Star Wars: Episode X – The Dark Side Rises

Just a bit of fun to go with all The Force Awakens hype this week. I know people are starting to think about Episode VIII now but I thought I’d turn my attention further ahead, to the next trilogy. And I think I already know who the villain might be…

(Warning: there are a couple of mild spoilers for The Force Awakens in the video if you haven’t seen it yet).

Apologies for the audio by the way. I used the StarWars.com creator to make this but for some reason the share/export isn’t working so I did a screen capture instead. It made the audio a little tinny.

What did you think of The Force Awakens? I’m going to do a post after Christmas touching on it and nostalgia in general but basically I enjoyed it. I liked it but didn’t love it I guess – I thought it felt too familiar and nostalgic at times. It sets up Episodes VIII and IX well though and hopefully they will be more original.

Some thoughts on extremism

I posted this on Twitter and Facebook last night in the wake of the Paris attacks and thought I’d post it here as well for posterity and to share some additional thoughts.

Like everyone I was shocked and appalled by the attacks and my heart goes out to everyone in Paris and France.

But as the hours went by, I started seeing a lot of posts and comments blaming muslims and all of Islam for the attacks. As well as how muslims needed to convert to “the Christian god” so we could have peace.

I guess I lost it but I am sick and tired of hearing how Islam is a religion of hate and it’s “us vs. them”. It’s a bigoted worldview and it’s not only ignorant and wrong but it is dangerous as well.

ISIL and similar groups want us to be divided and to turn on moderate Islam; it’s one of the goals listed in their own publication – to eliminate the “grayzone” as they call it, the zone of coexistence we share and have everyone live in a black and white world which makes it easier for them to spread their ambitions through the Levant and beyond.

Everyone who lumps all of Islam together with ISIL and their ilk is doing their work for them and helping to create more recruits and likely more attacks like we just saw in Paris.

There are 1.2 billion muslims in the world and the vast, vast majority of them are peaceful and moderate and just want to live their lives; it is unfair to place them all together and it is beyond reality to expect that over one billion people should be held responsible for the acts and beliefs of radicalized extremists.

Our struggle is with extremism, all extremism; the scenario should never be framed as “the West vs. Islam” or “us vs. them” but rather “moderates against extremism”. Wherever it strikes and whomever it oppresses in the world.

If you can’t see that, nor how all religions have struggled and continue to struggle with extremism (from the KKK, to The Army of God, to Eastern Lightning in just the recent past alone), then I would suggest that the problem is with you, not with Islam.

And if you seriously believe the only solution to this whole situation is for one group of people to convert to another religion, then I would suggest as well that you have more in common with ISIL than most muslims ever will.

***

I’m seeing a lot of posts and comments on Facebook and Twitter at the moment blaming muslims for the attacks in Paris.

Some are even asking for people to pray that all muslims “convert to the Christian god” as that is the only way “we can have peace”.

Others, more understandably, want to send ground troops to take care of IS.

I feel like I need to say a few things as seeing all this pop up again and again is driving me nuts.

1. The vast majority of Islam is moderate and peaceful. The people responsible for these attacks are ideological extremists. They are a perversion of Islam, not a true representation of it. It is wrong and ignorant to blame all muslims for their actions.

2. Every religion struggles with extremism. Please remember Christianity’s past history with the Crusades, the Inquisition and the KKK before passing judgment on all of Islam.

3. #PrayForParis means we are thinking of and stand with the people of France. It does NOT mean pray for muslims to convert to “the Christian god”. How dare you use a tragedy in such a way?

4. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all share one common link: Abraham and, by extension, Abraham’s god. It is likely you actually already believe in the same god.

5. This is a “war” that will likely last generations and it cannot be won through military force alone. The only way to defeat extremism is to change people’s perceptions over time by engaging with community leaders and tackling issues like poverty and youth dissatisfaction. ISIL and other threats need to be confronted as well but without tackling the root causes of terrorism, the cycle will never end. And that may take decades.

