Saturday, 3 December 2011


“For death begins with life's first breath And life begins at touch of death” - John Oxenham (William Arthur Dunkerley)

For Song Saturday today a sublime aria from the Gabriel Fauré “Requiem” sung faultlessly by Cecilia Bartoli. It is the “Pie Jesu” where the singer prays to Jesus to give rest to the souls of the departed.

Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem.
Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem sempiternam.

Kind Lord Jesus,
Grant them rest.
Kind Lord Jesus,
Grant them everlasting rest.

Friday, 2 December 2011


“Thus that which is the most awful of evils, death, is nothing to us, since when we exist there is no death, and when there is death we do not exist” - Epicurus

Quite by chance today I found out that a former colleague of mine from a couple of jobs ago died in 2002 at 47 years of age. Our working relationship was not a close one as we were in different departments, however, we knew each other and always greeted one another in the corridor, sometimes attended the same general staff meetings and on one or two occasions he had come to me for some professional advice. I respected him and regarded him as an able and conscientious colleague, with a cordial and pleasant manner. I remember that he had moved overseas for some time and then I lost track of him, the business of everyday life and demands of new jobs getting in the way of keeping track of erstwhile colleagues…

Moving away from a job, one tends to sever many bonds willingly, while some are cut by circumstance. Though contact may be maintained at first, it is strained by distance and time, and even some closer friendships formed in the workplace prove to be more superficial than one thought of initially and they quickly move into the category of past acquaintance. It is part and parcel of our evolution as individuals and the changes that occur in our character, our environment our long-term relationships with family, persistent friends and long-term acquaintances. Life has a knack of reorganising itself around us and we tend to adapt to its changes with more alacrity than we give ourselves credit for.

We often may regret losing track of someone we felt an affinity with, reminisce about some special people whom we approached but never got the chance of getting really close to, and feel sorry about the ones whom we felt were special and we thought we were close to, but whom time showed to be mere acquaintances. Time moves forward inexorably and has an immense power to level much in its path. We may try to erect huge monoliths that tower above all and yet time passes and the structures we thought eternal, crumble into dust. And yet, a flower may bloom in front of time’s relentless rushing torrential front and the waters wash over it, the fragile bloom seeming to magically stay intact and somehow survive the deluge.

Our powerlessness over the passage of time is manifested most cuttingly by our daily ageing, by the appearance of telltale signs of increasing decrepitude, by the greater frequency of death’s calling card on those near and dear to us. Time passes and we age, time passes and it mows down youth and fervour. It hones down the edge of our passions, and we mature. The lucky amongst may even grow wise, though wisdom may be only another name for forbearance and stoicism in the view of our decreasing strength and increasing awareness of our own mortality.

Death rearing its skeletal head around us is always a sure sign that we too are mortal and must die. There is an increasing acceptance of it as part of our life the more we age and the more of our companions we see succumbing to its inescapable embrace. What is scathing is an early death amongst those close to us. The age of 47 years is nowadays considered as a relatively young age at which to die. One still has much to do, much to contribute, much to achieve, much to enjoy, much to share, much to be rewarded for. It is hard to reconcile ourselves with such losses. More so perhaps if the person passing is talented, hard-working, active, a contributor to the betterment of many lives around him or her.

I was sorry today when I heard of HA’s death. I don’t know any details, not even the cause of death, however, somehow the details seem unimportant now. What I mourn is the person, the life cut short, the journey left incomplete. I also regret not getting to know this person better, not maintaining some contact, not even being there at the time of death… A life stopped short, a colleague dead prematurely, a friend perhaps that I never made. Lives that ran parallel for a little while, threads that never crossed to weave, lives that didn’t enrich each other as much as it could have been possible. A belated eulogy, a goodbye unsaid at the time finally articulated.

Thursday, 1 December 2011


“We are the carriers of health and disease - either the divine health of courage and nobility or the demonic diseases of hate and anxiety” - Joshua Loth Liebman

The 1st of December 2011, marks the 23rd annual ‘World AIDS Day’. This global awareness commemoration was established by the World Health Organization (WHO), in an attempt to raise public awareness about HIV infection, including the need for support and understanding for people living with HIV. Today, more than 160 countries participate in World AIDS Day. Events planned in these countries serve to provide a global response to HIV infection, which is an issue impacting upon the lives of millions of men, women and children, across all demographics, races and religions throughout the world.

