April 27, 2013

All Alone in the Night - Time-lapse footage of the Earth as seen from the ISS



Flying Over the Earth at Night

Video Credit: Gateway to Astronaut Photography, NASA ; Compilation: Bitmeizer (YouTube);
Music: Freedom Fighters (
Two Steps from Hell
Explanation: Many wonders are visible when flying over the Earth at night. A compilation of such visual spectacles was captured recently from the International Space Station (ISS) and set to rousing music. 

Passing below are white clouds, orange city lights, lightning flashes in thunderstorms, and dark blue seas. On the horizon is the golden haze of Earth's thin atmosphere, frequently decorated by dancing auroras as the video progresses. The green parts of auroras typically remain below the space station, but the station flies right through the red and purple auroral peaks. 

Solar panels of the ISS are seen around the frame edges. The ominous wave of approaching brightness at the end of each sequence is just the dawn of the sunlit half of Earth, a dawn that occurs every 90 minutes


Many thanks to Claudette for sending me this!

Couldn't resist this quote from Albert Einstein!

Fans of UNSW Science and ScienceAlert got to pose a series of questions to You Tube's most famous astronaut Chris Hadfield. Watch the interview with Veritasium's Derek Muller at the exclusive Space Oddity event at Sydney's Powerhouse Museum - the annual ScienceAlert event celebrating all things science.

Chris Hadfield’s Amazing Photos of Earth from The International Space Station


April 26, 2013

The Importance of Costume in Films: Some Iconic Images of our Culture


It's a long way to the top in Hollywood but not if you've got a frock 'n' role
PICTURE an action hero with an open-neck shirt, a stockwhip and a wide-brimmed hat planted firmly on his head. Is it Crocodile Dundee, Paul Hogan's wisecracking bushman? Wrong. Hugh Jackman's drover in Australia? Wrong again. 
Try Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford's archeologist-adventurer who made his first appearance in Raiders of the Lost Ark. As a matinee idol, he's as Yankee as they come. But Indy's hat - at least the prototype of it - would speak with an Australian accent.

Deborah Nadoolman Landis did the costume design for Raiders and came up with an outfit for Indy that endured through ongoing episodes of the franchise. The hat was modelled on an Australian style she found at posh English hatter Herbert Johnson.

"It absolutely was," Landis says. "I was in Herbert Johnson and they had an Australian hat, and I cut it down to fit Harrison's face. I cut down the crown - it was too high - and I made the brim much shorter, because the cinematographer told me that he needed to see Harrison's eyes."

A designer, academic and curator, Landis has an obsession for costume and the part it plays in the making of character. The curator of an exhibition coming to Melbourne, Hollywood Costume, she says costume design is about more than the clothes actors wear. The outfit is intrinsic to characterisation.

In the memories of millions of filmgoers, a gingham dress and ruby slippers are inseparable from the character of Dorothy. (Yes, Judy Garland's costume is coming to the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, although the shoes are replicas.) And that chic Givenchy black dress most definitely is Holly Golightly's from Breakfast at Tiffany's. (It's coming, too.)

"We're called costume designers but really we should be called people designers," says Landis, speaking from her office at the University of California in Los Angeles, where she is founding director of the David C. Copley Centre for the Study of Costume Design.

"That's what we're in the business of, creating the people in the movie ... It's as much about clothes as the clothes you are wearing now. It's really much more about material culture."
It seems that when inventing a character through costume, a hat is just the thing to top it off. Landis has done costume designs for several films by her director husband, John Landis, some of which feature unmistakable millinery.

She worked on The Blues Brothers, with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd pairing Ray-Bans with fedoras inspired by John Lee Hooker's headwear. For Three Amigos, she put Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short in extravagant sombreros. In each case, the hats give shape to an instantly recognisable silhouette.

"The reason why millinery is so crucial is that it's right on your head, and very close to your eyes," Landis says.

"Movies depend on an actor's eyes to tell the story. The hat is going to be even in a close-up, the only thing in a frame with the actor, so they have to be perfect.

