Saturday, 20 April 2013


“All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: Chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion, desire.” – Aristotle
A very busy Saturday, which nevertheless was welcome as it was not related to work. Last week was extremely hectic at work including the trip to Brisbane, which took a lot out of me. Saturday evening was wonderful as usual and there is one piece of music that summarises it…
Here is the Sergei Rachmaninov, Piano Concerto No 2, with Hélène Grimaud, and the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado. Russian romanticism at its very best wonderfully interpreted.

Friday, 19 April 2013


“To keep the body in good health is a duty... otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” -  Gautama Buddha

A healthy breakfast menu item is the “smoothie”, based on fat-free yoghurt and seasonal fresh fruits as they are available. The high calcium, vitamin D content of the yoghurt (as well as its beneficial lactobacilli bacteria) are supplemented by the vitamins and minerals of the fresh fruit. Adding honey is an option.

Berry Smoothie

500 mL plain fat-free yoghurt
1 ripe banana
1 punnet sliced fresh strawberries

1 punnet fresh mixed berries (raspberries, blueberries, and/or blackberries)
2 kiwi fruits
2 tbspns honey (optional)

In a blender container, combine yoghurt, banana, berries, kiwi fruits and honey. Cover and purée until nearly smooth. Makes 4 servings.

This recipe can be adapted for seasonally available fruits, or you may use snap frozen unsweetened berries. Other fruit combinations you can try are: Pineapple and peach; mango and peach; or melon and banana. Soft fruits will mix more easily (some stone fruits like nectarines, apricots, plums and peaches need to ripen well before being used in a smoothie, and of course be sure to remove the stone!).

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

If you are interested in food, nutrition and health, why not enrol in the free, 4-week, online course offered by Open Universities? See here.
You can enrol now and classes start on Monday, 22 April, 9:00 am Australian EST.


“Work is either fun or drudgery. It depends on your attitude. I like fun.” - Colleen C. Barrett

I am in Brisbane for work and it has been good to enjoy some very pleasant Northern Australian autumn weather with lovely sunshine, warmth (27˚C maximum today), and not a whisper of a wind. Meanwhile back in Melbourne there was windy, cool conditions (18˚C) and definitely not as pleasant as in Brisbane. Not that I got to enjoy the weather much, but at least it was to be able to walk out at lunchtime in between meetings and of course in the afternoon and evening.

Brisbane is a port and the capital of Queensland, Australia, and the nation's third largest city. It lies astride the Brisbane River on the southern slopes of the Taylor Range, 19 km above the river’s mouth at Moreton Bay. The site, first explored in 1823 by John Oxley, was occupied in 1824 by a penal colony, which had moved from Redcliffe (35 km northeast). The early name, Edenglassie, was changed to honour Sir Thomas Brisbane, former governor of New South Wales, when the convict settlement was declared a town in 1834. Officially, freemen could not settle within 80 km of the colony until its penal function was abandoned in 1839, but this ban proved ineffective.

A short-lived rivalry for eminence with the town of Cleveland was ended when the latter’s wharves burned in 1854, allowing Brisbane to become the leading port. Proclaimed a municipality in 1859, it became the capital of newly independent Queensland that same year. Gazetted a city in 1902, it was joined during the 1920s with South Brisbane to form the City of Greater Brisbane. Its municipal government, headed by a lord mayor, holds very broad powers. The Brisbane statistical division, including the cities of Ipswich and Redcliffe, has close economic and social ties to the city.

Brisbane is the hub of many rail lines and highways, which bring produce from a vast agricultural hinterland stretching west to the Eastern Highlands, the Darling Downs, and beyond. The city’s port, which can accommodate ships of 34,000 tons, exports wool, grains, dairy products, meat, sugar, preserved foods, and mineral sands. The metropolitan area, also industrialised with more than half of the state’s manufacturing capacity, has heavy and light engineering works, food-processing plants, shipyards, oil refineries, sawmills, and factories producing rubber goods, automobiles, cement, and fertiliser.

