The School of Athens

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

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The day the music died

Fellow citizens,

Today's post is personally the most difficult one that I've written.

It's about one of the worst afternoons of my life. It occurred 35 years ago, on December 9, 1980.

I had just arrived home from Maroubra Beach, after having all day joyfully body surfed about 250 waves (I was 16 then, when you can do pretty much anything you like for as long as you like).

As I entered the family room of our home, the TV was on Channel Ten Sydney and a newsflash announcement interrupted the program being broadcast.

Gordon Elliot came on the air:

He announced: "In news just in from New York City, former Beatle John Lennon, was shot........."

I immediately hoped that the next words he said would not be: And killed.

He then said ".....and killed."

My heart sank. I sat there stunned. The joy of the bodysurfing afternoon turned into a deep despair. I was unable to move for what seemed like ten years.

Why was I so deeply affected?

Because John Lennon was a symbol of great hope for me and hearing that he was killed shattered those hopes in one dramatic afternoon.

John Lennon used his music and high profile position to try to correct what he saw as the ills of the world. He stood up against injustice and paid a very heavy personal price for it. The love of his life, Yoko Ono, was relentlessly pilloried in the media and by the public, which no doubt deeply hurt him.

Nevertheless, he continued to support the causes in which he believed. He also knew the risks that entailed, once saying, as best as I can recall:

 "I don't want to be seen as serious, because all the serious people like Gandhi and the Kennedys and Martin Luther King got shot. I don't want to be shot, I want to live a full long life with Yoko. So we are humorous. Who are we? We're Laurel and Hardy, that's John and Yoko."

John Lennon wrote many brilliant songs as part of the Beatles, though those songs are always attributed as Lennon-McCartney creations.

So I thought as a tribute to him, I'd highlight a collection of his best contributions as a solo artist.

His standout song - Imagine 1971

And a range of others:

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

"Look at that, you son of a bitch!"

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

Dateline: Paris Climate Summit, December 2015.

While there appears, too often, a collective view from our species that the Sun did not start to shine until the first human bent over:

Much to our amazement, that is not the case.

One of humanity's greatest failings is a lack of perspective about the Earth, its place, and ours, in the Universe. Our behaviour in so many regards, but particularly with respect to our glacial response to dealing with the ravages of climate change - something entirely of our creation - is a clear case in point.

To help gain that perspective we can turn to the testimonies of the astronauts who saw the Earth from a great distance and so hopefully open our eyes and, most importantly, the eyes of our leaders. 

Earth as seen from the Moon

Neil Armstrong Apollo 11 "It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth.  I put my thumb up and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth.  I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small."

Scott Carpenter Mercury 7 "The planet is not terra firma.  It is a delicate flower and must be cared for.  It's lonely.  It's small.  It's isolated, and there is no resupply.  And we are mistreating it.  Clearly, the highest loyalty we should have is not to our own country or our own religion our own hometown or even to ourselves.  It should be to, number two, the family of man, and number one, the planet at large.  This is home, and this is all we've got."

Frank Borman Apollo 8 "When you are finally up on the Moon looking back on Earth, all those differences and nationalistic traits are pretty well going to blend, and you're going to get a concept that maybe this really is one world and why the hell can't we learn to live together like decent people?"

"I think the one overwhelming emotion we had when we saw the Earth rising in the distance over the lunar landscape.....It makes us realise that we all do exist on one small globe.  For from 230,000 miles away it really is a small planet." 

Michael Collins Apollo 11 "How peaceful and calm and quiet and serene it looked, and how fragile it appeared.  That was, oddly enough, the overriding sensation I got looking at the Earth was, my God, that little thing is so fragile out there."

"After the flight of Apollo 11, the three of us [Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin & Michael Collins] went on an around the world trip.  Wherever we went people, instead of saying 'You Americans did it', everywhere they said 'We did it! We humankind. We the human race. We people"  I'd never heard people in different countries use this word 'we, we, we' as emphatically as we were hearing from Europeans, Asians, Africans, where ever we went it was 'We finally did it!'  I thought that was a wonderful thing."

Charles Duke Apollo 15 "I was able to look out the window to see this incredible sight of the whole circle of the Earth.  Oceans were crystal blue, the land was brown and the clouds and snow were pure white, and that jewel of the Earth was just hung up in the blackness of Space.  The only people who have seen the whole circle of the Earth are the 24 guys who've been to the Moon."

Gene Cernan Apollo 10 and 17 "In Earth orbit the horizon is just slightly curved.  When you head on out to the Moon, in very short order, and you get a chance to look back at the Earth, that horizon slowly curves around in upon itself and all of a sudden you are looking at something that is very strange, yet very familiar, because you are beginning to see the Earth evolve."

Edgar Mitchell Apollo 14 "When you see the Earth like that it's powerful.  Not any bigger than that [thumb size] way up there.  You get to see the Earth receding and you get to see the Moon coming towards you and it's awe inspiring"

"The biggest joy was on the way home in my cockpit window every two minutes, the Earth, the Moon and the Sun, and the whole 360 degree panorama of the heavens and that was a powerful, overwhelming experience.  And suddenly I realised that the molecules of my body, and the molecules of the spacecraft, and the molecules in the bodies of my partners were prototyped, were manufactured, in some ancient generation of stars.  And that was an overwhelming sense of oneness, of connectedness, it was not 'them and us' it was 'that's me' 'that's us'.  It was accompanied by an ecstasy, an epiphany, an insight, a sense of 'Oh my God! Yes!'"

