Saturday, 15 March 2008


Rivera was in the United States from 1930 to 1934, where he painted murals for the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco (1931), the Detroit Institute of Arts (1932), and Rockefeller Center in New York City (1933). His “Man at the Crossroads” fresco in Rockefeller Center offended the sponsors because the figure of communist Vladimir Lenin was in the picture; the work was destroyed by the centre but was later reproduced by Rivera at the Palace of Fine Arts, Mexico City. After returning to Mexico, Rivera continued to paint murals of gradually declining quality. His most ambitious and gigantic mural, an epic on the history of Mexico for the National Palace, Mexico City, was unfinished when he died. Frida Kahlo, who married Rivera twice, was also an accomplished painter. Rivera's autobiography, “My Art, My Life”, was published posthumously in 1960.

This is the South wall mural of the Detroit Institute of the Arts, painted in 1933. American Industry is depicted here, with the Caucasian race and Asian race shown above.


In 1923 he began painting the walls of the Ministry of Public Education building in Mexico City, working in fresco and completing the commission in 1930. These huge frescoes, depicting Mexican agriculture, industry, and culture, reflect a genuinely native subject matter and mark the emergence of Rivera's mature style. Rivera defines his solid, somewhat stylized human figures by precise outlines rather than by internal modeling. The flattened, simplified figures are set in crowded, shallow spaces and are enlivened with bright, striking colours. The Indians, peasants, conquistadores, and factory workers depicted combine monumentality of form with a mood that is lyrical and at times elegiac.

Rivera's next major work was a fresco cycle in a former chapel at what is now the National School of Agriculture at Chapingo (1926–27). His frescoes there contrast scenes of natural fertility and harmony among the pre-Columbian Indians with scenes of their enslavement and brutalisation by the Spanish conquerors. Rivera's murals in the Cortés Palace in Cuernavaca (1930) and the National Palace in Mexico City (1930–35) depict various aspects of Mexican history in a more didactic narrative style.

This is a fresco from the Alameda Hotel in Mexico City. The central section of the large mural depicting Sunday in the Park is shown here.


“Art is made to disturb. Science reassures. There is only one valuable thing in art: The thing you cannot explain.” - Georges Braque

For Art Sunday today, the art of Diego Rivera. A great Mexican artist and the partner of the equally great artist, Frida Kahlo. He was born on December 8, 1886, Guanajuato, Mexico and died on November 25, 1957, Mexico City. He was a Mexican painter whose bold, large-scale murals stimulated a revival of fresco painting in Latin America. A government scholarship enabled Rivera to study art at the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City from age 10, and a grant from the governor of Veracruz enabled him to continue his studies in Europe in 1907.

He studied in Spain and in 1909 settled in Paris, where he became a friend of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and other leading modern painters. About 1917 he abandoned the Cubist style in his own work and moved closer to the Post-Impressionism of Paul Cézanne, adopting a style ivolving simplified forms and bold areas of flat colour.

Rivera returned to Mexico in 1921 after meeting with fellow Mexican painter David Alfaro Siqueiros. Both sought to create a new national art on revolutionary themes that would decorate public buildings in the wake of the Mexican Revolution. On returning to Mexico, Rivera painted his first important mural, Creation, for the Bolívar Auditorium of the National Preparatory School in Mexico City.

This is the "Day of Flowers" of 1925. The calla lillies were a great favourite of his and used in many of his paintings.

Friday, 14 March 2008


“Ninety percent of the world's woe comes from people not knowing themselves, their abilities, their frailties, and even their real virtues. Most of us go almost all the way through life as complete strangers to ourselves.” Sydney J. Harris

The fabric of our life is so thin and so easily torn, our existence so easily disrupted. We can be very optimistic and think ourselves invincible, invulnerable, as though we can conquer the world. We lunge forward recklessly like the fool on the tarot deck, mindless of the yawning precipice in front of us. We are like ants scurrying around and busily marching onward unaware of the foot that hovers above us ready to crush us out of existence.

