The School of Athens

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

Monday, 21 July 2014

The giant leap

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

On the 45th anniversary of humanity's greatest achievement, the landing on the Moon of Apollo 11, it's always important to constantly remind ourselves of what is possible when humans take Stephen Hawking's advice and look up at the stars and not down at our feet.

"I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." President John F. Kennedy, May 25, 1961.

"That's one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind." Neil Armstrong, July 20, 1969.

Friday, 18 July 2014

What the world needs now

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

After listening to today's news bulletins, I felt the overwhelming need for the soothing tonic of human creative genius.

Perhaps you might find it restorative too.

"What The World Needs Now Is Love" written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, performed by Jackie DeShannon.

YouTube clip of live performance here:

"All You Need Is Love" written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, performed by The Beatles.

YouTube clip of live performance here:

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Hope springs eternal

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

Tomorrow, July 11, will be the 98th birthday of Edward Gough Whitlam AC QC.

To mark the day, I thought it would be worthwhile to reflect upon these two iconic photographs to remind ourselves of the great hope that he represented to many Australians.

Launch of ALP 1972 election campaign. Photo: Rick Stevens

Gough Whitlam pouring soil into the hands of Vincent Lingiari in 1975. Photo: Merv Bishop (suggested by Nugget Coombs).

It is said that hope springs eternal.

While not eternal, at 98, Gough Whitlam has had a bloody good crack at it!

Happy Birthday, Mr. Whitlam.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Not racked with guilt

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

This week Essential Research published, once again, some disturbing results.

When asked: Do you think the Federal/Liberal National Government is too tough or too soft on asylum seekers or is taking the right approach?

Too tough = 27%, too soft = 18%, taking the right approach = 36%, don't know = 18%.

18%, or about 2.5 million Australian voters (which is more than the population of the city of Brisbane) think the Government is too soft on asylum seekers. 

Perhaps the addition to government policy of the appliance below might just be enough to satisfy these 2.5 million people that the Government was 'taking the right approach.'

Then might not.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Queen of Hollywood turns 98

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

The Queen of the Silver Screen, the last great star of the 1930's 'Golden Years of Hollywood', Olivia de Havilland, turns 98 today.

Stunning at 20 years old and equally stunning nearly 80 years later:

With her great friend and co-star, Errol Flynn, in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938):

Speaking about her first meeting with Errol Flynn: "Well, I was 18, and I took one look at Errol Flynn, and I thought.....oh my!"

Happy birthday, Olivia de Havilland.

Monday, 30 June 2014

What did the President know?

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

Last week saw the passing of a remarkable U.S. politician, Howard Baker, who uttered the immortal question at the Watergate Hearings in 1973:

"What did the President know and when did he know it?"

Obituaries in The New York Times here and The Washington Post here

His passing was also discussed on The PBS NewsHour by Judy Woodruff, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, and Ramesh Ponnuru of The National Review.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Last thing I want to ask both of you about is someone who really was a giant when he served in the United States Senate. That’s Howard Baker, the Senate majority leader. He died this week, Mark, at the age of 88, and a remarkable legacy.

MARK SHIELDS: A remarkable legacy.

Judy, before Twitter and texting and all-news cable, there were about three dozen people who — mostly males — who used cover national politics. And late at night over drinks on the campaign trail, when people let their hair down, this leftist press corps almost overwhelmingly — not overwhelmingly — certainly a majority would say, if they could pick a president, it would be Howard Baker.

He was a man of intellectual honesty, a man of incredible demeanor. He had no enemies list. He liked politics. He was very good at it, and he had a core. And I just — I think he would have made a terrific president. He was just a remarkable public servant. He saved Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

JUDY WOODRUFF: As White House chief of staff after he left the Senate.

MARK SHIELDS: White House chief of staff after he resigned — after he retired from the Senate.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Ramesh, he made a name for himself during the Watergate hearings back in the 1970s, but then went on to serve for so many years after that.

RAMESH PONNURU: That’s right.

And he did come into the Reagan White House at a time the White House was very beleaguered and helped have a successful end to that administration. But the Watergate hearings, what is so refreshing about it, looking back, is that here it’s — it’s normal. We’re totally used to the opposition party going after a president based on a scandal.

But here you had somebody from the president’s party holding him accountable. And that’s something you don’t see.

JUDY WOODRUFF: He was a remarkable man.

Ramesh Ponnuru…

MARK SHIELDS: He was a 5’7” giant.


JUDY WOODRUFF: What did you say?

MARK SHIELDS: A 5’7” giant. He truly was a giant. You called him a giant.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you both very much, Mark Shields, Ramesh Ponnuru.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Déjà vu all over again

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

In the space of two days, two events of great significance will have occurred:

1. The passage of the repeal of the carbon price through the Australian House of Representatives.

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

2. The 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary, which led to the sequence of events (known as the June-July crisis) that resulted in the outbreak of the First World War.

While seemingly unrelated, the synchronicity of these events reminded me of this piece, penned in October 2013.

"Ah, if only one knew."

With yet another report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) explaining, quite starkly, what is in store for our planet and our species if we don't change our ways; in our Neronian delusion, we continue to collectively fiddle as the world warms.

There is much we can learn from a speech given by President John F. Kennedy at the University of Maine on October 19, 1963, in which he was speaking about seeking a solution to another great human-made crisis that threatened the very survival of our species and our planet - the threat of nuclear annihilation.

"Historians report that in 1914, with most of the world already plunged in war, Prince Bulow, the former German Chancellor, said to the then Chancellor Bethman-Hollweg: 'How did it all happen?' And Bethman-Hollweg replied: 'Ah, if only one knew.'  If this planet is ever ravaged by nuclear war, if 300 million Americans, Russians, and Europeans are wiped out by a 60-minute nuclear exchange, if the survivors of that devastation can then endure the fire, poison, chaos and catastrophe, I do not want ONE of those survivors to ask another, 'How did it all happen?' and to receive the incredible reply, 'Ah, if only one knew.'"

Will that be our craven collective reply to Gen-Then in 2050 when they ask us: 'How did it all happen?'  As all that is predicted by the IPCC comes to pass, will we simply respond with a feeble shrug of our collective shoulders? Or will we avert our eyes and pretend we didn't hear the question, so racked with guilt and shame at the knowledge that we knew what was coming and knew what was required to address it, yet chose to do very little about it.

Much to our amazement, there is no special position in the Universe for the human species.

In the vastness of space, we are but a micro speck of dust; and in the immensity of time, we have existed for barely a nano-second; yet we behave - still shackled with a pre-Copernican smug ignorance - as if we are the centre of the Universe and have been, and always will be, around for all time. 

There is no guarantee for our species. 

If our ignorance, arrogance and insatiable avarice continue to burgeon unabated, overwhelming all human enlightenment, it will inevitably lead to our disappearance.  

Then in the far distant future when some alien species stumbles upon what we have left of the Earth, sees the remnants of promising intelligent life, and ponders why the human species devastated its beautiful home planet, their collective reply will surely be: "Ah, if only one knew."

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