The city, the halves of which are connected by several bridges and ferries, is the site of the University of Queensland at St. Lucia (1909), Griffith University (1971), Parliament House (1869), the state museum (1855) and art gallery (1895), Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals, and many parks and gardens. Water is supplied from Lake Manchester, the Mount Crosby Weir, and the Somerset Dam. Oil is piped from wells at Moonie (West) and at Roma (Northwest), which also supplies natural gas. The population of the greater Brisbane area is currently just over two million people.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013


“My sorrow, when she’s here with me, thinks these dark days of autumn rain are beautiful as days can be; she loves the bare, the withered tree; she walks the sodden pasture lane.” - Robert Frost
Autumn has made its presence felt in Melbourne. Suddenly it’s cool, rainy and the leaves have started to turn their falling colour and they waft down to earth. It was sudden this year. A few weeks where the heat was so intense that we couldn't bear not to have the air-conditioning on, followed by days and nights that necessitating the heater taking over to warm us up. The grey skies are appealing and the change in time is in keeping with the turning season. Shortening days and lengthening nights make of the daily commuting to work expeditions in darkness for us old work horses…

Tuesday, 16 April 2013


“‎An artist is, by nature, someone very sensitive, who expresses with talent the pains that he has suffered. He uses art to replace the communication that he didn’t, or doesn’t have with others.” - Jean Giraud (Moebius)
This week, Magpie Tales, perhaps influenced by the arrival of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, has chose the work “Spring 1935” by Russian artist Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin to act a springboard for her readers’ creativity. I was not familiar witht his artist so I thank the Mag for the introduction. My offering is below this artist’s biography, attached here for your reference.
Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin (1878-1939) was born in Khvalynsk, a provincial town near Saratov in Russia, into the family of a shoemaker. The artist started drawing at a young age, although there was not much opportunity or encouragement to develop his talents. The boy however, approached an icon painter, who agreed to teach the young Petrov-Vodkin his art. At the age of 15 years he started lessons in painting in F.E. Burov’s art classes. In 1895 sponsors sent him to St Petersburg to study in the Central School of Technical Drawing of Baron Stiglitz (1876-1922), but very soon his teachers understood that the young man was not a technician, and his vocation was fine arts.
In 1897, Petrov-Vodkin was transferred to the Moscow School of Painting and Sculpture, where he studied in the class of Valentin Serov, and from which he graduated in 1904. He also stayed in Munich in 1901 and studied in the studio of A. Ashbee. The studies in the Moscow School were marked with his hard work in painting and creative writing. Petrov-Vodkin even struggled a little with the decision on whether to become a writer or a painter. His chose painting after a journey to Italy and a long stay in Paris, where he studied in many Parisian studios and art schools. His subsequent trip to North Africa and the studies there became the basis of the works exhibited in the Paris Salon in 1908.
In 1910 Petrov-Vodkin became a member of the artistic union ‘World of Art’ and remained in it until its dissolution in 1924, though he ultimately did not become identified with any particular school. Already Petrov-Vodkin’s early works are symbolic (e.g. Elegy, 1906; Bank, 1908; Dream 1910), all of them are influenced by Mikhail Vrubel, Victor Borisov-Musatov, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and by the Belgian writer Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949). The canvas ‘Dream’ stirred heated discussion and brought fame to the young artist. His art attempts to synthesise Eastern and Western painting traditions.
In the late 1910s he developed and wrote about a new theory concerning the depiction of space. His so-called ‘spherical perspective’ differs from the traditional ‘Italian’ perspective. The artist creates different spaces on the canvas, connected by gravity; bent axes of bodies make up a ‘fan’, which is opening from within the picture. Paintings with such compositional structure should be viewed by a moving spectator from different points, e.g. ‘Spring 1935’ above. Such treatment of space and very specific colouring (based on primary colors – red, yellow and blue) determine the mature style of Petrov-Vodkin.
After the Bolshevik Revolution (November 1917) Petrov-Vodkin painted still-lives more often, although other new themes are also present in his art. In the late 1920s-early 1930s he had to abandon painting for a time because of illness; he returned to writing. He wrote two autobiographical novels ‘Khvalynsk’ and ‘Euclid’s Space’, in which he expressed his views and theories on nature and possibilities of fine arts. The work of Petrov-Vodkin did not correspond to the Soviet ideology of the Stalinist period and after his death in 1939 the painter was quickly ‘forgotten’, happily not for long.
My love loves so true
All the green leaves in Springtime;
My love loves the blooms and the breeze.
The doves on the wing
The splash of the fountain,
The laugh of a child.
My love loves so well
The gold dancing wheat fields,
The poppies, the song of the lark.
A cool murmuring brooklet
In the deep shady forest
Away from the midsummer’s heat.
My love loves so much
All the bright hues of autumn
The big cool drops of rain.
The scent of wet earth,
The ripe berries
The taste of sweet young wine.
My love loves so true
Each winter snowflake,
My love loves the sighs of the wind.
The crackle of fire blazing,
The mirror of lake frozen, wan.
My love loves all of these,
But my love loves me not,
My love loves me not.