"You could recognise Indiana Jones by his shadow, and you certainly can recognise the Blues Brothers by their shadows: they are the Laurel and Hardy of the rhythm and blues set. Even though you may not recognise Harrison Ford with no hat, you would recognise Indiana Jones."

While Aykroyd and Belushi's outfits from The Blues Brothers will be seen in Hollywood Costume, Indiana Jones's outfit, sadly, will not. George Lucas lent costumes from Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark for the exhibition's first outing at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. But with the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney last year for $US4 billion, the loan arrangements hit a snag that, seemingly, not even the intrepid Indy could escape.

"George was wonderful and absolutely gave me the Indiana Jones costume, also Darth Vader and Han Solo," Landis says.

"It was wonderful to have all three of them in London. I think that they will come back to the show much later in the tour, when George himself can intercede. But it was too quick to turn it around for Melbourne."

When motion pictures were first being made at the turn of the 20th century, costume design was not a priority. As Landis writes in her catalogue notes, costume was one of the "hit or miss" aspects of pioneer filmmaking.

Actors usually turned up in their own clothes, or costumes were borrowed from Broadway wardrobes.

The first filmmakers take costume seriously were producer Adolph Zukor, who brought from France The Loves of Queen Elizabeth (1912), with Sarah Bernhardt wearing Paul Poiret; and director DW Griffith, whose Intolerance (1916) is credited as the first Hollywood film to have costumes for the entire cast.

One of the earliest costumes in the exhibition is the pleated jade-green gown designed by Travis Banton for Claudette Colbert in Cleopatra (1934). A publicity still from the picture has the Egyptian queen at her toilette, mooning into a vanity mirror and surrounded by a bevy of chorus girls who could have stepped in from a Busby Berkeley number. It's telling how the fashions of the day give form to the imagination of history: Cecil B. DeMille's Cleopatra is more an art deco fantasy than an authentic reconstruction of the ancient world.

We are now in Hollywood's golden age and as movies rolled off the production line, studios had teams of costumiers at work: a chief designer, head of wardrobe, sketch artists, researchers and seamstresses. Costume designers were unbelievably productive. Adrian Adolph Greenberg, or "Adrian" as he is known from movie credits, worked on more than 250 films, and did 3210 costume sketches for The Wizard of Oz alone. Edith Head worked from the late 1920s to the early 80s, picking up eight Academy Awards along the way. She designed what was once billed as the most expensive film costume made: a sequinned, mink-lined dress for Ginger Rogers in 1944's Lady in the Dark.

Another prolific costume designer, Orry-Kelly, worked on more than 300 films, from Errol Flynn swashbucklers in the 30s through to wartime dramas The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca, and romantic comedies such as An American in Paris and Irma la Douce. Not bad for a kid from Kiama, NSW.

The designer is represented in Hollywood Costume by the figure-hugging dress he designed for Marilyn Monroe for Some Like It Hot, with a love-heart smack on the bottom. But his relative obscurity today may be emblematic of the fate of many costume designers, whose work is too frequently eclipsed by the actors who wear their clothes.

Gillian Armstrong, for one, wants to bring him back into focus. The director is working on a documentary about the Australian-born designer, whose father was a tailor, and whom Jack Warner would later praise for his classy creations.

"He was a would-be actor," Armstrong says. "He started in Sydney in vaudeville in his early 20s and he went to Broadway to try and make it in showbiz.

"I think he always had an understanding of actors and story. He didn't just come from the design world but he had a real love of theatre, character and storytelling."

Armstrong is trying to track down a copy of an unpublished memoir by Orry-Kelly and hopes to talk to legendary designer Ann Roth, who as a younger designer worked with Orry-Kelly at the end of his career.

In Hollywood Costume, Landis has attempted to bring the work of costume designers to the foreground. The fashion world constantly draws on the movies for inspiration, she says, but film designers rarely get their due acknowledgment.