"You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world and a compulsion to do something about it.  From there out on the Moon, international politics look so petty.  You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles and say 'Look at that, you son of a bitch!'"

Jim Lovell Apollo 8 and 13 "We learnt a lot about the Moon but what we really learnt was about the Earth.  The fact that from the distance of the Moon you can put your thumb up and hide the Earth behind your thumb.  Everything that you have ever known, your loved ones, your business, the problems of the Earth itself - all behind your thumb - and how insignificant we really all are.  But also how fortunate we are to have this body and to be able to enjoy living here amongst the beauty of the Earth itself."

Dave Scott Apollo 9 and 15  "It truly is an oasis, and we don't take very good care of it.  The elevation of that concern is a real contribution to saving the Earth."

John Young Apollo 10 and 16  "Earth has changed a lot since we started flying Gemini [1962 - 1966].  A lot of things like urban pollution - and you can see that when you fly in orbit now - you can see the big cities all have their unique set of atmospheres, they really do.  We ought to be looking out for our kids and our grandkids, and what are we worrying about?  The price of a gallon of gasoline.  That's awful."

"Alone alone, all, all alone, alone on a wide wide sea!" The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge

(click on photo to see enlarged version)

"For all averred, I had killed the bird that made the breeze to blow." The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Together we shall save our planet

Fellow citizens,

On September 25, 1961 President John F. Kennedy addressed the United Nations General Assembly.

He ended his address with these words:

Ladies and gentlemen of this Assembly, the decision is ours. Never have the nations of the world had so much to lose, or so much to gain. Together we shall save our planet, or together we shall perish in its flames. Save it we can--and save it we must--and then shall we earn the eternal thanks of mankind and, as peacemakers, the eternal blessing of God.

You can view him saying those words on YouTube here

President Kennedy was referring to avoiding nuclear annihilation. A very real threat at that time, as the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis was to prove.

His words are just as applicable today to addressing the ravages of another human created crisis - climate change.

Will our actions in addressing this crisis earn us the eternal thanks of mankind? Or, given our track record, will they earn us eternal condemnation?

A track record that can be viewed most charitably as this:

And much less charitably, though equally as accurately, as this:

Now just as we use a few short words to mark the great sacrifice that past generations had made for us, precisely so we'd never forget what they did:

Three words - so simple, yet so clear.

Make no mistake, in the decades to come, if our negligence continues and the impact of climate change becomes even more obvious, Gen Then will use just one word to mark the great 'sacrifice' that we have made for them, and precisely too so they'd never forget what we did:

One word - so simple, yet so clear.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Something in the way he moved us

Fellow citizens,

Yesterday, November 29, marked 14 years since the passing of George Harrison.

He was responsible for writing several of the Beatles' best songs. But without doubt his finest contribution was "Something", described by Frank Sinatra as "the greatest love song ever written."

It's a lovely way to remember him. Please enjoy it here

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The State of Play: He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy

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

Dateline: Australia, Federal Politics, Polling since Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister.

This is how the polling numbers stand, ten weeks since the elevation of Malcolm Turnbull to the Liberal leadership and, therefore, as Prime Minister.

The key points are:

The Coalition has enjoyed a 8.1% increase in its primary vote from when Tony Abbott was last Prime Minister, to now stand at 46.1% (0.5% higher than it achieved at the 2013 election).

The ALP has lost 6.1% of its primary vote to now stand at 31.1% (2.3% lower than it achieved at the 2013 election).

The Greens have lost 1.2% of its primary vote to now stand at 12.4% (3.7% higher than at the 2013 election).

The Others Group have lost 0.8% of its primary vote to now stand at 10.4% (1.9% lower than at the 2013 election).

In Two Party Preferred terms, the Coalition has achieved a 7.4% swing towards it since the elevation of Malcolm Turnbull to now stand at 53.7%. 0.2% above what it achieved in the 2013 election.

The Turnbull turnaround has been profound and for now, at least, complete. 

In a neat twist, in two party preferred terms, the Coalition stands exactly where the ALP was prior to the removal of Tony Abbott. 

In pure numbers, this two party preferred swing since the change of leader translates to about 1,100,000 voters having switched from the ALP to the Coalition.

"And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain" Matthew 5:7

Primary Votes as at November 2015 %

Last polls Abbott
Current Polls

Two Party Preferred Votes as at November 2015 %

Last polls Abbott
Current Polls

(click on graphs to see enlarged versions)

Not surprising then that Malcolm Turnbull's smile continues to widen, in line with the Coalition's lead over the ALP.

As for the vanquished?

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Laughter is the best medicine

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

Laughter is the best medicine. Here are a few fellows who were masters at making us laugh.

Please enjoy these classic scenes.

The Marx Bros from "A Night at the Opera" 1935 - The Crowded Cabin Room view here

The Three Stooges from "An Ache in Every Stake" 1941 - The Birthday Cake view here

Abbott and Costello from "The Naughty Nineties" 1945 - Who's on First? view here

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Play La Marseillaise! Play it!

Fellow citizens,

Perhaps one of the most stirring renditions of La Marseillaise, from the 1942 film Casablanca.

If you've seen it before; you'll remember it well. If you've never seen it before; you'll never forget it. 

Especially Ingrid Bergman's superb performance. Acting so powerfully without uttering a word.

Please enjoy on YouTube here 

Vive la France!

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