Saturday 27 April 2013


“We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.” - W. Somerset Maugham

A delightful Saturday, including warm, mellow Autumn weather. The chores of the weekend accomplished, the afternoon and evening were devoted to leisure and the celebration of an anniversary. Happy times, where contentment and gratitude for one’s lot were at the forefront.

Here are the gentle delights of the first Arabesque, from the pen of Claude Debussy, performed by Stephen Malinowski.

Friday 26 April 2013


“Without rice, even the cleverest housewife cannot cook” – Chinese Proverb

Autumn is with us and there is a wealth of autumn vegetables available fresh at the greengrocer’s. The pumpkins, squash and zucchini are at their best this season, so why not try this delicious recipe for pumpkin risotto?

Pumpkin Risotto


1kg butternut pumpkin, peeled and cut into bite-size chunks
4 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch rosemary leaves picked, roughly chopped
1½ L vegetable stock
50g butter
1 onion , finely chopped
300g Arborio risotto rice
1 small glass white wine
100g Parmesan cheese, finely grated

First prepare the pumpkin. Heat oven to 220˚C/fan-forced. Toss the pumpkin in 2 tbsp oil together with the chopped rosemary. Scatter into a shallow roasting tin and roast for 30 mins until pumpkin is cooked and soft.

While the pumpkin is roasting, prepare the risotto. Bring the stock to the boil and keep on a low simmer. In a separate pan, melt half the butter over a medium heat. Stir in the onions and sweat gently for 8-10 minutes until soft but not coloured, stirring occasionally. Stir the rice into the onions until completely coated in the butter, then stir continuously until the rice is shiny and the edges of the grain start to look transparent.

Pour in the wine and simmer until totally evaporated. Add the stock, a ladleful at a time and stirring the rice over a low heat for 25-30 minutes, until the rice is cooked. The risotto should be creamy and slightly soupy. When you draw a wooden spoon through it, there should be a wake that holds for a few moments but not longer.

When the pumpkin is cooked, mash half of it to a rough purée and leave half whole. When the risotto is just done, stir though the purée, then add the cheese and butter and leave to rest for a few minutes. Serve the risotto scattered with the whole chunks of pumpkin.

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

Thursday 25 April 2013


“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” - Blaise Pascal

Today is St Mark’s Feast Day, as celebrated by the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Greek Orthodox faiths. St Mark, a Christian apostle, is traditional author of the second Gospel. He lived in Jerusalem and the early Christians met at Mary’s (his mother), house. He accompanied St. Paul and St. Barnabas to Cyprus, but he left them at Perga and returned to Jerusalem. St. Peter is thought to have provided him with many of the facts on which he based his Gospel.

The Alexandrian church claims Mark as its founder (the liturgy of that church is called St Mark’s Liturgy).  His symbol as an Evangelist is the lion.  The cathedral of Venice is dedicated to St Mark and holds his relics, while the city of Venice itself has adopted the lion as its symbol. The Gospel according to St Mark is the second book of the New Testament. It is the simplest and earliest of the Gospels (written probably between 65-70 AD) and used as a source by Matthew and Luke, hence these three gospels are called the synoptic gospels.

St Mark’s gospel was presumably written during the decade preceding the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Most scholars agree that it was used by Matthew and Luke in composing their accounts; more than 90 percent of the content of Mark’s Gospel appears in Matthew’s, and more than 50 percent in the Gospel of Luke. Although the text lacks literary polish, it is simple and direct; and, as the earliest Gospel, it is the primary source of information about the ministry of Jesus.

Mark’s explanations of Jewish customs and his translations of Aramaic expressions suggest that he was writing for Gentile converts, probably especially for those converts living in Rome. After an introduction (1:1-13), the Gospel describes Jesus’ ministry in and around Galilee (1:14-8:26); his journey to Jerusalem (11-13); the Passion (14-15); and the Resurrection (16). The final passage in Mark (16:9-20) is omitted in some manuscripts, including the two oldest, and a shorter passage is substituted in others.

