Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hannah Montana's no Western

We have some old family friends, who knew my Mum and Dad back in the days when they got married, who were visiting my Mum in Queensland over the weekend. They went for dinner with my sister and her family and Uncle J (as we call him - think man around 60 years old, Italian, likes to laugh and make others laugh), who occasionally goes to see a movie by himself, was telling the story of how he went in to see Hannah Montana, thinking it was going to be a Western. Hilarious!

Of course my nieces thought it was great, and they happily filled him in on all the things he didn’t understand about Miley Cyrus, showed him a picture etc. He already had them eating out of his hand because he turned up around there and said “I’ve come to see Socks!” (their cat) and then said “And have you got guinea pigs?” (with all the necessary emphatic excitement) and trotted off out to the back yard to see the guinea pigs ...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The mess worth making

I bought the book Relationships: A Mess Worth Making by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp of CCEF months ago, maybe even last year, but have only picked it up to read in the last few days. So far, very good. I was particularly interested in what they have to say of Genesis 2:18, which takes a slightly different to slant to some of the prevailing thought (at both ends):

You were made for relationships

This fact takes us back to the beginning. It asks the basic questions, “Who are we, and how important are our relationships?” In Genesis 2:18, God says that it is not good for man to be “alone.” This statement has more to do with God’s design for humanity than Adam’s neediness. God created us to be relational beings because he is a social God. God lives in community within the Trinity as Father, Son, and Spirit, and he made humanity in his image. Genesis 2 is not speaking primarily to Adam’s experience of being lonely as much as it is revealing his nature as the person God created him to be. Because God created a communal being — someone designed for relationships — creation is incomplete without a suitable companion. While Genesis 2 does address how male and female complement each other, the implications are broader to include all human relationships. In addition, the word “helper”, used here for Eve, speaks throughout Scripture of the complementary nature of all human relationships. “Helper” is used primarily to describe a companion, not a fellow labourer.

The reason we know this is true is because the “helper” is often used to describe God’s relationship with his people. When used this way, it does not refer to God as our coworker or employee, but as our ultimate companion who brings things to the relationship that we could not bring ourselves (Psalms 27:9, 33:20-22). So God is not addressing Adam’s workload, but rather the fact that he is a social being who lacks a suitable companion. Just as human beings were created with a vertical need for God’s companionship, they are also created for the horizontal companionship of other people.

Genesis 2 points to the fact that relationships are a core component of who God has designed you to be ...

Each to their own

I read this in the paper today, about a man who died in an avalanche while heliskiing in NZ, and I object. I happen to like skiing, and bushwalking, and camping and think I am about as adventurous as the adventurousest amongst girls (maybe we need some more photographic proof of that around here) but this is rather subjective:

He was always saying you should do whatever you want to do now, don't put it off. You would never have found Llynden sitting around reading a book for three days. He was full of life.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Poetry Friday - In Praise of Solid People

I thought I'd make today the last of C. S. Lewis, and then spent a good deal of time deciding what to go out with and reading many poems, which shan't do me any harm. It almost rings a little out of place amongst his collection, but here is one for all you unperturbed souls (this from Spirits in Bondage, a collection written before his conversion).


In Praise Of Solid People
C. S. Lewis

Thank God that there are solid folk
Who water flowers and roll the lawn,
And sit and sew and talk and smoke,
And snore all through the summer dawn.

Who pass untroubled nights and days
Full-fed and sleepily content,
Rejoicing in each other’s praise,
Respectable and innocent.

Who feel the things that all men feel,
And think in well-worn grooves of thought,
Whose honest spirits never reel
Before man’s mystery, overwrought.

Yet not unfaithful nor unkind,
With work-day virtues surely staid,
Theirs is the sane and humble mind,
And dull affections undismayed.

O happy people! I have seen
No verse yet written in your praise,
And, truth to tell, the time has been
I would have scorned your easy ways.

But now thro’ weariness and strife
I learn your worthiness indeed,
The world is better for such life
As stout suburban people lead.

