Sunday, July 31, 2011

An evening of 'poetry'

Yesterday was actually my birthday. For the last few years I've not done anything on my birthday, and just eaten takeaway at home by myself (even my flatmates have been away for various reasons) and told myself not to cry. The thing is, if you're single and you live in a city where you have no family, if you don't organise your own birthday no-one else is going to organise it, or have you round for dinner, and if you're an introvert who doesn't especially like 'spotlight on me' occasions, you don't always feel like throwing yourself a party. But this year I thought I would get out of myself and do something. So, I asked some people over for something I like to do: an evening of port and poetry.

The idea was that you bring a poem (song lyrics included, as I realise not so many people read poetry these days) you like/wrote etc to share. I got very mixed reactions to this idea. In the past I have done it with only about half a dozen people or so, and they have been great nights. Last night I had a few more people, most of whom were less into poetry than those of times past, and it was perhaps a little shaky in places near the beginning, but it worked. One girl surprised us all by reading a beautiful poem she wrote for her best friend's 21st birthday, one fellow read us the lyrics of a Nick Drake song, then later sang us a song he wrote himself (hats off to people game enough to sing! - and he claimed that while he performs regularly he's never sang to a little group of people like that before and was glad he did), one other girl, who really wasn't keen on my idea, sang us a song that she and a close flatmate used to sing together, another played us a song in Spanish (and translated it!) that meant something to her, then we had John Donne's Prayer for Violence and also a snippet from a John Donne's sermon (the 'bell tolls' portion), and there was Clancy of the Overflow, Robert Frost, extracts from My Fair Lady, Sting lyrics, and so it went on ... and something does start to happen as people begin offering a little tiny explanation of why they chose what it is they are sharing ... I like it! And it was interspersed with a whole lot of laughter, so by no means has to be a serious occasion (at the very first one of these nights that I hosted I thought I was going to die laughing, because one participant was so hilarious).

One girl, who's about the most 'out there' person who came, commented after most had gone home on how you feel strangely exposed reading out your choice, yet in a good way. Therein lies the potential difficulty of such a thing, in that I think it's the pressure of feeling that what you choose is going to 'mean' something about you that some don't like ... so you have to try to not create that pressure, and not act as though it's all too loaded with meaning or take it too seriously, but you discover that most people actually do want to be known, and share something, eventually, and you get to know a little more about people either way (even if that's that they'd rather not).

So, I was a little deadly serious and sombre in my choice, but decided that as this group of people probably had not come across it before, I'd read what I'd consider my 'signature poem', if I were to have one, which features in my blog header. So I read these four sonnets from Later Life by Christina Rossetti (they've been on this blog before, but I discover that was in 2007!). And my new toy, my fire pit, burned brightly away outside on the balcony (and our whole loungeroom wall is glass, so even when we were inside it was a nice glow just feet away).

We lack, yet cannot fix upon the lack:
    Not this, nor that; yet somewhat, certainly.
    We see the things we do not yearn to see
Around us: and what see we glancing back?
Lost hopes that leave our hearts upon the rack,
    Hopes that were never ours yet seemed to be,
    For which we steered on life’s salt stormy sea
Braving the sunstroke and the frozen pack.
If thus to look behind is all in vain,
    And all in vain to look to left or right,
Why face we not our future once again,
Launching with hardier hearts across the main,
    Straining dim eyes to catch the invisible sight,
And strong to bear ourselves in patient pain?

To love and to remember; that is good:
    To love and to forget; that is not well:
    To lapse from love to hatred; that is hell
And death and torment, rightly understood.
Soul dazed by love and sorrow, cheer thy mood;
    More blest art thou than mortal tongue can tell:
    Ring not thy funeral but thy marriage bell,
And salt with hope thy life’s insipid food.
Love is the goal, love is the way we wend,
    Love is our parallel unending line
        Whose only perfect Parallel is Christ,
Beginning not begun, End without end:
        For He Who hath the Heart of God sufficed,
Can satisfy all hearts, - yea, thine and mine.

