The School of Athens

The School of Athens
The School of Athens by Raphael (click on picture to view short documentary from Columbia University)

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Dark history of the land of the free

Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.

On RN Drive with Waleed Aly last night, a deeply haunting song was played to mark what would have been the 99th birthday for Billie Holiday.


The song was "Strange Fruit" and it was about a lynching. The song was originally recorded in 1939 by Billie Holiday.

You can view a devastatingly moving live version of the song by Billie Holiday recorded in 1959 here

The song was written by Abel Meeropol . These are the lyrics:

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

I've deliberately chosen not to re-print it in this newsletter, however, you can view the disturbing photograph of the lynchings of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith that 'inspired' Abel Meeropol to write the lyrics here

In 1929, in a similar theme, Louis Armstrong recorded "Black and Blue". A song about what life was like for African Americans in the 1920's.


You can view a live version of that song by Louis Armstrong recorded in 1965 here

The song was written by Fats Waller, Harry Brooks and Andy Razaf.  These are the lyrics:

Cold empty bed...springs hurt my head
Feels like ole ned...wished I was dead
What did I do...to be so black and blue

Even the mouse...ran from my house
They laugh at you...and all that you do
What did I do...to be so black and blue

I'm white...inside...but, that don't help my case
That's life...can't hide...what is in my face

How would it end...ain't got a friend
My only sin...is in my skin
What did I do...to be so black and blue

How would it end...I ain't got a friend
My only sin...is in my skin
What did I do...to be so black and blue

A truly dark history from the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Speaking up for Scott

Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.

Dateline: Australia, Federal Politics, March 2014.

This is not a topic that I had ever expected to write a newsletter about, simply because I would much prefer to bash my head against rocks forty times* rather than take any notice of the ridiculous shenanigans that go on in parliament during question time.

Nevertheless, it is patently obvious that the sooner the Government appoints the Member for Maranoa, the Hon. Bruce Scott, to the speakership, the better.


Better for the Government, better for the Opposition, better for the Parliament, and, most importantly, immeasurably better for the citizens of Australia.

While the House of Representatives is the house of government, it is not the Government's house; it belongs to the people. It is the people's house.

One would hope that the Prime Minister's self-proclaimed respect for traditions would extend to upholding its dignity and appoint Mr. Scott without delay.

* To bash against rocks forty times is a traditional Greek technique for tenderising octopus.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Free speech: More free for some than others

Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.

Dateline: Australia, Federal Politics, March 2014.

On October 24, 2006, the following story "Call for book ban" appeared in the Courier Mail read here

The story opened:

"A federal government senator is demanding the withdrawal of a school library book which paints his political hero and Australia's longest-serving prime minister as a tyrant."

The story was also covered in The Age, on October 24, 2006, under the title "Row over tyrant Menzies library book" read here

That story opened:

"A principal is resisting calls from a Liberal senator to remove a book from his school's library which labels former prime minister Sir Robert Menzies a tyrant."

Which federal government senator might that have been?  It was Senator George Brandis, the current Attorney-General.

It seems the measure of free speech is this: you have the right to offend, as long as you don't offend me.

"Judge not, that you not be judged. For with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be used to you." Matthew 7:1-2


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

From somewhere in the South Pacific

Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.

Dateline: Australia, Federal Politics, March 2014.

Quite clearly, what is stifling Australia and has been holding our nation back from reaching its full potential, is this:

"We got sunlight on the sand, we got moonlight on the sea, we got mangoes and bananas we can pick right off the tree, we got volleyball and ping-pong and a lot of dandy games!"

"What ain't we got?"

"We ain't got Dames!"


"There is nuthin' like a Dame" from the movie version of the musical South Pacific, by Rodgers and Hammerstein 1958 (an appropriate year, don't you think?).

Watch and enjoy it here

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

How is the Abbott Government travelling?

Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.

Dateline: Federal Politics, March 2014.

To measure how a government is travelling, especially a newly elected one, we can turn to two sources:

First, we can read or watch or listen to the opinions of commentators, which are mostly interesting and sometimes colourful; but highly subjective and therefore of limited empirical value. 

Second, we can read the market research data (known in politics as polling) which is totally objective and therefore of high empirical value.

So what does the market research data tell us?

For such an analysis, we can turn to this article by John Stirton, Research Director of Nielsen Market Research, "Worst Poll Start For New Government in 40 Years" published in The Australian Financial Review on March 17, 2014.

In it he concludes:

"..there is no doubt the Abbott Government is continuing to have the worst start, at least in its polling, of any new government over the last 40 years." 

So why is the market research data telling us that the Abbott Government is struggling in the polls?

For an answer to that question we can turn to a qualitative researcher, Rebecca Huntley, Executive Director of Ipsos Australia Research, who was quoted in an article by Peter Hartcher in the Sydney Morning Herald on November 30, 2013, when it was clear that the Abbott Government was not enjoying a polling honeymoon, as is usually the case following a change of government:

"Voters' expectations of the Government are not being met, and their fears are being realised."

Four months later, the empirical evidence is telling us that little has changed.


Monday, 17 March 2014

Post-election explanations, justifications and prognostications

Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.

Following every election there are three things that are certain to occur:


The sun will rise -




The sun will set - 




And there will be a gaggle load of analyses regarding the election outcome.  




By far the most sensible post-election analysis came from veteran journalist Mark Shields following the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election:



"There's a terrible temptation on the part of the press after an election. If you win, you're a genius with an I.Q. north of 300. If you lose, you're somehow a dullard who probably isn't able to tie your own shoes."

That is all.

Friday, 14 March 2014

The value of perspective

Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.

The value of perspective.

If a picture tells a thousand words; then several pictures tell a thousand truths.








These stars are only from the subset that scientists have discovered so far in our home galaxy - the Milky Way - which consists of 400 billion stars and measures 100,000 light years across. (The Earth is 8 light minutes from the Sun or 150 million km).




There are another 100 billion galaxies throughout the Universe.



"The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home, the Earth. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries, about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends on how well we know this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky." Carl Sagan

Blog Archive

Our home

Our home
Earthrise over the moon (click on picture to view film)

The pale blue dot

The pale blue dot
Earth viewed from Saturn (click on picture to view film clip)

Our neighbourhood

Our neighbourhood
The Solar System (click on picture to view film)

Our Home Galaxy

Our Home Galaxy
The Milky Way (click on picture to view film)

A sister galaxy

A sister galaxy
Andromeda (click on picture to view film)

Another sister galaxy

Another sister galaxy
Triangulum (click on picture to view short film clip)

The Local Group of Galaxies

The Local Group of Galaxies
Our Galactic Neighbourhood (click on picture to view film clip).

Our farthest view of the Universe

Our farthest view of the Universe
Hubble's farthest view (click on picture to view film clip)

The virgo super cluster of galaxies

The virgo super cluster of galaxies
Galaxies within 100 million light years (click on picture to view film clip)

Galaxies within 1 billion light years

Galaxies within 1 billion light years

Universe

Universe