Saturday, January 31, 2009

Blue Mountains

As a response to a comment on my Australia Day post by Grandmére Mimi.

The Blue Mountains is densely populated by oil bearing Eucalyptus trees. The atmosphere is filled with finely dispersed droplets of oil, which, in combination with dust particles and water vapour, scatter short-wave length rays of light which are predominantly blue in colour.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Street people

Thanks to Episcopal Padre for the following video which intrigued me as it is partly shot in my home city.

I recognise one man sitting on the ground, he is nearly always to be found in the most upmarket shopping precinct. I am fairly sure some of the others are men who sleep in the porch of the court buildings next to our church.
Sadly they are one of the reasons, our church has to employ a security guard on Sunday.
Women in all Anglican churches in Sydney are advised to carry their purses with them to the communion rail and most churches arrange for one sidesperson to take communion first and another last so there is always someone watching from the back of the church. So sad.
When I was growing up in Sydney, it was most unusual to have someone ask you for money in the street or on trains. While expected, it was rather a shock when I first visited Asia in 1974 and even when I went onto Europe later. However, even today, Sydney is nothing like San Francisco or Paris which are the worse for this activity in Western cities I have recently visited.
I guess the growth in such activity can be put down to drugs and also the fact that mentally ill persons are no longer locked up in asylums.

To my mind, there is no need for people to beg in Australia. Our social security system, while it has its faults, should see that people have at least the bare necessities especially when augmented by the many charities run by church and other groups.
I realise that mental problems exacerbated by drugs mean that some people are unable to organise their life even to accept the help that is available.
I soon learnt in Asia that if you give money, you are soon surrounded and having to push people away.
In Australia, I am very suspicious of anyone asking for money as I am fairly sure how it will be spent. I prefer to give to charities who are equipped to provide real assistance. I do speak to the men outside our church when they greet me.
Perhaps I should offer my services to a charity to help but I am not sure I am well equipped.

I have a friend from school days. We met in the first year of high school. He was very effeminate, had a terrible home life about which he only told me in later years while we were at university. He was academically brilliant gaining a doctorate in chemistry and a masters in English. He tried teaching but the students made mincemeat of him. As students we use to think it was a joke to hold his hands still, he could not continue talking. He did have some government office jobs but they were probably difficult for someone of his mental capacity.

I reconnected with him a few years ago. He told me he suffers from bipolar disorder, has been unemployed for years and lives in government housing. I visited him, his apartment is stacked high with newspapers with narrow passageways from room to room, a real fire hazard. He tells me marijuana is a help to his condition. We went out for lunch and I discovered he has been banned from all the local hotels but I was able to buy wine at a bottle shop. He wanted 2 bottles and when I pointed out that I was driving and 2 glasses would be my maximum, he said he would drink the rest.
We actually talked for several hours so I probably drank more than 2 glasses.

After lunch he asked me to help him transport a 2nd hand TV he wished to buy so we went to the shop and during the price haggling there was some misunderstanding with the shop owner which led to my friend becoming verbally violent and claiming it was my presence that stopped him being physically violent.
Needless to say, I was very embarrassed and have never visited him again although I feel guilty about that.
However, despite his obvious problems, social welfare does provide him with a home and food, he does not need to beg. Perhaps I am too judgemental.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Australia Day

About 25 seconds in are views of the Blue Mountains with the Three Sisters which are about 15km from my home.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Heat, Monet and Nixon

That is a mixture of topics but it describes my Thursday.
We are in the middle of a heatwave here, heat is what is driving me to live in Dunedin.
Last week one day reached 42'C (108'F) in Penrith about 20km from here and was probably about 37'C (99'F)here. Thankfully it cooled down over the weekend but the temperatures have risen again since Tuesday and each day has been in the mid 30's.(high 80'sF). We are waiting for a cool change late this afternoon. Fortunately the humidity has been high, not fortunate for comfort but for bushfire risk although a complete fire ban has just been imposed. My nearest town has already gone over 30'C (86'F) at 9am.
I hate lying at night under a fan trying to get to sleep. My neighbour complained she has not been able to turn off the aircon but I do not have that. There have been thunderstorms around in the evening but they have all missed my place. While they can cause damage, they usually cool the air and the rain is nice. I spent several hours watering on Wednesday evening (we can only water certain hours Wednesday and Sunday).

