Friday, April 30, 2010

On commmenting on blogs

Meredith left a comment on this post about making an effort to comment on blogs - and I am with her on that. Though when I read people writing about how blogging means being part of a community and functions as a social media and so forth I do rather sigh. The reason being, I am rather out of the loop on all that because I simply can't comment on blogs from work (most things that remotely resemble a blog are blocked - but then occasionally they work) so I just read them in google reader. What this means is that to comment I would have to revisit blogs at home. And a lot of blog posts would be worth doing that for, but the problem is that I don't really want to devote that much of my life to blogs, and I mostly refrain from reading them at home. So I just accept that I am out of that loop, and as a consequence won't get as many comments here.

I do, however, aim to respond to comments on my blog at least, because I figure that if other readers are like me, if you leave a comment on a blog and get no response/acknowledgment from the blog author, you're unlikely to leave another one (or maybe that is just me - but I don't know what "no response" means - don't like your comment? don't wish to encourage you to read this blog? it's not worth a response? this blog is above the likes of you? too cool for you? or something else ... call me human but I like a response when I have contacted another human). So I was quite chuffed when I worked out how to do this at work, even if I am sneaky. See despite the fact that I can't actually access my own blog, I can get into the blogger dashboard. Clicking on comments in there gets me nowhere, but I can go into the actual edit post screen, copy the URL like this:

into another tab, turn it into this:
(by adding an s and changing "post-edit" to "comment")

and voila, it works. But I am not always super quick at getting to that, because I can't bounce from an email.

So, anyway, that is my blog commenting explanation/justification to the blogosphere.

Surprised by Grief

And somewhat related to the post below, Jennie has written at the Sola Panel today on Surprised by Grief.

The superiority of puddings to speech

Jennie and I have a mutual appreciation of George Eliot (and Jennie is one of those lovely people I got to know a little better through the EQUIP book club, which is how I discovered this shared love). Here's why (snitched from Jennie's post here):

I suppose one reason why we are seldom able to comfort our neighbours with our words is that our goodwill gets adulterated, in spite of ourselves, before it can pass our lips. We can send black puddings and pettitoes without giving them a flavour of our own egoism: but language is a stream that is is almost sure to smack of a mingled soil. There was a fair proportion of kindness in Raveloe; but it was often of a beery and bungling sort ...
From Chapter 10, Silas Marner by George Eliot.

(Note: People who visit this actual blog may have noticed that the other day I put up labels on the side. When I first started blogging there was no such thing as labels, then I didn't use them for a while, and then it was a tedious business to go back and add them. But by adding a few here and there I eventually finished it. It seems a bit pretentious really, as though here is a reference collection of something, but in this case you can find other quotes from George Eliot. Some of my labels are a bit random, not overly consistent and need refinining, and it would seem to defeat the purpose to actually have too many, but at least now each post has one or two and I can rework them later.)

The reason for that smile?

Nathan has put up a post featuring Mario Brothers in various shades of toast. I think I have one better - Da Vinci in coffee. 3,604 cups of coffee were made into a giant Mona Lisa right here in Sydney. The 3,604 cups of coffee were each filled with different amounts of milk to create the different shades.

(I received these pictures via email some time ago never got around to posting them, but I never did see this elsewhere in blog world and Nathan has reminded and inspired me - and sort of granted permission to post a little more nothing. Perhaps this shall be art appreciation day.)

The forgotten ones

From here on Etsy (there are some very strange things on Etsy, and I now get an email every day which I might have to unsubscribe myself from, in which I saw this crafter, but this I like).

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Page CXVI of CS Lewis

You can now download the second album of modernised hymns from Page CXVI, for the cost of $9.99 USD. They are also offering the first album as a free download this week. I know a lot of readers in the blog circles I frequent downloaded that album the first time around, but if you didn't then it's worth a listen. (You can also listen to a sample of the second album online.)

I don't recall reading where the name Page CXVI came from the first time around, but I have read it just now on their website. It's a reference to page 116 of The Magician's Nephew, and is classic CS Lewis, with a hint of Sehnsucht, writing about how Aslan began to sing Narnia into creation:
In the darkness something was happening at last. A voice had begun to sing. It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide from what direction is was coming. Sometimes it seemed to come from all directions at once. Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth beneath them. Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself. There were no words. There was hardly even a tune. But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard. It was so beautiful he could hardly bear it.

Signing off from the EQUIP book club

I put up the last post I'll be posting over at the EQUIP book club today. All good things must come to an end - well, sometimes - and I decided that it was time for me to leave that one. If you're interested in reasons they are basically these:

1) At this point in my life there is no reason for me to be doing "ministry" from home, involving being by myself behind a computer (especially after sitting at one all day at work). I think this is suitable and effective for women in other phases of life, but for me right now I'd rather be doing things in, and giving time to, live contact with people. (I know I have this blog, but that is much more ad hoc, I don't consider it a "ministry", and if for any reason I can't post here it doesn't matter.)

2) Similar to above: I know ministry is not about reward, but it's a strange thing in the absence of response (as in, you can't even see who's receiving it). While we have a lot of subscribers by email to the book club, women are notoriously bad at commenting on blogs, so it's difficult to determine the effectiveness of the project. That's not necessarily a problem (and I know you readers are out there!), but for me, in the absence of any sort of feedback or evidence of benefit (and the presence of other things making more noise), it tended to be something that therefore I didn't invest too much into - because it just didn't stay in the forefront of my mind and register as something that required/demanded it. To go forward the project needs some more promotion and marketing - something that I wasn't doing and am probably not the person to be doing (and there were limits to my "ownership" of it).