Too often have I sat alone
When the wet night falls heavily,
And fretting winds around me moan,
And homeless longing vexes me

For lore that I shall never know,
And visions none can hope to see,
Till brooding works upon me so
A childish fear steals over me.

I look around the empty room,
The clock still ticking in its place,
And all else silent as the tomb,
Till suddenly, I think, a face

Grows from the darkness just beside.
I turn, and lo! it fades away,
And soon another phantom tide
Of shifting dreams begins to play,

And dusky galleys past me sail,
Full freighted on a faerie sea;
I hear the silken merchants hail
Across the ringing waves to me

—Then suddenly, again, the room,
Familiar books about me piled,
And I alone amid the gloom,
By one more mocking dream beguiled.

And still no neared to the Light,
And still no further from myself,
Alone and lost in clinging night
—(The clock’s still ticking on the shelf).

Then do I envy solid folk
Who sit of evenings by the fire,
After their work and doze and smoke,
And are not fretted by desire.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A spell

Apologies for the silence lately, and the lack of substance generally. It’s not been the best of weeks. But I am having a week off next week, so that should be good.

I also think the required blogging of June sapped the necessary ingredients for voluntary blogging in July (that and I have neglected my home laptop a little because it was wrecking my back), so I will take a spell next week and see what happens. Meanwhile, a poem ...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Poetry Friday - That long way round

Today I have another C.S. Lewis. This is one of his finest poems, if you were to ask me. And if you have read The Problem of Pain or A Grief Observed you will hear its echoes here. This poem is longer, and might take more effort to understand, but is so well worth it. (Surprisingly I couldn't find it anywhere at all on the internet either and so had to type it out — I did something very bibliophilic and obtained a first edition of Lewis's Poems, because it only cost me $14 for the hardcover in great condition!).


Five Sonnets

1

You think that we who do not shout and shake
Our fists at God when youth or bravery die
Have colder blood or hearts less apt to ache
Than yours who rail. I know you do. Yet why?
You have what sorrow always longs to find,
Someone to blame, some enemy in chief;
Anger’s the anaesthetic of the mind,
It does men good, it fumes away their grief.
We feel the stroke like you; so far our fate
Is equal. After that, for us begin
Half-hopeless labours, learning not to hate,
And then to want, and then (perhaps) to win
A high, unearthly comfort, angel’s food,
That seems at first mockery to flesh and blood.

2

There’s a repose, a safety (even a taste
Of something like revenge?) in fixed despair
Which we’re forbidden. We have to rise with haste
And start to climb what seems a crazy stair.
Our consolation (for we are consoled,
So much of us, I mean, as may be left
After the dreadful process has unrolled)
For one bereavement makes us more bereft.
It asks for all we have, to the last shred;
Read Dante, who had known its best and worst—
He was bereaved and he was comforted
—No one denies it, comforted—but first
Down to the frozen centre, up the vast
Mountain of pain, from world to world, he passed.

3

Of this we’re certain; no one who dared knock
At heaven’s door for earthly comfort found
Even a door—only smooth, endless rock,
And save the echo of his cry no sound.
It’s dangerous to listen; you’ll begin
To fancy that those echoes (hope can play
Pitiful tricks) are answers from within;
Far better to turn, grimly sane, away.
Heaven cannot thus, Earth cannot ever, give
The thing we want. We ask what isn’t there
And by our asking water and make live
That very part of love which must despair
And die and go down cold into the earth
Before there’s talk of springtime and re-birth.

4

Pitch your demands heaven-high and they’ll be met.
Ask for the Morning Star and take (thrown in)
Your earthly love. Why, yes; but how to set
One’s foot on the first rung, how to begin?
The silence of one voice upon our ears
Beats like the waves; the coloured morning seems
A lying brag; the face we loved appears
Fainter each night, or ghastlier, in our dreams.
‘That long way round which Dante trod was meant
For mighty saints and mystics not for me,’
So Nature cries. Yet if we once assent
To Nature’s voice, we shall be like the bee
That booms against the window-pane for hours
Thinking that way to reach the laden flowers.

