Wednesday, May 30, 2007

And across the border ...

Ruth Gledhill has a summary on the situation of Christians in Pakistan. While there are serious challenges faced by India's Christians, the situation in Pakistan is, easily, much much worse.
Pakistan's Christians are facing renewed persecution in the country. This month Christians in the North West Frontier Province region of the country were sent threats of "dire consequences and bomb attacks" if they didn't "embrace" Islam within 10 days. An 84-year old Christian was the latest to be imprisoned under the blasphemy laws, his house was seized to be turned into a Madrassah and his wife forced to convert to Islam by saying the Sunni Islamic creed.
On the day of the deadline this notice, signed by the "Taliban's Denotative Department", appeared posted on the door of the church. It repeated the threats made 10 days before. The police say they have caught the perpetrator, an 11-year-old boy. But Mr Bhatti says when the Christians asked the boy to write something to cross check his hand writing with the letters, the policeman said "this is not a school lesson".

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Arrested for the faith

In New Delhi, the world's largest democracy. [Via Asianews.]
More than 4,000 protestors marched through the streets of India's capital today to call for the Union Government of India to break its silence on violence against Christians across the country have been arrested by the police.

The rally, called "Stop Violence On Christians", was organised after two recently televised attacks on Christians and an increase of anti-Christian incidents in the first few months of 2007.

The rally started at 10am at Jantar Mantar near the Parliament in New Delhi. Rally organisers had expected 2,000 people, but attendance was estimated at 5,000. Speeches demanded human dignity and constitutional rights for the Christian community and other repressed minorities. Minorities are facing harassment from Hindutva fundamentalists and, in many cases, local government officials.

The Station House Officer, Parliament Street Police Station, confirmed he had "arrested" approximately 4,000 people at 1:05pm and released them at 2:10pm.

"This was the first time since November 1997 that such large numbers of Christians have been arrested in the Parliament Street Police Station. It was incredible to see Catholic nuns, Protestant pastors, civil society activists and more singing Christian songs of liberation within the police station," said John Dayal, Secretary General, All India Christian Council, and President, All India Catholic Union.
I've no idea why anyone was arrested -- the right to protest is guaranteed by the Indian constitution -- and especially glad that the arrests happened, apparently, without violence. (Indian police are rather trigger-happy in general.) Just to note that while it is great that 5000 people showed up, in India, that's a rather small turnout.] If Google News is reliable, then not a single mainstream daily carried this news -- all the links are to Christian or Catholic publications. This grassroots netzine plays it as a Dalit Christian rally.

Just another day in the South ...

... um, except that this was in Wilmington, Delaware. Bishop responds to accusations of idolatry (CNA).
Wilmington, May 29, 2007 / 12:59 pm (CNA).- Bishop Michael Saltarelli of Wilmington, Deleware celebrated the dedication Mass for a statue of Our Lady Queen of Peace, outside Holy Spirit Church. The statue has drawn the criticism of some in the local community who believe that Catholics worship Mary.

The statue is the result of nearly10 years of effort by parishioners, and its impact was evident at the Mass. The consecration ceremony packed the church, which seats around 800 people, with close to 1,000 attendees.

Bishop Saltarelli used the consecration of the statue as an opportunity to respond to the non-Catholics who objected to the statue on the grounds that it is an idol and that the parishioners would be worshipping her.

"What we are doing here today sadly disturbs many." Saltarelli went on to respond directly to one particularly "respectful and kind" inquirer, the News Journal reported. "We do not worship Mary," Saltarelli said. "She is not a goddess."

But the use of Mary as intercessor to Jesus Christ and God the Father, he said, is an integral part of the Catholic doctrine of the "community of saints" -- the spiritual solidarity that binds together the faithful on earth, in purgatory, and the saints in heaven.

"We pray for each other as wayfarers on earth," Saltarelli said. "So, why can't we reach out to the Blessed Mother also to intercede for us?"

The statue -- like those statues of patriots and historical figures that clutter the Capitol rotunda in Washington -- are not to be worshipped, he said, but to act as inspiration.

This was too good to pass up ...