On Thursday I decide to escape the heat and go to the art gallery and movie. My train journey of nearly 2 hours each way was in blissful airconditioning. Unfortunately about one third of our suburban trains are still not airconditioned and on my 3 journeys around the city, I struck the jackpot - all non air con but only about 10 mins each time.
I went first to my church to sample the coffee cart which has been operating in the grounds since July. Not sure of its purpose, suppose to advertise the church to people, it is located in the main legal office area and near an important tourist precinct. The church is the oldest in the city. Anyway it was good coffee.

Then I walked the 10 minutes to the Art Gallery (not too hot at 11am and it is near the harbour). Discovering that the Monet and the Impressionists exhibition was closing on the weekend had been the main reason for my decision to go to the city. I love Monet and have visited Giverny twice. Most of the paintings were on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

I liked , among many, Seacoast at Trouville and Fisherman's Cottage on the Cliffs at Varengeville and Snow at Argenteuil had me envious.I then returned to the city, waiting 20 minutes for a bus that was 10 minutes late, fortunately there was a cool breeze off the harbour and the bus was airconditioned but I could have walked in that time.
After lunch and an hour perusing a CD sale where I spent $25 on 3 cds, I caught a train out to the cinema where I saw Frost/Nixon.

I intend posting about my recent movies soon. A number of them were included in the Oscar nominations. I see that Frank Langella has been nominated for his role as Nixon with which I heartily concur. I believe there were some historical inaccuracies but would not know myself. I was travelling around Europe at the time of the resignation and in those days most places I stayed did not have TV. I always thought Nixon was a bigger crook even than George W Bush :-).
It was not top of the list of movies for me to see, mainly chosen by time to fit in with the Art gallery visit but I did enjoy it, although Frost irritated me.

When I exited the cinema just before 5, it seemed to be the hottest time of the day and, after another non-airconditioned suburban train trip, I was glad to reach Central station and board my airconditoned train for the trip home. Arriving home at 7pm, it was becoming cooler although the sun does not set until 8pm at the moment.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bishop Gene Robinson writes from the Inauguration

If you haven't already, please read Bishop Gene's reports from Washington this week - his role last Sunday and his close to the centre view of the Inauguration day activities.
To me, a foreigner , watching on TV many thousands of miles away (at 4am) it has been wonderful to know that an openly gay man, an Episcopalian(Anglican) bishop has been so close, taken an important role and actually met and spoken with President Obama.
The fact that I met and received a hug from Bishop Gene in October 2007 has made me feel even closer "I danced with a man who danced with a girl who danced with the Prince of Wales "

Obviously the day was unbelievable because a Black man became President of the United States of America and I can remember reading about the segregation back in the 60's as well as having visited museums and sites in Birmingham, Alabama.
I also remember that I voted in 1967 to allow Aborigines to be counted as people in the Australian census and of course it is just last year that our Commonwealth government finally said sorry for all the wrongs of the past.
However I can also see some changes in the open acknowledgement and acceptance of a gay person at such an event. I also remember that in the 1960's and 70's gay sexuality was a criminal offence and, as a teacher, it was imperative that I keep my sexuality hidden.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The hope of our time

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says the American people chose the right man when they elected Barack Obama as President.

Mr Rudd says Mr Obama's election during a turbulent economic spell shows Americans rise to their best during tough times.

"They have set Barack Obama the mighty task of rebuilding the American economy and leading the recovery of the international economy: a great task for a man I believe to be a great man," Mr Rudd said.

"I believe from everything I have seen, read and heard and from the conversations that I have had with him that the American people have chosen well."

Mr Rudd says Australia will work side-by-side with Mr Obama to overcome the global financial crisis.

"These are dark times but a new age and a new optimism - tempered by the magnitude of the challenges ahead - is about to dawn across the Pacific," he said.

"Barack Obama truly is the hope of our time and I say this to the new President of the United States and through him to the new people, that Australia as always stands ready to work with America in the great challenges that lie ahead."

