Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A pink umbrella

and two people I love to pieces:

Something I'd like to say

Let me just tell the world something: coffee cups that are skinnier at the bottom than they are at the top are a very stupid invention. They might look all very stylish, but they are completely dysfunctional. They are unstable disasters waiting to happen.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Saturday night boogie

Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I went out dancing to Michael Jackson last night!

I can’t remember the last time I went out dancing on a Saturday night. It’s not something I did very often (maybe once or twice? – and maybe even then under duress) even when I was 18, so let me explain.

Earlier in the year my flatmate decided she was going to take singing lessons, so off she went to a singing teacher who’d been recommended to her from someone somewhere. Said singing teacher was involving all her students in a “concert” of sorts and asked my flatmate if she wanted to be in it. She decided to give it a go. So, each student had to pick a song from a set list, because the teacher decided that rather than using backing tracks they’d get a real live band to back them up this time, and the students could have a go at live stage singing. So, way back then my flatmate chose 'Don’t blame it on the Sunshine' by Michael Jackson.

As Providence would have it he died two days before the concert.

What this meant is that when my flatmate came out to sing, on the stage of the Petersham RSL auditorium, she filled the dance floor as just about everyone present got up to pay their tribute to the King of Pop. And a superb performance it was.

I am not the world’s greatest public dancer. Maybe it’s partly phobia because I grew about a foot in one year when I was around 15. Maybe it's something about the atmosphere of dancing joints – the darkened room lit-up in flashes by the pulsating disco balls, the relentless thumping noise of dance music – that comes over me like a big wet blanket and I’d rather be someplace else (say someplace where there is an unplugged guitar strumming softly in the background, the moon is rising over the ocean and I can hold a conversation with one of the people around me). But hey, I let my hair down, danced liked no one was watching and got into those moves for “sunshine”, “moonlight” and “boogie” (I like set moves – it means a few moments respite from having to make up my own funky "freestyle", a few seconds assurance that I might be close to doing what everybody else is doing).

Added to that, the band playing the music, “the frocks”, is a band of women who, err, punt from the Cambridge the end, to steal a line from Lost in Austen, when Amanda tells Bingley she “prefers women” (which originates in the fact that you can tell the difference (or used to be able to) between students from Cambridge and students from Oxford by which end of a punt they, um, punt from, with the Oxford end considered more “orthodox”). So, there were quite a lot of Cambridge punters amongst the audience, and there was a lot of, um, slightly unusual dancing going on.

And that, folks, is the story of how I came to be dancing to Michael Jackson in the Petersham RSL with half a room full of lesbians.

Friday, June 26, 2009

News flash!

I interrupt this blog for a news flash of an event of epidemic proportions:

My brother-in-law has swine flu!
At least we think so. He went to Melbourne for a few days with a group of guys from the Army, one of whom is now quite sick with confirmed swine flu, several others are moderately sick and awaiting test results, and my brother-in-law is not yet being tested because his (milder) symptoms don’t require treatment - but has been told that is most likely what he has. You could pray that he doesn’t give it to his two-year-old daughter or seven-month-old son, who might suffer the worse from it (he is currently in the dog-house - or maybe it's the pig-house - because he’s been told (by the doctor) to stay away from them).

For the good news, he is now a qualified flying instructor (helicopters) with the Army, which is no small feat, so congratulations to him!

For other news, my niece, who up until this point has stayed out of stuff she wasn't to have, found the blue food-colouring in the cupboard and ran off with it.

Poetry Friday - The passing of Arthur

Poetry Friday has made a comeback, and so for today I thought I would post a segment of Tennyson's narrative poem Idylls of the King, based on the legend of King Arthur. There is something I find incredibly stirring about this closing section called The Passing of Authur (the middle portion of the second stanza spurs me to prayer like few things do).

Then loudly cried the bold Sir Bedivere:
'Ah! my Lord Arthur, whither shall I go?
Where shall I hide my forehead and my eyes?
For now I see the true old times are dead,
When every morning brought a noble chance,
And every chance brought out a noble knight.
Such times have been not since the light that led
The holy Elders with the gift of myrrh.
But now the whole Round Table is dissolved
Which was an image of the mighty world,
And I, the last, go forth companionless,
And the days darken round me, and the years,
Among new men, strange faces, other minds.'