... spotted in a men's restroom in a watering hole near Five Points (at Pritcher's bachelor party on Sunday).

Monday, May 28, 2007

Karol Wojtyla's plays being performed in New York

John Allen highlights a small theater (and its dynamic, evangelical founder) in New York that is performing three of the late Pope's plays.
Whatever the merits of Wojtyla's work, celebrating the pope near Times Square, perhaps America's leading citadel to secularism, can still seem a bit incongruous. I asked Dobbins how he reconciles his Catholic missionary zeal with the essentially a-religious, socially liberal milieu of the theatre.

"Can it be a hostile environment sometimes? Sure," he said. "I'm all for a plurality of ideas. Everybody talks about that, but they don't seem to really want it. The entertainment industry actually seems terrified of it."

In the end, Dobbins said, the Storm Theatre is about injecting the faith into the cultural bloodstream.

"As a guy who rejoined the church in his 20s, I feel strongly that it's not enough to say Mass on Sundays, if those thoughts and ideas are not represented in the culture," he said.

"The reality is that we are going to act pretty much the way our culture teaches us to act. It's going to take lots and lots of people doing stuff like this, just so you're not being crushed by an opposite way of thinking, without any alternative."

"These ideas are eternal, they're the truth," he said. "They need to compete with the other ideas on all the other blocks around here. Not only do I think these ideas are just as good, I think they're better."

Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue to be resotred ...

Just saw this in my inbox, under the somewhat misleading headline, Vatican reaches out to Islam
* Main Catholic-Islam conduit restored
* Special council to be reinstated
* Decision reversal 'rare' for Vatican

THE Vatican would restore the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, its main conduit for relations with the Muslim world, its secretary of state said.

Last year, Pope Benedict XVI merged the department with the Vatican's culture ministry and removed its president, archbishop Michael Fitzgerald.

Archbishop Fitzgerald, a Briton who is one of the Catholic Church's most experienced figures in dialogue with Islam, was sent to Cairo in what was widely seen as a demotion.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone told La Stampa daily the council would now be reinstated as a department in its own right.

“The change highlights the importance of inter-religious dialogue,” he said.
Of course the story reeks of half-truths. The purpose of the Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue was not just dialogue with Islam, though that was certainly a part of its work. The merging of IRD with the Council for Culture (not at all the same as a "culture ministry" !!) certainly elicited a lot of discussion but the Holy Father continued to reiterate the importance of inter-religious dialogue, as he has consistently done throughout his career, both before and after his election to the Papacy. In fact, some (John Allen) argued that moving Archbishop Fitzgerald to Cairo may in fact be a way to promote dialogue, given the importance of Cairo and the al-Azhar university there in the Muslim world.
And did the merger of the two councils have anything at all to do with the Regensburg flap?

Of course, it really is interesting that IRD is being restored as a Council in its own right. I wonder what the thinking is behind that one, and I'm sure there will be some cogent analysis of this from responsible quarters soon.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Antioch

A Catholic Church in one of the oldest centres of Christianity gets its own website. Via Fides. (Site is available in English, Italian and Turkish.)
Antioch (Agenzia Fides) - The Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Antioch has opened its own web site with information on the history, activities and spirit of the small Catholic community present in that city.
The site illustrates the architecture of the church but, more important, welcomes the visitor into the community of Franciscan Capuchins ith a chronicle step by step, month by month of the life of the local community.
A part of the web site is dedicated to martyr Fr. Basilio da Novara Ofm Cap (+1851), remembered as the “ modern founder of the Catholic Church in Antioch”. Fr. Basilio was assassinated by Islamic extremists for his faith.
Antioch on the Oronte was the cradle of the first Christian community mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. It was here that the followers of Jesus were called Christians for the first time. Today the small Christian community is composed of ten families, and a good number of Arab speaking Greek Orthodox Christians. The Catholics come together to share the faith and grow spiritually, nourishing themselves with the Word and the Bread of Life. In the early Christian times Antioch, capital of the Roman province of Syria, was the third largest city after Rome and Alexandria, with a population of almost half a million. Today 200,000 people live in Antioch. With support from Italian Capuchin communities this Christian community has social and pastoral initiatives to help Christians to remain rather than emigrate for economic reasons.
The feast of Saints Peter and Paul is an important celebration in Antioch of the Oronte, an opportunity for ecumenical prayer and dialogue and to intensify relations with all Christian confessions in Turkey. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 25/5/2007 righe 27 parole 273)
The Catholic Church was started in the mid 19th century by the Capuchins. A page on the site (Italian only) acknowledges the continuous presence of the Orthodox in the area -- apparently, they use an Arabic liturgy [the area was part of Syria until 1939] -- and the Orthodox community is the most numerous in town, numbering about 1000-1200. That's should give one pause. The most numerous Christian community in one of the oldest centres of Christianity is barely a thousand souls.