6. ISIL and other groups want us to turn on our communities, to make it the West vs Islam. They want young muslims to feel persecuted as it drives them straight into their arms. Turning on each other only makes ISIL stronger.

7. In the end our global response to tragedies like this sends a message and it’s up to us what we want it to say. Do we really want to blame Islam? Or do we want to show that we stand united and unbowed as moderates against extremism? The choice is ours. I know which I’d prefer.

RIP Phillip Hughes

RIP Phillip Hughes

Incredibly sad to hear of the passing of Phil Hughes today. He seemed like a lovely young man and was incredibly talented… 25 is much too young to be taken from us.

Like everyone at the moment my thoughts are with his family and friends, and also with Sean Abbott. It must be incredibly difficult for him but it was a freak accident and there was nothing he could have done differently… hopefully in time he will be okay.

I was lucky enough to see Hughes bat for South Australia against Victoria at the MCG two years ago. He scored 158 and it was some of the best batting I’ve ever seen… he dominated the bowling, particularly on the off-side, and it was wonderful to watch. I took a few photos of him during the match. I thought I’d post them now as a tribute.

Rest In Peace Phil. You’ll be missed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Phil Hughes

Phil Hughes

Phil Hughes

Photos © CJ Levinson 2012-2014

Election Thoughts + More Memes

Abbottlanche or Ruddicide

Congratulations to Tony Abbott and the Coalition. It’s only the seventh time in sixty years an elected government has been defeated, so it’s quite an achievement, particularly to topple a government that’s only been in for two terms. It’s something I never thought would happen when Abbott first came to the leadership, it seemed so unlikely and Abbott such an unlikely alternative PM. But the Coalition ran a very clever campaign and then again, I never thought I’d see a PM torn down in his first term either, so I guess it shows anything can happen in politics.

I’ll be frank: I did not vote for the Coalition and will never vote for the Coalition as long as Tony Abbott is leader. His policies and social attitudes scare the hell out of me and I’d much rather see Malcolm Turnbull as PM – if he had been, I would definitely have supported the Coalition and I think they would have won with an even bigger majority. But putting that aside, Labor didn’t deserve to be re-elected at all and only has itself to blame for the outcome. When you spend all your time fighting over the leadership, surrounded by bickering and countless distractions of your own making, rather than actually governing the country, you can’t seriously think the public is going to vote you back in.

The government’s problems are strange in some ways because it’s not even that they’ve been a particularly bad government overall when you look at their ideas and achievements, particularly the NBN and the NDIS, it’s really more that they’ve spent the last six years tearing each other apart from the inside out, have kept back-pedalling on policies that they had made into central platforms (you can’t say climate change is the “greatest moral challenge of our time” and then try to back away from it, for instance, it makes you look like flip-floppers at best and a party lacking moral integrity at worst) and that they’ve been completely incompetent in selling their achievements – especially the strength of the economy, which is relatively strong, particularly when compared to the rest of the world. Abbott’s been an effectively negative opposition leader but in normal circumstances there’s simply no way a government should find itself in this position after just two terms. Which is what I meant with the caption above – in the end I’m genuinely not sure if Abbott won this election or if Labor lost it and essentially committed suicide. Or maybe it’s a bit of both.

I’m not sure what kind of Prime Minister Tony Abbott is going to be and like I said, he wouldn’t be my choice by a wide margin on either side of politics, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and I hope he’ll be one who is consultative and doesn’t try to force an ideological agenda through parliament (although that is one thing that potentially concerns me about him). In many ways because he has been such an effective negative campaigner I don’t think the public has been able to get a real idea of who Abbott actually is (which incidentally I think is also why he’s always performed so poorly in leadership polls, because it makes it seem like he’s stilted and has no personality), so it will be interesting to see if we start to see a new side of Tony Abbott and perhaps that public view of Abbott starts to change. It’ll also be interesting to see how he goes on the international stage – I actually think that’s one area where he might do quite well, with the exception perhaps of our relationship with Indonesia, which will depend a lot on what happens with asylum seekers and the boats.

