Saturday, 20 August 2011


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When possible, we make time for diversions that enrich the soul. These need not be practical or productive. Indeed, the best ones almost never are. This month, our preferred diversions include Terrence Malick's film The Tree of Life, his first directorial work of note since The Thin Red Line in 1998. We've admired Malick since his independent feature Badlands debuted close to forty years ago. His latest film is both a closely observed study of one family, and an epic exploration of life in the universe. Immerse yourself in its existential beauty as an antidote to mainstream mediocrity. More visual treats are on offer at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, where Cy Twombly is featured in the exhibition Twombly and Poussin: Arcadian Painters. While the world has suffered a blow due to the recent passing of Cy Twombly and the great Lucien Freud, we are grateful for the work these dignified artists bequeathed to us. Our respect for both men is boundless. We nod also to the departed Ai Qing, father to contemporary artist Ai Weiwei, who offers another form of lyricism with his poems. Should you prefer to find your beauty in motion, visit the gentle people at Tokyo Bike for assistance. There is no better way to transit from point A to B than aboard one of their bicycles.


Stand Still Like the Hummingbird, a collection of essays by Henry Miller (1891-1980). Artists and writers will be inspired. Those inclined to philosophy will be given many chances to reflect - on money, technology, nature, and persistence, among other things. To help you appreciate Miller, we recommend his 1961 Paris Review interview. If you are anything like us, you will want to pore through other interviews once here. Since 1953, the Paris Review has had the tenacity and good fortune to interview the world's best writers. In addition to Miller, read conversations with William Faulkner, Margaret Drabble and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.


Windmuehlenmesser Rust Eraser & Oil to keep your steel knives in good working order. The oil can be used to lubricate metal, wood and leather on all manner of objects. We use it in our kitchen to protect knife blades, wiping a few drops on clean metal after each washing. The eraser can be used on rust spots. To further care for your knives, never store them in leather or wooden sheaths where moisture can remain. And always keep them perfectly sharpened, since a dull blade is a terrible insult to fresh produce and the surest way to a kitchen-based injury.


At the substantial collection of works on display in Surrealism: The Poetry of Dreams, at Brisbane's GoMA until 2 October. The exhibition features paintings, sculpture, short films and photographs from Paris' Musee national d'art moderne in the Centre Pompidou. It's worth visiting Brisbane for the gallery alone. Since it opened in December 2006, GoMA, which is part of a riverside cultural precinct opposite the city centre, has been part of the city's reinvention of itself. As well as the original gallery (still operational and worth exploring), museum and GoMA, the area boasts a first-rate State Library known for its innovative initiative The Edge.


Umberto D. Vittorio De Sica's compassionate tale of an elderly man's struggle to stay afloat in an uncaring city is regularly cited as one of the best films of all time, applauded by Ingmar Bergman and nominated for both an Academy Award and the Cannes Film Festival's Grand Prix. We admire it for its art direction and the choice to film on real streets with an untrained cast, the result of the filmmaker's lack of respect for his professional compatriots admittedly, but a choice which led to a film that has emotional honesty and poetic rhythm. We recommend this film from Italy's post-war past as a reminder that the country offers so much cultural wealth, and will continue to do so, no matter how tawdry or undeserving the leaders of the nation.


Honest English fare at Frank's Cafe in London. If you're suffering after a celebratory evening, it's hard to go past their grilled sardines, barbecued sausages or roast chicken and potato salad. Positioned on the tenth floor of a Peckham car park, this pop-up cafe (now in its third year) is open only during the summer months, so make sure to visit soon. Don't be fooled by the humble location and somewhat basic seating arrangement: cocktails are available, and the view is as lovely as any you'd enjoy from a luxury hotel. Lunch is available but for the best atmosphere head there in the evening.


Greek and Australian wines from producers of integrity. Hatzidakis Winery offers bottled sunlight in its impressive dry white Santorini Assyrtico. Greek wine has improved markedly in recent years and this family winery, based near Pyrgos Kallistis, on the road to the monastery of the Prophet Elias, has been leading the charge since 1997. Share a bottle in one of Greece's clifftop hotels, ideally in September in a secluded pocket of Oia. In Australia, we're enjoying Jasper Hill Emily's Paddock Shiraz Cabernet Franc, a darkly fruity, firm and elegant wine. Also a family company, Jasper Hill grows its grapes in two paddocks named after the owners' daughters, using organic and biodynamic techniques.


Trend forecaster Li Edelkoort and friends, who began the not-for-profit organisation Heartwear in 1993. Working with artisanal companies in developing countries, Heartwear collects finely made textiles, silverware and clothing and retails them through Heartwear's catalogue and network of wholesalers. Heartwear assists artisans to refine their products for export while working to retain the character and history behind each object. All profits are reinvested in the craftsperson's community. Edelkoort continues to run her eponymous Edelkoort Inc, predicting with consistent accuracy and alacrity how the world is shifting on its haunches from season to season.


Phillip Pullman's epic fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials, a series that does what so many books promise by speaking to both adult and young adult readers, insulting neither. Rather than be prescriptive or moralistic, Pullman gives readers the space in which to interpret his references to Milton's Paradise Lost, theology, nationalism and physics. In response to questions about what it all means, he says: 'I'm not in the message business; I'm in the "Once upon a time" business.' Read the books for their remarkable turn of phrase, romping storylines, fully fleshed-out landscapes and wonderful characters - which range from witches to polar bears. Most readers of the series would agree that the film, The Golden Compass, based on the first book, Northern Lights, was unfortunate. We recommend you enjoy these stories in print.


About Michael Murphy, co-founder of Boston-based MASS Design Group. Murphy is part of the design collaborative who start with the premise that architecture needs to play a role in combating poverty. The group works with governments and NGOs to train local tradespeople, build vital resources using cutting-edge techniques and modern materials, and assist in long-term improvement in living standards. Their projects include building Butaro Hospital and BHW Women's Hospital, schools and training centres in Rwanda, and working with the people of Haiti to rebuild their community.

'All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without the benefit of experience.'
Henry Miller

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