I want my three hours back

Pirates 3. A waste of time. A WASTE! One of the worst movies I've seen. At one point, one of the characters goes, "It's not over!" No sh*t. I glanced at my watch -- easily an hour left. I've rarely wanted a movie to end this much.

Well, it was fun getting a large group (18 of us) going. Like old times. So not completely a waste. ... though it would have been better to stay on at the Nut and drink margaritas.

[Rotten Tomatoes gives it a rotten (48%) rating. Deservedly. I'm surprised only 52% of the critics thought it sucked though. De gustibus ... here's my favorite quote:
Adrift in the windless seas of its 168-minute running time, the viewer passes through confusion and boredom into a state of Buddhist passivity.
For me it was more like active hostility though ... :)]

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Jesus of Nazareth

The Holy Father's new book has sold over 1.5 million copies, and is #20 at Amazon. (Via Amy). Commonweal has a review of some of the reviews and interesting comments. (And yet another reason why to simply yawn at anything A.N Wilson produces.) My copy is on its way from Amazon soon ... (I forgot to pre-order before I went to Australia!). Let me tell you ... I CANNOT WAIT!

Interview with Bishop Ncube of Bulawayo

... one of the most outspoke critics of Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe, in Inside the Vatican.
ITV: The current climate in Zimbabwe, is, as you say, very tense. For these reasons, was it opportune to issue the recent pastoral letter?

ARCHBISHOP: We had long weighed the matter. A month earlier there was already a lot of tension. The bishops’ meeting, on 1 and 2 March, took time to reflect and pray about the situation. We considered a letter that had been drafted by one of the bishops around Easter time that came about as a result of earlier discussions.

It was imperative that such a letter be issued. The situation of the people was becoming worse and worse. Among the young people, there was a growing anger and, a growing sense of uncertainty and desperation. We were in the hands of a man who for 7+ years had been autocratic and using his army to be brutal on the people.
[Text of the pastoral letter.]

Return to studium

First day of classes today. I'm a student again. Feels weird. Two Philosophy courses over the summer -- a rather light load.

Feels good!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mary Douglas RIP

dotCommonweal links to a couple of obituaries of Dame Mary Douglas in the British press (She died on May 16). Anyone who's studied anthropology or religion is sure to have encountered her writing.

The Commonweal post mentions but doesn't link to the profile that they did on her a few years back. Here it is.

Oh, yes, Natural Symbols is a classic.

It's been eighty years ...

... since Charles Lindbergh's historic flight, thirty three and a half hours across the Atlantic to Paris. (He took off on May 20, 1927).

I assume they're talking about a different documentary ...

... and not Deliver us from Evil? (Beliefnet review, comments at Open Book). Row in Italy over Priest Sex Abuse Documentary.

[Ah, it's a different documentary. Analysis at Open Book.]

[Incidentally, at the hostel I stayed at in Sydney, they had a pamphlet rack with a variety of local goings-on listed. Including stuff on Buddhism and yoga and local performing artists. And a stack of fliers for "Deliver us from Evil." A bit random, it felt, that thrown in the midst, I thought.]