And slowly answered Arthur from the barge:
'The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?
I have lived my life, and that which I have done
May He within himself make pure! but thou,
If thou shouldst never see my face again,
Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.
But now farewell. I am going a long way
With these thou seest--if indeed I go
(For all my mind is clouded with a doubt)--
To the island-valley of Avilion;
Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies
Deep-meadowed, happy, fair with orchard lawns
And bowery hollows crowned with summer sea,
Where I will heal me of my grievous wound.'

So said he, and the barge with oar and sail
Moved from the brink, like some full-breasted swan
That, fluting a wild carol ere her death,
Ruffles her pure cold plume, and takes the flood
With swarthy webs. Long stood Sir Bedivere
Revolving many memories, till the hull
Looked one black dot against the verge of dawn,
And on the mere the wailing died away.

But when that moan had past for evermore,
The stillness of the dead world's winter dawn
Amazed him, and he groaned, 'The King is gone.'
And therewithal came on him the weird rhyme,
'From the great deep to the great deep he goes.'


Then from the dawn it seemed there came, but faint
As from beyond the limit of the world,
Like the last echo born of a great cry,
Sounds, as if some fair city were one voice
Around a king returning from his wars.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Picture from: kingarthurbooks.com

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What is "sexuality"?

I have essentially been making things up about what is sexuality and how it can/should be expressed, outside of the act of sex, in the comments on raunch culture over here, so if anyone has any thoughts to add, I'd love to hear them!

The new chihuahua-in-a-handbag

... is writing a book apparently. The post is a little harsh, but, curious ...

Monsoon alert

I finish posting up over at EQUIP book club this week, and so below is the post I have put up over there about what we have coming next. I am really looking forward to the month being a little different and giving us glimpses into other lives in other places - and how God is working in them:

Coming up here at the book club, starting next week, we will be reading through My Seventh Monsoon, by Naomi Reed. Contributing the posts we have the author herself, together with Rachael Connor, an Australian woman currently serving God with her husband and children in Vanuatu. It looks to be a fascinating month and it’s not too late to get the book and read along with us (you can click the image on the right side bar [over the bookclub blog] to purchase the book).

Monday, June 22, 2009

Raunch culture rip-off

For something that is perhaps more interesting than my health problems, I posted today on the EQUIP book club about raunch culture and the Christian response.

My day as a robot

I stayed at home today, the reason being that over the weekend I transformed into a robot.

What are blogs for if not to share the odd health problem, so mine is, basically, that I am an office-chair slouch. I had constructed this theory that because I have a slight scoliosis, or bend, in my spine (as do about 1 in 10 people, whether they know it or not) what happens is that over time my rib cage, it being attached to this slightly out-of-whack spine, gets itself slightly out-of-whack, until it reaches a point where I sleep funny or do something and then end up with something like a crick in my neck, only it’s not in my neck, and that occasionally I get costalchondritis, or inflammation around the ribs, from the rubbing ... and so I had reached the point of some kind of burning seize-up, and needed to take myself off to the physiotherapist.

Turns out that while all of that is true, basically I have also just been lazy in sitting on my chair. The physio said the usual thing about the human body not being designed to sit at a desk all day. I have known for some time that I, personally, am designed for sitting at a desk all day, so I am glad to know the rest of you are there with me.

I am now back to being a freely-moving human being, and not said robot, only that now my back is taped up, so that if I start that wretched slouch, or sitting back on some bone, the name of which I can’t remember how to spell, it "reminds" me (and is supposed to give some poor muscle, which never before got to switch "off", a break).

Emotional intelligence quandry

I did the emotional intelligence test on facebook over the weekend (I know, I know), and I did well, “remarkably” well in fact. I'm only telling you that because it gives me some credence for what I am going to say next, because if you question or criticise something after you’ve done badly at it, well that just looks like extreme emotional unintelligence – that is probably an instant EQ failure right there. But I do have this issue with Emotional Intelligence testing, and it is this: the gap between what you know and what you do.

See, first go around, I chose some answers, knowing full well that they were the “wrong” answer, because I thought that was a more truthful reflection of what I would do, how I would behave in that scenario. Then I did the test again and chose all the answers I knew were right, regardless of whether or not I ever responded that way, got the kind of mensa equivalent of EQ, and it said I’d either out Dr Phil’d Dr Phil or I was a big liar (can’t remember if it said cheat or liar) – let the reader decide. But does emotional intelligence come in knowing the right or most mature or relationally savvy way to behave, or in being able to execute it? Probably a mixture of both, but if you can never execute what you know then surely you have a failing somewhere. (I reckon I’ve got some sort of Christian homily or illustration in here somewhere, but I am just going to let it go for now.)