"The amazing thing is that we are hidden in plain sight," Landis says. "We celebrate these characters that become iconic, but how that character is formed has never been really looked at or unpicked ...

"The proof is that when fashion designers are asked to talk about their inspiration, nine out of 10 will talk about the movies, most will talk about the movie star, and 99.99 per cent will never know, or certainly never mention, or it may not occur to them to mention, the costume designer who created the look in the movie," Landis says in a rising pitch of good-natured exasperation.

In modern filmmaking, the fortunes of costume design have followed the ups and downs of Hollywood. As budget pressures increased in the 70s, costume designers did their work and were sometimes let go when shooting began.

Easy Rider brought in the new wave of filmmaking but had no need for a costume designer at all.

More recently, costume designers have faced the compromising influence of product placement, where fashion labels pay to have their clothes on screen, and fresh challenges have been presented by the rise of computer-generated imagery. Landis describes CGI as "another creative frontier" for designers, much as Technicolor was.

And yet costume designers continue to enliven motion pictures with their contributions to story and character. Colleen Atwood has helped give form to the wacky individuals in many of Tim Burton's projects, from Edward Scissorhands to Alice in Wonderland. Hollywood Costume includes Renee Zellweger's outfit from Chicago, for which Atwood won the first of her three Academy Awards.

Australian designers are represented by John Truscott, with Vanessa Redgrave's ivory gown from Camelot; Kym Barrett, with the black coat worn by Keanu Reeves in The Matrix; Catherine Martin, with Nicole Kidman's leotard from Moulin Rouge!; and Orry-Kelly's flesh-toned sequinned dress for Marilyn Monroe. Other notable costumes include Kate Winslett's Edwardian attire from Titanic, Cate Blanchett's Elizabethan gown from Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and the tuxedo worn by Marlene Dietrich in Morocco. The exhibition has more than 100 costumes by 50 designers.

Landis grew up in Manhattan and says she can't remember a time when she wasn't playing make-believe and dressing up ("I'm just a girl drag queen," she says.) She was making outfits as soon as she could operate a sewing machine and, when older, would pay $3 to stand at the back of Broadway theatres, watching every show she could.

"I can make something out of nothing. If I ate with you and there was a paper doily on the table, I would be making Elizabethan ruffs and cuffs out of it, with placemats," she says.

She does not overstate the importance of costume: it is but one element among many that create the illusionary world of a movie. But during her presidency of the Costume Designers Guild, she realised costume was undervalued as a subject of scholarly and popular inquiry. She worked on Hollywood Costume for five years, intending it to be "touring classroom" on design.

"It became very clear that no one - not the film industry, our creative peers, or our adoring audience - really understood the costume designer's contribution to popular culture," Landis says. "The Hollywood Costume exhibition is an education in film design by the way of entertainment."
Hollywood Costume is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne, April 24 to August 18. 

Article with thanks to The Australian


More information here: 

April 23, 2013

Robina Courtin: Meditation is not mystical


"DON'T say 'stilling your mind' - you won't still your mind sweetheart - your mind is going to be as berserk as normal." 
Robina Courtin likes to tell it like it is when giving instruction on the mind, meditation or just about anything.

Best known for her work inside some of the roughest and bleakest quarters of prisons in Australia and the US, including death row, the Melbourne-born, Catholic-raised Tibetan Buddhist nun cuts through the cliches of religion at lightning speed. Public lectures are fast, furious and rarely leave the student guessing. " 

Don't expect your thoughts to go away. Don't think of meditation as some magic pill which is how some people think about it. It's not like that . . . and don't mystify these words . . . and please, I beg you, don't feel it's holy. It's not," she told a recent gathering in Sydney.

In truth, Courtin maintains a deep respect for the holy, an attraction held long before she was ordained 35 years ago. But it is her no-nonsense, at times confronting, translation of Buddhist psychology that has created a following as she blasts apart all the usual stereotypes pervading religion and the "spiritual".