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Marvellous Cartoon for my USA friends

In today's( 19/01/09 )Sydney Morning Herald on the last days of Bush

Saturday, January 17, 2009

For The Bible Tells me so

I am excited that our church will be showing this film in a seminar on Saturday Jan 31. It is the first event for 2009 organised by the St James Institute. My sister has agreed to attend with me. This is more of an advertisement, I am sure I will have more to say afterwards.
Details and booking form can be downloaded from the Church website.
Saturday 31 January 2009 from 1.00pm till 5.00pm
Interpreting the Bible is not just for scholars and preachers. Christians must apply their faith to their lives on a daily basis. For them the dilemmas and choices are matters not of theory but of practice.
What if there is an apparent conflict between two differently perceived duties?
This is the situation faced by traditional believers when they discover that a child, their partner or someone close to them is gay; or that they themselves are gay. They may believe that homosexuality is wrong, yet they cannot cast off the bonds of love. They may find that the adage to hate the sin but love the sinner is too facile and inappropriate when it comes to those close to them.
This seminar is staged in two parts. In the first we will view a video, For the Bible Tells Me So. Produced in the USA, this video recounts the experiences of some Christian parents with gay children. It includes Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire and his parents. In the second part we will discuss the implications of the video for parents, partners and individuals.
The discussion will be led by Professor Michael Horsburgh.
Michael Horsburgh is a former head of Social Work at the University of Sydney and formerly chaired the Academic Board of the Sydney College of Divinity. He is a longstanding parishioner of St James’, a diocesan reader and frequent preacher.
Cost $32 ($16 for those eligible to a discount)
Venue St James’ Hall, Level 1, 169 Phillip Street, Sydney

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Different Bishop Robinsons

The name Robinson seems to figure a lot especially among Bishops
Bishop Geoffrey Robinson is the retired Auxiliary Bishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney. He caused quite a stir when he published a book after his retirement.
"Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus"
There is a good critique of this book here.
I do not know a lot about him but he seems to represent the many reasonable people I met and worked with while teaching in a Senior Catholic High School including another Auxiliary Bishop, now retired.
Such people cannot be too public while still actively working due to the suppression of ideas by the Roman Catholic Hierarchy especially as seen in the current Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Pell.

Now we have a new Bishop-Elect of Canberra & Goulburn, Stuart Robinson.
I have been suspicious of him from the start, he was a rector in the Diocese of Sydney and not from one of the recognised Anglo-catholic and/or liberal parishes.
I have read that "He has been influenced by a variety of Christian traditions, has greatly benefited from Sydney's evangelicalism, and is proud to call himself an Anglican"
"Stuart has also served as National Mission Facilitator for the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia. This role has enabled him to encourage mission in 19 of Australia's 23 dioceses. He has planted churches in Sydney's West, in Belgium, and in Sydney's inner-city. He has served on Boards that promote evangelism and church planting. He has spoken and written about mission and evangelism. His ministry has been characterized by training others, both clergy and lay, to be involved in mission, and to do evangelism better. His role with the General Synod and Church Army has seen him promote 'fresh expressions' of Church throughout Australia, in order to see Christ's mission continued more effectively."

However the same article called his election a 'pendulum swing' for the Diocese.

Now I read an interview he conducted with the Canberra Times
The most important statement for me.
'On whether he would ordain homosexual people, he said that outside marriage, sexual congress was inappropriate.

But celibate people who had a same-sex attraction may well be ordained ''as long as they take the notion of being celibate seriously''.

''If somebody, in a discreet way, tells me they have same-sex attractions and are not in any way seeking to be in a same-sex relationship and are seeking to honour Christ in their life, that is a person I can confidently ordain and confidently encourage to be involved in Christian ministry.''

In principle, he believed a register of same-sex unions would be fair and just. But people on that register would effectively be denied ordination.'

Oh Thank you very much, Bishop. My sexuality is acceptable as long as I never practice it but force myself to a loveless life. Oh yes and be discreet about it. From what I read, there are a number of these discreet bishops around and most of them cause more trouble than they are worth.

Yes Stuart, you come from and are a child of Sydney and represent their Gospel of Hate views and I will have none of it.

