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I don’t speak German and have only rarely been tempted to learn to, but there are certain German words that are so deliciously evocative that I simply fall in love with them.

Weltschmerz for instance — and if you can find a better word for that particular feeling I’d love to hear it — or gemutlich — “More tea?”— and my favourite of all seiltanzer, meaning tightrope walker or even better rope dancer.

Now in English the term tightrope walker triggers a purely mental process in which the mind after some fiddling around generates a purely mental picture. Rope dancer is marginally more visceral, whereas, say “Seiltanzer” and there you are in perfect kinesthetic balance looking down into the abyss.

I first came across the word during a period of intense reflection on my creative process while I was working towards my Masters in Writing.  It came to me as the name of a poem by British poet and academic Peter Abbs.


If on the road you should meet Socrates –
And fail to kill him,

Then avoid his ironic eyes,
His enticing invitations,

Teasing aporias: Refuse to shake his hand,
Decline the olives and the wine.

And not a word in answer to his questions.
The smallest concept

Sparks the engine of his mind, that machine of refutation
No-one survives

So, not one word of explanation,
Not one word of greeting.

Then, if he should pester you, be brave
And simply dance.

Let your body rise before him,
Every gesture conjunctive, assertion of your blood,

Your breath, your life,
Your death. An acrobat child dancing on the grave,

A self propelling wheel, a yes and (again) a yes.
Then without a pause, pass on:

Artist, the vessel of life, the self-maker,

Peter Abbs


The juggling tightrope walker seemed to encapsulate the very essence of what it is to be in the creative zone. Perfectly centred and cool all the while juggling the many different elements that must be fitted into the final offering.

And then there’s Roland Barthes idea of the Death of the Author which, it seems to me fits very nicely in here somewhere and which I will discuss as soon as I have finished a post on a somewhat related topic Atisha’s Heart Meditation, which I promised to write for a friend yesterday afternoon.


As soon as a fact is narrated, no longer with a view to acting directly on reality, but intransitively, that is to say finally outside of any function other than that of the practice of the symbol itself, this disconnection occurs, the voice loses its origin, the author enters into his own death, writing begins.


To be continued…


The Daughter: A Review


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I saw The Daughter back in March and wrote this on returning home the same evening. It somehow got stuck in the draft area of my blog, so here it is now, late, but still of interest I hope.



As a writer working to complete a screenplay adaptation myself, I have become hyper-sensitive to screenplay and screenplay structure. This one is a real inspiration; a brilliant reworking of Ibsen’s play The Wild Duck by Simon Stone the film’s director, who also directed another of my favourite movies Jindabyne.

Stone directs theatre as well as film and it shows. That he also directs his own screenplay allows him to use all the filmic techniques necessary to bridge the gap between the two forms. What works on the stage can lack energy and tension on the big screen. In The Daughter, Stone strikes a delicate balance between the requirements of the two forms giving the film a wonderful theatricality which elevates it the level of the heroic. At the same time it has all the reality and energy required to work on the big screen.

This achievement would not have been possible without the cast, including big names Geoffrey Rush, Sam Neill and Miranda Otto, working in a harmonious ensemble that must have made directing the film a real delight.

I heard Jason de Rosso, on The Final Cut , say that he felt there was a “hole in the film” where Geoffrey Rush should be and that Rush’s character “casts no shadow”, “lacks charm”. The way I see it is that Rush plays Henry as morally passive and the fact that he “lacks charm” is part of the conundrum of the powerful man and his ability to dominate others. Who ever said that Rupert Murdoch was charming?

It’s almost as if de Rosso wants Henry to be more “villainous”, but for Rush to have played Henry more to de Rosso’s taste would, I believe, have disturbed the finely balanced interplay of the ensemble cast. It would also have diminished the impact of the story’s premise, which is that evil happens not necessarily through evil intent, but more often as a mere side-effect of blind selfishness. Sometimes even as a result of good intentions on the part of flawed, short-sighted people, operating without self-insight.

There was one bit of acting that didn’t quite work for me though and that was Paul Schneider’s take on Christian, I just couldn’t get a coherent grasp of his motivation or rather of what he saw as his motivation at any particular time. Clearly his character was a divided and emotionally confused man but somehow this didn’t take roots in the energy of the character, rather it contaminated the performance.

The musical soundtrack is composed by Mark Bradshaw whose work also features in some of Jane Campions films. It threads itself sinuously through the film, never intruding, but sometimes taking centre stage in a subtle dance with the landscape.