I also hope that we can start to put the misogynist statements to rest once and for all as well. Gillard’s speech on misogyny was one of the defining moments in modern Australian politics and on a wider level was very true but looking at it objectively, it was also at least a little unfair on Tony Abbott. There are many, many things I do not like about Abbott but he’s not a misogynist – his wife is an incredibly strong influence in his life, he’s helped to raise three daughters who seem to be incredibly intelligent and articulate young women that any parent would be proud of and he’s introducing a paid parental leave scheme that is very generous towards women. What Abbott is is very old fashioned and extremely awkward and gaffe-prone but that doesn’t mean he’s a misogynist. It also doesn’t mean that Gillard’s speech wasn’t true either, just that it was truer on a broader level about society and I think that’s why it resinated with so many people. But hearing people constantly calling Abbott a misogynist during this election – often I think without their even knowing what a misogynist really is as well – is one of the things that’s really grated on me and I’m hoping now people will at least try to give him the benefit of the doubt. No matter what you think of Tony Abbott, the office of the Prime Minister deserves more respect than that – just as it did when Gillard was PM and she was treated so abysmally, particularly by men, many of whom were in the media, and in her own party.

In any case I guess like everyone I’m mostly just relieved this bloody election is finally over. It’s been mind-numbingly tedious but good luck to the Coalition and here’s hoping the next three years won’t be as divisive as the last and the economy stays relatively strong.

I made some more election memes last night while watching the results come in as well, so I thought I’d post them with this for a bit of fun. The one about Jason Wood was just spur of the moment – I’d not heard his quote before and it came on during the coverage and my head just about exploded when I heard it. I used the photo of Gllard as that’s pretty much how I imagine she would have reacted when she heard it too – and it’s not a bad approximation of what my face was like too. I mean, seriously Jason, WTF?

Hope you enjoy them. Who knows, I might start doing these regularly as they seem to be popular. 😉

Budgie-Man

Batman, meet Budgie-Man, our new PM.

Rudd's Concession Speech

Bye Kev. Remember, PMs come and go, selfies live forever.

Genetically Modified WHAT?

Jason Wood, one of Australia’s great visionaries.

Finally Over

Here’s hoping.

Election Fun

Abbott and the Philosoraptor

I’ve been getting into the political mood recently by making some election memes. I’ve shared most of them on Twitter and Facebook but with the election on Saturday, I thought I’d post them here too.

For the record I don’t really lean towards one party or the other and I’ve tried to skewer both equally. It’s been fun making them… it’s been a very long, dull election and being able to poke fun at it all has really been the only thing that’s made it bearable.

Hope you enjoy them and if you’d like to share any of them, feel free. If I make more I’ll post them before the election too.

Kevin Rudd and the Milky Bar Kid

Is there something you need to tell us Kevin? The resemblance is uncanny.

Tony Abbott and Budgie Smugglers of Doom

Or maybe they’re his “budget” smugglers?

Coalition of Misogynists

Glad to say I don’t own many blue ties.

Julie Bishop's Death Stare

Wonder who’d win in a staring contest between Julie Bishop and Hillary Clinton?

KRudd and the Selfie Craze

Poor Kevin. He’s so misunderstood.

Tony and the Pony

We can trust them. They’re politicians.

The Real Reason We Need Fast Broadband

GoT. The real reason we need fast broadband.

Joe Scissorhands

No truth to the rumour that the scissors were removed from Julia Gillard’s back though.

Tony Grows Up

Sorry, everyone has to grow up some time Tony.

Across the Paddock

Across the Paddock

Dry land
Sweltering heat,
The perfect fuel
For a terrible summer

I took this photo just before Christmas, looking out across a small paddock while visiting my uncle’s family with my parents. They live in a small rural community north of Sydney and many of the surrounding towns and suburbs were surrounded by bushfires in the weeks after Christmas. Thankfully my uncle and his family were reasonably far away from it but it’s not hard to imagine the kind of conditions firefighters were facing, with so much dry bushland fueling the fires. Hopefully temperatures stay lower for the rest of the summer and the fires die out… it really has been hell on earth.