On the other hand there is another Bishop, Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

I do not need to introduce him except to say that he is a true Bishop of the Gospel Of God's Love. I have included his wonderful blessing. I had seen this before but it has recently been posted by both Franiam and Grandmere Mimi. I am posting it on my own blog largely so I can regularly find it and receive this blessing when I need it most.

My mother's maiden name was Robinson and I am currently researching her ancestry but doubt there is any connection to any of the Bishops. :-)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pirates of Penzance

Continuing with my time in Musical Theatre. I told you how it all began when the school where I was teaching put on Pirates of Penzance and I took the role of a pirate (seen on the left of photo behind the Pirate King - a student) in the first act. Then I was a policeman in the 2nd Act (on the right with truncheon at head below)

One of the other teachers had great difficulty keeping in time with the choreographed steps. We would practise with him interminably while off-stage but then, because he was out of step, he brought the house down. It was very difficult to maintain composure when you can see the School office ladies stuffing handkerchiefs in their mouths and tears of laughter running down their faces in front of you. The school theatre was very small.

Then having been in the Gondoliers and South Pacific in my local society, I was surprised when the next year (1987) they decided to stage the Pirates. As I said at the time, at least I knew the words. I was able to use the same costume as a pirate.

and then you can see me being admired by the ladies in their night dresses below. The painted on moustache is not very convincing.

I have searched and found a recent production of the University of Iowa singing the pirate king song in Act 1 and When a felon's not engaged in his employment sung by the police in Act 2. I chose these as not being as professional as some of the others available where the on stage antics were far beyond my athletic ability.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Why do intelligent people do this?

Australian brothers killed in glacier adventure

Three times I took groups of my school students to the Fox Glacier in the 70's.
Very sad, a loss of young lives and unimaginable grief for the parents but they
"were crushed by ice after crossing safety barriers at the terminal face to take photos around 4.20pm yesterday. It is understood they had walked right up to the glacier - which is believed to be about 50 to 60 metres high - and touched it."

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Memories - my first crush

Way back in 1954, at the age of 10, I pinned above my bed a photo of Edmund Purdom and Ann Blyth in 'The Student Prince'. This was the first time I had ever done such a thing. I guess including both meant there was no cause for worry by my parents but I know now to whom I was most attracted. I also saw Purdom in 'The Egyptian'.

Sadly, I read today the obituary of Edmund Purdom who died on January 1.
While I have often listened to the songs, and of course the voice is Mario Lanza who was apparently too overweight for the role, this is the first time I can remember watching Edmund Purdom again. I can now see the dark hair, dark eyes and dimples which I have found irresistable in a man since.
Vale Edmund.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

O Most Excellent Judge

Justice Michael Kirby of the Australian High Court will be retiring in the next few months. While I wish him all the best in retirement, it will be a huge loss to the nation.
I have always felt a particular affinity with him. He is 5 years older than me (exactly less one day), we grew up a few blocks away, went to the same primary school (his brother, also a judge, was in my class), the same high school, the same university where he did Arts-Law and I did Arts-Education from where his career went into the stratosphere and mine plateaued but we are both Anglican and gay.

I have found this speech given by him in 2004 at the Pitt Street Uniting Church. It is titled:
Even in the darkest days, my hotline to God was never disconnected

It is fairly long but I would encourage you to read it.
Some of it refers to the neighbouring parish to that in which I grew up. (Although living nearby we were on opposite sides of the parish boundary.) However there was a period in which my family attended that church and my sister was a Sunday school teacher while I was in the kindergarten. We cannot remember why we went there as it required a bus journey and it is too late to ask Mum now.

Some excerpts follow:
When did you first meet God? For me, it was in kindergarten: Mrs Church's school attached to the Anglican Church of St Andrew at Strathfield in Sydney. In between the plasticine and interminable concerts, I was introduced to God. Generally speaking, we have been on friendly terms ever since.

When I eventually grew old enough to attend Morning Prayer in St Andrew's Church, it was like moving into the Big School. Out of the church hall where the kindergarten had been conducted and Bible stories taught in Sunday School, I moved into the church itself. It was then that I found that, almost certainly, God was an Englishman.
Above the altar (or did we call it that in the Sydney diocese?) hung the Australian flag. But in pride of place was the Union Jack. This, after all, was the Church of England. In the 1940s the word "Anglican" never crossed our lips.