Monday, May 21, 2007

Saint Bombing


(Via Amy)

Planned Parenthood and statutory rape

A UCLA student visited three Los Angeles area Planned Parenthood centers, pretending to be pregnant and underage. At all three places she was advised to lie about her age (which would mean that Planned Parenthood was asking her to break the law, and also avoiding reporting statutory rape), in order to get an abortion.

In return, the organization is now turning around and suing the student (California law prohibits recordings without the subject's knowledge.) -- and under legal advice, the Youtube recordings of her conversations have been taken down.

The matter made national news (a list of stories is at the website of the publication run by this courageous pro-life lot, the Advocate). The print issues of their magazine are worth reading -- (I blogged about their first issue here. If you send in your name and address, they'll mail you a CD with the recordings of the student's interviews with UCLA health center counselors, giving her, really, only one choice. Kill your unborn child.)

[For the record, I know one of the student leaders in this organization very well. He used to be a student at USC. In fact, on Thursday, I was at his place in LA, and we watched the O'Reilly Report's coverage of this story and the interview with the undercover student reporter, together. Also for the record, this was the first time I watched that show. I detest it.]

Indian bishops welcoming resolution by US Congress

... condemning caste discrimination in India. (Via Zenit.)
The bishops of India welcomed a resolution placed before the U.S. Congress that asked the lawmaking body to encourage an end to India's caste system.

Republican Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona introduced the resolution May 2. In his presentation he called on "the Indian government and the world community to look with compassion upon India's untouchables and reach out to one of the most oppressed peoples on earth.''

In his address to the members of Congress, Franks called the caste system an "abhorrent form of persecution and segregation" that is particularly harsh on India's Dalits -- members of the "untouchable" caste -- especially Dalit women.

"This Congress," Franks argued, "must urge an end to the social discrimination and injustice faced by the nearly 250 million people known as Dalits in India."

Franks told ZENIT why he brought this issue to light now: "The plight of the 'untouchables' in India is truly one of the most critical human rights issues of our time.

"Millions of these individuals are regarded as less than human and live in some of the most wretched conditions known to humanity.

"We are compelled by the unalienable truth that all men are created equal to contend for the rights of the poor and the oppressed, and it is to that end that I have and will continue to stress the urgency of the Dalits' cause to Congress and to the world."
[Is it normal for Congress to pass such resolutions touching on issues over which it has no jurisdictional power?]

Hyderabad Mosque Bombing

Haven't been following the news in the past couple of days (recovery from jet lag, attending dance recitals, birthday festivities for friends, iffy internet access where I'm staying, etc.) so I missed the story about the bombing at the Mecca masjid in Hyderabad and the tension that has gripped the city since. Here's the NYT's coverage. Prayers for calm please. Georgette (who blogged at Chronicles of a Meandering Traveller) lives in Hyderabad. Hope all's well!

Friday, May 18, 2007

What? He's been beatified already?

This link to a piece in the Huffington Post showed up in one of my news readers, with the following paragraph:
Just how difficult is it to acquire sainthood these days? To judge by recent events in the Holy City that have resulted in the late Pope John Paul II being fast tracked through the first stage thus arriving at "Beatification" in less than two years perhaps it is far easier than you, dear reader realised.
Wow. I missed Pope John Paul's beatification! What else happened while I was in Australia, I wonder!

Given this is the quality of fact-checking in the first paragraph, it's probably best to ignore the screed that follows that tries to sling mud away in the most puerile fashion at the late Pope.

But, it's the Huffington Post. They absolutely love the Catholic Church over there.

:: UPDATE :: Mercatornet has a review that takes apart these claims.

Ancient Rome on 5 denarii a day

An extract in the Independent from what a fictitious travel guide to ancient Rome might have been like. Not to be missed!

Rome does not have a police force. This is perfectly normal for an ancient city, and it means that there is a clear distinction between "law and order", which is the job of the government, and "crime prevention" , which is the job of the community. The system works because, despite appearing to strangers as a swarming ant hill of humanity, Rome is actually a mosaic of tightly knit communities in which everyone knows everyone else's business. Also, a draconian punishment system cuts down on offenders - and does so literally.