As in his earlier movie Jindabyne Stone uses the soundtrack as a seperate narrative tool.  One technique I remember from Jindabyne was the sudden disappearance of the soundtrack in silence. This is used to great dramatic effect in The Daughter. When one of the characters, Christian, smashes a chair in a rage we hear nothing. The act is merely destructive, conveys no truth, brings no relief, just as his attempts to bring out what he sees as the truth are merely destructive.

David Stratton talks about some other uses of this ‘division of sound from image’ device, in his review of March 12, 2006 The Australian

The first few minutes of the film are filled with lucidly presented information, achieved by the division of sound from image, so that often a conversation is heard on the soundtrack while quite separate visual information is depicted on screen.

This device not only allows Stone to establish characters, relationships and a certain amount of backstory swiftly and clearly, but it also dramatically depicts the complex linkages between the characters.


The ending is truly powerful and brings the drama to an emotionally satisfactory resolution at the same time as it leaves the story dangling. Another example of the way Stone is capable of separating out the individual threads of a process and weaving them in new exciting ways.

This is definitely a movie I would watch again.


The Perfect Boiled Egg




I wrote this recipe down for my friend Cindy as she so much enjoyed the boiled eggs I brought to our picnic one perfect day when she took me for a big driveabout in the Darling Ranges and Swan Valley.

Sometimes I cook boiled eggs without a timer. Just kind of ‘tuning in’ to what I’m doing and I usually get it pretty spot on. But this apparent simplicity is not fool proof. I sometimes stuff it up, especially when I just don’t need an exploded egg in my life. So for Cindy, and for myself in my less-present moments, here it is.

How to cook perfect boiled eggs — reliably.

You have to get good eggs. Eggs from happy chooks make happy eating.

This is what good eggs look like raw: the lovely orange yolks indicate that the chickens have had access to lots of green feed and the penumbra around the yolk shows it is nice and fresh. These eggs are pastured with less than 30 hens per hectare so I figure they have a nice high Omega 3 levels, if you like to concern yourself with that sort of thing.


I often boil up half a dozen and store them in the fridge in case I need a snack or something to put in a lunch box.

(These directions are for a 70 to 80 gram egg and will give a moist but not too runny egg. If you want to dip soldiers or have the egg spill its contents over a dish as a dressing then reduce the cooking time to 3 ½ minutes.

Bring a decent sized pot of water to a rolling boil.

  1. This helps to give the eggs plenty of room so they don’t knock against each other. It also allows you to lower the eggs smoothly and gently into the water so they receive the initial heat of the water evenly. This is especially important if your eggs haven’t quite returned to room temperature after being refrigerated as the rapid expansion of the shell can cause cracking.
  1. Watch the pot till the water returns to the boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer.
  1. Allow to simmer for 4 minutes.
  1. Remove eggs from the water and give them a sharp tap with a spoon to make a small break in the shell. This will stop them cooking any further.
  1. Plunge eggs into cold or even iced water.
    This can make it easier to detach the membrane around the egg from its contents as you peel it.
  1. Roll the egg gently between your palms until the shell is all cracked and starting to loosen.
    Peel being very careful, especially at the beginning, to get under the membrane.

Eat and enjoy.



Mens Sana in Corpore Sano


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This is some information I got together for a couple of friends with mental health issues in their families and while I was doing so I realised that I know a number of people who might be interested in it, so here it is.

I offer this not as the final word or the complete solution to the problems discussed, but as a challenge to you to embark on your own journey to health and happiness, if you haven’t done so already. And if you have begun the journey to say “You are not alone, Charaiveti, charaiveti. Keep going.”

I remember someone wise saying that the best way to live to a healthy old age is to get a serious disease and use it as a teacher.

All of these following ideas and suggestions make good sense to me and I have tried most of them myself. None of them involve side-effects and all of them will make you healthier overall.

An increasing number of scientifically trained medical doctors have experienced severe health problems themselves and seeing the limitation of the “Here take this pill” approach to health have embraced a more holistic way of healing disease, of returning the bodymind to optimum health.

This approach  relies on a willingness to make significant lifestyle and dietary changes if necessary and to take responsibility at a very fundamental level for our own health.

The truth is that the healthcare system in Australia is groaning under the weight of our demands for the quick fix, our inability to trust that we can return to optimal health and well being by giving our bodyminds what they need to function properly.

This approach, of course is not for everyone, to many people the ideas are utterly foreign to their way of seeing the world and the body. I hope you aren’t one of them. Vibrant health and mental clarity allow such joy to arise…

One of the reasons people may be reluctant to take this path is that it seems expensive. Supplements are not free on the NHS. I have no answer to this except to say that the fact that something is free doesn’t add anything to its real value. “Here take this poison – It’s free!”