We were not the first, or the last, to invoke God in war and to create him in our own image. At that time the British Empire still flourished. In the school map, a quarter of the world was coloured red. We felt pretty sure that God looked on British subjects with special favour. White British people had a civilising mission. But we did not really want Asians or black people in White Australia. We wanted to remain pure white - just like the images of God's son shown in the stained glass windows. God was certainly not Asian or black. If he was not an Englishman, at the very least he was white like us.


As a young boy on the brink of my teenage, I was pretty comfortable that I had the inside running in the matter of God. Things were fairly cut and dried. I used to look at the red on the map and feel mildly irritated by the little section of yellow where Thailand severed the link between Burma and Malaya. No doubt, I thought, an imperial war would, in due course, fix this up. Mr Dillon would go with the troops and, as usual, the British would win the last battle, for truly God was on our side.


I returned to the fold of the Church of England at Fort Street High School. That great preacher, Dr Stuart Barton-Babbage, taught Scripture to the huge Anglican class. He presented me for confirmation at St Andrew's Cathedral. That is where my relationship with God might have been arrested. It was a solid, competent, somewhat prideful superiority of mixed racial, cultural and religious beliefs. It was not a bad grounding for a spiritual life. But it kept God in a proper compartment. The English were never obsessively religious and neither was I. In a sense, surrounded by love at home with parents and siblings and close relatives, God was an other-worldly phenomenon of the same type of love extended universally. But then a very strange thing happened to me. I reached puberty.

When I realised that my sexual attraction was to people of the same gender, and did not change, I knew that this was not looked on as a good thing. My knowledge did not come from the Reverend Dillon. If ever he read the passage from Leviticus , I must have missed it and all the other strange injunctions appearing there. Nor did it come from my family. But at school, the occasional denunciation of "poofters" led me to know that I should treat my sexual orientation as something very, very bad. The newspapers would occasionally report on famous people entrapped by the police and tried for crimes. The Police Commissioner, Mr Delaney, was always going on about it. At first, I shed a few tears. I felt embarrassed and ashamed about myself. But I got on with my studies; kept speaking to God; and continued with life in a state of denial.

This, presumably, is what was expected of me by religious people. So far as I knew, my own Church said nothing about the subject. Perhaps that was because, in an English type of way, a former Supreme Governor, King George V, had declared: "I thought people like that shot themselves".


When I reached law school I learned of the stern punishments meted out for "the abominable crime". For an adolescent, full of hope and spirit, these were very frightening times. Especially because you were frightened into silence about your deepest feelings even with those family members closest to you.

Do not think that these times have passed in sunny Australia in a new millennium. Violence against people for reasons of their race, gender and sexuality are daily occurrences. Youth suicide is extremely high, especially amongst boys and young men. Last week I learned of the funeral of a highly talented young man, rejected by his Italian Australian family because of his sexuality, driven to suicide. At his funeral, after all the prayers and the music, all that could be heard was muttering: "It doesn't matter. He was just a poofter".

So how did my relationship with God survive this experience of self-discovery?

First, I never doubted for an instant the surrounding love of my parents, my brothers and sister. I knew, in my heart, that they would always love me as I was. For years we did not confront the subject verbally. We did not really need to do so. When we did, it was exactly as I expected. No big deal. Not everyone is so lucky.

Secondly, I was greatly blessed by having many loving friends and companions, homosexual and heterosexual. Especially in finding a loving partner, Johan. He is not here tonight. He has very little time for religion and churches. He has often said to me: "I don't understand how such an intelligent person can take seriously religions that all oppress women, people of colour and gays". He prefers to be out there helping his Ankali. He volunteers to clean and cook and scrub the toilet-bowl for a patient living with HIV. That is his "religion". He has utter contempt for what he calls "the Bishops in their frocks, spouting words of hate". For thirty-five years, despite the impediments of the world, we have been together. Not everyone is blessed with such relationships. Not everyone wants them. But they are not evil or disordered - just loving, kind, loyal and mutually supportive. To deny humans such love is truly disordered, unnatural, some may even say evil.