5

‘If we could speak to her,’ my doctor said,
‘And told her, “Not that way! All, all in vain
You weary out your wings and bruise your head,”
Might she not answer, buzzing at the pane,
“Let queens and mystics and religious bees
Talk of such inconceivables as glass;
The blunt lay worker flies at what she sees,
Look there—ahead, ahead—the flowers, the grass!”
We catch her in a handkerchief (who knows
What rage she feels, what terror, what despair?)
And shake her out—and gaily out she goes
Where quivering flowers stand thick in summer air,
To drink their hearts. But left to her own will
She would have died upon the window-sill.’

C.S. Lewis

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Club chocolate messes with my life

I went to the supermarket after work today and came home and got myself all ready to make the world’s best ever chocolate cake for dinner guests tomorrow night and what did I discover but that in the new packaging NestlĂ© Club chocolate is only 180 grams, no longer 200 grams. I need 150 gms to make this cake. This used to be easy – six of the eight rows. But tonight I stood there perplexed and then had to get the calculator out to do 24(number of pieces)/180 x 150, – because once upon a time I did Pure Maths at university, and if you'd asked me then "if 180 gms of chocolate is 24 pieces how many pieces is 150 gms?" I'd have done it in a flash, but I haven’t used it since and was being lazy (and a bit exactingly curious too) – and then use six and two-thirds rows of the chocolate.

NestlĂ© is messing with my life (and I know they are messing with the lives of babies in Africa too, or used to be). If you have ever been to my house for dinner you have no doubt had this cake, at least the first time. If you come again, and I can remember that you have been before, I’ll make something different (which is not always an improvement – I tried this on the last guests, which was interesting), but the first time is usually the worlds best ever chocolate cake, especially if you come on a weeknight. When I am being pious I call it the "ministry cake". That’s because it has six ingredients, is easy to make, tastes amazing, and because it’s like a big slice of brownie you can eat it like cake or have it warm with ice-cream and some kind of fruit – and then just put the rest in the freezer to be pulled out whenever required.

I don’t know that I am up to sharing the recipe with the world-wide-web though. I feel a bit like Marilla Cuthbert, or some other village baking lady, who has her secret recipe. If you want my cake you have to either invite me to your thing or visit me.

The worst, or maybe the best, of it is that there are less pieces of chocolate hanging around when I'm finished.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The 'dark side' of Anne of Green Gables

Apparently there is a new, previously unpublished, installment of Anne of Green Gables coming, interspersed with poetry! What a delight!

This article is an interesting read. I don't know about anyone else but I actually thought Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside were two of the saddest books I ever read - those motherless Meredith children (especially little Una) were heart-breaking and when Walter died in the war I sobbed for hours.

An excursion!

I've just returned from an excursion! It's not very often in your adult working lives that you get to go on excursions, so we made the most of it. This morning the rest of my team and I clamoured into a maxi taxi for a big adventure out to Ligare printers. When we got there we had to get visitor passes and don fluoro orange vests and then we spent an hour and a half having a tour of their buildings, staring at vast machines that convey paper all over the place and print it and fold it and glue it (I especially liked the glue!) and stitch it and slice the edges off and add the cover and crimp the binding etc. There is whole lot of work that goes into printing a book (and in the room where they were making glossy hardcovers we were all gasping for air from the smell we couldn't believe anybody ever got used to), then there was all the packaging and mailing and so on. It was really quite interesting

It was more than three hours from leaving to returning though so by the time we got back I was desperate for a drink (let alone that morning coffee!) and the bathroom and thankful that I actually do have a job sitting in front of a computer where I can largely do my own thing.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Curiouser and spookier

Things are getting stranger and stranger around here. My colleague who lost her fish, who is a poet in her spare time (as in, the sort who actually has poems published), who attends meditation retreats on weekends, has set up a little shrine for the fish today. It's intriguing. There is The Canticle of the Sun by Francis of Assisi pinned up on her whiteboard with two nice bright souvenir-type fish magnets in each corner and one of the Madonna in the middle, a poem she wrote herself (printed in a little booklet that looks like an order of service) also on the wall with a magnet, a vase of purple orchids on the desk (the orchids I like), and a little arrangement in the fish bowl and then, the best part, a candle in the fishes old play thing, suspended above the water, which is burning incense in a little dish above it. The fragrance we have in here today is "Thai Temple". It's a bit too musky for me, and I am surprised that the incense burning has gone unchecked in the building for so long. I've almost had enough of it myself. (If I knew how to get photos off my new phone and onto a computer I have evidence of all this.) Apparently we are "getting the energy right" so we can catch the culprit. I am not sure I want to be around in here when the forces line up to reveal a fish murderer.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Strict Joy on the rising swell