With a turbo-charged energy that defies her 68 years, Courtin's teaching schedule has her on a permanent global road trip that now sees her back in Australia. Stress, anxiety, addiction and heartbreak are all in the mix as she makes her way across the country, guiding people on how to tackle the everyday miseries of a modern world.

"Being a Buddhist is being your own psychologist, being your own therapist. What that means is really learning to listen to what the hell is going on inside," Courtin says. 

"The main cause of the misery and the neuroses and the unhappiness in our life is not the outside, but it's the inside."

There are many factors that come together to produce our unpleasant and pleasant experiences - in other words, suffering and happiness - and we assume that the main factor involved is "the thing out there", whether it be an object, person or event.

And this is where we run into trouble, Courtin explains. "Everything in us believes that 'you're' the problem, 'it' is the problem, my 'mother's' the problem, my 'genes' are the problem. For sure they play a role, but the main factor is what goes on in our head," she says.
"And the main thing going on in our head, which underlies everything else, is attachment - this bottomless pit of dissatisfaction that gives rise to the assumption that I must get what I want every microsecond; it's just there all the time, running the show - it's a junkie mind, desperate for nice things."

It is when the junkie does not get what it wants - what it is attached to - that anger, fear, stress or anxiety can arise, even at the most basic level. Think of the stress or even anger at the driver who cuts in front of us.

 Courtin points to concentration techniques such as meditation as a way to slow the automatic thought processes down to alter them.

"It's then that we can hear the underlying stories, viewpoints, opinions, and gradually change them. Our minds are the one thing we can change," she says. 

"These techniques aren't religious -- believe me, it's got nothing to do with believing in anything."

Perhaps there is no more glaring example of changing habitual thinking as that seen with some of the male prisoners Courtin has worked with over the years through the Liberation Prison Project, an initiative she founded in 1996 to support inmates in Australia and the US. It formed the basis of the 2000 documentary on Courtin's life, Chasing Buddha.

Courtin recently returned from visiting her old friend Mitch, who has been on death row in Kentucky State Penitentiary for the past 30 years. He is a striking case study in how the mind can change to accept reality.

"We just sat there laughing for two hours even though his death date is coming up at any moment," Courtin says. "He said 'I'm ready for that electric bolt, Robina' because he's worked on his mind. He's come to terms with himself. He's let go of the crap and the garbage and he's got compassion . . . he's ready for death, you know."

In a broad sense, Courtin says there is little difference between us on the outside in our everyday mental prisons and those in jail.

"Reality means I'm in prison and I can't get out. That's reality. I'm in this shitty job -- do I have a choice to leave?" she says.

"We live in a fantasy of 'if only I could do this' and 'I wish I could do this' and then if we can't, we blame everybody else for not being able to do it. Whereas these guys in prison . . . they know they can't change it so they either go crazy or they change their minds."

Courtin says it took her years to walk the talk of Buddhism. Her history has been one of extremes -- from life as a hippie to self-declared communist, then feminist before she was drawn to Buddhism, which she says gave her a world view and liberation.

"And that's what I wanted -- a view of describing the universe mentally and physically and how it ticks, and at the same time, one that I could put into practice experientially to help me change myself."


Meditation involves the deliberate holding of your attention to a subject, object or process
During meditation, your brain's activity alters significantly, as shown by MRI and EEG scans
The brainwaves evident during meditation are alpha waves, which accompany relaxation of the entire nervous system and body

Results can include feeling more "alive", improved emotional balance, enhanced feelings of calm and heightened awareness

Research shows a large number of physical, emotional and psychological conditions are favourably influenced by meditation, including:

• Anxiety
• Chronic pain
• Depression
• High blood pressure
• Insomnia
• Migraines
• Stress
• Life-threatening illnesses
• Recovery from accident or illness
• A lack of a sense of purpose


by: LISA MACNAMARA.  Picture: Sam Mooy Source: The Australian

With many thanks to The Australian


April 22, 2013

Take the 100 day kindness challenge and contribute to a better world


COULD you be kind for 100 days straight? If everyone spent ten minutes a day quietly focusing on kindness the world would be a much better place to live. That's according to Wild Mild an online Buddhist group, run from the United States, who've kicked off a' kindness' challenge for the next 100 days. 
That's right, kindness. 