Lifelong our stumbles, lifelong our regret,
    Lifelong our efforts failing and renewed,
    While lifelong is our witness, “God is good:”
Who bore with us till now, bears with us yet,
Who still remembers and will not forget,
    Who gives us light and warmth and daily food;
    And gracious promises half understood,
And glories half unveiled, whereon to set
Our heart of hearts and eyes of our desire;
    Uplifting us to longing and to love,
Luring us upward from this world of mire,
    Urging us to press on and mount above
    Ourselves and all we have had experience of,
Mounting to Him in love’s perpetual fire.

A dream there is wherein we are fain to scream,
    While struggling with ourselves we cannot speak:
    And much of all our waking life, as weak
And misconceived, eludes us like the dream.
For half life’s seemings are not what they seem,
    And vain the laughs we laugh, the shrieks we shriek;
    Yea, all is vain that mars the settled meek
Contented quiet of our daily theme.
When I was young I deemed that sweets are sweet:
    But now I deem some searching bitters are
    Sweeter than sweets, and more refreshing far,
        And to be relished more, and more desired,
And more to be pursued on eager feet,
        On feet untired, and still on feet tho’ tired.

Christina Rossetti Later Life: A Double Sonnet of Sonnets

Friday, July 29, 2011

On introverts and friendship

Here’s an article by Noel Piper on introverts and friendship. I am definitely an introvert, and I like the idea of a day by myself, and have about a billion things I am happy to do by myself, but then when it gets to about 3 o’clock in the afternoon of such a day, I am ready for someone to talk to.

I think one of the dangers for me in being an introvert is being a bit all or nothing with friendships. I love spending time with people I know well and deeply, and I cope on my own, it’s all the mass group events with a bunch of acquaintances in the middle, where I know real conversation opportunities mights be minimal, that at times I’m not so keen on. But sometimes you have to start there to get to those people you know well. And there’s also a danger in developing interests that you can do on your own (for all those times when you are on your own) and that is that sometimes you’d rather stay home and carry on with those than go hang about with those acquaintances. So there are occasions when I just have to make myself go and do the people stuff.

I went to the second night on our series of Living Single last night and there was a lot of discussion about friendship, and what sort of friends a single person needs. I feel like I am in a space/season right now where I don't have so many of them within easy access, and need to invest more in a few.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Acton lecture by Senator David Coltart

Senator David Coltart has posted the text of his Acton Lecture given the other evening on his website. Read this and be amazed at what this fellow actually said in Parliament House. It will still be worth watching the video, particularly to include the questions and answers. The one question he didn’t quite answer was actually asked by Andrew Cameron from Moore Theological College, but it was a fine answer all the same. (The first time I looked at David Coltart's site he had the lyrics of Be Thou My Vision as his "random quote", now it's a poem by Tennyson - I think I like this guy.)

Poetry Day - Monna Innominata No. 7

It's time for another poem, and it's time for another Christina Rossetti. So here is Sonnet No. 7 from Monna Innominata.

Picture from:

“Qui primavera sempre ed ogni frutto.” —DANTE.
“Ragionando con meco ed io con lui.”—PETRARCA.

“Love me, for I love you”—and answer me,
    “Love me, for I love you”—so shall we stand
    As happy equals in the flowering land
Of love, that knows not a dividing sea.
Love builds the house on rock and not on sand,
    Love laughs what while the winds rave desperately;
And who hath found love’s citadel unmanned?
    And who hath held in bonds love’s liberty?
My heart’s a coward tho’ my words are brave—
We meet so seldom, yet we surely part
So often: there’s a problem for your art!
    Still I find comfort in his Book, who saith
Tho’ jealousy be cruel as the grave,
    And death be strong, yet love is strong as death.

Christina Rosetti

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Romance por*nography and the search for something

Here's another article on women and romantic 'por*nography', but worth reading (I split that word up so I don't get weird search results).

You know what I love, the people who sit down in the wee hours of the morning, clearly looking for the meaning to life, the universe and everything, and type into google the word "something". And if you type "something" into google, this here humble blog comes up on the first page. I feel like there should be something profound here to read waiting for those poor searchers ...