I am waiting with breath-not-quite-baited for the new The Swell Season album, which they have recently announced is due out in September, and stoked that it includes I Have Loved You Wrong, Fantasy Man and Back Broke. They have called it “Strict Joy” after this poem by Irish poet James Stephens.


Strict Care, Strict Joy

To-day i felt as poor O'Brien did
When, turning from all else that was not his,
He took himself to that which was his own
— He took him to his verse — for other all he had not,
And (tho' man will crave and seek)
Another all than this he did not need

So, pen in hand he tried to tell the whole tale of his woe
In rhyming; lodge the full weight of his grief in versing: and so did:
Then — when his poem had been conned and cared,
And all put in that should not be left out — did he not find and with astonishment,

That grief had been translated, or was come
Other and better than it first looked to be:
And that this happened, because all things transfer
From what they seem to what they truly are
When they are innocently brooded on
— And, so, The poet makes grief beauti-ful

"Behold me now, with my back to the wall,
Playing music to empty pockets!"
So, Raferty, tuning a blind mans plight,
Could sing the cark of misery away:
And know, in blindness and in poverty,
That woe was not of him, nor kind to him.

And Egan Rahilly begins a verse —
"My heart is broken, and my mind is sad ..."
'Twas surely true when he began his song,
And was less true when he had finished it:
— Be sure, his heart was buoyant, and his grief
Drummed and trumpeted as grief was sung!

For, as he meditated misery
And cared it into song — Strict Care, Strict Joy!
Caring for grief he cared his grief away:
And those sad songs, tho' woe be all the theme,
Do not make us grieve who read them now —
Because the poet makes grief beautiful.

And I, myself, conning a lonely heart
— Full lonely 'twas, and 'tis as lonely now
Turned me, by proper, to my natural,
And, now too long her vagrant, wooed my muse:
Then to her — let us look more close to these,
And, seeing, know; and, knowing, be at ease.

Seeing the sky o'ercast, and that the rain had
Plashed the window, and would plash again:
Seeing the summer lost, and the winter nigh:
Seeing inapt, and sad, and fallen from good:
Seeing how will was weak, and wish o'erbearing:
Seeing inconstant, seeing timidity:
Seeing too small, too poor in this and yon:
Seeing life, daily, grow more difficult:
Seeing all that moves away — moving away
... And that all seeing is a blind-mans treat,
And that all getting is a beggars dole,
And that all having is bankruptcy ...

All these, sad all! I told to my good friend,
Told Raferty, O'Brien, Rahilly,
Told rain, and frosted blossom, and the summer gone,
Told poets dead, and captains dead, and kings!
— And we cared naught that these were mournful things,
For, caring them, we made them beautiful.

James Stephens 1882 – 1950

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Nibble sweetly on your ration

I read this on friends' (who happen to be in my "community group") fridge last night:

Rejoice.

The people in this world including you,

They are your humble ration in this life.

This flaky, raggle-taggle motley crew,

Your nasty husband and your silly wife,

Your lovely wife, your darling husband too,

Your happy neighbour sobbing on all fours.

Oh, the sweet and feeble things they do.

You are theirs, alas and they are yours.

And you are yours as well, and you are you.

And all that’s left of you, your dwindling passion,

Rejoice, Rejoice, whatever else you do.

Rejoice, and nibble sweetly on your ration.

Michael Leunig

Friday, July 10, 2009

Poetry Friday - A Confession

I was nearly going to post an original poem for today, but I chickened out on that idea. Instead I thought I would keep going on C.S. Lewis. Here is a poem he wrote, about writing (and reading) poems.