Those who know little of medicine in Rome, or in the ancient world as a whole, are advised to treasure their ignorance of things like Roman catheters and obstetric instruments. The best advice for those falling unexpectedly sick in Rome is - don't.

Whether or not a visitor attends the games while staying in Rome is a matter of personal ethics. Only a small percentage of the city's population attends any particular session of the games. Many do not go because they can't get the tickets, but others just don't want to. Yet, terrible as the arena is, its horrors are offered with a panache seldom, if ever, equalled in human history and the spectacle may yet suck you in.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Winner of Australian Idol composes WYD anthem

Via Zenit:
The theme song for World Youth Day 2008 was written by singer/songwriter Guy Sebastian, the winner of the first Australian Idol contest in 2003.

"Receive the Power" was written by Sebastian, who will also perform the song at the World Youth Day in July 2008.

In choosing the song, the World Youth Day coordinator, Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Fisher, said that "we wanted a song that was stirring and uplifting."

He added: "The ... theme had to measure up thematically and be an anthem -- yet be easily sung by people of all language backgrounds.

"Above all, it had to engage young people and capture the theme of World Youth Day 2008 -- namely, that you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses."

Bishop Fisher remarked that when the World Youth Day organizers heard "Receive the Power," they knew that they had found their anthem: "To put it simply, 'Receive the Power' hit the mark."
Incidentally, Guy's father was a co-worker of the friend I visited in Adelaide. (He's of Malay Indian descent, if I recall correctly. Guy, not my friend.) Small world!

Priest shot in New Delhi

From Asia News:
The headmaster of a Catholic primary school on the southern outskirts of New Delhi is out of danger, following a gun attack which took place in his office yesterday afternoon. The police maintain that the motive behind the attack is attempted robbery, a theory the Archdiocese has excluded while voicing its concern over the lack of clarity in investigations.

Fr. George Philip, 35, is headmaster of St. Vincent Palloti Primary School, in Sangam Vihar. Witnesses present at the time of the attack report that two young men had arrived at the school late yesterday morning asking for the headmaster; one of the two had already presented himself at the school a day earlier, where he had asked for information about admission. Fr Philip had suggested he come the next morning together with his child. As the Priest was not in the building when they arrived the two returned later that afternoon; the offices were closet but the Priest welcomed them and inviting them to take a seat handed them the admission form to fill in. It was at this point that one of the two took out a handgun of Indian make, shooting at the Priest three times, injuring him on the left side of his chest. The two attackers then fled the scene as school staff ran to aid the headmaster and call police.
Another article gives an overview of recent violence against Christians in India.

Does one pray Vesper's twice ...

... when crossing the International Dateline to the east? Leave Sydney at 9:00 pm, arrive in Honolulu at 10:35 am, and then in Los Angeles at 9:20 pm the same day. I love it.

The luggage arrived with me too. I slept for a straight twelve hours -- from midnight to noon. Then shot the breeze with Corey (with whom I'm staying at UCLA) -- you know, philosophy, life, the universe, everything. The kinds of conversations that make it all so much more interesting.

And I'm still sleepy.

Red-eye to Newark tonight. Then back home in the morning. Good old South Carolina. Woo hoo! (Those in Cola ... anyone up for the standard routine when G gets back in town: Thai at 7pm. You know where!)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

You know you're back in the US ...

... when you have to take your shoes off at security. (All that insanity about liquids and gels in quart-sized ziploc bags, unfortunately, has been exported worldwide. Australia implemented those rules last month. Progress, one could say.)