The influence of Christianity in politics

Last night, to keep up the brain feasting, I went a long to a lecture given in Parliament House by Senator David Coltart from Zimbabwe. I have a friend who works at the Centre for Independent Studies, so she’s been telling me about it, giving me fliers to hand out, and then even got me a free ticket (was only $15 so I wasn’t going to let that stop me). This was the blurb about the lecture on the website (incase it disappears from there):
This year’s address will be delivered by prominent Zimbabwean politician, human rights lawyer, and pro-democracy activist, David Coltart. Senator Coltart is a committed and active Christian, and was a founding member of the Movement for Democratic Change, now in uneasy but determined coalition with long-reigning President Robert Mugabe. In 2009, Coltart was appointed Zimbabwe’s Minister for Education, Sports, Art and Culture. He will discuss religious influence in politics.
I have this philosophy about blogging, that one should not attempt posts on certain subjects unless one knows good and proper what one is talking about. The foreign policies of the collective West and the politics of deepest darkest Africa would be in the category of things to be left alone by yours truly. However, while I thought this lecture would be at least mildly interesting, I was unexpectedly deeply fascinated for the entire duration. And I think you would need to listen to this fellow to understand why.

He basically presented a case for why the Christian framework is the best one to ensure freedom and security for a nation, but the true marvel of his talk was how often and how seamlessly he managed to quote the bible and talk about Jesus (more of that was probably heard in Parliament house in one evening that will be in an entire year) and how stunningly persuasive it was.

Among other things, he was very critical of western foreign policy (in particular Defence spending), and his compelling argument was that sustained and consistent application of moral principle will always triumph over military superiority and force, with countless examples from history of how the seeming weak eventually won by holding out for what was “right” (I found this very stirring!).

He’s also quite the sceptic of development aid/assistance, because he’s seen the consequent corruption (and he'd rather people spent nothing than give it to corrupt government), but he has managed to set up an Education Transition Fund in Zimbabwe, for which the funds are administered by UNICEF, and they are seeing great results (this came out in question time, as an example of ways to effectively distribute foreign aid).

Further, I don’t know the make-up of the audience, but rather than being shouted out of the room, everyone who raised their hand for a question began by thanking him for a “magnificent” address. I never thought I’d see the likes of it in a public lecture!

They are going to put the video online, and when they do I am going to link it and make everybody I know watch it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fairest Lord Jesus re-run

After posting that Neutral Milk Hotel cover, I thought I should make amends with something more edifying. A while back I posted a little clip from the new Garage Hymnal CD of Fairest Lord Jesus. The full video is now available. I really like this one (I totally thrashed it on my flatmate's CD, before she took it out of the kitchen, and you won't catch me being all too effusive in public, but maybe, just maybe, the kitchen cupboards see things).

And, if you haven't seen The Ship Song Project yet, here it is. I know the fellow playing violin right at the end (Tom Dethlefs), through a mutual friend, and one night one we both found ourselves waitering at a cafe opening (long story, but that was through a different friend), and he'd done this before as a music student, so he saved me from all those daunting trays of drinks.

An inner-city (and a heart) bonfire

On the weekend I got out what I loosely call my “tool box” (there’s a few screw drivers in the bottom, underneath a tray of disintegrating teats to feed baby animals and other odds and ends) to assemble a fire pit. I bought it the other weekend (before this post by Ben, over which we are kindred spirits) and just had to drag out all the pieces and put it together. I went with a fire pit, because it gets windy up on our balcony and they are more enclosed. I love a good bonfire, and this is my city-apartment adaptation.

Then on Sunday I went out for a jog (and, great novelty, it wasn’t raining!) and as I chugged along under a large old tree I spied little twigs all over the ground and thought ‘hey, that would make good kindling’, now that I have fire potential and have to think about these things. So yesterday afternoon on the way home from work on my bike I stopped and gathered some up into my bike basket, then this morning as I was jogging I got some more (just as well it’s near my house, so I wasn’t going too far with a handful of sticks). I’m not too sure how my flatmate feels about me stacking twigs in the lounge-room, but I’m feeling very rustic.

I’m hoping it doesn’t rain this weekend, because I want to fire it up and toast marshmallows on my balcony.