A Confession

I am so course, the things the poets see
Are obstinately invisible to me.
For twenty years I’ve stared my level best
To see if evening–any evening–would suggest
A patient etherized upon a table;
In vain. I simply wasn’t able.
To me each evening looked far more
Like the departure from a silent, yet a crowded, shore
Of a ship whose freight was everything, leaving behind
Gracefully, finally, without farewells, marooned mankind.

Red dawn behind a hedgerow in the east
Never, for me, resembled in the least
A chilblain on a cocktail-shaker’s nose;
Waterfalls don’t remind me of torn underclothes,
Nor glaciers of tin-cans. I’ve never known
The moon look like a hump-backed crone–
Rather, a prodigy, even now
Not naturalized, a riddle glaring from the Cyclops’ brow
Of the cold world, reminding me on what a place
I crawl and cling, a planet with no bulwarks, out in space.

Never the white sun of the wintriest day
Struck me as un crachat d’estaminet.
I’m like that odd man Wordsworth knew, to whom
A primrose was a yellow primrose, one whose doom
Keeps him forever in the list of dunces,
Compelled to live on stock responses,
Making the poor best that I can
Of dull things … peacocks, honey, the Great Wall, Aldebaran
Silver weirs, new-cut grass, wave on the beach, hard gem,
The shapes of horse and woman, Athens, Troy, Jerusalem.

C. S. Lewis

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Never build a relationship on books

For all you book lovers (that's just taken on a whole new meaning) out there, this made me laugh. It's about Borders' new dating service for bibliophiles. Here's a snippet:

On the face of it, if you're a singleton given to lonely walks on blasted heaths with a copy of a suitably impressive paperback poking eye-catchingly out of your jacket pocket, this might sound like just what you need. But to be honest, you'd be better off hanging out in the Sainsbury's vegetable aisle than on a dating website aimed at book-lovers: a shared appreciation of baby sweetcorn is a far more solid foundation for lasting love than a shared appreciation of Nabokov. In fact, that way madness lies.
...
And before things started to go publicly, horribly, harrowingly wrong, imagine how dull a couple who were both into the same books would be ... Does any home really need two copies of everything on their bookshelf? Whose editions get sent to the charity shop?

Monday, July 06, 2009

Something very fishy

It's been high drama here at the office this morning, and I am currently sitting next to a crime scene.

To start at the beginning, my friend and colleague over the partition has a little bowl on her desk with two fish in it. She only works part time, so on the days she doesn't work I feed the little fishes and say good morning and so on. Last Tuesday I went to feed my little friends and stopped because there was a huge pile of fish food in there - flakes of it resting all over their little play equipment and all over the bottom of the bowl, and the water was going all murky. I thought that was odd because I knew my colleague wouldn't have done it the day before. Things appeared quite normal on Wednesday, except the water was murkier. Then on Thursday my colleague was in (so I don't feed them) but when she came in she got to her desk and said to me "did someone have an accident with the fish food?", because again food was everywhere. So I explained. So on Thursday night she put the food away in her drawer, out of harms way, or so we thought, but then on Friday (I actually worked from home so wasn't here for this), there was more food in there, and the culprit had obviously been through her desk drawer to find it.

At this stage we were mostly thinking that maybe there were kids coming in here after hours and they had done it.

So, on Friday my colleague wrote a nice little note pointing out how bad it was for fish to overfeed them, and taped it to the wall above the fish bowl, and also stuck a little note on her desk in front of the bowl, and locked her drawer. But this morning, when the first people arrived, there was her fish bowl chocked up with piles of bread, and the fish were dead!! Not only that, but someone has done the same thing to the other fish tank on this level, and also to the fish upstairs in the library.

At this point the whole thing has become a little disturbing, because in response to my colleagues note, it has clearly been malicious.

And so now we are all wondering who is getting around here after hours, going through people's drawers and deliberately killing fish. Our section manager is on the case, and actually took photos of the bowl this morning (I missed the real scene of the crime because I was in later this morning, so was my colleague, so I just arrived to an empty bowl). Building security is also checking records to see who came in over the weekend. The whole thing has escalated into a weird scenario and and it's disconcerting to know that someone with access around here thinks that's acceptable (or normal) behaviour.