Truth is a tremendous weapon. It is the truth that sets us free. First, a small group, then more, and eventually most citizens came to know the truth that some people are homosexual. To deny them love and companionship is just plain cruel. To deny them equality as citizens is unjust. To punish them for private adult conduct is oppressive. I was fortunate to live through a time when these truths became gradually, increasingly and overwhelmingly accepted in Australia and other civilised countries. Remnants of the old disordered view linger on, including in God's churches. Doubtless in some places they will last longer than others. But in the end, scientific truth will prevail.

I was greatly strengthened in my approach to these issues by my religious upbringing. The Anglican Church in Sydney has its faults. As we all have. But it is part of a denomination that grew out of the Elizabethan settlement in England. After the terrors against Catholics of Edward VI and against Protestants of Mary I, it was imperative to establish a Church of many mansions. Thus, in Sydney to this day, we have the Cathedral, the Church of St James and Christ Church St Lawrence. They represent the low, middle and high church traditions. There is always a space for diverse opinions. It is not, I think, coincidental that it is the Anglican Communion that has witnessed not only the worldwide move to the ordination of women (an absurd exclusion from the ministry of God). But also the ordination of openly homosexual priests and the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson as elected Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire.


I have never been cut off from God. Never in the darkest days of secrets, fear and alienation have I felt removed from the loving presence of God. Not for an instant did I feel cast out of the temple. It may be a presumption, but I never felt myself "intrinsically evil". I never felt guilty of "grave depravity". Never. I knew that this was just the way that God and nature meant me to be. It had a purpose.


To be brought up in a spiritual belief with a personal God is a mighty comfort. It helps you get through the problems of life. God was with me in bereavement and in moments of pain and of success. To be brought up in a Church of Jesus is specially comforting for minorities. As Bishop Spong said from this pulpit, Jesus was actually a revolutionary. The universality of his church was a new message for religion to that time. His instruction to love one another, to forgive enemies and to seek reconciliation is one specially relevant to the dangerous contemporary world. His New Covenant undoubtedly extends to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, intersex and all queer minorities. In fact, it extends to everyone. But many in the world, including many still in error in his Church, are not listening.


Their anthropomorphic, contorted, nasty little view of God is totally incompatible with my notion of the enormity of God's presence, as the universal being. It is humans that stamp on God their own petty conceptions. It is humans that try to reduce God to their own paltry and often mean imagination. The notion of God as a bearded prophet or as an Englishman or as a Protestant or Catholic or as an Islamic, Hindu or other human possession is, frankly, absurd. But the notion that around us, "immortal, invisible and divine" is a loving God is one that millions of humans cling to and believe in. It is a notion that is not incompatible with science. It is unproved. But it still exists.

Certainly, that notion is incompatible with cruelty and unkindness to one another. There has been altogether too much of this in the name of God. For centuries people of all religions just accepted a contemptible, little view of God. But now, in our age, a new and larger vision is emerging. As this vision gains strength, many of the human cruelties of the past will be seen for what they were. Then Jesus' injunction to "love one another" will take on a new meaning. The trivial doctrines will be discarded. We will all be closer to God, not just to some creation that humans have fashioned in the image of our own prejudices and selfish conceptions.

I honour those in all churches and faiths who reach out in love and inclusiveness to all people. Tonight I specially honour those who reach out to sexual minorities. Those minorities have been cruelly and wrongly abused in the name of God and often still are. In the millennial year 2000, the Pope prayed: "Let us ask pardon for the violence some have used in the service of the truth and for the distrustful and hostile attitude sometimes taken towards the followers of other religions". To that prayer, I would say Amen. But I would add "Let us ask pardon for the violence some have used in the service of the truth and for the distrustful and hostile attitudes sometimes taken towards women, towards people who are different from ourselves and towards sexual minorities" who are a full part of God's creation. That prayer will come one day. Of that there can be no doubt. And when it comes, let us all be ready to say, Amen.