Many scholars believe that these last verses were not written by Mark, at least not at the same time as the balance of the Gospel, but were added later to account for the Resurrection. Mark’s Gospel stresses the deeds, strength, and determination of Jesus in overcoming evil forces and defying the power of imperial Rome. Mark also emphasises the Passion, predicting it as early as chapter 8 and devoting the final third of his Gospel (11-16) to the last week of Jesus’ life.

One of the most striking elements in the Gospel is Mark’s characterisation of Jesus as reluctant to reveal himself as the Messiah. Jesus refers to himself only as the Son of Man, and while tacitly acknowledging Peter’s declaration that Jesus is the Christ, he nevertheless cautions his followers not to tell anyone about him.

Wednesday 24 April 2013


“If we don’t end war, war will end us.” - H. G. Wells

With Anzac Day coming around again this year it was distressing to hear that some radical groups are agitating to stop “celebrating” this day. What was offensive to me was firstly the choice of the word “celebrate”. Anzac Day is a “commemorative” day, not a “celebratory” one. My dictionary advises:

celebrate |ˈsɛlɪbreɪt| verb
1 publicly acknowledge (a significant or happy day or event) with a social gathering or enjoyable activity: They were celebrating their wedding anniversary at a swanky restaurant.

commemorate |kəˈmɛməreɪt| verb
recall and show respect for (someone or something): A wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate the war dead.

Anzac Day is one of Australia’s most important national commemorative occasions. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. It falls on the 25th of April each year, and this day was officially named Anzac Day in 1916. Anzac stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. On the 25th of April 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula. It is a sad day, one for contemplation not for celebration…

On the morning of 25 April 1915, the Anzacs set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. The objective was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul in Turkey), the capital of the Ottoman Empire, and an ally of Germany. 

The Anzacs landed on Gallipoli and met fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. Their plan 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. Both sides suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers were killed. News of the landing on Gallipoli and the events that followed had a profound impact on Australians at home. The 25th of April soon became the day on which Australians remember the sacrifice of those who had died in the war.

In the multicultural community that is Australia, it is not only the Anglosphere Australians that commemorate Anzac Day. Turkish Australians join in the commemoration and remember their own dead. Both sides of past war remember the loss of life and commiserate with each other on the tragic waste of youth and resources that war effects on all sides. With the coming of the Second World War, Anzac Day also serves to commemorate the lives of Australians who died in that war. The meaning of Anzac Day today includes the remembrance of all Australians killed in military operations.

Commemorative services that are held at dawn are a characteristic feature of the day, remembering the time of the original landing in Gallipoli. Later in the day, ex-servicemen and women meet to take part in marches through the major cities and in many smaller centres. Commemorative ceremonies are held at war memorials around the country. A typical Anzac Day ceremony may include the following features: An introduction, hymn, prayer, an address, laying of wreaths, a recitation, the Last Post, a period of silence, either the Rouse or the Reveille, and the national anthem. After the Memorial’s ceremony, families often place red poppies beside the names of relatives on the Memorial’s Roll of Honour, as they also do after Remembrance Day services. Rosemary is also symbolic of the day, as it is a symbol of remembrance and it also is found to this day growing wild on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Some people find it easier to hate than to love. Some find it easier to divide rather than to unite. These same radical people with extreme political and/or religious views can take any occasion and use it as an excuse to polarise the population, fan latent flames of prejudice, ignite embers of old hatreds, stress greatly points of difference and incite disruption, violence and ill-will. Days such as Anzac Day should be used as a powerful means of bringing together people who remember a shared experience of loss and remember those whose lives were cut short. Anzac Day is an opportunity for aspiring to peace, while remembering war. Anzac Day should unite, not divide.