Everything was going well and then early this morning I found myself in the emergency department of the hospital accompanying a friend who became acutely ill. On the way there I spoke to the ambulance driver who told me that this Friday night in Brisbane was a particularly nasty one. Drunkenness, brawls, fights, accidents, incidents. In the Emergency department the whole gamut of injuries: Cracked heads, acutely ill patients, comatose people, broken limbs, druggies groaning in withdrawal, drunks abusing the medical staff, concerned friends and relatives hovering about, police investigating accidents, nurses and doctors purposefully and efficiently to-ing and fro-ing… And so many young people all around! What are our youth doing to themselves? Drugs, alcohol, violence, destructive relationships, self-mutilation, social crippling.

An emergency department teaches us important lessons about human frailty. This a tour that the vainglorious and proud must take; a guide should show the place to the young and self-professed “invincible”; the healthy and the self-assured should see on what a razor’s edge we balance every day of lives. Time conspires with fortune, luck would play at dice with fate, and human frailty must suffer the vicissitudes of chance. Our only aids for survival are faith and prudence, the only sweeteners of our afflictions are love and hope.

I am not a fatalist, nor do I believe in some inscrutable kismet determining our existence. We are the masters of our own destiny, to a large extent. However, circumstances out of our control, unfortunate coincidences, unplanned-for exigencies and cascading torrents of consequences of thoughtless choices may lead to that mass of tortured broken humanity that confronted me this morning in hospital. Here is Sting, singing what is possibly his best song, “Fragile”:

PS: My friend is feeling better tonight. She was diagnosed with renal colic and treated.

Thursday, 13 March 2008


“What is food to one, is to others bitter poison.” – Lucretius

I am in Brisbane for work today and it has certainly been a very tiring week with Melbourne, Adelaide and now Brisbane all in the space of four days… However, I shall be spending the weekend here and relaxing a little. It is unusual that we have had searing temperatures in the South and then here in the North the temperatures are much cooler. It’s been interesting going around Australia and getting to see people in our organization face to face. It makes the travelling worthwhile, seeing the people one has been talking to and emailing across the table rather than their virtual presence. Although modern technology s great fro communicating efficiently and rapidly all around the world, there is still a lot to be said about sitting around a table together and conversing, being able to interpret body language, to work together on a table or a diagram and then have a cup of coffee together over which one may continue to work, but also there is a chance for more informal socializing and team-building.

In any case, seeing I have been travelling around this nation of ours so much lately, I thought I would share with you a typical regional Australian recipe: The South Australian Pie Floater. It is based on the old stalwart of the English cooking tradition the meat pie. A meat pie is a beef/gravy filling encased in rich pastry, baked to a crisp golden finish. Take this delicacy and drop it unceremoniously in a bowl of steaming green, split pea soup! Top with tomato sauce (ketchup, the less sweet it is ad the more savoury the better – some people in fact prefer Worcestershire sauce to the ketchup!).

I must admit that pie floaters look disgusting on first encounter with them, but really they do taste good! At least, many South Australians (and lesser numbers of visitors) think so. The meal is traditionally eaten at kerbside from a ‘pie cart’, the most famous being Cowleys’, which still stands alongside the GPO in Victoria Square in Adelaide. The name ‘floater’ may come from early English slang expression describing a dumpling in soup.

The South Australian origins date to early colonial times when vendors with horse or hand-drawn carts sold pies baked in a wood-fired oven, and soup from a simmering pot. 
These pie carts became a meeting place where cabbies, police, nightwatchmen and other workers rubbed shoulders with theatre patrons in formal evening wear, musicians, politicians and businessmen. So the pie floater actually was an egalitarian repast and thus may have important historical and social connotations.

The first pie cart was licensed in 1871 and by 1915 there were nine, sustained until 1942. In 1938 the City Council, prompted by other food traders’ complaints, decided to abolish pie carts as current owners ceased trading. By 1958 only two remained in the city - at the GPO site and the one now outside the Adelaide Railway Station. The pie floater’s curb-side consumption by people from all walks of life for more than130 years makes it an authentic and uniquely South Australian culinary tradition.