3) The process of loading up posts that other people write and send you is basically an organisational/administrative one. I'm happy to admit that administration is not my "gift" (and I like all those personality tests that tell me it's not my "thing"!). I can be organised about my own stuff and what I have to be organised about at work, but I don't relish extra administrative work. And because I was laid back and flexible about when contributors needed to send me posts (instead of sticking hard to the schedule!) I'd therefore find myself on standby waiting for an email to load up at the last minute - which wasn't such a great modus operandi because I don't really have the flexibility to fiddle with websites any time I please.

4) The actual writing of posts is something I have more interest in, but there again, with limited time to write anything outside of work and life, I don't especially want to use that time to write in-depth reviews of books other people have written (though I haven't ruled that out).

And so I take a bow and hand it over. It's been a very worthwhile thing to do that's given me much food for thought and growth, and not least for the fact that I met some lovely people and made new friends in the process.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

DVDs for tweens

I had my first Justin Bieber experience yesterday. A teenage girl sat behind me on the bus and played her stereo out-loud, then sang along loudly (so much for reading my book). And I thought she was singing along to a girl. That was until I got home and my flatmate googled Justin Bieber, and that was the song - I know because I listened to it for the entire bus ride. Further, my brother-in-law put a video on facebook of my nieces singing the Jonas Brothers recently, and I had no idea who they were either.

That brings me to my current dilemma. My niece turns 11 soon. Goodness! And my sister told me she was getting a portable DVD for her birthday (the stuff kids get for presents these days ...), largely I think for car trips now that they live in Victoria. I wasn’t fussed on buying a DVD, but then I thought, well she will be watching DVDs on her new gadget anyway, so perhaps I should get something good. But what, what, what?

I didn’t want something primarily about relationships (especially not obssessive unhealthy ones), because she’s not there yet, and I thought something confined to human beings could be good (IMHO the world of entertainment has a few too many vampires in it at present). Then I had a brilliant idea: Press Gang.

Lots of people haven’t heard of the show here (though my younger sister seems to think it's on on Saturday mornings, possibly on a channel we don't get), but it has had a cult-like following in the past in the UK. Press Gang was a British children’s TV show in the late 80s and early 90s (and hopefully my niece will think it’s retro cool and not daggy!) about a children's newspaper produced by school children.  It was actually previous flatmates watching the show who introduced me, because there is enough in the story and characters for adults as well. Here is some of the critical acclaim for the series from Wikipedia:
Critical reaction was good, the show being particularly praised for the high quality and sophistication of the writing. The first episode was highly rated by The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and the Times Educational Supplement. In his emphatic review, Paul Cornell writes that:
Press Gang has proved to be a series that can transport you back to how you felt as a teenager, sharper than the world but with as much angst as acute wit ... Never again can a show get away with talking down to children or writing sloppily for them. Press Gang, possibly the best show in the world.
Time Out said that "this is quality entertainment: the kids are sharp, the scripts are clever and the jokes are good." The BBC's William Gallagher called it "pretty flawless." Others have also commented upon how "the show is renowned ... for doing something kid television at the time didn't do (and, arguably, still doesn't): it refused to treat its audience like children." Comedian Richard Herring recalls watching the show as a recent graduate, commenting that it "was subtle, sophisticated and much too good for kids." According to Moffat, "Press Gang had gone over very, very well in the industry and I was being touted and romanced all the time." Press Gang's complicated plots and structure would become a hallmark of Moffat's work, such as Joking Apart and Coupling.

The series received a Royal Television Society award and a BAFTA in 1991 for "Best Children's Programme (Entertainment/Drama)". It was also nominated for two Writers' Guild of Great Britain awards, one Prix Jeunesse and the 1992 BAFTA for "Best Children's Programme (Fiction)". Julia Sawalha won the Royal Television Society Television Award for "Best Actor - Female" in 1993.

So hopefully this works. But are there any other suggestions out there for reasonable DVDs for tween girls?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Whimsical Christian

Over the weekend I had a lovely time catching up with a friend for tea, cake, a bit of crochet on my part and quilting on hers and a little literary theology. I sat in a lovely stately and embracing arm chair by the window, my feet on an ottoman, my tea and lemon-syrup cake in hand, while my friend read aloud from Dorothy Sayers's The Whimsical Christian. Needless to say my interest was piqued, by the title if nothing else (this blog has been called whimsical often enough for me to deduce that whatever whimsy is it occasionally shows itself here), and it contains a collection of essays written to Christians in a post-Christian world, including the amusing, satirical "catechism", which my friend read.

I haven't read a lot of Sayers, save her translation of Dante's Inferno, which I read while doing a Christianity in the Great Books course with Greg Clarke when he was still over at New College. I think I shall add it to my burgeoning book list. (I still haven't read Marilynne Robinson's essay collection The Death of Adam, so perhaps I shall discipline myself to read that first, or at least a few of them, before I'm even allowed to look for the other - it's the only way to control book acquisitions!).

I'm Here

Sort of, today. But if you haven't watched the short film I'm Here by Spike Jonze, then you should. H/T Dave.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Through the bookcase

Ooh, I like it. How fun! And why waste space with boring old doors when they could hold books!

Through that bookcase is a secret bathroom!

Images taken from Apartment Therapy website.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

CS Lewis on Sexual Morality #2

I've mentioned already that when you read a CS Lewis essay, you never really know what you're going to get along the way. I read one the other day called Lilies that Fester (taken from Shakespeare's sonnet featuring the line "Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds" no doubt) which contained a great railing against the misuse of the term culture (and those who like to consider themselves cultured), which was quite amusing. Then yesterday I read one called We Have No 'Right to Happiness', which, as it turns out, is chiefly about sexual/romantic happiness, which is indeed usually what people mean when they use the phrase. I've read at least some of this quote before (I think Elizabeth Elliot references it in Passion and Purity for one) and since I've posted on CS Lewis and sexual morality once before here, I thought I'd post this in addition. This essay of which this is an extract is actually the last thing he wrote before his death, and it appeared shortly afterwards in the The Saturday Evening Post, 21-28 December 1963.
When I was a youngster, all the progressive people were saying, 'Why all this prudery? Let us treat sex just as we treat all our other impulses.' I was simple-minded enough to believe they meant what they said. I have since discovered that they meant exactly the opposite. They meant that sex was to be treated as no other impulse in our nature has ever been treated by civilised people. All the others, we admit, have to be bridled. Absolute obedience to your instinct for self-preservation is what we call cowardice; to your acquisitive impulse, avarice. Even sleep must be resisted if you're a sentry. But every unkindness and breach of faith seems to be condoned provided that the object aimed at is 'four bare legs in a bed'.