Tuesday 23 April 2013


“One travels more usefully when alone, because he reflects more.” - Thomas Jefferson
I am in Adelaide for work and it is quite pleasant to be here as I always enjoy visiting this city. Adelaide is one of those state capitals in Australia that has a wonderful atmosphere, combining all of the facilities and comforts of a large urban centre, but also retaining some of the homely characteristics of a country town, or even a vacation retreat in some of the suburbs, especially along the coast. The way that the central business district is surrounded by parks and gardens is quite amazing and even the suburbs are very green and attractive. The Adelaide Hills close to the city provide an amazing array of sights, activities and other attractions for visitors. The wine growing regions in the regional area adjacent tot Adelaide are another focal point for visitors.
Adelaide is the capital city of South Australia and the fifth-largest city in Australia. According to the 2011 census, Adelaide has a population of 1.23 million. The demonym “Adelaidean” is used in reference to the city and its residents. Adelaide is north of the Fleurieu Peninsula, on the Adelaide Plains between the Gulf St Vincent and the low-lying Mount Lofty Ranges which surround the city. Adelaide stretches 20 km from the coast to the foothills, and 90 km from Gawler at its northern extent to Sellicks Beach in the south.
Named in honour of Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, queen consort to King William IV, the city was founded in 1836 as the planned capital for a freely settled British province in Australia. Colonel William Light, one of Adelaide's founding fathers, designed the city and chose its location close to the River Torrens in the area originally inhabited by the Kaurna people. Light’s design set out Adelaide in a grid layout, interspaced by wide boulevards and large public squares, and entirely surrounded by parkland. Early Adelaide was shaped by religious freedom and a commitment to political progressivism and civil liberties, which led to the sobriquet “City of Churches”.
As South Australia’s seat of government and commercial centre, Adelaide is the site of many governmental and financial institutions. Most of these are concentrated in the city centre along the cultural boulevard of North Terrace, King William Street and in various districts of the metropolitan area. Today, Adelaide is noted for its many festivals and sporting events, its food, wine and culture, its long beachfronts, and its large defence and manufacturing sectors. It ranks highly in terms of liveability, being listed in the Top 10 of The Economist's World’s Most Liveable Cities index in 2010, 2011 and 2012. It has also been ranked the most liveable city in Australia by the Property Council of Australia in 2011, 2012 and again in 2013.

Monday 22 April 2013


“Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it.” - Malcolm X
I must say that I have grown to like what Clint Eastwood has achieved in the movies. Beginning from a rather mundane and stock acting career as a Hollywood tough man, he has matured into a redoubtable character actor and significant director. Having seen some of his recent films such as “Gran Torino”, it is difficult perhaps to go back and appreciate his earlier work with equal fervour. However, there are still some gems (I guess we can call them classics), which will remain in his oeuvre as landmark works. We watched one of these again last weekend and it was a very enjoyable experience.

It was the 1979 Don Siegel film “Escape from Alcatraz”, starring Clint Eastwood, Patrick McGoohan, Roberts Blossom. It is one of those films which although deals with a stock plot contains such an excellent cast and builds up to a well thought out climax via series of engaging episodes, that it easily becomes one of the classics. The characters also help, of course, as does the direction and cinematography. The plot is based on a true story and perhaps that is part of the appeal of the film, but also maybe it is the fascination that seizes the viewers when they realise that suddenly one feels a sense of sympathy for the antiheroes that the cast comprises – a group of prisoners locked up in Alcatraz, some for the rest of their lives, some for having committed heinous crimes.
This is very much Clint Eastwood’s film and his solid, tough man performance sustains it with every other character very much dependent on his. In the 29 years of Alcatraz’s existence, and despite almost impregnable defences, 39 prisoners tried to escape from this maximum-security prison during its existence. Thirty six of these escapees failed. This film is about the other three, of whom nothing is known. They may have drowned in San Francisco Bay, or they may have got away. Eastwood plays Frank Morris, a new prisoner brought to Alcatraz for bank robbery, and his induction into the prison including an interview with the sadistic warden (Patrick McGoohan) plunges us straight into the claustrophobic environment of the prison.
Frank finds his new fellow inmates to be overtly hostile or hopeless and resigned to their fate. Among the desperate prisoners, Frank meets “Doc” Dalton (Roberts Blossom), a convict with a talent for painting who resorts to violence when the warden refuses to let him paint. The Anglin brothers, Clarence (Jack Thibeau) and John (Fred Ward) are a pair of prisoners with a reputation for attempting to escape from the prisons they have been incarcerated in. Frank and the Anglins put into action an audacious escape plan. Using stolen spoons they dig their way to a ventilation shaft while an elaborate camouflage scheme keeps their activities covert.
The film doesn’t contain mindless fight scenes, impossible action scenes, cartoon-like special effects or cardboard cutout characters that film-makers nowadays are obsessed about. It is a well-realised story of an escape from a high security prison. Some aspects may be considered clichés but they are part of the story and not all of it. By concentrating on the brutality of the warden’s mini empire the film makes the viewer sympathise with the escapees at the price of suggesting that prison break-outs are actually a good thing. This is a successful film that has aged well, with no excess sentiment or melodrama. The plot concentrates on the unadorned details of the story, and the director uses a subtle approach to bring the full force of the story out.
Fans of Eastwood and McGoohan, who both give excellent performances, will appreciate this movie. Prison movie fans will love this movie. Fans of suspense movies in general should love this. If you are after endless fight scenes, car chases, violence for the sake of it, computer generated special effects and explosions, don’t bother looking at this movie. It is instead an intelligent, low-key suspense movie, with excellent performances all around.  We watched it again with the same interest as we did several years ago and we highly recommend it.