Bon Appétit!


“Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another” – Plato

Today’s birthday plant is the ivy flowerheads, Hedera helix. It is symbolic of a need of support, tenacity, wedded love, fidelity and immortality. It is a plant of Saturn and in some circles considered an evil omen as it kills whatever it embraces.

The planet Uranus was discovered on this day in 1781 by the astronomer William Herschel. The planet was originally called Georgius Sidus to honour king George III, patron of Herschel.

Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun and is the third largest in the solar system. It has an equatorial diameter of 51,800 kilometers and orbits the Sun once every 84.01 Earth years. It has a mean distance from the Sun of 2.87 billion kilometers. It rotates about its axis once every 17 hours 14 minutes. Uranus has at least 22 moons. The two largest moons, Titania and Oberon, were discovered by William Herschel in 1787.

The atmosphere of Uranus is composed of 83% hydrogen, 15% helium, 2% methane and small amounts of acetylene and other hydrocarbons. Methane in the upper atmosphere absorbs red light, giving Uranus its blue-green color. The atmosphere is arranged into clouds running at constant latitudes, similar to the orientation of the more vivid latitudinal bands seen on Jupiter and Saturn.

Uranus is distinguished by the fact that it is tipped on its side, so that its poles are on the equator, so to speak. Its unusual position is thought to be the result of a collision with a planet-sized body early in the solar system's history. Voyager 2 found that one of the most striking influences of this sideways position is its effect on the tail of the magnetic field, which is itself tilted 60 degrees from the planet's axis of rotation. The magnetotail was shown to be twisted by the planet's rotation into a long corkscrew shape behind the planet. The magnetic field source is unknown.

In 1977, the first nine rings of Uranus were discovered. During the Voyager encounters, these rings were photographed and measured, as were two other new rings and ringlets.

The name of the planet was settled upon to be in keeping with the other planets, which all had nemes of gods and goddesses of Greek mythology. Uranus, also known as Ouranos, was the embodiment of the sky or heavens, and known as the god of the sky. He was the first son of Gaia (the earth) and he also became her husband. According to Hesiod, their children included the Titans: six sons (Oceanus, Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetus and Cronus) and six daughters (Theia, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe and Tethys).

There were other offspring: the Cyclopes, (who were named Brontes, Steropes and Arges and were later known as "one eyed giants"), and also the three monsters known as the Hecatonchires, who each had one hundred hands and fifty heads. Their names were Briareus, Cottus and Gyes. Other offspring of Uranus and Gaia were the Erinyes, who were spirits of punishment and goddesses of vengeance. The Erinyes avenged wrongs which were done to family, especially murder within a family.

Uranus was aghast by the sight of his offspring, the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires. (In a differing version Uranus was frightened of their great strength and the fact that they could easily depose him). He hid them away in Tartarus (the bowels of the earth) inside Gaia, causing her intense pain. The discomfort became so great that she asked her youngest son, Cronus, to castrate his father, as this would cease his fertility and put an end to more monstrous offspring. To accomplish this deed Gaia made an adamantine sickle, which she gave to Cronus. That night Uranus came to lay with Gaia. And as the sky god drew close, Cronus struck with the sickle and cut off Uranus's genitals. From the blood that fell from the open wound were born nymphs and giants, and when Cronus threw the severed genitals into the sea a white foam appeared. From this foam Aphrodite the goddess of love and desire was born.

After Uranus (the sky) had been emasculated, the sky separated from Gaia (the earth) and Cronus became king of the gods. Later, Zeus (the son of Cronus) deposed his father and became the supreme god of the Greek Pantheon.

The word of the day, today is: Uranus!

