Saturday 5 January 2013


“A flower cannot blossom without sunshine, and man cannot live without love.” - Max Müller

A tranquil Saturday with a beautiful afternoon and evening. Here is Peggy Zina, singing a Greek song called Παραδίνομαι (Paradinomai - I give myself up). Calliope Zina (Greek: Καλλιόπη Ζήνα; born March 8, 1975), known professionally as Peggy Zina, is a Greek singer. Peggy Zina made her discographic debut in 1995 with her self-titled album. She has since released twelve studio albums and is a high-profile artist in the Greek music industry. On 14 March 2010, Alpha TV ranked Zina the 24th top-certified female artist in the nation’s phonographic era (since 1960), totalling nine (five at the time) platinum and two gold records.
The music is written by George Sampanis and the lyrics by Helen Yannatsoulia.
…στα λευκ
ά μου σεντόνια καθώς με φιλάς, λάθος πιόνια θα παίζω για να με νικάς...

“On the white sheets, while you kiss me, I’ll move the wrong chesspieces so you can win…”

Friday 4 January 2013


“If it could only be like this always – always summer, always alone, the fruit always ripe and Aloysius in a good temper...” - Evelyn Waugh
Today was blisteringly hot in Melbourne, with the mercury climbing to 42˚C. More hot days are predicted for the next two weeks, so Summer has arrived with a vengeance. Needless to say that cool drinks are de rigueur and as well as drinking lots of iced water, one may need something a little stronger for when guests arrive for a drink and a snack. The following is quite a potent alcoholic mix, but easily can be made non-alcoholic, by substituting the brandy with a tablespoon of Angostura bitters and the champagne with soda water.

1     large pineapple
3    oranges
5    passionfruits
1    apple
1    punnet strawberries
6    tablespoonfuls icing sugar
1    cupful chilled brandy (substitute with 1 tsp Angostura bitters for non-alcoholic)
2    chilled bottles of Champagne (substitute with soda water for non-alcoholic)
Peel and clean the pineapple, chopping into small cubes and put into a large bowl. Juice the oranges and add to the pineapple. Wash and hull the strawberries, leaving them to drain. Half them and add to the bowl. Peel the apple and chop finely into the bowl. Add the passionfruit pulp to the bowl and stir in the sugar until it is dissolved. Stir in the brandy and put the bowl into the freezer, until almost frozen solid. Break into chunks, put into a punch bowl and pour the chilled champagne over the fruit mixture.
This post is part of the Food Friday meme,
and also part of the Food Trip Friday meme.

Thursday 3 January 2013


“The world is full enough of hurts and mischances without wars to multiply them.” - J.R.R. Tolkien

Today is the Ninth Day of Christmas. It is also Revolution Day in Burkina Faso and Alaskan Admission Day in the USA.
Today is the anniversary of the birthday of:
Marcus Tulius Cicero, Roman statesman (106 BC);
Pietro (Antonio Domenico Buonaventura Trappasi) Metastasio, Italian poet (1698);
Richard Arkwright, English inventor of the spinning machine (1732);
Robert Whitehead, torpedo inventor (1823);
Father Damien (Joseph de Veuster), missionary (1840);
Henry Handel Richardson, Australian author (1870);
Clement (Richard) Attlee, reformist Labour British PM (1883);
J(ohn) R(onald) R(euel) Tolkien, author, linguist (1888);
Ngo Dinh Diem, Vietnamese politician (1901);
Ray(mond Alton) Milland, actor (1905);
Victor Borge, Danish pianist, humorist (1909);
Victoria Principal, US actress (1945);
Mel Gibson, Australian actor (1956).

The olive tree, Olea europaea, is the birthday plant for this day.  An olive branch has long been the universal symbol of peace.  In China, for example, a traditional way of making up after a quarrel is to send the aggrieved person an olive wrapped in a piece of red paper as a sign that peace has been restored. In Greece, an olive branch was a traditional gift for the New Year, a token of peace and goodwill. The dove that returned to Noah’s Ark after the deluge, carried in its beak a sprig of olive, which Noah interpreted as a herald of peace, safety and salvation.