The recognition that we have a mental illness can seem disempowering. “There’s something wrong with my brain.” or “I am crazy”,  so while we go about the task of fixing the brain, we need to cultivate the freedom and strength that comes with the recognition of who we really are underneath the chaos.

I  remember hearing Osho say something to the effect that solving problems is the never-ending obsession of the mind and that if we can only get a bit of distance from it, recognise that we are simply the still silent watcher of its games, then the solutions to many of our problems become obvious or they simply evaporate.

Wittgenstein, my most beloved philosopher, said something similar:

“The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of the problem. (Is not this the reason why those who have found after a long period of doubt that the meaning of life became clear to them have been unable to say what constituted that meaning?)” Tractatus Logico Philosophicus (1921)

Fighting with the mind and emotions, trying to control will always be a losing battle. Getting a distance from them allows us to see the choices we need to make to allow healing.

But meditation, the process whereby we attune ourselves to our inner stillness and silence can be a real challenge for anyone with mental dis-ease.

Osho designed his Dynamic Meditation to cater for those of us for whom sitting silently is not (yet) an option.


The thing about meditation is that it helps you develop a centre of awareness that is unaffected by turbulent thoughts and emotions, where you can retreat, get a break from it all, and where you can watch what is going on in your bodymind system. This means that you become more able to monitor the effects of the various physical supplements and dietary changes you are making. Over time it will empower you to take full responsibility for your own journey to health and freedom.





There is some negative stuff about lithium orotate on the net. The Wikipedia entry on Hans Neiper, who did the original research on the this form of mineral salt  claims: “His therapy has been discredited as ineffective and unsafe”. The references used to substantiate this claim are anecdotal and out of date and do not actually address his research findings in a scientific way.

Orotic acid is a substance found in large quantities in breast milk and facilitates the uptake of minerals by the suckling infant.

Neiper found that orotic acid when combined with a mineral such as calcium , magnesium or lithium enhances uptake – bioavailability – by a factor of 20. The value of this is enormous when it is remembered that “the therapeutic dose of lithium when administered as lithium carbonate is close to the toxic level (i.e., there is a narrow therapeutic window), and for this reason blood levels and organ function need to be monitored continually.” 1

There’s more info about how to get hold of Lithium Orotate at the bottom of this post.


These following are links to a series of videos where John Gray gives detailed advice on other supplements for restoring healthy brain function. There’s nothing outrageously expensive on his list.



Doctor Mark Hyman is another scientifically trained doctor whose first-hand experience of the limitations of the “Take this Pill” approach  to healing led him to look at a more holistic approach.




The Advanced Research Brand is the one I have always taken. They claim to be using the method Hans Neiper advocated to manufacture the product, I don’t know what that means or if it is important but it is a product that has always worked for me. I am still trying to find the New Zealand supplier I got them from a couple of years ago, as the postage from the US is a bit steep. There is a Sydney supplier but their price is ridiculous. So here are a couple of US options. There are other cheaper brands on the net but some of them are only 5 mg per pill rather than 120mg.

From Lucky Vitamins on EBay $US8.98 per 100 pack, postage $US25.04


From $US13.49 – I think this is where I got them from last time can’t remember the postage, and it’s not on the site, but I think it may have been a  bit less than the Lucky Vitamins charge.

DOSAGE. One tablet a day is the usual dosage but you can take two a day for the first week to get the blood levels up, if you have stong symptoms of deficiency. Eventually you can simply take one whenever you begin to notice that you are feeling ‘off’ for no reason.

Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth. A short review.

Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth is a big, gutsy interpretation of the play made even more compelling by the presence of a magnificent but inhospitable landscape. Supprted by the almost palpable chemistry between Marion Cotilliard (Lady Macbeth) and Michael Fassbender (Macbeth) the plot unfolds with devastating inevitability.

The soundtrack is remarkable – music I’d be happy to listen to over and over, but it did compete a bit with the dialogue, which for some peculiar reason was delivered by all the male characters in what I can only presume were thick Scottish accents – sometimes simply incomprehensible.
Cotillards lines were impeccably delivered in standard English – her “out out damn spot” monologue utterly heart-wrenching and convincing. For this scene alone it would be worth going to see the movie.
Considering that Shakespeare’s English is already challenging for  the average modern audience to follow, especially when it’s accompanied by a musical soundtrack, the actors would have done better to stick with the standard English accent all round.
Still definitely worth seeing.

Pablo Neruda: Poetry



I love the way this poem captures the surrender that produces and constitutes great poetry – the dissolution of the self into the immensity of existence. A poem that captures that poetry, like a butterfly, in a net of words.

And it was at that age … Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when,
no they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
that fire,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
and open,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.
Pablo Neruda