Uranus |ˈyoŏrənəs; yoŏˈrā-| noun
1 Greek Mythology a personification of heaven or the sky, the most ancient of the Greek gods and first ruler of the universe. He was overthrown and castrated by his son Cronus.
2 Astronomy a distant planet of the solar system, seventh in order from the sun, discovered by William Herschel in 1781.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008


“When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” G. K. Chesterton

I am in Adelaide for two days for work. The temperatures have been scorching for the past 9 days in succession and today the mercury rose to 37˚C! This is definitely a heat wave that we have been spared from in Melbourne. Walking in the streets today was quite a task as the asphalt was radiating the accumulated heat of several days. The sun was relentlessly sending searing rays down and people had that listless look of powerless resignation that comes with an onslaught of the elemental forces of the weather, over which we have no control.

However, the up side was that my work commitments were successfully carried out and there was a tremendous feeling of achievement and of a job well-done at the end of the day. We had a delicious dinner at a wonderful Thai restaurant called “Star of Siam” – definitely worth visiting if you ever go to Adelaide! Gouger Street is certainly a bustling place and wall to wall restaurants and cafés line its lively neighbourhood.

Sitting here in my hotel room, after a full day, busy with satisfying work commitments, replete after a delicious meal, content with my lot in life, pleased with my decisions of the last few months, I can only come to the conclusion that life has been good to me and for that I am deeply grateful…

Thanks to life
( By Violeta Parra)

Thanks to life, which has given me so much
It has given me two eyes, and when I open them
I clearly distinguish black from white;
In the high sky, the starry depths,
While in the crowd, I can single out the man that I love.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much
It has given me hearing, which in all its breadth
Day and night detects crickets and canaries,
Hammers, turbines, barking of dogs, dark cloudstorms,
And the tender voice of my beloved one.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much
It has given me sound and the alphabet
And with it the words to think and speak
Mother, friend, brother, and the light that brightens
The path to the soul of my beloved one.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much
It has kept my tired feet walking
With them I walked through cities and puddles,
Beaches and deserts, mountains and plains
And the roads that lead to your house, your street to your courtyard.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much
It gave me my heart, which shakes to its depths
When I look at the fruit of the human brain
When I distinguish the good from the bad
When I look at the depths of your light-coloured eyes.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much
It has given me laughter and it has given me tears
Thus I distinguish between joy and pain,
They are all elements of my song
And of all your songs, which is the same song
And of everyone's song, which is my own song.

Violeta del Carmen Parra Sandoval (October 14, 1917 - February 5, 1967) was a notable Chilean folklorist. She set the basis for "The New Song" (La Nueva Canción chilena), a renewal of Chilean folk music. Parra was born in San Carlos, province of Ñuble, a small town in southern Chile. She was involved in the leftist movement and the Chilean Socialist Party. She established the first Peña, (now known as la Peña de los Parra). A peña is a social and political community center. The word is Spanish for "hard rock." There are now many peñas throughout Chile, Latin America, and in North America, Europe, and Australia. They serve the expat communities that fled Chile after the CIA-backed coup of 1973 that overthrew Salvador Allende's democratically elected socialist administration.

Violeta Parra is a member of the prolific Parra family. Her brother is the notable modern poet, Nicanor Parra. Her son, Ángel Parra, and her daughter, Isabel Parra, are also important figures in the development of Nueva Canción in Chile. She committed suicide at the age of fifty. Her most famous song, Gracias A la Vida, was popularized in the US by Joan Baez. It remains one of the most covered Latin American songs in history.
(courtesy of YouTube)

Tuesday, 11 March 2008


“A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.” – Roald Dahl

I have just finished a collection of short stories by Roald Dahl (1916–1990), one of the world's most beloved children's authors. He created delightful characters such as Matilda and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but also wrote short stories for adults. The book I have just read is titled “Kiss Kiss” (first published as a collection in 1960, but most of the stories had been published earlier elsewhere). They are a delicious collection of eleven short stories, macabre and dark, but with a sense of wicked humour about them as well.

Roald Dahl was born in Llandaff, Wales, of Norwegian parents. He lost his parents at an early age and he was sent to private schools in England and Wales, at great cost to his remaining relatives who had to sell the family jewellery in order to pay for his education. However, the school system in these institutions did not impress Dahl: "I was appalled by the fact that masters and senior boys were allowed literally to wound other boys, and sometimes quite severely. I couldn't get over it. I never got over it..." he wrote.