The ancient Greeks recounted the following legend regarding the origin of the olive tree:  When Athens was first populated, the citizens were looking for a god to become its patron and to give his name to the City.  Two gods vied for the naming rights, Poseidon who wanted the City called Poseidonia, and Athená, who wanted the City named after her. In an offer of goodwill, Poseidon, the god of the sea, struck his trident on the rock of the Acropolis and a fountain of salt water gushed out. Athená reciprocated by striking her spear on the rocky soil, out of which sprung the olive tree bearing olives.  The name of the City has since then been Athens, the city of Athená.  On the Acropolis there is an ancient olive tree, reputedly the same one that Athená gave to her city...

To dream of a fruiting olive tree is a particularly good omen as it signifies the successful completion of a project with delightful results.  To dream of olive oil is equally propitious as it implies great wealth and prosperity.  Eating olives in a dream, on the other hand, signifies frugality and days of scarcity ahead.

Seeing it is J.R.R. Tolkien’s birthday today, mention should be made of his fantastic, intriguing and greatly engaging fairy tales for adults. "The Hobbit" sets the scene for the epic "The Lord of the Rings", with "The Silmarillion" being a fitting postscript.  His creation of Middle-Earth and his peopling it with Hobbits and Elves, Giants and Monsters have given people much pleasure since its conception. C.S. Lewis, another great weaver of myth and allegory had this to say about The Lord of the Rings: “Like lightning from a clear sky... heroic romance, gorgeous, eloquent and unashamed.”  My first encounter with Tolkien’s world was when I was in Year 8, at high school. Since then I have enjoyed frequent visits to the Shire and Middle-Earth...

“The Lord of the Rings” cinematic trilogy has brought Tolkien’s work closer to a great many more people around the world, while the new film of “The Hobbit” promises to increase this author’s popularity even more.

Wednesday 2 January 2013


“Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.” - Helen Keller
As is customary this time of the year, I’ve had a couple of chats with people about New Year’s resolutions. No matter what you personally feel about making these resolutions, you can't avoid coming up against the stock lists with the most popular of these resolutions:
1)    Spend More Time with Family & Friends
2)    Exercise more, get fit
3)    Lose weight so as not to be obese
4)    Quit smoking
5)    Enjoy life more, be happier
6)    Quit drinking
7)    Get out debt
8)    Learn something new
9)    Help others more
10)    Get more organised
Most of us will be guilty of making these New Year’s resolutions at one stage or another. It makes us feel very good for a day or two, and the more determined amongst us may even print out the list and post it above our desk, or behind the toilet door, or the fridge, or somewhere else as visible. Needless to say that the use by date of these resolutions is quite brief and by the end of January these resolutions have been happily forgotten, the posted note has been taken down or something else has been posted over it, quite unceremoniously.
Many of us are overambitious with these resolutions and the more of them we adopt, the higher the risk of failure of achieving them. We could easily pick a few that are easily adhered to and hence achieved, but that would not be the point. I mean how serious is this achievable list?
1)    I will drink more liquor
2)    I will take up smoking
3)    I will stop exercising
4)    I will gain weight
5)    I will get into more debt…
These resolutions are very achievable by most people, but they are hardly inspiring and they will do you great harm. The very essence of a New Year’s resolution is to make us a better person and contribute positively to our life. That’s why they are so difficult to achieve and maintain.
Like most other people I also make some New Year’s resolutions, but I have managed to keep my list down to four.
1)    I shall be more moderate in all things, avoid excesses
2)    I shall give more of my time to be with the people that are important to me
3)    I shall take better care of my health
4)    I shall be more charitable
I’ll be very happy if I can adhere to the spirit of these for the whole of 2013. They are more or less achievable as they allow some leeway for interpretation and one can gauge how well they are progressing throughout the year by reviewing and assessing one’s behaviour every now and then.
How about you? Do you make New Year’s resolutions?

