Saturday 18 May 2013


“Toil without song is like a weary journey without an end.” - H. P. Lovecraft

Well, another Eurovision contest is over with Denmark gaining the first prize. The song is typical Eurovision material, with Emmelie De Forest performing “Only Teardrops”, singing in English, of course. English has become the “official” world language and Europe has adopted it with a vengeance, especially where Eurovision is concerned. The lure of international success in the big markets of the Anglophone countries is too great to ignore. A country has to be very brave to sing a song in Eurovision in its own language – and bravo to all of those do sing thus. The singer, who looks very beautiful, struggles to sing, I think, especially in the lower register.

The only concession to a differentiation from the standard “pop” material is the accompaniment, which contains the fife and drums of battle, in reference to the spat between lovers described in the song. The song could have been deeper if there was a pointed reference to a war, contrasting it with the first part, giving it much more relevance to current world situations (and justifying more the fife and drums):

“The sky is red tonight
We’re on the edge tonight
No shooting star to guide us.

Eye for an eye, why tear each other apart?
Please tell me why, why do we make it so hard?

Look at us now, we only got ourselves to blame
It’s such a shame.

How many times can we win and lose?
How many times can we break the rules between us?
Only teardrops…”

In any case, here is the winning song:

Compare that to the 1983 Eurovision winner for Luxembourg, “Si La Vie Est Cadeau” sung in French by Corinne Hermés, one of my favourites. It concerns the precious gift of life.

Friday 17 May 2013


“When you cut that eggplant up and you roast it in the oven and you make the tomato sauce and you put it on top, your soul is in that food, and there’s something about that that can never be made by a company that has three million employees.” - Mario Batali

It has been a rather busy week, as one that involves travel away from home always is. Nevertheless, it is good to be home now and be able to enjoy some home cooking. Travel is a welcome change sometimes, but one does get tired of eating at hotels and restaurants day after day. What better than a Vegetarian Eggplant and Zucchini Bake?

Vegetarian Eggplant and Zucchini Bake

Olive oil
3 small eggplants, thinly sliced
2 zucchini, thinly sliced
700 g jar Italian tomato pasta sauce
1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped
170g parmesan cheese, grated
180g cherry bocconcini cheese, torn in half
1 cup white breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 200°C. Lightly brush a 5.5cm-deep, 20cm x 28cm (base) baking dish with olive oil. Heat a barbecue grill or chargrill pan over high heat.

Brush both sides of eggplant and zucchini slices generously with oil. Grill eggplant and zucchini, in batches, for 2 minutes each side or until charred and tender. Remove to a plate. Brush with oil.

Place one-third of the eggplant over base of dish. Top with one-third of the pasta sauce, basil, parmesan and bocconcini. Repeat layers twice with remaining zucchini alternately with eggplant, sauce, basil, parmesan and bocconcini.

Top with breadcrumbs mixed with grated parmesan. Spray with oil. Bake, uncovered, for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbling around the edges and golden. Stand for 10 minutes. Serve.

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

Thursday 16 May 2013


“A great city is not to be confounded with a populous one.” – Aristotle
The central business district of Perth is bounded by the Swan River to the south and east, with Kings Park on the western end, while the railway reserve formed a northern border. A state and federally funded project named Perth City Link involves the sinking of a section of the railway line, in addition to the sinking of an existing above-ground bus terminal as well as riverside development, known as Elizabeth Quay.
St Georges Terrace is the prominent street of the area with 1.3 million m² of office space in the CBD. Hay Street and Murray Street have most of the retail and entertainment facilities. The tallest building in the city is Central Park, which is the seventh tallest building in Australia. The CBD has recently been the centre of a mining-induced boom, with several commercial and residential projects due for completion, including a 244 m office building for Australian/British mining company BHP Billiton.
Perth’s growth and relative prosperity, especially since the mid-1960s, has resulted from its role as the main service centre for the state’s resource industries, which produce gold, iron ore, nickel, alumina, diamonds, mineral sands, coal, oil, and natural gas. Whilst most mineral and petroleum production takes place elsewhere in the state, the non-base services provide most of the employment and income to the people of Perth.


