Sunday, October 23, 2016

Evil men with evil schemes

I've started watching the documentary series, Facing... on the National Geographic Channel. The two episodes I've seen so far were about former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, and Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

There is little doubt that Saddam was a cruel and oppressive ruler. Iraq has become more dangerous since he was toppled in 2003, and the situation there seems very grave indeed. The Iraqi government has a tenuous grip on the country, and Islamic State is a serious threat to the security of the region.

As for Putin, he has used the Russian secret police and intelligence agencies to kill or imprison his opponents. After first being President between 2000 and 2008, He is now back in office for the second time, and according to some international relations experts interviewed for the programme, it is highly possible that he will have the Russian constitution amended to enable him to stay in office indefinitely. The promise of Russian democracy after the end of the Communist era has evaporated.

It makes me count my blessings that I live in Australia, which for the most part is free, peaceful, and has a democratic government.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Do yourself a favour

What were you doing in the week ending October 14, 1977? At the time I was too young to know what calendars were, nor did I follow the music charts.

Had I known, I would have been aware that Emerson, Lake and Palmer's instrumental, Fanfare for the Common Man held the number 7 position in the 3XY top 40. Its highest chart position was number 4.

A generation of Australian television viewers came to know it when it was used by Channel 7 for many years in the opening titles of live sports broadcasts.

Monday, October 10, 2016


One minor political party campaigned in the recent Australian federal election on the snappy three-word slogan of "Tax the church." This appealed to voters wanting to use punish the church for its moral failings, and looking for simplistic answers to the government's financial problems.

Natasha Moore of the Centre for Public Christianity argues her case well, in favour of retaining the present tax arrangements for religious organisations.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

One day in October

Australians are known for being passionate about their sport. I've sometimes heard pastors describe this as an idol. In other words, it's a substitute religion for those who want nothing to do with organised religion. It offers people a sense of belonging, community, and purpose that they feel that they cannot get from Christianity.

During AFL season, hundreds of thousands of people attend football matches on most weekends. This probably exceeds the number who attend church. Football players are often hero worshipped. I write this as someone who often struggles with idolatry myself.

How refreshing it is to read about players such as Gary Ablett Jr and Aaron Hall (Gold Coast Suns), Dawson Simpson (GWS Giants), Zac Smith (Geelong Cats), who unashamedly declare that their identity and purpose in life comes from their faith in Christ, and not from their sporting ability. What they have in Jesus will last long after their football careers are over.

Monday, September 26, 2016

War is still hell

I've just finished watching the DVD of The World Wars, a mostly excellent docu-drama about the First and Second World Wars. The History Channel's reputation has taken a bit of a battering in recent years, broadcasting programs of questionable quality, such as Ancient Aliens.

I found it mostly riveting, but it isn't without flaws. It took some licence with the reenactment of the death of Adolf Hitler. The actor playing him is shown standing alone in a room, taking a cyanide pill, and then shooting himself. He actually committed suicide with his mistress, Eva Braun. They died sitting on a couch in a small room in the Fuehrerbunker in Berlin.

The DVD contains additional material, which includes 5-minute biographies of the major players in the Second World War. Hitler's biography has a whopping mistake. It shows a picture of what it asserts is Hitler's dead body after he committed suicide. This picture has been in circulation for years. The man in it, who had a "Hitler" moustache, has never been identified, but it has been conclusively proven that it is not of Hitler. This is very sloppy research, and inexcusable.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Without a hint of irony

Instead of writing about popular music that baby boomers grew up with, today I'd like to write about a band from my late adolescence. In 1993 the Crash Test Dummies achieved worldwide chart success with their album, God Shuffled His Feet.

I remember seeing television advertisements for this album at the time, which featured the chorus of their hit single, Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm. I can't find it online, but I thought it was amusing that in these advertisements quotes from music critics appeared on the screen, praising the band for their "intelligent lyrics."

Monday, September 12, 2016

Vale Ken Sparkes

I was saddened to hear of the sudden passing of legendary Australian radio presenter, Ken Sparkes. I don't remember hearing any of his radio work, but in recent years I regularly watched his cable television program, Jukebox Saturday Night, which he hosted. It screened classic hits music video clips from the 1950s to the 1980s.

He seemed to be a warm and decent man. At time of writing, nothing has been announced about the show continuing with a new host. Commercial radio stations seem to be playing less music from that era, so shows like Jukebox Saturday Night kept it alive, and remind younger generations of a time when music was written on manuscript paper, and played using instruments.