This is where I think the whole EQ testing idea, if we are going to elevate the importance of EQ over IQ, is fraught with problems (if I do an IQ test I choose the answer I think is right and that’s all there is to it) – it can seem more like a test of honesty, even humility or appropriate self-awareness than anything else. Here’s a few questions for you. Go on, be honest:

Your cousin (who has bad spending habits) asks to borrow $500 from you to prevent getting evicted. You have the money but don't think your cousin will pay you back quickly. You:

a) Say no and suggest a credit counseling service to your cousin
b) Feel guilty saying no so lend your cousin the money anyway

You find yourself bored at work and really hating your job, even though it pays great. You:

a) Figure out how you can talk to your boss about improving things
b) Spend more time surfing the web at work and chatting with your friends

When someone is telling you about themselves you:

a) Tend to let your mind wander
b) Listen intently

You're in the middle of a complicated romantic situation. You:

a) Find it easy to express all the things you are feeling
b) Are probably more than a little confused

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Shimmering beauty now Last Ride has come

One of my self-appointed roles on this blog is marketer of my friend, Glendyn Ivin’s, new feature film, Last Ride. Glendyn is the guy roaring at the sky in this photo back on the farm (which I took when I was about 16) and I have mentioned this film several times already.

I was walking past Better Read than Dead, a funky bookshop in trendy Newtown, the other day and there in the front window (amongst the cool penguin mugs!) was the book Last Ride by Denise Young, which the movie is based on, labeled as the “staff pick”, with Glendyn’s movie poster shot now on the front cover. Then I saw the movie poster at the front of Newtown Dendy cinema, "coming soon". Yesterday I picked up the real time arts magazine and came across this featured review of Last Ride, while waiting for a bus.

I’ve seen it twice already now, at the Adelaide and Sydney Film Festivals, but apparently ought to go again the weekend it opens in the box office, and so should you. If you and all your friends want to see a good film on the 2nd of July, and even if you don't, then go see this one (take note of the rating though).

And if you want to see something short and sweet, watch this little video of the young actor Tom Russell, taken behind the scenes during filming, which I nicked from over at the movie blog:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The morning I should have stayed home

It was a sad morning this morning. First, I stepped in dog poo while I was jogging (because I was going around four people coming the other way in a clump and not watching) but that is beside the point. Then, there was a car backing out and so parked across the footpath, which I tried to go around by jogging across some kind of paved area, which was uneven obviously because I tripped over. Apart from the obvious downsides to tripping over, I ripped a hole in my jogging leggings. I have worn these leggings jogging in winter for over ten years, because until this morning I thought they were made of some kind of indestructible fabric. I even used to jog through the snow from Huemoz to Panex and back, and through the woods around Holsby, in these leggings. It's the end of an era! Then it started raining, but that would have been OK if there wasn't a hole in my leggings.

On social Darwinism and the role of mothers

I got a little zoologically carried away over on the EQUIP book club today, and wrote a separate post in response to the social Darwinism and one aspect of feminism that is reared it's ugly head in this week's book chapter. I'd be interested in whether people think this makes any sense at all and communicates the point I was trying to make, or whether I have just gone off on some weird animal tangent or said something theologically tragic:

I have one my shelf a documentary that has won many awards and been translated into 27 different languages, called Faces in the Mob, which was filmed at my University Honours research site. Faces in the Mob is story of two eastern grey kangaroo joeys. One of these joeys has a very good mother, who comes from a long line of good mothers and a “family” that has consequently contributed greatly to the gene pool of the kangaroos in the valley. The other joey has a bad mother, who has lost all previous offspring as a result of her poor training, and thus contributed nothing to the next generation.

Eastern grey kangaroos invest about 18 months into each joey, toilet training them (yes, there is no doing scats inside the pouch), teaching them to obey signals to return to the pouch, sometimes immediately, which can otherwise be fatal if a dingo has been spotted, teaching them how to feed, making sure they don’t wander off and that they stay with the mob etc. Note the alertness of the mother kangaroo when her young is out of the pouch in this photo, which I took at the film location.

Sadly, in Faces in the Mob, this particular joey of the bad mother dies also, after getting left behind by the mob, lost and then attacked by a dingo (and I cry every time).