“If a man knows not what harbour he seeks, any wind is the right wind.” - Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Fremantle, in Western Australia, is a remarkable city. In the past decade, especially, Fremantle has become one of the great tourist attractions in the Perth area, boasting many interesting historic buildings, gracious hotels, extensive seaside parks and enough tourist attractions to make it the ideal day-out destination. It is a perfect place for having a picnic in a park by the seaside, or a meal in one of Fremantle’s excellent restaurants. One may visit the museums, gaze at the conspicuous wealth of the Fremantle Yacht Club, explore the five heritage trails, investigate the Fremantle markets or go fishing at North Mole.
The city is located at the mouth of the Swan River and Fremantle Harbour serves as the port of Perth, the state capital. Fremantle was the first area settled by the Swan River colonists in 1829. It was declared a city in 1929, and has a population of approximately 25,000. The city is named after Captain Charles Howe Fremantle, the English naval officer who had pronounced possession of Western Australia and who established a camp at the site. The city contains well-preserved 19th-century buildings and other heritage features. The Western Australian vernacular diminutive for Fremantle is "Freo".

Tuesday 14 May 2013


“No one realises how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” Lin Yutang

I am in Perth for a few days for work and things are going quite well. All is complemented by some splendid autumn weather – brilliant, sun-filled days with the temperature hovering around the mid 20s Celsius, while the nights are cool and perfect for a comfortable sleep. Nevertheless, it will be good to return home…

Perth is the capital of Western Australia, which is the nation’s largest state. Its superb position on the banks of the beautiful Swan River and nearby hectares of natural bushland in Kings Park make for a city centred on the great outdoors. The magnificent Swan River that winds its way through the City, is lined by grassy parklands. One can enjoy a picnic or a barbeque and watch the sunset and city come alive with light. Many visitors hire a kayak, bike or sailboat to explore the river’s quiet reaches.

A Swan River cruise can be booked from Barrack Square which will take the visitor to the bustling port city of Fremantle or east to the Swan Valley Wine Region. One can also jump on a ferry for a short trip across the river to South Perth. The Swan River also provides for action lovers, with water sports available right in the heart of the city. Such activities are especially glorious in Perth city, with the shining brilliance of towering city buildings set as a stunning backdrop to the dazzling waters of the Swan.

The jewel in the city’s crown is Kings Park, one of the largest inner city parks in the world. Located within a short walk of the city, it is a major draw-card for both visitors to Perth and locals alike. This stunning location overlooks the city and the bright blue waters of the Swan River. From high above, you can see the brilliantly coloured sails of boats on the river, the twinkling lights of the city, the distant Perth Hills and the endless blue skies for which Perth is so renowned.

Views from the DNA Tower in Forrest Drive are similarly breathtaking - on a clear day you can see all the way to the Indian Ocean. The park features both cultivated gardens and untamed bushland and you can picnic on grassy lawns, take a jog through the bushland or attend one of the summer outdoor concerts under the stars. Children are also catered for with a number of excellent playgrounds suitable for children of all ages.

Monday 13 May 2013


“Music is harmony, harmony is perfection, perfection is our dream, and our dream is heaven.” Henri Frederic Amiel

At the weekend we watched an interesting film from Turkey. One of the advantages of living in a multicultural city like Melbourne is that one may easily find products from many distant homelands, and that includes the stuff of entertainment and culture: DVDs, CDs, magazines, books, art, etc. Brunswick, an inner suburb of Melbourne, has a high proportion of Turkish-Australians, and there are many Turkish shops in this suburb. We bought a few Turkish movies with English subtitles at the Brunswick Market and the film we watched at the weekend was a very good one.