It is like having a morality in which stealing fruit is considered wrong — unless you steal nectarines.

And if you protest against this view you are usually met with chatter about the legitimacy and beauty and sanctity of 'sex' and accused of harboring some Puritan prejudice against it as something disreputable or shameful. I deny the charge. Foam-born Venus ... golden Aphrodite ... Our Lady of Cyprus ... I never breathed a word against you. If I object to boys who steal my nectarines, must I be supposed to disapprove of nectarines in general? Or even of boys in general? It might, you know, be stealing that I disapproved of.

The real situation is skillfully concealed by saying that the question of Mr. A.'s 'right' to desert his wife is one of 'sexual morality'. Robbing an orchard is not an offense against some special morality called 'fruit morality'. It is an offense against honesty. Mr. A.'s action is an offense against good faith (to solemn promises), against gratitude (toward one to whom he was deeply indebted) and against common humanity.

Our sexual impulses are thus being put in a position of preposterous privilege. The sexual motive is taken to condone all sorts of behavior which, if it had any other end in view, would be condemned as merciless, treacherous and unjust.

Now though I see no good reason for giving sex this privilege, I think I see a strong cause. It is this.

It is part of the nature of a strong erotic passion — as distinct from a transient fit of appetite — that it makes more towering promises than any other emotion. No doubt all our desires make promises, but not so impressively. To be in love involves the almost irresistible conviction that one will go on being in love until one dies, and that possession of the beloved will confer, not merely frequent ecstasies, but settled, fruitful, deep-rooted, lifelong happiness. Hence all seems to be at stake. If we miss this chance we shall have lived in vain. At the very thought of such doom we sink into fathomless depths of self-pity.

Unfortunately these promises are found often to be quite untrue. Every experienced adult knows this to be so as regards all erotic passions (except the one he himself is feeling at the moment). We discount the world-without-end pretensions of our friends' amours easily enough. We know that such things sometimes last — and sometimes don't. And when they do last, this is not because they promised at the outset to do so. When two people achieve lasting happiness, this is not solely because they are great lovers but because they are also — I must put it crudely — good people; controlled, loyal, fair-minded, mutually adaptable people.

If we establish a 'right to (sexual) happiness' which supersedes all the ordinary rules of behavior, we do so not because of what our passion shows itself to be in experience but because of what it professes to be while we are in the grip of it. Hence, while the bad behavior is real and works miseries and degradations, the happiness which was the object of the behavior turns out again and again to be illusory. Everyone (except Mr. A. and Mrs. B.) knows that Mr. A. in a year or so may have the same reason for deserting his new wife as for deserting his old. He will feel again that all is at stake. He will see himself again as the great lover, and his pity for himself will exclude all pity for the woman.

Two further points remain.

One is this. A society in which conjugal infidelity is tolerated must always be in the long run a society adverse to women. Women, whatever a few male songs and satires may say to the contrary, are more naturally monogamous than men: it is a biological necessity. Where promiscuity prevails, they will therefore always be more often the victims than the culprits. Also, domestic happiness is more necessary to them than to us. And the quality by which they most easily hold a man, their beauty, decreases every year after they have come to maturity, but this does not happen to those qualities of personality — women don't really care twopence about our looks — by which we hold women. Thus in the ruthless war of promiscuity women are at a double disadvantage. They play for higher stakes and are also more likely to lose. I have no sympathy with moralists who frown at the increasing crudity of female provocativeness. These signs of desperate competition fill me with pity.

Secondly, though the 'right to happiness' is chiefly claimed for the sexual impulse, it seems to me impossible that the matter should stay there. The fatal principle, once allowed in that department, must sooner or later seep through our whole lives. We thus advance toward a state of society in which not only each man but every impulse in each man claims carte blanche. And then, though our technological skill may help us survive a little longer, our civilisation will have died at heart, and will — one dare not even add 'unfortunately' — be swept away.

Poetry Day - Relapse

This is not the most heartening of poems. But I like it just because it’s unashameably human – and hey, to be forewarned is to be forearmed.

CS Lewis

Out of the wound we pluck
The shrapnel. Thorns we squeeze
Out of the hand. Even poison forth we suck,
And after pain have ease.

But images that grow
Within the soul have life
Like cancer and, often cut, live on below
The deepest of the knife,

Waiting their time to shoot
At some defenceless hour
Their poison, unimpaired, at the heart’s root,
And, like a golden shower,

Unanswerably sweet,
Bright with returning guilt,
Fatally in a moment’s time defeat
Our brazen towers long-built;

And all our former pain
And all our surgeon’s care
Is lost, and all the unbearable (in vain
Borne once) is still to bear.

Picture from Photo Dictionary.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Around the papers

Ben has already posted on Miranda Devine's article on marriage in The Sydney Morning Herald today, with it's curious closing quote.

Some of the comments in the wake of Iceland's volcano have also been interesting of late. Here are two:
Every so often the earth chooses to remind us that we really aren't in control of this planet.

The volcanic eruption in Iceland, which began on Wednesday, is just such a reminder.

As ash spews out across northern Europe, grounding all flights across Scandinavia and Britain, we begin to realise how powerless we humans are.
From this article.
And while we all like to think of ourselves as vital, the truth is life will go on at home – or on holidays – without us. All those people on TV, frantically rushing from departure gate to train station to hire car vendor, remind me of a quote from a novel I once read (Margaret Atwood, perhaps?): “People will do anything rather than admit their lives have no meaning.” It turns out they’re even willing to sleep in airports.

