This is a hidden gem which recaptures the Australia of yesteryear, albeit one more zany than many experienced. I felt some kind of connection with theThis is a hidden gem which recaptures the Australia of yesteryear, albeit one more zany than many experienced. I felt some kind of connection with the story even though I am relatively removed from the situation - none of my family were Jewish, nor did I experience the 1930s, or ww2, or grow up in a house which doubled as a surgery. But I did grow up in Sydney, and remember a number of my great aunts, who in general seemed to exude a degree of eccentricity. And there was some Irish heritage in the family also. These are only superficial comparisons, however. I think I related to the fact that there were such vivid, unusual, but authentic and humorous stories - ones which would have continued to produce laughter and affectionate nostalgia as they were recalled - stories I remember hearing from my mother in particular of her family as she grew up.
The book takes a little while to get into. The humour is not overt, nor central to the authors purpose I don't think, but it is the lasting mood I was left with. The father's calls to the boarding school, and the schools response, is a classic and surely symptomatic of the era. And then the book is finished, feeling like there was so much more to tell, and perhaps there is but they're the ones that belong to you and me....more
This is an interesting 'near future' Scifi. A nearby, earth like planet is settled, first by terraforming, then by human inhabitants fleeing a poisoneThis is an interesting 'near future' Scifi. A nearby, earth like planet is settled, first by terraforming, then by human inhabitants fleeing a poisoned earth - or so it seems at first. There are an number of characters introduced, some more distinct than others, and the rhythm of their stories is inconsistent, leaving them vague in places. The main innovations are in genetics - longevity in particular - and magical faster then light space travel of course. Politically, the earth is controlled by a small committee - interesting but felt implausible. I enjoyed the story, with a number of familiar elements which included the Sydney setting, as the characters sorties begin to align with one another. I'm not feeling compelled to read the next ones though.
Rankin without Rebus, his second novel as he tried to get established after the initial, somewhat disjointed detective effort. This one is a spy storyRankin without Rebus, his second novel as he tried to get established after the initial, somewhat disjointed detective effort. This one is a spy story, set in London, mostly, in the 80s, so it was still analog espionage - spooks without the flashy set changes and a Harry more connected to the Peers of the realm. At stake is the security of London as the IRA took its war offshore. It's easy to forget that the modern day terror, largely ascribed to radical Islam, is relatively new, and that similar terrorism has been around a fair while. (Living in Australia, or I dare say the US also, made these issues remote and sideline news events to a media less affected by global news cycles.)
The story rolls along nicely, although I found the transition phase slow and inconsistent with the degree of change it wrought. The final climax was a contrived touch from an author passionate about his home town, but not unbearably so. Whether this could have gone on to become Rankin's stock and trade I guess we'll never know - rebus became the main man and there was little real room for this to go further with the cast available, hence the later stories of a similar ilk with new leads.
Very glad to have read it and keep the copy of the rankin canon building on my bookshelf....more
This was too much for me. With the reputation as one of the most profound Christian and existential thinkers, reading something by Kierkegaard had beeThis was too much for me. With the reputation as one of the most profound Christian and existential thinkers, reading something by Kierkegaard had been on my list for a while. Two short discourses seemed like an easy introduction, but I was quickly relieved of this assumption. It is dense writing, further removed from my access by the nuances of the time and spiritual context.
Somewhere amidst the slow journey through this read the following stood out to me: - the inability to recognise an inward struggle is essentially self deception - Worship is not necessarily an indication of closeness but of seeking God, and best accomplished through weakness not strength - The modernist approach to proving God may inhibit the ability to actually find or experience God, since the process places one outside - It is not the increase of guilt, but the apprehension of it that increases awareness of God (and grace?) - We (inevitably?) lose the uncompromising zeal for truth we begin life with - spiritual thought is only appropriated in reality through action So there is some good stuff in this.
The perspective of Kierkegaard as a thinker but not a theologian or preacher is interesting. William Barclay echoes the need for such in the church - to have a spirit of wisdom the church needs Christians willing to think. Ironically, it seems that for many wishing to encourage a greater presence of the spirit, thinking is often denigrated as the domain of the critic, the Pharisee or the stubborn. I suspect he won't be making a revival anytime soon for the numerous reasons mentioned, but there is plenty to learn assuming a further layer of translation is provided....more
This last Anzac Day, I decided it was time to try and track down my grandfathers experience in ww2 in more earnest. Like modern astronomers, historianThis last Anzac Day, I decided it was time to try and track down my grandfathers experience in ww2 in more earnest. Like modern astronomers, historians live in an amazing age where each year allows us to see more - a combination of technology and information availability. In both cases there will come a day when the increase stops, but not for some time yet. I ended up finding some useful documentation about my grandfathers father, which had been eluding me. For my Grandfather, the best I could do was read Kokoda.