It was Director Murat Saraçoglu’s 2009 film “Deli Deli Olma” (“Crazy Occurrences” - English title given as “Piano Girl”), with a screenplay by Hazel Sevim Unsal, and starring Tarik Akan, Şerif Sezer, Çagla Acar, Deniz Arna. The movie combines humour and pathos, history and tradition, old and new, and weaves several stories together, giving a picture of life in Eşme Yazı, a small village close to the Eastern Anatolian city of Kars in Northeastern Turkey.

After the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878, Molokans (a Christian sect) were forced into exile by Czarist Russia. Molokans were regarded as heretics by the Russian Orthodox Church and were named Molokans (milk-drinkers) because they drank milk on most of the fasting days in the church year in Eastern Christianity, something that Orthodox people eschew. The film traces the final years of Mishka (Tarık Akan), the last Russian Molokan in the village. Although the film is set in modern times, the village is so poor and remote that it seems as though we are looking back in time, with all of the old traditions, way of life and prejudices still at large.

The village people call the Molokan “yeke kişi” (i.e. “big man”), and certainly with his imposing height, long, white beard and hair, he looks like a patriarch and is well-liked by almost everyone in the village. Papuç (Şerif Sezer) is a short-tempered and cantankerous old woman who seems to terrify everyone. She alone seems to hate Mishka and wants him to leave, even after being there all his life. Papuç lives with her son Şemistan (Levent Tülek) the village grocer, his wife Figan (Zuhal Topal) and her three grandchildren. The youngest grandchild Alma (Cemile Nihan Turhan) is a plucky but tender-hearted girl who spends a lot of her time with Mishka, even though it is against her grandmother’s wishes.

One day Şemistan gives Mishka some flour and tea on credit. When Popuç discovers this, she makes life hell for her son, demanding that he make Mishka pay his debt. Mishka, although penniless decides to pay his debt to Şemistan by giving him his piano, an heirloom inherited from his father, who brought it from Russia. Part of the reason Mishka gives the piano to Şemistan is that Alma is musically talented and she wants to learn to play it. Alma is encouraged by the village teacher Metin (Korel Cezayirli) who has noticed that Alma has an ear for music and he want to convince her family to allow her to take the conservatory exam.

The villagers, however, are a little scared of the piano (“the devil’s machine”!) and use the instrument as a means to pay debts - whoever owes some money to someone else gives the piano as payment. Ultimately the piano ends up with Mishka again… However, there is also a lot of mystery and some unfinished stories from the past that eventually are uncovered and bring the film to its moving conclusion.

The acting in the movie is excellent and the two leads, Şerif Sezer and Tarık Akan, make the movie. The two children actors Cemile Nihan and Ozan Erdoğan consistently steal scenes and it certainly looks as though they shall have a career in movies. The direction and cinematography are well executed and the music running throughout the film almost as a counter-plot, is appropriate and suits the mood admirably. The vignettes of village life and the trials and tribulations of the Molokan refugees are intriguing, but the story is mainly about human relationships and the coming of age tale of Alma. The film is poignant and funny, touching and entertaining. It involved us from beginning to end and we can recommend it most highly.

Sunday 12 May 2013


“Just as in earthly life lovers long for the moment when they are able to breathe forth their love for each other, to let their souls blend in a soft whisper, so the mystic longs for the moment when in prayer he can, as it were, creep into God.” -øren_Kierkegaard

Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dalí Y Domenech (born May 11, 1904, Figueras, Spain - died Jan. 23, 1989, Figueras), or Salvador Dalí as he is commonly known, was a Spanish Surrealist painter and printmaker, influential for his innovative explorations of subconscious imagery in art. His father, Salvador Dalí i Cusí, was a middle-class lawyer and notary whose strict disciplinary approach was countered by his wife, Felipa Domenech Ferrés, who encouraged her son's artistic endeavours. When he was five, Dalí was taken to his brother's grave and told by his parents that he was his brother's reincarnation, a concept which he came to believe.