HIV infection is not just relevant to developing countries, homosexuals and drug addicts. It is relevant to every person in the world, as an important issue affecting our society. Currently there are around 17,500 people living with HIV in Australia, with approximately 5,722 of these in Victoria. Every three days, two Victorians are diagnosed with the virus, meaning there are more people living with HIV here than ever before.

HIV can infect an unborn child in an HIV positive woman. It can be diagnosed in a health worker who has been accidentally exposed to HIV positive blood. HIV infection can occur in an emergency worker who has contracted the virus assisting victims at the scene of an accident. The infection can be found in the wife of an infected man who contracted the virus in examples such as those aforementioned. HIV infection can occur in a tourist returning from a trip abroad and who received hospital treatment in a high-incidence country.

There are many activities that everyone can participate in to become a ‘World AIDS Day Advocate’ this December. Volunteer to help sell merchandise, collect donations and distribute red ribbons on World AIDS Day. Rather than sell red ribbons, volunteers are handing them out on December 1st and hoping that recipients will make a donation to further research into the disease and help to alleviate the distress of sufferers. Vital funding is required for education about HIV infection and prevention of HIV infection. Many people are instrumental in organising activities and collecting donations at their workplace, school or club.

By wearing a red ribbon or other red clothing on World AIDS Day, participants help to generate vital awareness surrounding HIV infection. Advocate tell others about World AIDS Day so that family, friends and colleagues become aware of HIV infection, helping to spread the word far and wide. By participating in World AIDS Day activities you:
•    Acknowledge the ongoing problems that HIV infection is causing worldwide.
•    Contribute to fundraising efforts, which directly assist people living with HIV.
•    Confront the ongoing stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV.
•    Increase awareness surrounding HIV and its transmission.
•    Help to commemorate the millions of lives lost as a result of the epidemic.

December 1st is the day when you inform yourself, educate others and pledge your support to World AIDS Day. For more information about HIV infection, see:

CDC - Basic Information about HIV and AIDS

Department of Health, Victoria, Australia

Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO)

New York Times Health

Wednesday, 30 November 2011


“The only real security that a man can have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience and ability.” - Henry Ford

November 30th is International Computer Security Day. The day is an important reminder for all computer users to review their “safe” practices when using computers, the internet and all manner of data storage devices. Computer Security Day began in 1988 when the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Association for Computer Machinery (ACM) sought to bring computer-related security issues to the nation’s forefront. Since that time, Computer Security Day has evolved into a worldwide event, observed in over 40 countries. Some organisations choose to have functions on the next business day if the day falls on a weekend.

Most of us who use a computer have experienced one or more adverse security events relating to our use of computers. The discovery of viruses, worms, Trojans and spyware on our hard disk, leakage of passwords and overtaking of email accounts by hackers, loss of data, failure of backups, etc, etc. Add to that of course, computer crime and the way that many people get scammed online and through emails. It is a frightening prospect and one that can cause loss of data, personal information theft (including identity theft), loss of money and a great deal of heartache!

On this day at least, we should use the occasion to take at least one action to improve the security on our computers. Here are just a few suggestions on what you can you do:
•    Change your password(s) to strong password(s). At minimum, mix upper case and lower case letters, numbers, and special symbols. The longer the password, the better it is.
•    Remove the “sticky note” from under your keyboard that has all your passwords written on it!
•    Update your anti-virus software and run a full system scan, eliminating all suspicious files.
•    Check your system for software updates, including security updates!
•    Do you know what a “Firewall” is? If not, find out. If yes, are you using it effectively?
•    Delete unneeded or “strange” files from you computer – get help from an expert if you are unsure.
•    Back up, back up, back up important files!