Tuesday 1 January 2013


“Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs.” - William Shakespeare

Magpie Tales has provided us with a visual prompt by R.A.D. Stainforth, the first of this year, that seems to be tied to New Year resolutions… My take is rather more romantically inclined than the “quit smoking” message that this image seems to advise.

Smoke and Mirrors

I drink, alone
And smoke endless cigarettes;
A chain of smoke binding me
To your image,
On the mirror of my memory.

I smoke, solitary
And drink hard liquor,
Swimming to you
As you recede, fast sinking
To the bottom of my glass.

And as the butts accumulate,
In the ashtray of your remembrance,
I resolve to leave you be;
Forget your face,
Burn your impression…

And the bottle empties,
As I try to drown your recollection
In my glass, but as quickly as I fill it
I empty it, encountering you
Ever present, at its bottom.

I formed you out of smoke,
A virtual image of perfection
In the depths of some mirror,
Manufactured by my need to love,
And all I’ve ever had was an illusion
Made of smoke and tricks of light.

Monday 31 December 2012


For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.” – T.S. Eliot
It is customary at this time of the year to review all that has been in the past year and reflect on it all, hopefully learning something, appreciating much and deploring a few things. While being thankful for all the positive things, looking back also allows us to assess what has been and hopefully be prepared to not allow what negative things have happened to not occur in the future.
The most memorable news item – Sandy superstorm
Hurricane Sandy was a hurricane that devastated portions of the Caribbean and the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States during late October 2012, with lesser impacts in the Southeastern and Midwestern states and Eastern Canada. Sandy, classified as the eighteenth named storm and tenth hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, was a Category 2 storm at its peak intensity. While it was a Category 1 storm off the coast of the Northeastern United States, the storm became the largest Atlantic hurricane on record (as measured by diameter, with winds spanning 1,800 km). Preliminary estimates of losses due to damage and business interruption are estimated at $65.6 billion (2012 USD), which would make it the second-costliest Atlantic hurricane, behind only Hurricane Katrina. At least 253 people were killed along the path of the storm in seven countries.
The worst event – The gang-rape and death of an Indian student in Delhi
One of hundreds of attacks reported in New Delhi each year, the gang rape and murder of a medical student caught Indian authorities and political parties flat-footed, slow to see that the assault on a private bus had come to symbolise an epidemic of crimes against women.
The saddest time – Connecticut shooting
Most of the victims at Sandy Point died at the very start of their young lives, tiny victims taken in a way not fit no matter one’s age. Other victims found their life’s work in sheltering these little ones, teaching them, caring for them, treating them as their own. After the gunfire ended at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the trail of loss was more than many could bear: 20 children and six adults at the school, the gunman’s mother at home, and the gunman himself.
The most memorable death - Ravi Shankar, KBE (7 April 1920 – 11 December 2012)
Shankar often referred to by the title Pandit, was an Indian musician and composer who played the sitar, a plucked string instrument. He has been described as the best-known contemporary Indian musician.
The most life-changing event – New job
In May this year I switched jobs and took up an exciting new position that I am very pleased with. Although it is still in academia, it is also a management role that has a lot of variety, gives me the opportunity to travel a lot around the universities in Australia and allows me to be involved in online learning initiatives, something that I have always been interested in.
The most significant new encounter – My new boss
A fellow academic, also newly appointed in my new job, she provided encouragement, support, constructive criticism and friendship.
The biggest satisfaction – Publication of a scientific paper on some research that I was instrumental in setting in train the year before. It was able to allow some members of staff in my previous job to collaborate with one of the largest hospitals in Melbourne and do some research that brought together two widely different medical paradigms.
The biggest surprise – An unexpected small gift from a person I don’t know well!
Very often small gestures make a big difference. I am a great believer in doing things for people that I don’t know, making a difference in people’s lives and reassuring people that basic human values still exist and that to be kind to each other can provide the greatest satisfaction.
The most memorable meal – A very special dinner with a very special person on a very special anniversary…
The best trip – Trip to Perth for a graduation ceremony
It was great to see a small group of students graduate after having done all of their course online in remote areas of Australia. These students exemplified great passion and determination and ability. They graduated with exceedingly good marks and demonstrated that getting a quality tertiary education completely online is feasible.
The best song – Jessie Ware – “Something Inside”