And it was well worth it. This battle has been oversold by some historians ( e.g what if...?, claiming it turned the whole war...). As Japan landed at New Guinea is armies were undefeated, whilst Australia's forces were scattered, its leadership compromised by loyalty to allied command with incomplete knowledge and limited interest. It is not in dispute that the force sent to port moresby was vastly outnumbered and under-prepared, at best. So it should have been another easy victory to Japan. Instead, they were both turned back and handed their first defeat. Following some key members of the army and press core, Fitzsimons doesn't shy from lauding his heroes, tracing the various battles on the ground alongside commentary on background events which reveal the incompetence of high command.
Like Gallipoli it was a gritty, gutsy affair in difficult conditions - I got the feeling that the Japanese were defeated by the jungle and the mountains, the Australians playing the supporting role. Is it why we love the underdog overcoming the odds? Whether it trams as highly as Fitzsimons claims, Kokoda certainly deserves recognition as a key point in Australia's history, military or otherwise. I'd love to visit the place. And I hope one day I will also find out what part my grandfather played up there...
There's a lot of debate, and popular skepticism, about the Christian view of marriage. It is therefore worth having some clarity over what Christian mThere's a lot of debate, and popular skepticism, about the Christian view of marriage. It is therefore worth having some clarity over what Christian marriage is: not all who subscribe to it necessarily understand its biblical roots, whilst those who reject it often do so on a limited understanding of it.
The Kellers start by explaining why the alternatives to marriage don't work well. In essence, they point to two contradictory objectives, whereby on one hand there is an expectation that each person retains their independence, whilst on the other hand that their partner will be the ideal complement for all they need. In the language of one of his other books, Keller describes these flaws as idols - false hopes that are bound to disappoint. For Christians, belief in God provides an objective to marriage which is not dependent on human weakness and points to a different kind of wholeness. This is not written to persuade governments to change definitions nor does it demean non-Christians right to approach marriage as they wish, but it does uphold why the Christian viewpoint is a rational one worth paying attention to.
The remainder of the book works through a variety of issues including submission and leadership (this mainly from his wife, Kathy), singledom, and sex. Some of the observations I liked along the way included: 1. 'those who choose to stop focusing on their unhappiness find their happiness growing' - I have felt this is true in my relationship with 'myself' and also when I am more concerned for my wife than myself; 2. We are not the same person as when we got married - perfection then, if possible, will not be perfection later, requiring a different goal that caters for change; 3. Conflict is an inevitable and healthy part of growing - moving beyond infatuation when single, and the reality of being less than perfect once married - thus change is also inevitable.
There's plenty more, worth digesting steadily, but largely based on Paul's description of marriage in Ephesians. The key big idea centred on marriage being something made by God to enable humans to understand God better. This might seem ascetic on its own, but this is not the vibe. Instead, marriage is presented as a rich experience in both its earthly and spiritual component. I did find that CSLewis seemed over-quoted, but it's a minor flaw.
This is quite a remarkable book. Science, history and philosophy, amongst others, are wrapped into a story that encompasses much of what we humans areThis is quite a remarkable book. Science, history and philosophy, amongst others, are wrapped into a story that encompasses much of what we humans are individually and collectively. The tone is even handed, but there would be few who come away unchallenged, especially in regard to religion, whether theistic or non. On that note, intelligent design gets a mention, with a twist. And it is these twists which make the read so compelling, as topics familiar to many are looked at from new angles that lead to surprising insights.
I began this book thinking that it would have little to add to the excellent narratives of Jared Diamond (guns germs and steel, the third chimpanzee) and others (eg last ape standing). But in the first chapter, the first twist is introduced regarding what took Sapiens out of the purely biological path it had thus far been traveling. Yes, big brains, fire, spoken language or song, and other unique aspects of our social structure and anatomy contribute, but the discovery of story/myth/imagined reality is postulated as the key to culture. Evidence of this in prehistory is slim of course, but this central theme is convincingly described in the remaining chapters for which ample evidence exists.
In the three main sections, Noah describes the journey into ancient history and how the (first) agricultural revolution wrenched us out of the hunter gathers lifestyle, enabled by our collective myths. Three key catalytic myths - money, empire and religion - are then described, each in their way supporting the 'progress' towards modernity. Empire put an interesting spin on Diamonds view that Europe's disunity made it more successful in global conquest than the united chinese empire, for example. Finally, the scientific revolution, fueled by ignorance, and the path to our modern day, and whatever comes next. This section, looking across 500 years at a time, produces both wonder (at our increased global and individual wealth), and anxiety (at the damage to the environment which has taken place to achieve it).
If the conclusion we reach looking back on history is one of amazement that our forebears, with little sense of the legacy their decisions would leave, have enabled the progress we now enjoy, it is sobering to think that we are no better placed. Indeed, the rate of revolution, and the scale of technological change to both our environment, but more importantly, potentially, to our biology, leaves our future even less secure than previous generations. Making books like this one important to read and discuss. ...more