Is your email system secure against email viruses, which are able to cripple your email system and corporate network in minutes? Many of these hazardous viruses are being distributed worldwide via email in a matter of hours, for example, the LoveLetter virus that wrought havoc around the world in 2000. Email worms and viruses can reach your system and infect users through harmful attachments. But that’s not all! Some viruses are transmitted through harmless-looking email messages and can run automatically without the need for user intervention, like the Nimda virus. Find out what your personal protection against such attacks is and ensure that you adhere to the security protocols.

Internet users are being warned to never respond to emails which ask for personal details. Everyone should be aware of the practice of “phishing” involving sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft. The e-mail directs the user to visit a website where they are asked to update personal information, such as passwords and credit card, social security, and bank account numbers, that the legitimate organisation already has.

These phishing websites, however, are bogus and set up only to steal the user’s information. For example, 2003 saw the proliferation of a phishing scam in which users received e-mails supposedly from eBay claiming that the user’s account was about to be suspended unless he clicked on the provided link and updated the credit card information that the genuine eBay already had. Because it is relatively simple to make a Web site look like a legitimate organisation’s site by mimicking the HTML code, the scam counted on people being tricked into thinking they were actually being contacted by eBay and were subsequently going to eBay’s site to update their account information. By spamming large groups of people, the “phisher” counted on the e-mail being read by a percentage of people who actually had listed credit card numbers with eBay legitimately.

Phishing, also referred to as brand spoofing or carding, is a variation on “fishing”, the idea being that bait is thrown out with the hopes that while most will ignore the bait, some will be tempted into biting. Criminals are getting smarter and making better use of technology. He says people would be surprised at how sophisticated some of the phishing attacks have become. There are very credible copies of websites and emails, which are sucking in the most unlikely people. He believes more money is being made by organised crime through internet fraud, than through illegal drugs.

But do remember, security awareness is most effective when people practice security habits daily, not just once a year!

malware |ˈmalˌwe(ə)r| noun; Computing
Software that is intended to damage or disable computers and computer systems.
ORIGIN: Blend of malicious and software.

Monday, 28 November 2011


“We degenerate into hideous puppets, haunted by the memory of the passions of which we were much afraid, and the exquisite temptations that we had not the courage to yield to.” - Oscar Wilde

There are some cupboards, some seldom opened drawers, some taped up boxes in every home, where we have locked up objects that serve as silent souvenirs of times past. Photographs, letters, small keepsakes, pressed flowers, a gift or two, some trifle that on first glance a stranger would look at curiously and dismiss as “junk”. All of those hidden reminders of times that have been, carefully secreted in some dark place where their strident voice is muffled are thus easily ignored.

The larger, bulkier mementos are more difficult to discount. Furniture, paintings, cars, houses even. Our past lives live on in these possessions that persist even if our life has moved on. Catharsis can occur only if these reminders are shed. New furniture, anyone?

This blog entry is part of the Magpie Tales meme.

Souvenir Rouge

You know the rules,
X marks the spot:
“Thou shalt not venture beyond this yellow line”
Cerise dreams are out of bounds.

The brickwork sighs
And shapely thighs
Have left depressions on the embarrassed couch –
Crimson words are best left unspoken.

Soft liquid drips,
Moans left embroidered
On the fabric; lyrics to sweet songs,
Port-wine poetry not to be recited.

Flushed memories
Abandoned keepsakes
Once part of a pair, ruby sofa, your
Blood-red histories are to be expunged
On the garbage heap.


“Drugs are a waste of time. They destroy your memory and your self-respect and everything that goes along with your self esteem.” - Kurt Cobain

For Movie Monday today, Tim Blake Nelson’s 2009 film “Leaves of Grass”, starring Edward Norton, Keri Russell, Henry Max Nelson and Susan Sarandon. The script was also written by Tim Blake Nelson, who also acted in the movie, and it was quite an interesting mix of the familiar with the original. Although one could view this film as a black comedy, there were scenes of high drama and the theme of family reconciliations was well-served in the end.