Of his brother, Dalí said, “...we resembled each other like two drops of water, but we had different reflections. He was probably a first version of myself but conceived too much in the absolute.” Images of his long-dead brother would reappear embedded in his later works, including “Portrait of My Dead Brother” (1963). Dalí also had a sister, Ana María, who was three years younger. In 1949, she published a book about her brother, “Dalí As Seen By His Sister”. Dalí attended drawing school. In 1916, Dalí also discovered modern painting on a summer vacation trip to Cadaqués with the family of Ramon Pichot, a local artist who made regular trips to Paris. The next year, Dalí’s father organised an exhibition of his charcoal drawings in their family home. He had his first public exhibition at the Municipal Theater in Figueras in 1919.

As an art student in Madrid and Barcelona, Dalí assimilated a vast number of artistic styles and displayed unusual technical facility as a painter. It was not until the late 1920s, however, that two events brought about the development of his mature artistic style: His discovery of Sigmund Freud’s writings on the erotic significance of subconscious imagery, and his affiliation with the Paris Surrealists, a group of artists and writers who sought to establish the “greater reality” of man’s subconscious over his reason. To bring up images from his subconscious mind, Dalí began to induce hallucinatory states in himself by a process he described as “paranoiac critical”.

Once Dalí hit on this method, his painting style matured with extraordinary rapidity, and from 1929 to 1937 he produced the paintings which made him the world’s best-known Surrealist artist. He depicted a dream world in which commonplace objects are juxtaposed, deformed, or otherwise metamorphosed in a bizarre and irrational fashion. Dalí portrayed these objects in meticulous, almost painfully realistic detail and usually placed them within bleak, sunlit landscapes that were reminiscent of his Catalonian homeland. Perhaps the most famous of these enigmatic images is “The Persistence of Memory” (1931), in which limp, melting watches rest in an eerily calm landscape. With the Spanish director Luis Buñuel, Dalí also made two Surrealistic films – “Un Chien andalou” (1928; An Andalusian Dog) and “L’ Âge d’ or” (1930; The Golden Age) - that are similarly filled with grotesque but highly suggestive images.

In the late 1930s Dalí switched to painting in a more academic style under the influence of the Renaissance painter Raphael, and as a consequence he was expelled from the Surrealist movement. Thereafter he spent much of his time designing theatre sets, interiors of fashionable shops, and jewellery, as well as exhibiting his genius for flamboyant self-promotional stunts in the United States, where he lived from 1940 to 1955. In the period from 1950 to 1970 Dalí painted many works with religious themes, though he continued to explore erotic subjects, to represent childhood memories, and to use themes centring on his wife, Gala. Notwithstanding their technical accomplishments, these later paintings are not as highly regarded as the artist's earlier works. The most interesting and revealing of Dalí's books is “The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí” (1942–44).

Since its purchase in 1956 by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, “The Sacrament of the Last Supper” (167-268 cm - 1955) shown above, it has become the museum’s most popular work. The popularity of Dalí’s image has persisted despite critical hostility toward the painting and the gallery’s own ambivalence. It hangs in a corner by the elevators. Theologians, like the Protestants Francis Schaeffer and Paul Tillich, have also weighed in. For Schaeffer, Dalí’s image was a clear example of Christian meaning being lost to a vague existentialism: “This intangible Christ which Dalí painted is in sharp contrast to the bodies of the apostles who are physically solid in the picture. Dalí explained in his interviews that he had found a mystical meaning for life in the fact that things are made up of energy rather than solid mass. Because of this, for him there was a reason for a vault into an area of non-reason to give him the hope of meaning.”

Dalí was excited by the possibilities of expressing mystical ideas in light of new visions of reality made possible by nuclear physics. He dismissed the “science versus religion” dichotomy, noting “not a single philosophic, moral, aesthetic or biological discovery allows the denial of God.” His Surrealist art had been dominated by Freudian motifs, but from then on, his art would take on the Christian heritage in its content and depth. Dalí began to explore a mystical edge of Christianity that had been particularly challenged by a sterile view of modern science.