Photo and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2012-13

Coogee Memorial

Blue ocean
Holds my heart and tears
Reminds me of you
So far away

Today is the ninth anniversary of the 2002 Bali Bombings. The bombings killed 202 people, including 88 Australians, and Bali is often considered our version of September 11, the moment when our part of the world changed forever.

Many of those killed and injured in the attacks came from Coogee, very near where we live in Randwick, and this memorial was erected in 2003 as a place of remembrance and reflection. It’s a beautiful, quiet spot overlooking the ocean and I often find myself spending time there when I’m in Coogee… I can’t think of a better tribute to their memory. I actually took this photo a few months ago, the day after Osama bin Laden died, and I thought I’d save it to post today.

In many ways it’s hard to believe it’s only been nine years since the bombings as so much has happened since. But even with Amrozi gone & so much time passed, it’s amazing how quickly the memories come back. I still remember that day so well… hearing about it on the news, seeing the fires burning, reading the names of the dead and missing in the local paper. Those memories will be with me for the rest of my life.

When I think about Bali I’m mostly filled with sadness now; for the suffering that was caused; for how the world has changed. But most often I find myself thinking of this memorial and what it represents, a place of peace and reflection, and I find myself hoping that one day, perhaps, the whole world might be as peaceful… that would be the true memorial.

Photo and haiku © CJ Levinson 2011

Update: I wrote this poem as well for the fifth anniversary. I thought I’d share it again in case anyone would like to read it.

The I Am Blues

Just a quick note. Some of you may remember a poem I wrote a few years ago called I Am. Apparently it’s just been turned into a song.

I didn’t know anything about it and only recently stumbled across it via Google; I had licensed it under a creative commons licence and it looks like someone liked it enough to turn it into a kind of song/audio reading on ccMixter.

It’s actually two samples; an a cappella reading of the poem by Togora and then a remix with music added by Syenta. I think it’s excellent, particularly for what was probably just a quick project, and I really like the bluesy feel to it; suits the poem perfectly.

I’ve embedded it below if anyone wants to listen and the original poem is available here. My thanks to Togora and Syenta for their work; I’m honoured that they liked my poem enough to reinterpret it. Makes me want to write a proper song. 😉

September 11: Ten Years On

In many ways I almost can’t believe that it’s been ten years since September 11. Perhaps it’s because I remember that day so well and it had such an impact on how I looked at the world but it feels like it was only a few months ago to me, maybe a year, not ten. And yet at the same time it really does feel like ten years have passed as well – so much has happened in the last decade, both personally and globally, that at times it almost feels like longer. I guess it’s strange that both perceptions can feel true but many people I’ve spoken to recently have said the same thing. I suppose that just shows how much of an impact September 11 really has had on the world.

I often find myself thinking back to that day. I was sixteen at the time and my parents and I were living in a hideous cockroach-infested flat in Hillsdale that we hated and were trying to move out of as quickly as possible. At the time I felt miserable; it was one of the first times that my health had worsened and I felt trapped and lonely and missed my friends. I’d also just received several nasty rejection letters, which for a sixteen year old who’d only just started writing were devastating.

Then September 11 happened and it put some things in perspective. I can still remember exactly where I was when I first heard about it; I was having a shower when my mother knocked on the door and said there’d been an explosion at the World Trade Center. I didn’t understand at first; I thought she meant there’d been an accident and didn’t think much more about it while I finished and got changed. When I came through though I knew immediately it was serious; my parents were staring at the television, horrified. I looked at the TV which had crossed to one of the US stations and saw the smoke and fire… and then moments later the second plane flew into the South Tower.

For as long as I live I don’t think I’ll ever forget the feeling in my stomach as I watched the plane hit; it was almost physical, like my soul had suddenly been ripped from my body. I felt weak at the knees and had to sit down. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing; I remember hearing shouts and screams coming through the TV but it felt surreal, like I was watching it all from somewhere far away.

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