Monday, January 15, 2007

A new year ...

... a new blog. Click here.

Time for a fresh start.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

My must see films for summer

I don't get to the movies very often, but I've got my short list ready in case I get a chance over the next month or so, failing which I'll have to wait for DVD. Here's three of my top picks (I may put up more if time permits) ...

Babel - from the same director as the brilliant 21 Grams, this film apparently has a similar, non-linear style, jolting between four different narratives involving different characters, but all intertwined. It takes its inspiration from the biblical account of the Tower of Babel and the confusion of languages throughout the world, with the different sub-plots peopled by characters of different nationalities and tounges. Probably not your movie if you like pretty conventional storytelling (21 Grams was often difficult to follow, with its jumbled-up chronology, but it was worth the effort). Apart from anything else, it has the fabulous Cate Blanchett in it! Can't wait to see this one. Top of my list.

The Queen - this is getting rave reviews. One interesting aspect of it is that it recounts a period of history so recent we can all remember it like yesterday, the time when Princess Diana was killed in a car accident, the film dealing with how Queen Elizabeth reacted to the event. The whole film, including the script and performances, is being praised, but particularly attracting attention is Helen Mirren's performance in the title role. Even just seeing the photos and movie stills, the way in which she has completely embodied Her Majesty is just amazing. Watch this space for Best Actress at next year's Oscars!

Happy Feet - something a bit more lighthearted perhaps than my other two picks. This looks great. From the pictures I've seen, the animation looks like it will be stunning. And it's a musical too, so sounds like some good old entertainment. The other exciting thing about it is that, although I think financed out of Hollywood (to the tune of $100million or so!), it's essentially an Aussie production - it was directed byGeorge Miller (of Mad Max and Babe fame), the animation was done here in Sydney and many of the voices are supplied by well known Aussiewood stars. I may even take my four year old along to this one for her first ever cinema experience. Warning: may cause toe-tapping!

Some others in brief ...

Flags of Our Fathers - a great war story from Clint Eastwood (Clint Eastwood's last 2 films, Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby were both brilliant, so I'm willing to watch anything by him). This one tells the story of the American soldiers featured in the famous photo where they raised the US flag on the island of Iwo Jima during the war with Japan. (Is this one even still on at the movies??)

Letters from Iwo Jima - this is the companion film also made by Clint Eastwood, but telling the flipside of the story from the Japanese perspective (including being shot in Japanese). It's getting even bigger reviews than Flags. This one doesn't come out till some time early next year.

Casino Royale - the new James Bond flick of course. Apparently quite good.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The religion of war and sacrifice

More thoughts from my (not so recent now) trip to Canberra.

I spent a morning in the Australian War Memorial. Great place to go and could easily get lost for hours.

One thing that struck me, though, is the way we have turned the memory of war into a quasi-religious experience. I've often thought that Australia's most religious public holiday is neither Christmas nor Easter, but Anzac Day. The whole architecture of the War Memorial is almost temple like, complete with stained glass windows and a domed ceiling, a shrine to the memory of those who sacrificed their lives in service of others to buy their freedom. A place that encourages (like many cathedrals and the like) quiet contemplation and reflection.

This is all well and good to remember and respect those who died in war, but as far as religious experiences go, better I think to focus on the one sacrifice that purchased freedom for people of all nations and ages, not just twentieth/twenty-first century Australians ...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


There has obviously been plenty said in the last week about the issue of therapeutic cloning and last week's legislative lifting of the ban. I won't repeat here all the issues and arguments, suffice to say that I join with many other Christians whose views I've read in the world of blogs and online forums who are deeply concerned that human life could be exploited in this way.

What I did want to point out was this disturbing comment I came across in this Herald column titled Five myths of therapeutic cloning:

Myth 5: That respect for human life demands cloning be banned.

While there is a range of views regarding the moral status of the embryo and the degree of protection that should be extended to the embryo, most people would agree that human life, in and of itself, is deserving of respect. But it does not logically follow from this that embryo research and cloning should be banned. That some in the community believe embryos deserve as much protection as adults does not mean the force of law should compel this view.
(italics added)

This argument just doesn't cut the mustard. So, it is not OK for the force of law to compel the view that "embryos" (translation = unborn children) deserve as much protection as adults. But apparently it is OK for the force of law to compel the opposing view, and to compel on society this novel innovation that sees human life created for the purpose of experimentation and subsequent destruction??

