Sunday, June 19, 2005

Gone fishing......

I leave tomorrow for 5 days in London and a week in Lindau. I've decided to explore the museums and galleries while in London. I hope to get to the following: Tate Modern Art, National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery, British Museum, and the Natural History Museum. I hope I have enough time.

To get myself ready, I went to the NGV and saw the Bill Henson exhibition. I really liked his later works, especially his collages. I suffered from visual sensory overload. I needed to close my eyes for a while afterwards. The images burned onto my retina needed time to dissapate. I also went to the open day at Parliament House. For a building that isn't finished is has some impressive rooms. The Victorian Gold Rush was an opulent time. So much gold inlay.

I'm off, see you in two weeks.

ps. I'll miss noodles with Elaine, can I cope?

Friday, June 17, 2005

The stars, baby, the stars

The Sunday Age magazine, Sunday Life, has a column called "For better, for worse" in which couples talk about how they met and their relationship. In last sundays we had Veronica and Rod. Veronica , a long-haul flight attendant, said the following; "I met Rod at a jazz festival and we laughed the whole time. He asked me out the next day but I went to a psychic instead, who told me he would become a special person in my life."

I think she has been spending too long in the air and her brain has been bombarded with too many cosmic rays. Firstly, she goes to some stranger whose advice she will listen to even thought he/she is peddling snake oil. Secondly, I wonder what excuse she gave Rod as to why she didn't go out with him the next day. If she said "I'm off to see a psychic", my advice (and I won't charge for this) is run, boy, run. I'm saying this from experience. If, however, she gave some lame ass excuse, then lying is a great way to start off the relationship.

Let's just get this straight; psychics, tarot cards, astrology, etc. are all a crock of shit. Wake up people, its the 21st century!!! They all use the same device, "cold reading". Here's a test. Get someone to cut out a days horoscope so that you dont know which star sign it is. Get them to mix it up and give it to someone else. Then this person will give it to a group of people and ask them to match the reading which most resembles them with their star sign. (This is called a 'double blind test'.) Result, matching is no better than chance. "But", I hear you cry, "that horoscope isn't a 'proper one'. We need to know the time and date of your birthday". Here's a few questions for you:
Which time zone?
What defines your time of birth? First appearance of the head, the time the last part of your body leaves?
What about caesarian births?
How accurate should the time be; hours, seconds, milliseconds, atomic clock resolution?
What is the mechanism that is at play here? Gravity? Do you know what gravity is? Do you realise that the building you are in exerts more force on you due to gravity than Alpha Centauri, the nearest star. Do the math.
Do you realise horoscope star charts are out of date and the constellations no longer rise and set on those dates?

I'll leave you with this quote by British philosopher A. J. Ayer (the word 'religious' can be interchanged with 'psychic').
"The fact that people have religious experiences is interesting from the psychological point of view, but it does not in any way imply that there is such a thing as religious knowledge ... Unless he can formulate his 'knowledge' in propositions that are empirically verifiable, we may be sure that he is deceiving himself."

Friday, June 10, 2005

Hot dogma

Someone asked me whether I could teach in a religious school considering that I am an athiest. Would that change the way I teach? Could I just ignore the superstition? I try to teach questioning and critical analysis. Once you see how usefull this practice is, how could you not apply it to other subjects, including religion.

I've asked the following question to people I know who have faith in religion (the brand doesn't matter), "Would you convert to (insert their religious practice here) if you were born into another faith?". Usually they dismiss the question without any thought. I try to badger them with "Have you looked into all the religions? Why do you dismiss those and not your own? Do you know how your/their holy texts came about? Do you look at the historical context of the begining of your/their religion?, etc. etc.".

However, my grandfather replied that he would follow the religion he was born into. I found this an amazing statement. He had no problem with it. He said that everyone had to believe in some higher being. When I explained to him I didn't, he could not comprehend that. When I asked him if he could question his beliefs, he replied no, he believed what he was told. I asked him if he still believed in the Easter bunny or tooth fairy. Of course not. I asked him why he couldn't apply the same questioning. Silence. I left it there and changed topics.

A week is a long time in cliches

I enter the room.
The music blares. The crowd are enthralled. In the distance, between momentary gaps created by the jostling mass, I spot the unmistakable colour that is skin. As I make my way to the bar, I piece together the scene from the fragments afforded me. It's a girl engaging in a form of entertainment from the distant past. Burlesque. The tassels covering her nipples are rotating in time with the music as she gyrates her breasts. I look at the crowd, mainly children of the mid to late 70's. They are captivated. Kids, it's just skin. It, by itself, is not erotic. What controls the skin is more important. This is not personal. I feel no connection. I turn to the bartender and order a beer. The scene doesn't evoke in me the intended outcome.
The scene dissolves into another. I don't see the crowd anymore, just individuals. There is Heroin chic, Fitzroy royalty, others in awe of the previous. I overhear someone say that it's way too cool for them. I turn and look again. What makes them cool? What is cool? Who decides? Does it matter? All I see are people. What they wear has no bearing on what they think or do. Their words and deeds will reveal their true character.
Someone I know greets me. But their words are betrayed by their body language. They don't really mean it. They talk a lot but say nothing. Conversation is meant to involve listening. I listen, but they don't. The encounter is short. They move on. Is this the same person that I knew? In the past, talk was vibrant and diverse. Now it's all about "me" and shekels. I see it amongst the crowd. They are so engrossed in themselves that they fail to notice what's around them. As I am thinking this, a couple crash into me on their way to the bar, "Sorry", he says, "I didn't see you." I had to laugh.
They are so intent on reaching their goals that they fail to see that the journey, not the end, is life. Don't they see that the end is the same for everyone? Books, movies, are not just one sentence, "Character begins, character ends". If you picked up a book that contained just this, you would feel ripped off. Yet they live their lives like this. The journey is where the excitement happens. That's when you encounter the new. You learn far more from these experiences than from the end itself. If being human is about learning and understanding, then there are some who have lost their humanity. I have a better understanding of some of them then when I arrived. Somehow I don't think the reverse will be true.
I leave the room.

Friday, June 03, 2005


I've finished all my assignments! What shall I do with my time?

It's a small world. Six degrees of separation is five degrees too many. I keep meeting people who know someone I know. Last saturday I was at two friends places and both times I met someone who knew someone I knew. That reminds me, I will never forget hearing my name being yelled out in Xi'an, a city in the middle of China, and it was someone from Melbourne who I knew.

Should animals be experimented on? If so, at what animal would you consider OK to experiment on? I think dogs, liberal politicians and god botherers are OK.

I've finally found my passport. I'm heading overseas in a couple of weeks to go to a conference in Lindau (I still can't believe I've scammed this) and I've been tearing my place apart trying to find it. It wasn't even there. It was sitting in my office.

I'm already bored................................................................................................................................