he investigated the aesthetic principles of his art, which resulted in his book “The Analysis of Beauty”(1753).

William Hogarth was the fifth child of Richard Hogarth, a schoolmaster and classical scholar from the north of England who had come to London in the mid-1680s. His father’s premature death in 1718 affected Hogarth’s early life, his training and forced him to earn money. In February 1713, Hogarth began his apprenticeship to a plate engraver, Ellis Gamble, who was a distant relation. By April 1720, he set up an independent business as an engraver. His first works included a number of commissions for small, etched cards and bookplates, and in 1721 he produced two inventive engraved allegories.

With topical prints such as “The South Sea Scheme” and “The Lottery”, which aroused considerable attention, he started his black-and-white satires which made him so widely known in Britain and abroad. His first success as a painter was in the ‘conversational pieces’, in which figure informal groups of family and friends surrounded by customary things from their everyday life. He was not the inventor of the genre, and had many contemporary rivals, but his pictures are marked with his own individuality: “The Fishing Party” (c.1730), “The Wedding of Stephen Bechingham and Mary Cox” (c.1730).

In 1729, he married a daughter of his painting teacher Sir James Thornhill. The scene from “The Beggar’s Opera”, which was the picture of an actual stage, brought him great success,  and at about 1730, he was commissioned for several versions. The result of this accomplishment was the idea of his own ‘theatre’: The creation of ‘pictorial dramas’ which were to reach the wider public through the means of engraving. The first successful series “The Harlot’s Progress”, of which only the engravings now exist (the originals were burnt in 1755), was immediately followed by the tremendous verve of “The Rake’s Progress”; the masterpiece of the story series “The Marriage a la Mode” followed, after an interval of twelve years.

Hogarth’ satires were serious moral and social satires, besides being good paintings. In 1735, he opened his own academy in St. Martyn's Lane. In portraiture, Hogarth displays a great variety and originality such as in portraits of “George Arnold” (c.1740), “Mary Edwards” (1742) and “Bishop Benjamin Hoadly” (1743). The charm of childhood, the ability to compose a vivid group, a delightful delicacy of color appear in “The Graham Children” (1742). The portrait heads of his servants are penetrating studies of character: “Hogarth’s Servants”. (c.1750). The painting of “Captain Thomas Coram” (1740), the philanthropic sea captain who took a leading part in the foundation of the Foundling Hospital, adapts the formality of the ceremonial portrait to a democratic level. The painter’s character is reflected faithfully in his forthright “Self-Portrait with Pug-Dog” (1745).

The quality of Hogarth as an artist is seen to advantage in his sketches and one sketch in particular, the famous “The Shrimp Girl” (c.1740-1743) quickly executed with a limited range of colour, stands alone in his work, taking its place among the masterpieces of the world in its harmony of form and content, its freshness and vitality. Hogarth died in 1764 in London and is buried in Chiswick cemetery.

In 1743–1745, William Hogarth painted the six pictures of “Marriage à-la-mode” (National Gallery, London), a pointed skewering of upper class 18th century society. This moralistic warning shows the disastrous results of an ill-considered marriage for money and satirises patronage and aesthetics. This is regarded by many as his finest project, certainly the best example of his serially-planned story cycles. A sort of “soap opera painting series”… In the first of the series, Hogarth shows an arranged marriage between the son of bankrupt Earl Squanderfield and the daughter of a wealthy but miserly city merchant. The son looks indifferent while the merchant’s daughter is distraught and has to be consoled by the lawyer Silvertongue. Even the faces on the walls appear to have misgivings.

In the second, called "The Tête-a-Tête" (shown above), there are signs that the marriage has already begun to break down. The husband and wife appear uninterested in one another, amidst evidence of their separate overindulgences the night before. The Viscount has had a night of debauchery (and the patch on his neck is a sign of syphilis), while the Viscountess has had a night of gambling on the card tables (but with whom?) Her pose is rather unladylike and her contentment may suggest that she was indeed in the arms of her lover. A distraught steward with a handful of unpaid bills walks off to the left, his eyes turned heavenward, knowing full well these won’t be paid in a hurry. The servant in the other room looks befuddled and is clearly not well supervised or directed.

The third in the series shows the Viscount visiting a quack with a young prostitute. The viscount, unhappy with the mercury pills meant to cure his syphilis, demands a refund while the young prostitute next to him dabs an open sore on her mouth, an early sign of syphilis.

In the fourth, the old Earl has died and the son is now the new Earl and his wife, the Countess. As was the very height of fashion at the time, the Countess is holding a “Toilette’, or reception, in her bedroom. The lawyer Silvertongue from the first painting is reclining next to the Countess, suggesting the existence of an affair. This point is furthered by the child in front of the pair, pointing to the horns on the statue of Actaeon, a symbol of cuckoldry. Paintings in the background include the biblical story of Lot and his daughters, Jupiter and Io, and the rape of Ganymede.

Next, the new Earl catches his wife in a bagnio with her lover, the lawyer, and is fatally wounded by the lawyer. As she begs forgiveness from the stricken man, the murderer in his nightshirt makes a hasty exit through the window. A picture of a woman with a squirrel on her hand hanging behind the countess contains lewd undertones.

Finally the Countess poisons herself in her grief and poverty-stricken widowhood, after her lover is hanged at Tyburn for murdering her husband. An old woman carrying her baby allows the child to give her a kiss, but the mark on her cheek and the caliper on her leg suggest that disease has been passed onto the next generation…