His family experiences and terrible time he had in the private school system inspired Dahl to write stories in which children fight against cruel adults and authorities. "Parents and schoolteachers are the enemy," Dahl once said. In his story “James and the Giant Peach”, James’s parents are eaten, and his two aunts terrorise him. In “Matilda” the parents are depicted as terrible people who are completely selfish and irresponsible, while in “Witches” a beautiful woman turns out to be a wicked witch.

“My Uncle Oswald” (1979) was Dahl's first full-length novel, a bizarre story of a scheme for procuring and selling the sperm of the world's most powerful and brilliant men. Dahl received three Edgar Allan Poe Awards (1954, 1959, 1980). In 1982 he won his first literary prize with “The BFG”, a story about Big Friendly Giant, who kidnaps and takes a little girl to Giantland, where giants eat children. In 1983 he received World Fantasy Convention Lifetime Achievement award. Dahl died of an infection on November 23, 1990, in Oxford.

His writing is vivid, amusing, shocking, surprising, delightful, playful, unconventional, always a pleasure to read. Highly recommended!

Monday, 10 March 2008


“The day which we fear as our last is but the birthday of eternity.” - Seneca

We watched a very curious film, today. It was Michael Polish’s “Northfork” (2003). A strange film in that I find it hard to classify into a mainstream genre, perhaps a little arthouse, maybe fantasy, maybe surrealist, perhaps even a tad pretentious. In any case, a slow and ingrown melancholy fable designed to show off cinematography and period sets. The acting was adequate and the music suitably atmospheric.

The story is set in the town of Northfork, Montana in the 1950s. The Government (represented by the men in black, wearing hats and driving identical cars) has decided to flood the place in order to make a hydroelectric dam, all in the name of progress. The citizens have been evacuated except for a handful who choose to stay on, despite the imminent inundation. The government has sent the men in black to persuade the last remaining Northforkers to quit the town. There is a priest and a young, sick orphan boy he is looking after, the elderly café owner, a man who has built an ark for himself and his two wives, an elderly man who will shoot anyone who tries to approach him and a house full of angels (or are they just a figment of the sick boy’s imagination?).

The film meanders to and fro, nothing much happens and every once in a while there is an amusing comment or two. Fascinating to watch, even though it’s slow and “arty” - one would think that it could be boring, but I wasn’t bored. No doubt within a few months I’ll have forgotten all about it, but nevertheless quite strangely engaging while one watches it.

A friend of ours who saw it some time ago said she fell asleep while watching it in the cinema. Another friend says it’s a masterpiece. I sit somewhere between the two. If you come across it, watch it, but don’t go out of your way to find it…

Sunday, 9 March 2008


“Everything being a constant carnival, there is no carnival left.” - Victor Hugo
Tyrrhiné Sunday (meaning “Cheese Sunday”) in the Greek Orthodox faith is the last day before the Lenten fasting period and is equivalent to the “Pancake” or “Shrove Tuesday” of the Western churches. On this day, the remaining eggs, milk, butter and cheese products had to be consumed. Nowadays, even meat tends to be consumed, but most people will fast tomorrow.

Note that in the Orthodox faith one has to fast on Sundays during Lent, whereas in the Western churches, fasting is relaxed on Sundays, even during Lent. The Apokriés festival is celebrated on this and the previous two Sundays, but this last Sunday is the Great Apokriá, an enormous carnival with parades and masquerading, eating drinking, carousing and much merry-making. It is the last fling before the great austerity of Lent.
Once the Great Apokriá dawns brightly
Even the staid old maid becomes flighty
Greek Folk Saying

Seeing it’s carnival time in Greece, here is a painting by Nikos Engonopoulos (1907-1985), a surrealist painter and poet whose work always has something festive and carnival-like about it. This is the “Return of Odysseus” (1947).

For more on Engonopoulos, visit the official website managed by his daughter Henrietta.

Happy Carnival, Καλή Αποκριά, Καλή Σαρακοστή, Have a Good Lent!