I have recently read Richard Fidler’s, Ghost Empire about the thousand year story of Constantinople. Constantinople was the ‘new Rome’ as the emperor Constantine in 330 CE shifted the Roman Empire’s capital to the east. It was at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. The site was on a promontory surrounded by water on three sides. Its location was very defensible and beautiful. A wall was built across the land side to protect it from invaders. In time the legendary land walls of Theodosius were built: a massive triple layered defensive network of thick stone and brick walls and towers that were a wonder of the medieval world. In 1453 the city however did fall to the Ottoman Turks and was renamed Istanbul. In contrast, the ‘new Jerusalem’ envisioned by John in Revelation has God dwelling with people. The city has 12 gates with angels at them. The gates are made of pearl and are never shut. The perpetually open gates symbolize perfect safety. People bring into the city the glory and honour of the nations. Let me suggest these two approaches have much to say to us today. (more…)
I have read a perceptive article by Bret Stephens on intellectual integrity in the age of Donald Trump which was a lecture he gave at the University of California. He writes for the foreign affairs column of The Wall Street Journal for which he won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. He is himself fairly conservative politically which makes his lecture even more remarkable. So I will draw on it in writing about truth, language and integrity. (more…)
I was on leave during the time of the Australian Open tennis championships. So I was able to follow it closely. I watched a number of matches, especially the men’s semi -finals and final. The final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal was a classic. Every point was contested. A lapse meant losing a game or a set. Both men played outstanding tennis. Some of their shots were amazing. In the end Federer finally prevailed. As he said in his speech after the match, he would have been happy with a draw but tennis does not have draws. Someone does finally win and someone loses. Both Federer and Nadal are real champions in my view. But what makes a champion? (more…)
The New Year’s celebrations saw millions of people around the world seeing the New Year in with major fireworks displays in places as diverse as Sydney, Manila, Singapore, London and New York. In Sydney 1 ½ million people found places around the foreshores of Sydney harbour to witness the fireworks displays. We greet each other with a ‘Happy New Year’ hoping that indeed it will be a positive year. It did not begin so in Turkey with a gunman randomly killing 39 people in a nightclub in Istanbul before escaping. (more…)
Leonard Cohen, a much admired song writer and singer best known for his songs Hallelujah and Suzanne, died recently on 7 November, 2016. His YouTube performance of Hallelujah on 2 October, 2009 in London has had over 58 million hits. Rolling Stone magazine called it his most famous song that brilliantly mingles religion and sex. It was written in 1984 at a low point in Cohen’s music career. His previous albums did not sell well and his usual record company Columbia chose not to release the album with it. So he had to get it released by another record company. Later Columbia did buy the rights. Apparently he had written many verses but chose just four for the song. However in later performances, such as the one on YouTube, there are six verses making it a long song of over seven minutes. The lyrics vary in the two versions though the last verse is common. Bob Dylan was one of the first to recognise the song’s brilliance and included it in his performances in 1988. Jeff Buckley did a cover of it in 1994 on his album Grace. This much loved version went on to create something of a cult around it. It has been covered by many artists from Bono to Bon Jovi. Rufus Wainwright has an inspiriting version using the audience as the choir or backing vocals. The song was featured in the film Shrek in 2001. The word ‘hallelujah’ means ‘praise the Lord’. It comes from Cohen’s Jewish biblical background. (more…)
I wish to offer some reflections on the recent election. I do so as someone who has lived and studied in the USA for several years of my life. I have benefitted from what it has to offer in terms of higher education and am also a critic of some of what the USA does.
The election was remarkable in a number of ways. The long lead up, including the debates between the candidates, were unlike previous campaigns. On the one hand there was a very experienced Democratic politician in Hillary Clinton and on the other hand the outsider Republican Donald Trump. She tried to present herself as worthy to become the first woman President. He sought to buck the system and come in from outside it. (more…)
I am now on a 9 month good behaviour bond. This was the sentence given by the magistrate I came before on Friday 14 October at the Downing Centre Court in Sydney. Six of us from the Breakfree Protest in regard to coal and climate change came before this magistrate. On 8 May we had trespassed on a rail bridge in Newcastle as part of an international protest against governments not doing enough in relation to climate change. In Australia, Newcastle was chosen because it is the largest coal port in the world. It was a peaceful protest. No damage was done. We co-operated with the police when arrested. Nearly 60 people were arrested on that day. (more…)