Monday, 15 April 2013


“In a state where corruption abounds, laws must be very numerous.” - Tacitus

We watched another of the mindless, pure entertainment, action movie genre last weekend. This was in reaction to a movie we had watched the previous day, which was rather tough going and which did not do much to put us in a joyful state of mind. This latter film was “Into the Wild”, all the more sad as it was a true story. It was of a similar type of survival tale as “The Grey”, which I reviewed last week. It was a dire and melancholy story of the rigours of trying to survive in an inhospitable wilderness. Unlike “The Grey” where the wannabe survivors are victims of an airplane accident, “Into the Wild” was the story of a young man who in his rebellious, antiestablishment frame of mind takes a road trip, ending up in the uninhabited wilds of Alaska near Fairbanks to find himself and liberate his soul from the consumer society that has nurtured him. A depressing movie overall, although well-acted, well-produced and well-scripted. It obviously struck a chord with the viewing public as it has been rated 8.2/10 on the popularity meter.

Now for the main topic of this review, another typical Hollywood dick flick showcasing the macho man talents of the leading man who takes on both Mexican and US crooks. It was the 2012 Adrian Grunberg movie “Get the Gringo” starring Mel Gibson, Kevin Hernandez and Daniel Giménez Cacho. The plot is simple and depends mainly on action to carry it forward, and the characterisation is sparse, while the moral of the story is rather ambiguous – there is no bad without a touch of good and vice versa. The script is the brainchild of the main lead, the director and one more ring-in: Mel Gibson, Adrian Grunberg and Stacy Perskie.

The movie opens with Driver (Mel Gibson) and his mortally wounded partner in clown costumes speeding down a US highway close to the Mexican border with the police hot on their heels. Having no other option as the cops close in on him, Driver ploughs his car through the border fence, and Mexican police arrest him. The Texas police try to negotiate with the Mexicans to hand over Driver, but the corrupt Mexican police eyeing the bags full of cash in the car do not hand over Driver. The Mexican police keep the cash and put Driver in gaol, which is more like a little village, complete with hangers-on, women, kids, shops, drugs and corruption, all overseen by the criminal kingpin Javi (Daniel Gimenez Cacho). Driver becomes friends with a tough 10-year-old kid (Kevin Hernandez) who is plotting to take revenge on Javi, who killed his father.

Driver soon has to deal with Frank (Peter Stormare) from whom he robbed $4 million, and who despatches professional killers to take back the cash that Driver stole and which is now in the hands of the two corrupt Mexican cops. As Driver gains the confidence of the kid and his mother (Dolores Heredia), he learns why the prison kingpin gives the kid and his mum preferential treatment. The kid has a liver compatible with Javi’s rare blood type, and Javi needs a new liver. Driver strikes a deal with Javi to exit the prison and kill Frank (who is now after Javi) but he also has to go back to the prison in time to save the child, before Javi takes his liver.

Mel Gibson had a dry period in the movies for about 8 years before this film, contributed to no doubt by all the negative media attention given to his rants, which did not win him any friends. Nevertheless, this movie is the type that Gibson fans associate with the actor and as an action/thriller type of heist and payback movie, this ticks all the right boxes. Now that I have mentioned payback, this film resembles the earlier 1999 Gibson film “Payback”.

This is not a great film, but then again it doesn’t pretend to be anything else except that which it is. As an action film needs to it depends a lot on the lead actor, and Gibson handles the role well. The story is simple, and depends on the action to carry it forward. It is violent and has several sequences that show the corrupt, crime-filled underbelly of both US and Mexico. Driver is redeemed by his interest in the kid and his determination to save him from Javi. The kid’s mother is the romantic interest. It was pure mindless entertainment and as such it does its job well.