Ultimately what this all comes down to is control or, more specifically, human beings’ craving for it. We conquered Mother Nature years ago, and don’t really like the concept of her inconveniencing us. Even now, economists are rushing to put a figure on the losses caused by the disruption, as if quantifying it somehow helps reassert our authority.
From this article.

Meat markets

I've got nothing today. But here's one for housekeeping. This week I went to a meat warehouse, which is really very convenient to my daily travels, for the first time ever. I don't know why I've never been in there before - probably because I usually only cook for myself (so I don't bother hunting all over town for bargains), have the use of one shelf out of two in the freezer at the top of our fridge so I can't really stock up on food, and I'd occasionally walk past and think 'I don't want four kilos of lean mince for $24'. But the other day I was pleasantly surprised that not everything came in packs for ten people.

Then the next night my flatmate had the TV on and there was something on (think it was A Current Affair) about the mark-up on meat in the major supermarkets eg, a farmer gets $800 for a cow, and to buy all the cuts from one cow cost about $3100 in Woolworths and $3400 in Coles. These supermarkets came back with an explanation of how a steak that costs them $1.50 ends up costing customers $10, and it's primarily due to overheads. The program went on to say that consumers should shop at meat warehouses/wholesalers, not only because it's cheaper for you, but also because the farmers (who claim they haven't seen a price rise for beef since the 1950s from the supermarkets) get a higher price from them, in the absence of forward enterprise agreements and so on. (This is all providing you can believe every you hear on TV.) As I watched I felt quite pleased with myself, because I'd been to warehouse for the first time in my life the day before. Hah!

Last year I was told to eat more red meat, in the face of low iron levels, so I think I am going to pop in more often.

That's all.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A picture of guilt

This is my (adorable) niece and nephew, after spreading their breakfast everywhere.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I've had to put up with it, so therefore you can too

Thinking about this:
Now, the self can be regarded in two ways. On the one hand, it is God's creation, an occasion of love and rejoicing; now, indeed, in hateful condition, but to be pitied and healed. On the other hand, it is that one self of all others which is called I and me, and which on that ground puts forward an irrational claim to preference. This claim is to be not only hated, but simply killed; 'never', as George MacDonal says, 'to be allowed a moment's respite from eternal death'. The Christian must wage endless war against the clamour of the ego as ego: but he loves and approves selves as such, though not their sins. The very self-love which he has to reject is to him a specimen of how he ought to feel to all selves; and he may hope that when he has truly learned (which will hardly be in this life) to love his neighbour as himself, he may then be able to love himself as his neighbour: that is, with charity instead of partiality. The other kind of self-hatred, on the contrary, hates selves as such. It begins by accepting the special value of the self called me, then, wounded in its pride to find that such a darling object should be so disappointing, it seeks revenge, first upon that self, then on all. Deeply egoistic, but now with an inverted egoism, it uses the revealing argument, 'I don't spare myself' - with the implication 'then a fortiori I need not spare others' - and becomes like the centurion Tacitus, immitior quia toleraverat.*
'More relentless because he had endured (it himself).' Annals, Book 1, section 10, line 14.

Two Ways With The Self
CS Lewis

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Poetry Day - When soul and body feed

On a Theme from Nicolas of Cusa
(De Docta Ignorantia, III. ix.)

When soul and body feed, one sees
Their differing physiologies.
Firmness of apple, fluted shape
Of celery, or tight-skinned grape
I grind and mangle when I eat,
Then in dark, salt, internal heat,
Annihilate their natures by
The very act that makes them I.

But when the soul partakes of good
Or truth, which are her savoury food,
By some far subtler chemistry
It is not they that change, but she,
Who feels them enter with the state
Of conquerors her opened gate,
Or, mirror-like, digests their ray
By turning luminous as they.

CS Lewis
Poems (1964)

Picture from: image/84827706

Friday, April 16, 2010

My backyard

I bought myself a backyard recently, from Ben. It came in the mail today. I like original artworks, especially oils with their nice texture. And I like original artworks done by friends. And I like this particular painting by a friend.

For some reason it reminds me of Orange (as in the town in Western NSW). I don't even know why I would be reminded of Orange, since we moved from there when I was three years old and didn't visit often, but I am. Perhaps it just has the look of a rural town in a colder climate (but it was painted in Enfield, Sydney, so even that makes no sense). Or maybe it just reminds me of houses I knew as a child that had back yards.

Nothing much

I don't seem to have much to say this week, if you haven't noticed. I feel like I've been catching up ever since Easter, and tired. Can I blame daylight saving's end for a kind of jetlag? Probably not. I've also been beavering away at, or perhaps mildly obssessed with, the first crochet rug. I'm 107 squares down, with 19 to go, but have been working smallest to biggest so have the bigger ones left. I'm not very good at sitting still and doing nothing, so I think one of the reasons I like crochet is because it's productive enough that I can let myself sit there and do it, but brainless enough (especially blanket crochet) that I find it really relaxing. But then every so often I have to tell myself 'that's enough crochet Ali - go and read/write something or do something else'. I'm partly driven by the fact that it is Annie's birthday on the 6th June, and I figure if I am going to make this I might as well make it for her birthday.

Also, instead of reading the pile of more hefty books I have stacked about that might be thought-provoking, I have been spending time reading The Guernsey Literature and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows. I'm a few pages from the end and have loved it! Nicole reviewed it on her blog once (which I can't access just now) and I agree with her (one) criticism that some of the perceptions in it seem all a little too post-modern for the time, but it really is a delightful story of a group of characters living on Guernsey Island during and after the German occupation of WWII. It's a lovely read for something that's light-hearted and humourous (I've laughed outloud on the bus, over a parrot called Zenobia) without being trashy.