Having studied biology, I find it incomprehensible to conclude that females, of any species, which need to survive childbirth and contribute greatly to the raising of offspring, are outside of the evolutionary process (whether or not you believe in an evolutionary process just run with this argument for now). A species, at the very basic level, lives or dies on its ability to raise offspring. The absurdity of social Darwinism and the ideas of the feminists (see the quote on pp 76-77 from Germaine Greer, and also Simone de Beauvoir’s statement that “The fundamental fact that from the beginning of history … prevented [a woman] taking part in the shaping of the world was her enslavement to the generative function”, taken from The Essence of Feminism) arise only from the devaluing of this contribution. And it would seem to be only in very recent history that we have completely lost sight of the connection between mothering and the survival of children and continuation of humanity, between this very generative function and the shaping of the world.

In comparison to females, male eastern grey kangaroos fight their way to the top of the mob, and stay there as the breeding male for only as long as they can fight off all contenders, so they need to be large, muscular and skilled in fighting. To loosely translate the arguments of feminism and social Darwinism into the kangaroo world, it would be the equivalent of saying that female kangaroos missed the opportunity to develop their fighting skills because they were kept too busy honing their skills in raising offspring — and so were left out of the evolutionary contribution. Does that not present as ludicrous?

Note in the picture at right the very obvious difference in biology of males and female kangaroos. The species would not be nearly so efficient or successful without it. And nobody has ever been so absurd as to blame the smaller size and biological function of females on oppression by males (as Germaine Greer does, pg 76).

Obviously my illustration is going to fall over at points, because humans are made, specifically made male and female, in the image of God in a way that animals are not. And as Christians we most definitely do believe that an individual can contribute greatly to other individuals and to humanity, both now and for eternity, through means other than rearing their own biological children, and we acknowledge that women do possess skills and gifts not directly related to child-rearing, in the same way that men possess skills and gifts not directly related to the means by which they provide for their families, and I am thankful for the opportunities women have to study and have jobs and thankful for a society that steps in in cases of extreme neglect of children, but this illustration helps to illuminate the problems with (and indeed the ridiculousness of) the criteria feminists use to evaluate the contribution of women to society and humanity – don’t you think? It’s as Elisabeth Elliot said (see chapter two): "To subject femininity to the criteria of masculinity is as foolish as it would be to judge meat by the standards of potatoes."

Men and women are wonderfully and functionally different – it was always meant to be so!

Friday, June 12, 2009

You've got lies: Chick flicks

Beth Spraul, from Capital Hill Baptist Church, has written an article titled You’ve Got Lies: Chick Flicks and the World’s Approach to Men and Marriage. H/T Carolyn McCulley.

I haven't read it all yet, because it's an article and not a blog post, but it looks interesting. Here's an excerpt:

Unlike pornography, it is possible to engage in watching “chick flicks” and have it be a sin-free activity. With pornography, the very act of viewing it is always harmful and always a sin. However, before you assume you are able to watch chick-flicks and read romance novels without harmful effects to your expectations for men and marriage, consider the following lies often propagated by these movies, and think about them in comparison to what Scripture teaches ...

Weekend listening on feminism

I've posted this over at the EQUIP book club:

Relevant to what we have read this week, I found this talk, by Wayne Grudem, very interesting. It is called "Men and Women - Similarities and Differences" but is about so much more than that. It details some of the nuances of the gender language in the bible that I was unaware of and counteracts, very briefly at the end, some of the evangelical feminism arguments.

Carolyn McCulley also gave a talk at the recent Sovereign Grace Pastors Conference, titled The Pastor’s Wife and Culture: What Feminism Has Done to Femininity.

Art meets matter

I've discovered you can get all sorts of cool things after the fashion of Penguin books here, and these people let you create your own set of Penguin mugs - pity they are in the UK!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A better day for the Old Men

The picture in my header is one I took of the Old Men of Storr, on the Scottish Isle of Skye, in the fog (in case you hadn't noticed). I have two other nieces who are in Scotland right now and got to see the Old Men on a better day.

Here they are setting out on the walk.

On the ascent

Enjoying the view from the top

Widget bother

OK, so I couldn't work out how to make that widget smaller, so I will have to ditch it for now.

Two loves

This is my kind of coffee mug, from Peters of Kensington.

A new widget?

I just tried to add a poetry widget to this blog. Only problem is, I can't actually SEE my blog at work, so I have no idea whether it worked or not. I will have to wait till I get home to see if there is something weird happening on the side of my blog, or if there is a nice poetry widget.