For one hundred days. If that sounds like a tall order, then you might also like to know you only have to spend ten minutes a day to join in and make a difference.

Kim Hollow, the president of the Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils told news.com.au you can't underestimate the power of positive thoughts.

"Meditation is integral to our [Buddhist] philosophy. And when we focus on kindness, we call it ‘metta meditation'. This basically means that kindness becomes the focus of our meditation for that particular day," he said.

Mr Hollow said the process requires between ten and thirty minutes a day, a quiet space and the ability to switch off all the other thoughts swirling around your head and just focus on kindness.

"This can take practice," admits Mr Hollows. "But persevere with yourself. Close your eyes and try and switch off for a moment. You can start by thinking of all the things you are grateful for in your life."

Another way to cultivate this kindness is to run through a list of people in your life and send them a wish for kindness and peace.

"Kindness in modern life really comes down to the way you conduct yourself, not just on a Sunday. Once you start you find it's actually easier to project kindness than hold resentment and anger. And it has a ripple effect. Your kind thoughts about others set you off on a good and peaceful path for the day," Mr Hollow said.

Skilled mediators, who can sit for up to an hour at a time, experience a transformation in their perception of the world.

Mr Hollow said when they open their eyes and report that everything just looks better. "Kindness meditation is all about trying to escape the conscious by tapping into the subconscious. It helps you focus on all the positives in life, rather than negative," he said.

Meditation tips for beginners
1.Sit down in a comfortable position
2.Close your eyes
3.Try and disconnect from everything around you and focus on one thing.

Do you meditate? 
Would a challenge like this inspire you?
For more stories like this, follow @lucyjk on Twitter. 


Article with thanks to News.Com

Many thanks to Jared for sending me this.

April 10, 2013

Jon English - King of the Blind & Ask No Questions - Updated



"King of the Blind" appeared on the Scandinavian version of Calm Before The Storm, more information here.

Fans will also recognise the melody from “Paris”.

Of course “Six Ribbons” is still my favourite song.
But I also like all the other ones I have posted.

I find the lyrics intriguing and I think people can draw their own conclusions as to what they mean.
Needless to say I like it a LOT!

Lyrics - last line:

"I'd rather die a slave with my dignity than be a King of the Blind".

How true!


I have added another hard-to-find song which I acquired some time ago.                                                                                   



Some pictures of Jon English's singles covers.


This picture from my collection - Woman's Day 1978.

The caption reads:

Jon English: Moodily mysterious with the most hypnotising, bewitching eyes in Australian show business. Jon projects a brute force that makes women weak at the knees. The energy that comes over when he performs - and even from photographs - is dynamic. What it really boils down to is sultry animal magnetism.No woman can resist it.

Hard to disagree!





Other Jon English  songs on this blog: Jon English: Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress...And A Bonus Track From "Laid"
Jon English - King of the Blind & Ask No Questions
Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up 
Jon English: By Firelight
Jon English: “Heaven On Their Minds” and “Superstar”
Jon English: "Six Ribbons" - from "Against The Wind" - My Favourite Song
Jon English & The Foster Brothers - 30th Anniversary "Beating The Boards" Concert: 2012 - 13. With Peter Cupples "Uncorked" At Sorrento Speigel Zelt 2015

Jon English & the Cast of "Ned Kelly" The Rock Opera- What Else Is New?
Helen of Troy - The Movie, The Music and Jon English
Jon English – Stand By Me
Jon English Sings "A Fortunate Life" from The Mini-Series About A.B.Facey
Jon English - Some Hard To Get Songs,,,Now Here
Jon English : "Dark Horses"
Jon English Sings "Waterloo".
Jon English Sings "Behind Blue Eyes".
Countdown Celebrates Its 40th Anniversary: Prince Charles Recreates The Interview With Molly Meldrum

♥♥Remembering Jon English♥♥