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, 20 June 2017

Embrace the loving hug

Fellow citizens,

One day someone will hug you so tightly that all your broken pieces will fit back together.

To accompany that gorgeous photo, please listen to Ella Fitzgerald singing the Gershwin classic, "Embraceable You" on YouTube here:


Friday, 16 June 2017

Tony Abbott: A man of his word

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

Dateline: Australia, Federal Politics, June 2017.

Tony Abbott, September 15, 2015:

"Leadership changes are never easy for our country. My pledge today is to make this change as easy as I can."

"There will be no wrecking, no undermining and no sniping. I've never leaked or backgrounded against anyone and I certainly won't start now."

"Our country deserves better than that."

Say that again! 

How reassuring!


Friday, 2 June 2017

Seriously, you couldn't make this stuff up

Fellow citizens,

Is there is a less self-aware human being on the planet than Donald Trump?

Today, in his statement on the Paris Climate Accord, he said:

"At what point does America get demeaned?  At what point do they start laughing at us as a country?......... We don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore.  And they won’t be.  They won’t be."

So there you have it: It's the participation by the United States in the Paris Climate Accord that has demeaned this once great nation and has caused the leaders of other nations and their citizens to laugh hysterically at the US.

What can you say? What can you bloody well say?


Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Hope, love and beauty.

Fellow citizens,

Despite all the madness in the world, we can always find hope in love and beauty.

Something quite beautiful to replenish our souls:

Jussi Bjorling and Robert Merrill performing the Pearl Fishers duet, YouTube link here


Friday, 19 May 2017

Too much, too little, too late

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

Dateline: Australia, Federal Politics, May 2017.

So the Coalition's Federal Budget was deemed to be 'Labor Lite'.

Its political positioning was near perfect to marginalise the ALP. However, its timing is 18 months too late.

Had Malcolm Turnbull brought down an economic statement or a mini budget (remember those?) before the end of 2015 that reflected the positioning adopted in the 2017 Budget and then brought down a full budget in May 2016 to reinforce that positioning, the Coalition would have won the 2016 election in a landslide. Had he done that, in his next term he then could've pursued social issues such as equal marriage with immense authority.

The public initially invested a great deal of hope in the Prime Minister and he has let them down. The time to have impressed the voters by taking decisive action was early in his term. Now it is far too late. The die has been cast.

"For of all sad words of tongue or pen; the saddest are these: it might have been."


Here you go, Malcolm: Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams "Too Much Too Little Too Late" - YouTube link: here


Monday, 1 May 2017

Journalists are our best defence against 'fake news'

Fellow citizens,

I had been meaning for sometime to write something in support of journalists and how their professionalism and vigilance is our best defence against the madness that has recently erupted called 'fake news'.

The most excellent David Speers has saved me the trouble.

Please read this excerpt from a speech he gave at the 2017 Press Freedom Australia dinner. It was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday April 29.

The danger of equating legitimate journalism with deliberate 'fake news'

Political reporting in the era of "fake news" seems to be the issue dominating media industry discussion around the world. But I've got a slightly different take in the Australian context as to what sort of threat it poses.

A good starting point is trying to work out what fake news actually is. Everyone seems to have a theory. So let's begin with a bit of a pop quiz.

"Pope Francis shocks world; endorses Donald Trump for President."

Well, plainly yes, this is fake news. Same goes for "Wikileaks confirms: Hillary sold weapons to ISIS".

Here's the thing though: I haven't seen much evidence of fake news like this here in Australia. I don't see this as a great threat to our industry. Maybe it's because those Macedonian fraudsters haven't really bothered to generate fake news stories about Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott. The two of them seem to be generating enough real news to keep up the clicks.

But that's not to say I don't think the term "fake news" is an issue. It is. And let me explain why, by returning to this question of what is fake news. What about this headline from just a couple of weeks ago: "US carrier group heading toward Korean Peninsula."

That was according to what the US Defence Secretary and the White House spokesman said at the time. We all reported the carrier group was heading to the Korean Peninsula. It is now, but at the time of those statements it was actually heading in the other direction. 

Governments good and bad get stuff wrong all the time, either through cock-up or conspiracy. I wouldn't put it in the category of fake news though. It's just politicians lying or misleading or getting their facts wrong, as they've so often done.

What's more of a problem to me, is how politicians themselves have latched onto the "fake news" label when trying to dismiss a story they don't like. Donald Trump does this more than anyone. But let's look at this in the Australian context.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called "fake news" on a story from The Australian's Dennis Shanahan about a possible reshuffle if George Brandis and Marise Payne were given diplomatic postings. Resources Minister Matt Canavan cried "fake news" about a story from the ABC's Stephen Long about the Indian company Adani which is behind the proposed Carmichael Coal Mine, and is apparently facing multiple financial crime and corruption investigations. And, finally, Treasurer Scott Morrison called a story by Fairfax's James Massola about MPs working to bring marriage equality policy to a head "fake news".

Now I'm sure they all think they're right in the zeitgeist using this "fake news" term. But here's a tip for them: these stories aren't fake news and it's dangerous to suggest they are.

There is absolutely no justification to link entirely legitimate stories from reputable journalists to the crap from fraudsters in Macedonia and other peddlers of material designed to deliberately mislead and undermine how people are informed. 

So what can we do about it? We should call it out, even if it means us journalists defending one of our competitors. We can't let trashing journalism become a go-to response for those politicians who can't mount a better defence.

The bigger question is what we can do to restore trust in the media.  Particularly in my context, trust in political journalism. Let me be clear, I don't have a magic bullet answer to this.

As many have noted over the years, audiences are fragmenting and retreating into bubbles or echo chambers on the left and right. You can listen to, watch and read an entirely right-wing perspective or left-wing perspective on the world.  And many do. They are attracted to stories and commentary they agree with.

The business model for most media outlets is also shifting to accommodate this trend. It's not hard to understand why. Commercial media outlets live in a commercial world. People want informed opinion and they want commentary. There is no disputing that. 

But there is also, I believe, a vital role for journalists who try as hard as they damn well can to be straight down the middle and hold both sides to account. To ask tough questions of those in every political party, the big ones and the little ones, to uncover uncomfortable truths and yes, to tell audiences what they might not like to hear or necessarily agree with.

Journalists need to be journalists, not players. Not Twitter warriors.

I know plenty of people have said this since the Trump victory and Brexit, but it's true: journalists should get out and talk to a wider group of voters than those you usually mix with. Don't just rely on polls and talkback radio to "get a feel" for the mood.

I've picked up more insight into what Australians really think over dinner in an RSL club or at a camp ground with the kids than I would in a week talking to the political spin doctors in Canberra.  Now I appreciate there's little time or money in most media jobs these days to wander around chatting with "real Australians". The news cycle is relentless. But as individual journalists and as an industry, we need to maintain that connection with the communities we're representing.

David Speers is political editor at Sky News. This is an excerpt from a speech he gave on Friday night at the 2017 Press Freedom Australia dinner in Sydney.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

She walks in beauty

Fellow citizens,

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes.


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