If ever there was a case for the force of law being required to protect those least able to speak up and protect themselves, this would be it!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Speaking of Federal politics, I've actually recently returned from a week in Canberra, part business, part pleasure.

I find Canberra such an interesting place - always so many things to do and see. And Canberra is so interesting simply as a concept.

I think its fascinating that the Sydney-Melbourne rivalry at the time of Federation was such that, rather than either city dare let the other take on the capital crown, the founding fathers thought they'd just start a capital city from scratch in the middle of a few sheep paddocks!

And 90 years on, Canberra still feels like a city in the middle of a sheep paddock, a city of major national monuments and institutions, built for the masses that never turned up. As you fly into town, looking out the aeroplane window, it's hard to spot any recognisable CBD, let alone anything resembling a metropolis. I wonder what heads of state think as they fly in?

It's a city of impressive, wide boulevards with barely any cars; massive white marbled foyers with barely any people; a fake, purpose built lake with barely any boats; a business district with barely any taxis (believe me, I've tried!).

It's a city of circles and symmetrical street plans where, in theory, everything is so easy to get to, but in practice a wrong turn can have you hurtling off on some large roundabout to nowhere. A city where you can attend a cabinet meeting one minute, and 5 minutes later go for a stroll in the bush and spot a kangaroo. It's hot in the summer, and cold in the winter, and a blow fly's paradise.

Initially, at the turn of the last century, while the planners dreamed up their new city, Federal Parliament sat in Melbourne. I actually think Melbourne would have made a good capital city - it has the right stately feel about it, and feels like an important metropolis rather than a country town. Sydney would have whinged, but ultimately would have taken over as the party capital and gotten over it, and boasted that it had the harbour anyway so who care's whether the town missed out on having a few extra public servants and bureaucrats hanging about.

But that said, we would then be without Canberra, and probably be the poorer for it. For all its faults and contradictions, it's a fascinating place to visit.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Kevin Rudd

And so this man now leads the Labor Party, and could be Australia's next prime minister. (Though remember Mark Latham was greeted in the same way ... somehow I think young Rudd has potential to go further than Latham did!)

Kevin Rudd is a committed and publicly open Christian. See here, and here, and here, and here, and here for some good examples of Kevin Rudd's views in his own words, either interviews with him or his own written pieces.

He has some interesting things to say on the interaction of faith and politics. I particularly like how he has highlighted that being a socially conservative, evangelical Christian does not necessarily mean your politics always swings to the right, and does not necessarily mean you will vote Liberal. Or in his words, he has rejected the notion that "God has become the wholly-owned subsidiary of the Liberal Party". Perhaps a bit of rhetoric on Rudd's part there, and no doubt there's an element of playing to Christian voters to win them back to the Labor Party. But why not, when Costello rocks up to Hillsong in a blatant attempt to shore up political support amongst the aspirational, wealthy pentecostal voters.

Rudd has challenged the notion that so-called "family values" should be restricted to matters of sexual morality, and has argued that "family values" and "moral values" might also encompass, for example, industrial relations, health policy and our approach towards refugees.

I also like what Rudd has to say about separation of church and state and how this does not mean (as many secularists would have us believe) that decisions based on Christian conviction have no part to play in a secular state. Rudd seems to be an example of a politician who explicitly articulates his political views and policy stances as being informed by his Christian belief. Good on him!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Crucifying Santa

There's been a bit of discussion happening today at Ruth's blog (here and here) and at Rodeo's blog (here) about jolly old St Nicholas.

I've expressed many of my views already in the comments sections of both those blogs.

In short, I think Christians can get a bit too hung up about Santa. In my view Santa is not an anagram for Satan. Further, doing the whole Santa thing with your kids is not lying to them (there's a difference between make believe or fiction on the one hand, and lying on the other hand). We don't need to get all santimonious about this.

Ruth pointed to the new Christmas cards that FEVA (the Fellowship for Evangelism in the Visual Arts) have put out, many of which take pot shots at Santa. Some of them border on offensive (see the picture to the left).

Let's use Christmas to point people to God's amazing gift to us in Christ, but this kind of thing can just be a turn off for people. Let them be offended by the message of Christ crucified, rather than by us crucifying Santa!

(By the way, Ruth had some excellent ideas on her blog as to how to explain the whole Santa thing to your kids, and I may well borrow her suggestions.)