O Most Excellent Judge


There is no way I can sensibly comment on this horrible situation. I do not have all the facts and certainly none of the wisdom.
Hamas aims for the complete destruction of Israel which is impossible. Egged on and assisted by Iran they continue to annoy Israel. While only a few Israelis have been killed by the rockets, I cannot imagine living in a place where there is the threat of a rocket crashing into one's home.
All this has done is pressure Israel to respond in what seems to be an overreaction.
I also cannot imagine what it would be like to live in the poverty and restrictions of Gaza and do understand that some of this would be stimulus for the actions being carried out by Hamas. In the meantime women, children and even many non-aligned men are suffering needlessly.
There is little I can do except pray that those involved on both sides will be given the wisdom to negotiate realistically.

However in a very modest way I can assist those who are suffering.

The Al Ahli Arab Hospital is run by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. I have been able to support it through Anglicord here in Australia but Americans can go to The American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.
Because of its location in the centre of the City, the Hospital is able to receive casualties from a number of heavily populated neighbourhoods. It works closely with the Palestinian National Authority Ministry of Health, so when there is a demand for patient care, Ahli Arab Hospital is the first to receive the overflow from the government hospital in the central area of Gaza. While a Christian (Anglican/Episcopal to be precise) run hospital it helps all people so I feel it is a way I can give a small practical gift rather than just sitting here wringing my hands.

Another way to help without any religious connections is to give via Medecins Sans Frontiers which is my favourite overseas aid agency. I have, sadly, become a bit wary of Christian aid agencies though Anglicord is connected to the Melbourne Diocese, not Sydney (nuff said).
There was an interview on TV last night with an Australian nurse working with MSF in Gaza. While he said the fighting has closed down his clinic, they were still directing medical supplies to hospitals. More detail is at the site.

Monday, January 05, 2009

New Seat Belt Law

Becomes effective January 1st 2009

The national Highway Safety Council has done extensive testing on a newly designed seat belt.

Results show that accidents can be reduce by as much as 45%

Correct installation is illustrated below...

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Commonwealth Government recognises Same-sex partnerships

In late November the Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws – General Law Reform) Bill 2008 passed through the Australian Senate. The definition of a de facto now includes same-sex couples and allows them to leave superannuation entitlements to their partners. Same-sex couples are also guaranteed equality in tax, social security, health, aged care and employment.

The Bill rewrites legal definitions of ‘couple’, ‘partner’, ‘parent’, ‘child’ and ‘family’ to include all couples and their children. The changes will grant equal access to entitlements and benefits in federal laws relating to taxation, superannuation, Medicare and health entitlements, social security, veterans’ and defence benefits, migration and workers’ compensation.

Medicare and PBS (medicines) changes commenced on 1 January 2009. Other changes, including social security payments, some family tax benefits, Australian passport changes and veterans’ affairs entitlements will commence from 1 July 2009.

For one man this represents Justice at Last.
Edward Young will soon become the country's first recognised gay war widower.

Partners in gay relationships with serving and retired soldiers will, for the first time, be allowed to claim pensions - opening the door for the so-called "forgotten people" of our military heritage and allowing for more people to make claims that must be paid out.

It has been 10 years since his partner, Larry Cains, died. They met in London in 1960 - he, a model, was introduced to Mr Cains, a photographer who had served with the Australian Army in Borneo during World War II.

He took his case to the United Nations and in September 2003 the UN concluded Australia had breached the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Mr Young was "entitled to an effective remedy, including the reconsideration of his pension application without discrimination based on his sex or sexual orientation".

A spokeswoman for the Veterans' Affairs Minister, Alan Griffin, said the new laws would apply to Mr Young and take effect in July.

"People such as Mr Young will not be denied a war widow or widower's pension on the basis of a same-sex relationship," she said. "We would encourage anyone who was (or is) in a same-sex relationship who wishes to make a claim to the department to do so after that date."

It may not be a recognition of same-sex marriage but at least in economic matters there has been a vast improvement.

As a single man whose one relationship lasted 18 months back in 1980-81 the whole thing is rather theoretical which is why I read but do not comment on the discussion of the California marriage laws.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year from Sydney, Australia

Moment of Sorrow*

Moment of National Pride *

Moment of Gay Pride*

Moment of Hope for 2009