And transfering from an international to a domestic flight in Honolulu is not easy. For one, there are no signs. I had to ask a Customs official where the recheck desk was -- in a nondescript, unmarked corner. Surprisingly, it's before the very last Customs check, where they take your form from you. Then one walks out of the international arrivals hall and looks in vain for a sign for Hawaiian Airlines domestic flights. Aha! There's a sign that says "US Mainland flights" ... it points to the right. One walks past a vast gaggle of Japanese tour groups chattering away to the end of the building in the 80 degree heat only to find out this is all US flights but Hawaiian Airlines. They're in another terminal. Trudge trudge trudge. I spot one of my fellow passengers from Sydney trudging along with his check-in luggage. He didn't find the transfer desk. Finally there's the domestic check-in terminal. He has to put his check-in bag through an agricultural inspection. Since I already checked my bag, I just went through security. Then, trudge trudge trudge back to the International/Mainland terminal, 'cause that's where my flight departs from. Two gates away from where I arrived. And another agriculture inspection as well. Even though I've not really come from Hawaii. And no agents at the gate. No customer service desk this side of security, where I can see if an emergency exit seat might be available for the next leg. "It's back where you checked-in" a lady with an official looking badge said (Not a Hawaiian employee though). "Ah, so I should just trudge back to Sydney?"

Surely there is an easier way to do connections? Especially for international travelers groggy from long flights and jetlag? Every other darn airport I've been through does it much more smoothly. At least put a few darn signs up.

Hawaiian just dropped several huge notches. Now just get me to the mainland, with my luggage on the same plane, and I'll be sure to avoid you in the future.

Farewell Australia!

So on the last day in Sydney (and Australia), after visiting the Mary Mackillop place, I walked across the Harbor Bridge from the North Shore to the Rocks (and visited the pylon lookout -- if you're ever doing this, this is a must!), had a quiet lunch at Circular Quay, and then paid a visit to the Australian Museum. Now to pack up and head to the airport! Hawaiian Airlines tonight to Honolulu, arriving in the morning today (hehe, don't you just love the International dateline) and then a connection Los Angeles.

The haunting sculpture at the ANZAC memorial in Hyde Park.

Sydney Harbor from the top of the pylon lookout at Harbor Bridge.

Blessed Mary Mackillop

[I just wrote a long post and the connection to the WiFi spot died as I tried to publish. Aargh!] I took the train to North Sydney this morning, on the North Shore across the harbor. A short walk uphill from the station on Mount Street is Mary Mackillop Place -- where the tomb of Australia's only saint-to-be is located, along with a museum, and the headquarters of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, the congregation she founded. She dedicated her life to educating the poor in the outback and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995.

I spent a lot of time in prayer at the Blessed's tomb, and then visited the museum (more on that when I get some time after I recover from the journey back to the US).

Part of the psalmody from today's Office of Readings was Psalm 39, very apt given what is written on the Blessed's tomb.
"LORD, let me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is! Behold, thou hast made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing in thy sight. Surely every man stands as a mere breath! ... "Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears! For I am thy passing guest, a sojourner, like all my fathers. Look away from me, that I may know gladness, before I depart and be no more!" (RSV)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

TV evangelist Jerry Falwell dies at 73 - Yahoo! News

TV evangelist Jerry Falwell dies at 73 - Yahoo! News

Into the great silence and evil

Just saw this in my inbox. (It's amazing what a difference having wi-fi in the room makes, vs. going to a cafe! Amazing too how long a time "oh I'll just check email" can morph into! :). It's a short but profound reflection by Fr. John Garvey in the latest Commonweal on the movie "Into the Great Silence" (and monasticism in general) compared to the massacres at Virginia Tech last month. Do go read it.
We are called into being from nothing, and the monks face this as a vocation. They have tried in the life they have chosen to eliminate the distractions that keep us from being what we are called to be. Not all of us are called to this way, but it does illuminate a central truth about life: Ultimately we are alone before God. The paradox is that this solitude is shared with all of humanity, and we are obliged to take up what it means to share it, through charity, through family, through community, and above all through prayer-which means a moment-to-moment acknowledgment of our absolute contingency, our dependence on the will of God who calls us to be.
(I still haven't seen "Great Silence." Anyone out there willing to pool dollars to purcahse the DVD? This ain't going to make it SC, I don't think ... )

Spotted around Sydney

Hmm. I wonder what this car is about.

Gorgeous fountain on Darlinghurst Rd.

... and, he manages to stand up! ... well almost!

Yeah, I eat at McDonalds. Love the way how the inside cover of this box tries to portray Mikey D's as good ol' homegrown Australian!