Sunday 21 April 2013


“Necessity is the mother of invention.” -  Plato
I have already featured Leonardo da Vinci previously in this blog for Art Sunday, however, since it was his birthday on April 15, I blog about him once again! His life and work is a treasure trove of interesting and astonishing marvels, so there is no shortage of things to admire, delight in or marvel at.
Leonardo da Vinci, was born out of wedlock on April 15, 1452 in Vinci, Italy (near Florence), Leonardo’s illegitimate standing kept him from receiving a good education and excluded him from the more lucrative occupations. Perhaps one may conjecture that it was because of such limitations that Leonardo’s desire for knowledge and great ambition were fanned.
When he was 15 years old, Leonardo became the apprentice of the painter Andrea del Verrochio in Florence. It was there that his immense talent was channelled fruitfully, by the extensive training in the skills he needed to have as an artist. Such was his aptitude and talent that it even intimidated his mentor. While always interested in inventions, it was a change of scenery in 1482 that truly unleashed the inventor in da Vinci.
Looking for a broader scope of work, Leonardo moved from Florence, widely considered the cultural capital of Italy, to Milan, a much more political and militaristic city. There, da Vinci sold himself to Duke Ludovico Sforza (a successful military leader called “the dark one”) as a military engineer. In the city that “lived and died by the sword”, da Vinci began developing many of his famous war inventions.
Da Vinci spent 17 years in Milan working for the Duke, inventing, painting, sculpting, studying science and conceiving an endless stream of innovative and daring ideas. Without a doubt, the 17 years spent in Milan were da Vinci’s most productive period. But, of course as we all know, all things must eventually come to an end.
In 1499, the French invaded Milan and Duke Sforza was sent fleeing the city. Leonardo spent the remaining years of his life travelling to cities like Venice and Rome to work on different projects, with a greater concentration on his art (starting on his most famous piece, the Mona Lisa, in 1503) and studies in anatomy (da Vinci conducted over 30 autopsies in his lifetime). After envisioning hundreds of inventions, bringing to life legendary works of art and making breakthroughs in a vast array of other fields (ranging from astronomy to architecture), da Vinci died in 1519 at the age of 67.
In the drawing above, Leonardo plays with ideas that illustrate principles of hydraulics and he draws Archimedean screws, water wheels, cogs and machines that involve using the power of water in order to harness it to do useful work. As usual, his exquisite drawings are supplemented by his notes (written in his characteristically cryptographic “mirror writing”). The drawings are not only accurate enough to allow construction of many of the machines he invented (and many have been constructed in modern times), but they qre also pleasing as works of art.