Books v Clothes

So I said clothes were not my thing, in the way that books are my thing. Lastnight is an example of what this looks like. I'd walked to the halfway point where I normally get on a bus on the way home, and there was no bus coming and the local Vinnies was having a 50% off sale, so I ducked in. I found this really great pair of black Tommy Hillfinger pants, made out of a nice fabric with a bit of a sheen on it and looking like they'd hardly been worn. Perfect, because I was after some more pants for work. They were $10, which meant they came down to $5 (just incase you're hard up in the maths department). Absolute bargain! The only problem was that they are too big - but hey, they have belt tabs on them, so I figured that would do for keeping them on. The lady at the counter actually looked at the pants size, looked at me, and said "did you try these on?". And yes I did, and I think I'll get away with it. (They are only one size too big, and I reckon TH is a little on the small side in the sizing area, because I have one of their jumpers, which is meant to be fitted but still it's an "L", and I don't normally do "L" clothes either.)

Then I got home and I had an email from the Book Depository telling me that a book I tagged "notify me" if it comes in stock was still not in stock. They will email you every 60 days if you tick this option. Bother. It didn't look like it was ever going to be either. But they included a link to Abe Books, and oh, oh, they actually had an old copy! - it was just expensive. So I ummed and arrghed and interrupted my life to search all over the internet in the 'out-of-print' books places to see if it was anywhere else. Not so, so I eventually bought it. Just as well my pants were only $5, because it all evens out - yes?

(This is the book. CS Lewis's essay collection on faith and christianity is all over the place, but not the collection on literature and philosophy. Odd. If you were around last year and since you'd know that Lewis is my current area of interest. Every now and then I feel like I should clarify that I don't sign off on everything he says (I think I read critically and I've linked it before but John Piper discusses some of this here) but that doesn't mean I don't read anything he says. I think he had a way of reaching people, and a people he reached in that way, that was quite unique. He was a Professor of English, not Theology, who used his position (and the intelligence it took to get it) well to argue the case for God (and incidentally I think John Lennox, current Professor of Maths at Oxford, is doing the same thing).

Oh, and at least I didn't buy the cool Marcs jeans I tried on as well, because they were actually too short. I will do roomy work pants, but not jeans that make me look like Steve Urkel.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What women really want #2

Nicole has put up a little post in response to the post by Wendy that I linked to yesterday, and you should go and read her comments. I was shooting from the mouth yesterday without doing any research (and I took down most of my post last night, because I thought it was a bit of spontaneous over-sharing that I didn’t really want to leave on the world wide web) and I will have to look into this more. For me, Wendy’s points of application rang very true, but that is probably doing things backwards. And I do agree with Soph’s comment on my post below that I think a woman’s fundamental longing is to be loved (and not to control/dominate).

Perhaps the tension there is then between the pre-fall and post-fall way of things. That is, it would seem to me that women have an innate longing for love (and protection and care etc), in the same way men have an innate longing for respect, that I assume is part of the pre-fall design of the sexes (though that isn't in Genesis, it's more in places like Ephesians 5). After the curse women may then have a perverse tendency to want to usurp and control, if that interpretation is correct, but I wonder if the former is still deeper (and also affected by the fall), such that often the real and most fundamental problem in relationships lies there, rather than in the latter; ie, it may be playing out that women are after control, but underneath that is actually driven by some perception about love (or protection/provision), such that what we need to do is work harder to connect the two. But I am just wondering outloud without looking into it ...

A belated and forgotten birthday

It would have been my Dad's birthday on the 5th of April - or maybe it still is his birthday - how do you put that when a person is dead? This year I quite forgot it on the day, which seems a little sad to me, but I have no living memory of it occurring. He would have been 59, which is more than twice as old as he lived to be.

I have some old photos of him at work, and since I now I have a scanner, here they are. I don't know what is going on with that weird forward-combing look - he wasn't going bald any time soon. But perhaps that was just the glorious 70's. This is how television used to be done.

He is the benefactor of my blonde curly hair, the height and some of that jaw line, but other than that I think I have my mother's face and appearance.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What women really want

Yesterday Wendy put up this very interesting post, which is a good extension in some ways to yesterday's ramble. Personally, I think she is right, and right in saying that you are missing the real problem if you say otherwise (but see the interesting comments on what it means that Adam would "rule over" Eve).

Monday, April 12, 2010

On being noticed

I've already mentioned that last week we had a lot of people come along to Overcomers Outreach. One of those attending was a minister and speaker whose name many would know (I'll call him Rev X) who came along, not because he is in recovery himself, but because he wants to start a similar program in his own church.

What happens earlier in the evening at these meetings we go around the room and people introduce themselves while Penny, my friend who runs the evening, writes down a list of names and a few notes. Last week, because we'd squeezed people in and some had arrived late this list ended up all out of order, instead of just going smoothly around the room.

Then later in the evening Penny comes back to this list and we go around the room gathering prayer points from each person - a petition point and a praise point. I usually get skipped for this part, because I am there as a "supporter" and don't need to take up time, especially on a night like last week. So, Penny went around noting the prayer points, jumping here and there as she went through her disordered list. She was just about to hand over to Chris Allen, the minister from the Healing Service who actually does the praying most nights, when suddenly Rev X (who'd been sitting there looking like he was exhausted, which would hardly have been surprising) half raises his hand and interrupts, then turns and looks over at me and says "did you get a prayer point?". To this Penny laughed and said "Alison is a friend of mine who's here to support me and so we've just skipped her tonight".