The best book – “The Long Earth” by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter
The ‘Long Earth’ is a (possibly infinite) series of parallel worlds that are similar to Earth, which can be reached by using an inexpensive device called a “Stepper”. The “close” worlds are almost identical to ‘our’ Earth, others differ in greater and greater details, but all share one similarity: On none are there, or have there ever been, Homo sapiens - although the same cannot be said for earlier hominid species, especially Homo habilis. The book explores the theme of how humanity might develop when freed from resource constraints: one example Pratchett has cited is that wars result from lack of land - what would happen if no shortage of land (or gold or oil or food) existed? The book deals primarily with the journeys of Joshua Valienté (a natural ‘Stepper’) and Lobsang, who claims to be a Tibetan motorcycle repairman reincarnated into a computer. The two chart a course to learn as much as possible about the parallel worlds, traveling millions of steps away from the original Earth. They encounter evidence of other humanoid species (referred to as trolls and elves); of human settlers who learned their gifts early, and of an extinct race of bipedal dinosaur descendants. They also encounter warning signs of a great danger, millions of worlds away from ‘our’ Earth, causing catastrophe as it moves. The book also deals with the effects of the explosion of available space on the people of Datum Earth and the new colonies and political movements that are spreading in the wake of Step Day.
The best film – “Life of Pi”
Having read the book by Yann Martel (which I greatly enjoyed) and having see the trailer of this movie, I can’t wait to see it!
This is a magical adventure story centering on Pi Patel, the precocious son of a zoo keeper. Dwellers in Pondicherry, India, the family decides to move to Canada, hitching a ride on a huge freighter. After a shipwreck, Pi finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean on a 26-foot lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, all fighting for survival.

The happiest time – Well, some things I have to keep to myself!
Have a Happy New Year!

Sunday 30 December 2012


“All the works of man have their origin in creative fantasy. What right have we then to depreciate imagination.” - Carl Jung

Jacek Yerka was born in 1952 in Toruń, Poland. He was born into an artistic family with both his parents graduates from a local Fine Art Academy. His earliest memories were of paints, inks, paper, pencils, erasers and brushes. As a child, Yerka loved to draw and make sculptures. He hated playing outside, and preferred to sit down with a pencil, creating and exploring his own world. This difference between the other children in his primary school led to social problems with his peers and Yerka describes his primary school life as being a “grey, sometimes horrifying reality.” However, Yerka later became “untouchable” in his high school due to his clever sketches of the school’s worst bullies.

The artist graduated in 1976 from the Faculty of Fine Arts at Nicolas Copernicus University in Toruń. He specialised in graphic art. During the first few years after graduation he exhibited posters, for example at The Biennial Exhibition of Polish Posters in Katowice in 1977 and 1979, at the international biennial exhibitions in Lahti and Warsaw, among others. Since 1980 he devoted himself completely to painting.

Basing on precise painting techniques, taking pattern from former masters like Jan van Eyck or Hieronymus Bosch but mainly on his unlimited imagination he creates surrealistic compositions, particularly admired by enthusiasts of sci-fi in all varieties. He inspired the fantasy writer Harlon Ellison to write 30 short stories, which along with Yerka’s pictures constituted the publication entitled “Mind Fields”. The same American publisher “Morpheus International” released the album “The Fantastic Art of Jacek Yerka”.

In 1995 the artist was awarded the prestigious World Fantasy Award for the best artist. He exhibits in Poland and abroad (in Germany, France and USA among others), being an esteemed representative of the science fiction stream of art. His paintings have recently inspired film-makers. The artist has been invited to cooperate in the production of an American movie “Strawberry Fields” in which his paintings was to be accompanied by the Beatles’ music.

The painting above is called “The City is Landing” and shows Yerka’s style to advantage. A meticulously detailed fantastic landscape, painstakingly rendered, well composed and with luscious attention to colour and form. It is a delicious excursion into the land of fantasy and with a meaning that can be extremely personal for each person who views the work.