Tomorrow is the last day of this trip. I think I'll skip the Manly ferry -- there's only so much one can take of the gorgeous coastline (without actually getting one's feet wet ...). Most probably will walk across the Harbor Bridge and then visit the Australian Museum. Have to leave for the airport around 6:00pm for the 9:00pm departure to Honolulu.

Penultimate day down under

And what a packed day! I took one of those hop-on hop-off buses around the city, starting with a leisurely drive out to celebrated Bondi beach, through the posh eastern suburbs of Sydney (including the Swift mansion, now the Cardinal's pad.) and the absolutely stunning view of the harbor from the Rose Bay convent (no longer a nunnery though.)

The weather was awesome (well, it's been awesome the whole darn trip, except for a morning of rain in Cairns last week), the water a deep green-blue, and the sand great. Well, I didn't get on the sand, since I was grossly overdressed for the beach (loafers -- the only shoes I brought along, jeans and a long-sleeve shirt. The only two tees I have need laundering. It's the end of the trip y'all!). The water was thick with surfers and wannabes. Walked half-way on the coastal walk to Bronte beach (amazing colors, the intriguingly eroded sandstone cliffs and the blue of the Pacific. Or is the Tasman Sea?) and then got back on the bus back downtown.

In the afternoon, I ended up at the Queen Victoria building downtown -- designer shopping in a beautiful building, with some intriguing clocks that do a variety of entertaining things on the hour.

The wharf at Woolloomoloo (more shopping and restaurants and cafes.)

That's actually the shopping center at the Strand, off Pitt St. Elegant. Interesting how "elegant" for us tends to mean somewhere in the past, say, between 1850 and 1920.

Interesting clock. Right now it's showing a diorama depicting cricket.

The one below is a bit more sombre, recording a rather shameful chapter from this country's history. (Somehow, I cannot imagine something similar, say, concering slavery, or the removal of the Cherokee, in a US shopping center.)

Took a ride around the city's Monorail, over Darling Harbor, and then ended up wandering around the historic Rock's neighborhood (the site of the first European settlement) as the sun dropped below the horizon.

After dusk, I took a ferry across the harbor to North Sydney and back with these beautiful views of the skyline.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Some more Sydney photos

First glimpse of the Opera House, coming up on Macquarie St.

Come into my parlor ...

Limestone layers, Royal Botanical Gardens.

Yep, it's a long way anywhere from here!


Rainbow over the wing.

St. Mary's Cathedral

They're counting down!

A real city.

The flight in was 1h20m late (due to, of all things, thick fog that blanketed the capital of New South Wales in the morning. I suppose it's a consolation to know that it's not just Delhi that has to deal with fog related disruptions!). However, that meant that the rainbow below appeared over the left wing as we waited at the gate to push-back.

Unfortunately, the approach into Kingsford Smith was from the south -- the northern approach offers a great view over the Sydney Harbor, including the Opera House. Oh well.

By the time I'd checked into a little hotel in the Kings Cross area (the bohemian district, and also a bit seedy with all these adult bookstores and peep show thangs around. Backpacking hotels and cheap eateries abound!), it was past 11:00 am. I had lunch at a Thai place on Darlinghurst Rd. and then went to Hyde Park and St. Mary's Cathedral as Daily Mass was just letting out (WOW! What an amazing place!), before walking up to the harbor and the Opera House. Spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the Royal Botanical Gardens and seeing the fantastic colors as the sun set over the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House.

The Opera House is actually pretty amazing.

Enjoy the photos!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Spotted around Adelaide

We also ducked into the South Australian Museum -- free entry! -- I'm not normally a big fan of just wandering around museums, unless there is something on exhibit that I really want to see. We did spend some time in the aboriginal artifacts section -- this is the only time I really noticed the native population, they're so invisible otherwise. [Most of the folks one sees are white. Which is, of course, to be expected. There's some immigrant minorities -- especially in Melbourne, and I suspect more in Sydney. But, unlike the US, especially coming from the South, one hardly sees any black people. The most I noticed was up in Cairns, and that was hardly any.] And, I actually learned something completly new in the fossil section. Apparently, in the time since I was in school, they've added a whole new rung to the worldwide geological time scale: the Ediacaran. This to based on fossil evidence from the Flinders Range, right here in South Australia!