Later I chatted briefly to Penny in the after-meeting hum and she says "wasn't Rev X great!" and we had a chuckle. But I was thinking to myself 'yes, I'm going to like that man forever, and probably think highly of him too, for that' - all because he noticed that I'd been skipped for a prayer point, when I wasn't even expecting to get one. And even as I thought it the next thought was, it's funny how I feel so heartened and encouraged just by the fact that some random person, who I don't even know, noticed that I'd been overlooked (as he saw it), and acknowledged that (I'm sure people sometimes notice things, but they don't let you know that they notice, so it's lost on you). And I reminded myself that God always notices, and so how much more should I feel encouraged by the fact that the creator of the universe notices every little time I am overlooked - and so like him for it, and be grateful too! (as later in the evening I went to say thanks to Rev X).

Up at Katoombe Easter Convention, Stephen Um was giving an illustration in one his talks (it's near the end that link) from a Hollywood movie. He was all very humorous and cagey in how he went about it, putting off for as long as possible any of us guessing the movie, because we finally had enough information to know that it was Richard Gere and whoever else in Shall we Dance? (I've never seen that version of the movie, but have seen the Japanese original and that's quite nice). Along the way he made the point that you can almost always find something redemptive in films (and I admired his generosity of spirit for that - we can be all too clever at spotting what's wrong with everything).

In this particular film, as many of you will know, a fellow is bored with his life and every night on his train ride home from his boring job he looks in the window of a dance studio. One day he decides he is going to learn to dance, to surprise his wife and spice up his life, so he starts taking lessons in secret. His wife begins to notice how much later he is coming home from work and that his behaviour has altered so she hires a private investigator. Eventually the investigator comes to the wife and says "he's not having an affair, he's just learning how to dance", and then he asks the wife "what's so good about marriage anyway?". And her answer is what Stephen Um says was the redemptive moment of this movie. I didn't get it all down (and haven't downloaded the talk or watched the movie, but perhaps I will), but what she said was like this: "We need a witness to our lives ... In marriage we promise to care about everything ... Your life will not go unwitnessed."

Maybe that has a note of sadness in it for single people, because the plain reality is that no-one on this earth is going to care about the details of your life in the way a spouse does (which is what I was acknowledging near the end of this poem). But GOD does. And Stephen Um went on to tell us that God is a witness to our lives, and that his suffering was a way of saying that he notices our suffering ...

And that is my lunch time ramble about being reminded lately that God notices.

Meme: Five things in my wardrobe that I wouldn't be without

Simone has tagged me in a wardrobe meme. Oh dear. This is an area in which I might need help. Clothes are not my thing (not in the way that books are my thing at any rate). Sometimes I look in my wardrobe and wish I had something nicer/more stylish/more elegant to wear, but going to the shops to find it is another story. So, anyway, here goes.

1. A brown cardy. Sydney is the place for evening cardies. I am not supposed to wear black, being a summer-coloured person and all, and chocolate brown is my black. (That said I wear a black cardy nearly every day of my life, to ward of death by air-conditioning at work, and a nice, thin, scrunch-up-able black cardy is a must-have.) I also like cardies in other colours.

2. I have red dress envy, and wish I had more dresses, but I do have a blue one, and I like blue dresses.

3. Denim bottoms - a skirt, shorts and jeans that fit properly (not so easy to find). They go with most things and minimise wardrobe hassles. (And what in the world would a person wear without jeans?)

4. A nice pink t-shirt and/or jumper. I know there is a revolt against pink out there, and I no more think everyone should wear pink, especially Barbie pink, than everyone should wear orange (few people can pull off orange), but pink is actually my colour, particularly pale pink, so I have this life-long quest to find a nice (long!) t-shirt and jumper in the right shade of pink.

5. Running gear in quick-dry fabric (and there are other reasons for it to be dark colours - I bought a pale sports singlet recently on a throw-out somewhere, went for a hot sweaty jog and then came home and looked in the mirror - and that will never be done in public again!). I'm not mad about this stuff, but it's something I take with me everywhere, so obviously my wardrobe can't be without it.

Here are the rules.

Title your post- Meme: Five things in my wardrobe that I wouldn't be without.
Tell us who linked you.
List your 5 wardrobe items.
Paste these rules at the bottom.
Tag 2 or 3 others to join in the fun!

I am going to tag Ally, because she has a degree in this stuff, and once offered to give me a wardrobe consultation, which I never got around to taking her up on, so maybe I could learn something. She also does "wardrobe" without big spending.

And I'll also tag Soph, because Soph does cool and quirky.

And maybe I'll tag Rebecca too, because she sews things, even Regency outfits, and I am curious.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Goodnight and joy be with you all

Duncan was also at The Swell Season concert on Monday night and has posted some nice details and the setlist (thank you, because I couldn't remember it!). I couldn't even think what song they started with later (loved, loved the concert but was weary), and indeed it was Gold, with Glen and Marketa at the same microphone, which was fabulous. David Vagg has also posted some photos of the night here.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Poetry Day - What the bird said

I've alluded in the past to the fact that I like poetry about birds, which is almost always about something more than the birds, and often in it the bird signals a hope, a reminder of things beyond (see this post, and this poem). So I am pleased that CS Lewis has also obliged me with a bird poem.

What the Bird said early in the year
- CS Lewis

I heard in Addison's Walk a bird sing clear
'This year the summer will come true. This year. This year.

'Winds will not strip the blossom from the apple trees
This year, nor want of rain destroy the peas.

'This year time's nature will no more defeat you,
Nor all the promised moments in their passing cheat you.

'This time they will not lead you round and back
To Autumn, one year older, by the well-worn track.

'This year, this year, as all these flowers foretell,
We shall escape the circle and undo the spell.

'Often deceived, yet open once again your heart,
Quick, quick, quick, quick!—the gates are drawn apart.

Picture taken from here:

Friday, April 09, 2010

I am excessively diverted

Over here. Especially by totes and magnets. I particularly like this one (from Love and Frienship).

H/T: Rebecca.