Edward Norton plays identical twin brothers, Billy, a talented and famous university professor of philosophy and Brady a big time marijuana grower and dealer in Tulsa. The film builds up to the first encounter of the two brothers after many years of being estranged, bringing with it much comedic incident. The strained relationship between the twin brothers is not helped by Brady tricking Bill into revisiting the family, however, smoking of the choice marijuana that Brady cultivates soon has Bill collaborating with him to negotiate a loan extension with the state’s drug kingpin from Tulsa, the otherwise respectable oilfield equipment purveyor and Jewish philanthropist, Pug (well-played by Richard Dreyfuss).

Bill mends bridges with his mother who has secluded herself in a nursing home, although she does not need to and is charmed by local teacher and poet, Janet (Kerri Russell). Bill learns of the different kinds of love and although the ending is quite unexpected, one can see that it is all predicted earlier and one understands thoroughly both Bill’s predicament and his final lesson learnt.

The acting was superb with Norton portraying competently and believably the two twins of quite different personalities. The other actors also played with gusto and gave excellent performances, without once lapsing into farce, which would have been very easy to do in some parts of the movie.

The movie is quite violent and there are scenes that would offend the squeamish, however, they were warranted, given the subject matter. Overall, quite an enjoyable movie, which superficially could be seen as a comedy, but which is better described as a tragicomedy, with some very deep messages that are not foisted on the viewer with a steel glove. We would recommend it quite highly.

Sunday, 27 November 2011


“Every painter has been guilty of wanting to portray a moment in nature instead of realising that a simple luminous arrangement would put the mind into the same state as a landscape.” - André Derain

For Art Sunday today, André Derain (10th June 1880, Chatou, France to 8th September 1954, Garches, France). He is one of the important French post-impressionists and major exponent of fauvism. Derain received a good education at the College Chaptal as his father wanted to make him an engineer. Derain, however, was drawn to painting and became Carriere’s pupil and a friend of Matisse. In 1889 he met Vlaminck and together they formed the Chatou school.

Derain shared with Vlaminck the choice of subjects for their paintings (they both had the same passion for Van Gogh), notably landscapes and suburban scenes, but they also had much in common in technique: They both used brushwork, applied in squares, dots and short strokes, and while Derain’s use of colour is bold and contrasted as Vlaminck’s it is less frivolous and dominated by tones of green and violet. Both artists had a predilection for curves in their composition. But it was Matisse who was the catalyst for the outpouring of Derain’s talent. On one occasion, when staying at Collioure with Matisse, Derain said: “I knew moments of great doubt and it was Matisse who reassured me”.

Contact with Matisse gave Derain’s painting a delicate quality with a more relaxed technique and economy of pictorial elements. His mastery fully showed itself in the series of pictures he painted in London between 1906 and 1907, which are considered his Fauvist masterpieces. It is in these paintings that the last traces of Impressionism and Divisionism vanish, and the colouring (pink, green, yellow, blue), although in a lower key than Vlaminck’s, is more animated and adhering to the fauvist palette, applied in vibrant daubs. His composition is skilful following the shape of surrounding objects, giving an appearance of solidity, which is emphasised by the use of outline.

From 1912 to 1914 Sienese art influenced Derain and his “Gothic” period ensued but terminated during the war. After 1920 the south of France and Italy inspired in him a Classical period. “The Hunt” earned him the 1928 Carnegie Prize. He was immensely active during 1930 and 1931, with several exhibitions at Paul Guillaume, commissions for stage design for the theatre and for the Diaghilev Ballet, costume design, illustrations for “Pantagruel” and La Fontaine’s “Contes”, sculpture and masks. In 1935 he left Paris and retired to Saint-Germain-en-Laye. He died in a clinic at Garches after a road accident. In 1931, after ten years of grudging criticism, his qualities as a landscape painter began to be recognised.

His “London Bridge” above was painted in London, in the Winter of 1906. It is an oil on canvas (66 x 99.1 cm) work that best exemplifies Derain’s fauve style. The brilliant colour, the distillation of the scene into its simplest structural components the strong curvilinear composition and the strong brushwork are all elements that make this painting characteristic of fauvism and Derain. That wintry London could inspire such a bright joyous work is quite astounding!