If it's Sunday, it must be ...

... yep, church. :)

No, I didn't attend Mass in the absolutely gorgeous Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier, but in a much humbler suburban parish. [One of those post-conciliar affairs, with bright glass windows, and the shape of a giant Hershey's kiss. Fairly full -- there's only one priest, shared with another parish, and they only have two Masses on the weekend. One on Saturday, one on Sunday. During the week, Mass is offered only once. The congregation was largley elderly, with a few young families. No choir. They played recorded music and the words were projected onto a large white screen behind the altar. Chairs, no kneelers, but everyone knelt. Decent homily, thankfully. According to my friend they do have several adults coming into the church during Easter, which is good, because the sense I got was "general decline."]

[After Mass we gathered for a "barbie" -- ie barbecue -- at the house of another college batchmate of mine, another geologist settled in the area. This is someone I haven't seen in 14 years, so it was really neat catching up with him and meeting his family and so on. Small darn world!]

In the afternoon we went into downtown Adelaide -- the first stop was the Cathedral which was bathed in this most amazingly beautiful light from the lowering sun -- all calm, liquidy ambers. It was simply gorgeous and utterly peaceful.

The Barossa Valley II

The Australian eucalyptus, with the wineyards at the Jacob's Creek winery.

Eucalyptus bark.

Sunset in the Barossa.

The Barossa Valley I

Not much time for a travelogue (this is my last night in Adelaide. I take the 6:20 am Jetstar flight to Sydney bright and early on the morrow ...), but I'll post some of the photos from yesterday's and today's wanderings. Yesterday was spent largely in the Barossa valley and I am truly a fan now of a) wine tasting and b) South Australian wines.

Ornamental grapevines in the little German village of Hahnsdorf (founded by Prussian Lutherans fleeing persecution in the early 19th century. Lots of churches around too. In general, or so I'm told, South Australia is a little more religiously observant than the rest of the land ...)

A curious Australian alpaca, cousin of the South American llama.

Wine barrels in the Chateau Tanunda.

Busy tasting wine ...

Vineyards, Chateau Tanunda.

Oh, add to the "Miscellanea" post below ...

"Entree" on a menu refers to the appetizers!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Miscellanea australis

The Southern Cross (which finds its way onto the flags of both New Zealand and Australia) really is pretty disctinctive, and easily spotted. And Orion is upside down.

No, the Coriolis effect in reality has very little noticeable effect on the direction of flow of water draining out of a toilet bowl. Pace the Simpsons.

Australian wine is fantastic. South Australian wine (I've spent the last couple of days traipsing between wineries and swirling the vintage around the palate) particularly so. I'm definitely a fan. Such a pity that I can only bring back 1 litre duty free.

Vegemite has to be tasted to be believed. There's various ways in which one can express one's outrage that people actually eat this sludge. Three letters, expressed with suitable intensity, suffice. UGH. And yes, they are actually proud of it down here, and seem to like it too! I only had one bite of a vegemite sandwich (no, it wasn't given to me by a smiling, muscular, six-foot-four man in Brussels), with a layer of avocado on top (at the suggestion of a friend of Mac's). I could barely swallow that one bit. UGH! A couple of nights ago in Adelaide, I asked a grocery check-out clerk whether he liked vegemite. His eyes actually lit up! "Oh yeah! Why, don't you?" he asked, giving me a quizzical look, as if I were from a different planet. I guess the US could, conceivably, fall in that category.

And there's no easier way to get Australian ladies to giggle than to be polite, in the good Southern way, and go, "Yes m'am" and "Thanks m'am."

Friday, May 11, 2007

Picturesque South Australia II

Hopping marsupials ahead!

If they're sick or injured, how can they call?

Permian sandstone at sunset. Halett Cove.

Halett Cove's rather pebbly beach (the pebbles are glacial erratics that have been released by erosion and deposited on the beach.)

Precambrian siltstones showing a neat plunging anticline.