And, just because it matches (hah!), here's a metaphorical bonfire from Laurel:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cross-stitch on crochet

Once upon a time I actually did cross-stitch, when I wasn't running around wildly outside or reading books (and before I learnt to crochet!). These days I can't so much be bothered with all that counting and minutiae, but I could perhaps be lured back in to the odd bit of this. From this amusing 'frontier woman' post at The Purl Bee, which is one of my favourite sites for new takes on old crafts.

The Swell Season cover Neutral Milk Hotel

For some reason I had not watched this before. The Swell Season was called in to Undercover to cover one of 25 selected songs, but when their turn came around there were only four songs left to choose from, so here they cover Two-Headed Boy by Neutral Milk Hotel (I dont know the original, so I've got no real idea about the cover - and I prefer to take the song ending literally!)

The Swell Season covers Neutral Milk Hotel

Crossing a line

I've crossed a line people! I ordered some leggings, which until now I have resisted, and today they came in the mail. They will, however, only be worn with sufficiently long things over the top.

Living single and the end of your life

Last week was one of those weeks, of feasting on input. On Monday night I went to the CCL lecture on Beauty, as mentioned. Then on Thursday night I went along to the first night of a course at my church called 'Living Single'. The marketing of this course went along the lines of ‘in the same way that we run courses on marriage and courses on parenting, we are running a course on living as a single person’. Excellent! So, much as single people probably have some reluctance to go along to such a course, I thought, if single people want churches to be a little more single-friendly (I actually think my does very well at being church single-friendly), then they should support such efforts. So I went. And it was a very good night, with a large turnout. Ben Adamo, who is in 4th year at Moore College, primarily spoke and his introduction made us all smile, just a little, on the inside, that being that ‘if there is one thing in the Christian life we don’t want to do well, it’s living single, because we think that if we do badly at it God might take pity on us and give us a spouse’. Then we went through the challenges of being single, the purpose of singleness, the blessings of singleness and the key to thriving as a single person, with time for small group discussions along the way, and a Q and A session at the end. Steph Menear also spoke briefly about grief in singleness, and how people need permission to acknowledge it and to talk about it, which was good to hear. Last week it was mostly at the personal level, and apparently this week it is looking at things mainly from the ‘community’ or fellowship perspective. All good.

Then on Friday night I went to the Ensemble Theatre and saw David Williamson’s new play At Any Cost?. I have a friend whose mother is something of a patron of the arts, and when her mother can’t attend plays, I am occasionally the lucky beneficiary! So, I felt quite privileged (and have now seen two David Williamson plays on the generosity of others – you know who you are). This is an ‘end of life’ discussion play, and succeeded well to that end; making people talk about the subject. It was written by David Williamson and a medical doctor named Mohamed Khadra, and went through what is apparently not an uncommon scenario when families are faced with the decision of what to do about ongoing treatment when a family member is very elderly and unwell. I was captivated and enjoyed it a lot.

There was a forum afterwards, and it was quite clear from that that many people still confuse the decision to not continue treatment with euthenasia, which is perhaps half the problem with this current debate. Mohamed Khadra actually said at one point ‘this is not a pro-euthenasia play, and we don’t support that’, though I am not sure everybody heard him. And it was interesting that when someone asked the actor Martin Vaughan, who is 80 years old and was keeping quiet, for his opinion on the subject of the play he said “I’m too close to the bloody end”, and then muttered almost under his breath, “I probably disagree with everyone in this room”, which was telling. With the fashion in which he dies being a very real possibility for him, he didn’t appear to so much like the idea of being shuffled off by his family and medical staff.

There was lots of discussion about ‘advanced care directives’ and talking to your relatives before faced with this situation. One line of argument presented in the play was the idea that, even if they could cure the patient’s kidney infection (this was the scenario set up), was it worth it if that would just return the patient to her previous state, which was as a stroke victim. This raised the question of who it is that gets to decide on a ‘quality of life’? In response to that the doctor did make the point that the medical staff are always there to respect the wishes of the patient, but that knowing what those are, when the patient is unable to say, is the difficulty.

All up, it was quite intriguing. And I actually really appreciated all the family dramas that came out in the course of the play as well. As someone interested in psychological out-workings, I found it fascinating to see the reasons manifest for why there was an element of resentment between these two, a discord between those two etc. And supposedly all this spillage does actually happen in hospital waiting rooms!