But we pine

I think I am drawing near the end of my posting about longing, for now, but I thought I would go out with one of the lesser quoted passages from The Weight of Glory, by CS Lewis:
But we pine. The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret. And surely, from this point of view, the promise of glory, in the sense described, becomes highly relevant to our deep desire. For glory means good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgement, and welcome into the heart of things. The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.
Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

A note on the philosophy of science

At the end of KEC John Lennox asked that we not write up his material on the internet, because that is unhelpful to him, otherwise there'd be much to say. I wasn't sure whether he was primarily referring to his bonus talk on Has Science Buried God?, some of which he is currently writing into another book. They were hoping to make that talk available but I can't see it on the site as yet.

However, his first bible talk on Genesis 37-50 was very interesting, though it was only possible for him to skate over large ideas, and in it he had one simple line, which concurred with CS Lewis's thoughts I posted here (as other things he said did also), and that was: "Scientists study something that's given with something that's given". True. He then cast a glance at Hebrews 11:3 and said "if these people were so primitive, how did they know that information was invisible?".

You just have to pause a moment and feel the weight of the philosophy of science behind those statements.


All I wanted to do today was yawn. Last night was the biggest night of OO yet, with more people squeezed into the room than I’ve ever seen there, and we were up to Step 4: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”, which is a hard step for most. The “resentment inventory” is a particularly powerful exercise and apparently resentment is one of the biggest causes of relapse amongst addicts – though one certainly doesn’t need to be an addict to wrestle with it. Then I went on a long ride home via the North Shore, because sometimes you just have to be there for the ride.

But it was the text message in the small hours of the morning that got me. There’ve been enough emergencies in recent times that after ignoring it for a few seconds I thought I’d better check what it was, so I had to get out of bed because my phone was charging and would you believe, it was spam from some foreign country! - telling me I had won $100,000 and all I had to do was SMS my email address to some other (foreign) number for the details. I hope this is not the beginning of something ...

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Just for the record

So, there is something I didn't mention in the telling of my tale of a visit to the dentist, because, you know, you have to spread your really fascinating material out and not dazzle people with it all at once. See I had quite a chatter on to this dentist, when I didn't have something in my mouth preventing chatter, and when she found out I used to work with wildlife (because up in Townsville is the last time I went to the dentist) she told me she always wanted to be a marine biologist, so I told her that every second waitress in Townsville is a marine biologist, because the Great Barrier Reef only needs so many of them and there aren't many jobs, so she then went on to tell me that she and her husband, who work alternate days in this particular dental practice, spend the rest of their time doing forensic dentistry, and how everybody watches the forensic crime shows on TV and thinks this will be really exciting (who ARE those people?!) and you'll solve big mysteries etc but in reality it's not.

Then shortly afterwards she said that because it'd been so long since I'd been to the dentist I should have an x-ray, just because whatever was on record from last time would be out of date and I should have a new one on file (and she could make sure all was well with my wisdom teeth) ... I'm not a big fan of x-rays for nothing and walked off wondering if I should be perturbed that a forensic dentist wanted my teeth on "record". I came back and told the girl at work who'd recommended this dentist, but sees the husband, that they worked in forensic dentistry and she was rather taken aback (he obviously hadn't divulged this information) and so I go on about how, well, if we are destroyed beyond recognition at least someone will know who we are, which is sort of comforting, and then the conversation goes on with our exclamations of grossness and I find myself saying crazy things like, 'well surely they only get the teeth to look at and not the whole head' ... (once before I spent a day ageing kangaroos that had been shot, using molar progression, and it wasn't quite that 'clean', but I am not even going to talk about that).

So this morning I had to go into the city before work for this x-ray, which was something of a pest in the rain and all. I get there and the x-ray guy asks me if he is looking for anything in particular, and I tell him no, it's just for the record. He looked at me strangely so I went on to explain that my dentist works in forensics and I am wondering about this and we had a laugh. The my x-ray wasn't so great because I wasn't so good at keeping my tongue out of the way (he told me to do whatever it is you do before you click your tongue and obviously I have that wrong because I don't know when's the last time I clicked my tongue over something) and so we had a discussion about whether to have another go and he asked again 'so there is nothing in particular I am looking at?' and I said again, 'no, as far as I know it's just to update the record' and so he decided not to redo the x-ray and the expression on his face seemed to imply that people don't normally come in 'just for the record'. Hmmm ...

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Another Swell evening

So, it doesn’t seem all that long ago that I wrote about the last The Swell Season Concert here. I probably don’t need to see them every year, although I could, because Glen Hansard is one of those people you just have to see live to understand. I didn’t attempt photography this year, because we were in the very last row, owing to how fast it sold out last year, and so that wasn’t going to be a worthwhile endeavour.

I don’t consider myself a critic of music concerts, and went with Goldy (a sound engineer), Soph (who wanted to be a music journalist), Thora and Dean (don’t really know their music credentials, but am sure they have some), and the blogless Erin (who works for the Australian Chamber Orchestra) so I look forward to their reviews.

There were some similarities to last year’s concert (eg a rendition of Van Morrison that makes you wonder if the guitar is about to burst into flames), more songs off the new album Strict Joy, one or two I had never heard of before, and some performances of songs from the movie Once. Glen did his audience participation magic and tried to get us all to sing along for several songs, but I don’t think he thought we were especially amenable to that (and it’s a little disappointing being in the back row because you can’t hear anyone behind you and aren’t so game to sing out). They’d also brought along a special guest, a fellow called LJ Hill that they’d picked up at the Byron Bay Blues Festival, who was part Aboriginal, part Cherokee Indian and part Irish and sang a lovely song called The Pretty Bird Tree.

When they were called back for the encore they gave us five more songs, which I thought was generous. Initially Marketa came out and sat alone at the piano in the spotlight and sang I Don’t know How to Love Him, from Jesus Christ Superstar, which was unexpected and, I thought, exquisite (even though the song originally is a kind of heretical nonsense) - I don’t think I have heard her sing so beautifully before. They then went out with a traditional Irish song called Parting Glass, which was a fine way to end the evening.