Then I'll have to actually look at my real blog every week to see the poem - so might you, dear reader.

I'm rather excited though. This could be the beginning of new things. One of the days, when I get to it, I am going to give this blog a facelift.

Where the action is

I have posted again on the EQUIP book club today. Those posts are getting more thought and effort than anything over here, so go and read along over there. This week we have been reading about, and thus I have been posting on, submission, roles of men and women, divorce ... and all those easy topics (sarcasm alert!). You could help me out by leaving a comment. We'll even let boys comment, and you can go anonymous.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More of the bag

Here is picture of my new bag! And you can see some more here.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Drum roll for bag day

Today was the day for the big decision.

I chose the blue and brown stripes, bottom right. It's not actually quite the thing I would have expected myself to choose (for reasons I don't know, since I did choose it), but it had that certain something. I really like the blues, and I love that rich chocolate brown.

Thanks Ally! It's very cool.

Meanwhile I discovered these crazily priced crocheted children's clothes, and have decided that perhaps there is something in crochet after all ...

Saturday, June 06, 2009

God's providence in a single woman's life

I recorded my reflections on the book of Esther, given at EQUIP, from the viewpoint of a single woman, over here. Let me now point you to a talk I’ve just been listening to by Mark Dever, titled Ruth: God’s Providence in a Single Woman’s Life, from the NEXT conference 2004, based on the only other book of the bible named after a woman. I was encouraged!

Picture from http://www.amit.org.il

A family birthday

My sweet little Annie Rose (my niece) turns 2 today. She's such a cute little thing, stubbornly independent though she is.

This is a photo my sister sent me during the week of how she found her asleep.

Here are a couple of pictures I took in March 2009. She's very difficult to photograph, because she simply will not keep still or look at the camera.

In Nanny's backyard.

This was her new chair, and so she put up a fight for it when Chilli the dog decided she liked it too.

Here she is after going to church in a Pumpkin Patch pinafore I bought for $1 in Vinnies, which I later saw in the shops for $45 (spoils her rotten I do, with clothes that cost me $1!).

And this is after her first hair cut.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness

Something I posted over at EQUIP book club today:

If you are looking for something to read this weekend, that demonstrates the way society's views on feminism are shifting, Liberated and Unhappy is a very interesting opinion piece from the New York Times last week, written by Ross Douthat, commenting on The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness, a recent research paper by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers (29 pages long but quite fascinating - somehow I downloaded it for free, but it looks like you may now need to pay to access it unfortunately). Here is the second last paragraph of that paper:
Finally, the changes brought about through the women's movement may have decreased women's happiness. The increased opportunity to succeed in many dimensions may have led to an increased likelihood of believing that one's life is not measuring up. Similarly, women may now compare their lives to a broader group, including men, and find their lives more likely to come up short in this assessment. Or women may simply find the complexity and increased pressure in their modern lives to have come at the cost of happiness.
You can then read the comment on this article on the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood website, and also on Carolyn McCulley's own website.

Picture from www.flickr.com.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The day we went to Charters Towers

I am posting over at the EQUIP book club this month, so it's probably all going to be fillers over here.

I asked myself is it kind? is it true? is it necessary? (what are the other questions? - I feel like there is one more?) before posting this, and decided to go ahead anyway :).

Recently I unearthed some old photos from when Simone, Andrew, Michelle (who some readers will recognise) and myself were living in Townsville. We had a great little group of folk from our church, most of us being far from home and family, who used to spend a lot of time together on weekends and go exploring the North Queensland countryside.

So this is the day we decided to head for Charters Towers. I believe it was February 1998. We all piled into Michelle's nice company car and set off to see what we could find.

When we got to Charters Towers we had no idea where to go, so we did what you do when you get to country towns and have no idea where to go and headed for central park. Once we got to central park we headed for what looked like the feature of central park, the gazebo. And then what is there to do in the gazebo in the central park of a country town but re-enact The Sound of Music.

So, here is Simone and Andrew, doing just that:

I don't know what Michelle and I were up to - just having our go at posing in the gazebo by the look of it.

The only thing more fun was this.

Here they all are, in high fashion. The girl on the left is a backpacker from New Zealand who came on a field trip with me, who I thought was never going to leave.

And just to prove that we were in fact in Charters Towers, here is what it looks like downtown and from some vantage point or other.