But inbetween everyone's disgust there have been a lot of jokes today about crime scenes and detective procedures and fish.

The funny thing in all of this is that the person who has been placing CDs in my computer (I don't think I have shared on this blog some of the later ones - I got Britney Spears and that was an experience - I wasn't expecting great things but I listened one day when my iPod was flat and it was truly appalling - I am still recovering from her shocking song lyrics) came and fessed up so I wouldn't think it was connected to the weird fish killer. So that is one mystery solved.

Heaven as a city?

The other night at the Petersham RSL, in between song sets, I did actually manage to have one short, but very interesting conversation with a guy called Cameron Blair. When I told him I worked as an editor he told me he'd just written an article for CASE (he assumed I wasn't a Christian initially and explained to me what CASE was, which was nicely amusing). Cameron trained as a architect and now works for his church and on campus with visual arts students. Anyway, his article is on the theology of architecture, and his fascinating conclusion (or at least what I picked up from this very short conversation) is that he doesn't think there will actually be architecture in heaven. He had a fairly solid argument for this, based on a sweep through the bible and starting with the rationale that the need for the shelter and security provided by architecture is a result of the curse. And so obviously he reckons the references to the "city" in Revelation are figurative, and the city of God is the people of God (somewhere along the same lines as there will be no need for a temple in heaven because God is the temple). Anyway, I thought it was fascinating, and think I am going to have to read the article. I confess, I quite liked his idea and thought there were ways in which it made a lot of sense. (I don't personally want heaven to be full of sky scrapers and apartment blocks!) So it made me start to question which aspects of a "city" people think will be part of heaven anyway. The article is in the latest CASE magazine (the one article that isn't about science).

More on the Last Ride

And here are the write-ups from the weekend Sydney Morning Herald on Last Ride - the review, and an article called Sins of the Father.

Friday, July 03, 2009

A brutiful film & two absolutely major talents

I've slipped up in my role. Here is the segment on the film Last Ride from the ABC's At The Movies. David gives it 4.5 stars (out of 5), and Margaret 4 stars. This YouTube includes interviews with Hugo Weaving and my friend Glendyn Ivin (and there are some extra web grabs at the At The Movies site too). Here's a few words from David:
And there are two absolutely major talents here. Well, actually more than that but Glendyn Ivin, whose first feature this is, proves to be a really fine director ... And Greig Fraser, who photographed it — it is one of the most stunningly photographed films I've ever seen.
...
So this guy is an amazing talent, and these two talents together have turned this book, with a script by Mac Gudgeon, into a really powerful film, I think, with a very, very strong sense of place.

Those scenes on the lake, the shallow water there, I've never seen anything like that, I don't think, in a film before. Just amazing stuff. It is, in some ways, a grim story, but I was completely captivated by these characters. I think Hugo Weaving, probably the best performance he's ever done on film.
...
You really must go and see this film. It's a really good film.

Poetry Friday - Re-adjustment

Last week I posted a portion of Tennyson's poem Idylls of the King, and so this week I thought I would post C.S. Lewis's Re-adjustment, the reason soon being obvious. It would seem to be commonly held that here Lewis is writing about old age and the comfort he hoped it would bring, as well as a concern that future generations are losing the ability to connect words with meaning, but what do you think?


Re-adjustment

I thought there would be a grave beauty, a sunset splendour
In being the last of one's kind: a topmost moment as one watched
The huge wave curving over Atlantis, the shrouded barge
Turning away with wounded Arthur, or Ilium burning.
Now I see that, all along, I was assuming a posterity
Of gentle hearts: someone, however distant in the depths of time,
Who could pick up our signal, who could understand a story. There won't be.

Between the new Hominidae and us who are dying, already
There rises a barrier across which no voice can ever carry,
For devils are unmaking language. We must let that alone forever.
Uproot your loves, one by one, with care, from the future,
And trusting to no future, receive the massive thrust
And surge of the many-dimensional timeless rays converging
On this small, significant dew drop, the present that mirrors all.

C.S. Lewis