The weekend

Day off today. Brilliant. Otherwise I might have spontaneously combusted. Well, not quite, but I got home from Katoomba Easter Convention yesterday afternoon, after heading up there after work Thursday, then went to see The Swell Season at the Opera House last night, which didn’t finish till 11:15 pm, so today I am just sorting myself out.

KEC was great (I felt like I wasn’t quite ready in the frame of mind for the whole thing in some strange way though). The speakers were John Lennox, Mathematics Professor of Oxford University who debates the likes of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchins, who spoke on the latter half of Genesis and did a bonus talk on his book Has Science Buried God?, so that was fascinating, and Stephen Um who was also very good, speaking on 1 Peter. He is a minister from the centre of Boston, who came recommended by Don Carson if that gives you some idea, and is very familiar with the work of Tim Keller also and has a similar way of critiquing culture, so I thought he was somewhere between the two. I also heard two great evening talks from Ray Galea on “Religion leads to violence” and “How can a loving God send people to hell?”, which were both very interesting (and we all stayed home like old fogies for his third talk on the Saturday night).

It was really nice to spend time with my friends and their two littlies who are 3 1/2 and just 2 (a third is on the way) and very energetic little sweeties. (Their Mum is a freak of energy who competes in half-ironmans and triathlons and so forth and the kids inherited it, so, just imagine.) I couldn't fit in their car, between the two car-seats, so did my own thing some afternoons, and others we just hung around at the house while the youngest slept and then took them for a walk so they could run and run and run to burn up that energy (above is the view from the house we stayed in).

On the Sunday afternoon I went into Blackheath looking for the internet to see what was happening with concert tickets, and ended up in the pub, because that’s where you have to go for internet, but I had walked past a Gleebooks sale on the way, so I was soon back there fossicking through second-hand books. Bliss. Then I decided some rigorous exercise was in order after all the sitting and eating so I donned my gear and set off around Mt Victoria. At the end of the road were signs for the Little Zig Zag track off into the bush, so I thought why not. I was perhaps a bit fool-hardy racing off into the bush alone, but I think I am reasonably and realistically competent in the the great Australian outdoors. It was a little treacherous for jogging, being a steep descent covered in loose rock, like gravel the size of tennis balls and bigger, but I was secretly loving it, just running back and forth and down and down. When I got to the bottom a barely distinguishable path headed off through the valley and all of a sudden it was quite eerie, in a late-afternoon-alone-in-the-bush-at-the-bottom-of-an-escarpment-and-I-don’t-really-know-where kind of way, so I decided to just run back up to civilisation. And boy oh boy, I haven’t pushed myself like that in years. Some of the zigs, or maybe they were the zags, were so steep all I could hear was the sound of my own breathing, and I wasn’t conscious of much more than getting one leg in front of the other. It felt so great though. For the rest of the evening I had that occasional wheezing cough, like you’ve reached maximum lung capacity and dredged up whatever was at the bottom (I don’t think that’s very scientific, it just came to me). I’m now wishing there was somewhere to run like that more often around home. I need to go and find a hill this afternoon to loosen up.

Then there was the concert, but I shall save that for another post and go and continue with my sorting.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Poetry Day - A fragment of hope

I mentioned at the start of last week's poem that sometimes hope seems indistinguishable from longing. Here is a poem in which that is the case. The speaker in the poem is a prisoner, talking of the messenger of hope that comes to them every night, and yet it sounds so much like the way CS Lewis writes of that Sehnsucht ...

The Prisoner - A Fragment
by Emily Bronte
(you can read the whole poem here)

"He comes with western winds, with evening's wandering airs,
With that clear dusk of heaven that brings the thickest stars.
Winds take a pensive tone, and stars a tender fire,
And visions rise, and change, that kill me with desire.

"Desire for nothing known in my maturer years,
When Joy grew mad with awe, at counting future tears.
When, if my spirit's sky was full of flashes warm,
I knew not whence they came, from sun or thunder-storm.

"But, first, a hush of peace--a soundless calm descends;
The struggle of distress, and fierce impatience ends;
Mute music soothes my breast--unuttered harmony,
That I could never dream, till Earth was lost to me.

"Then dawns the Invisible; the Unseen its truth reveals;
My outward sense is gone, my inward essence feels:
Its wings are almost free--its home, its harbour found,
Measuring the gulph, it stoops and dares the final bound ...

Picture from: of Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night over the Rhone (1888).

Thursday, April 01, 2010


This is farewell from me for at least a few days. Tonight I am heading up to Katoomba Easter Convention, where I'll be staying in a house with the friends, James and Sarah, who I wrote about in this post, which turned into an article in this Briefing issue. I had no plans for going to KEC this year, and it came about in one of those strange turns of events. I think facebook prompted me to "reconnect" with James or some such thing a few weeks ago, so I wrote on his facebook wall that thing about how it'd be great to catch up sometime. A couple of days later Sarah called and I said 'oh you're responding to the facebook message', to which she said 'no I don't know anything about a facebook message, but we were wondering if you'd like to stay with us at KEC'. So, I thought about a few days and decided to go. It'll be nice to spend a few days "reconnecting" with them and their little people.

At the moment though I'm rather wishing I hadn't committed to the whole weekend, because I feel like just having a rest and hanging around and sorting through a few things and doing the church stuff here and so on. I also have a weird eye allergy at the moment, which means I keep waking up with my eyes all red and goopy (no big deal but just mildly irritating), and last night the great experiment, in which I did something drastic that's never been done in living memory and slept with the window closed, because I've been blaming the fig trees out the window (or the bats in the them), didn't ease it, so now I am stumped. But, I am sure I will enjoy it all once I actually get myself up the mountain, and it will probably be the last hurrah at KEC since these days I tend to go to ENGAGE weekend instead.

So, have a blessed Easter one and all.