So, I finished the week with a good serving of food-for-thought.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Maybe I could give up my day job ...

Anyone fancy a crochet rug for 599 Euros (about $795 Australian dollars)?! Just talk to me ...

You left the "family" section blank

I know they like the underdog stories on these shows, because we do, but watch this and see if you don't need tissues. (I've got several friends who were adopted out of Korean orphanages, so it's not beyond belief.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Guitar songs for beginners?

Part of the reason I am searching around and posting random youtube music videos, is that I am looking for things to learn to play on the guitar. I think of something, start looking, and it all goes from there. I haven’t been so good at playing since the lessons ended, because I don’t especially like a lot of the music he gave us, and I’m bored with it now, so I need new songs. Any suggestions for beginnerish guitar songs?

Tea and sympathy

This is more my usual style, and more Jars of Clay's usual style.

Mirrors and Smoke

I stayed home feeling crook today, so I got out of bed not long ago and am having a little play. This is one of those songs I feel like I'm not supposed to like, yet I do. It's not my kind of music at all (but just persevere past the intro), and I could do without the noisy interlude, but I do like a good duet. So, this is Jars of Clay with Leigh Nash (and I took the video away, because people who add lyrics to videos but get them wrong are too annoying).

Reading between the lines

Here's another great Haiku from Laurel:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A night on beauty

Last night I had such a food shovelling moment, with a friend who came from work, at Thai La-Ong in Newtown, that I was literally still chewing a piece of Mussaman beef as we walked up the street to Moore Theological College for the next Centre for Christian Living lecture on Beauty.

This was a good evening. Andrew Cameron spoke on beauty (you can read an introduction to what he was covering here) and Melinda Tankard-Reist joined us also to discuss issues of body image for women in today’s world. Then afterwards I found myself in discussion with one of the Collective Shout women and also Ainsley Poulos, who’s giving a talk on beauty somewhere sometime soon.

As someone who has no need for hairdressers, considers their time and resources spent on beauty treatments minimal (relatively speaking), and is happy to buy clothes at Vinnies, I don’t tend to feel as though I am too lost in, or influenced by, the beauty culture (except for when I go up to Level 5 of my company that is, where the girls seem to think work is some kind of fashion parade, and I just want to go back to Level 4 in my Vinnies pants). But I did have to ask myself why it is I go jogging etc (which is a good part self-maintenance, but also a good part exercise value and physical activity outside to save me going mad having to sit at a desk inside all day) and realise that there are greater subtleties. However, it is truly alarming what is going on amongst teenagers, with public shaming of ‘ugly’ people on facebook and wherever and whatever else (Melinda Tankard-Reist had stats that I was blissfully ignorant of on that world). I feel like I got out of the teenage years before the current obsession with physical beauty gained its full momentum, and for that I am thankful.

Andrew did acknowledge that physical beauty is a real aspect of the material order, is a good gift in all its forms, and that there are some universally accepted, objective features of physical beauty in humans (I thought this was good - no use pretending otherwise!).

But we were then give three antidotes to the culture of physical human beauty we live in. Very briefly (I didn't write much down):

The first was - Beauty! And finding our way back to the older way of seeing beauty in everything. Our culture is fixated on one kind of beauty, and has largely forgotten all its other forms. He gave us his great quote, from Seeing the Form, by Hans Urs von Balthasar, that:
We can be sure that whoever sneers at her [Beauty's] name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past - whether he admits it or not - can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.
The second was thankfulness (1 Tim 4:4-5). Thankfulness can calm us by drawing our attention to what we've been given, and yes, we can be thankful for beauty in others.

The third was character. Andrew used 1 Peter 3:1-6, which gets and gives us a beating, when it was actually intended as balm for a woman's soul, not a wrap over the knuckles. Christlikeness does tinge a person's appearance.

The conclusion on that was that we can step out of the toxic beauty culture we are in, which is not so much wrong, but just very limited.

The 5 most stolen books in the US

I’ve never read any of them, so it wasn’t me, and I don’t really fit the sociology:

If there is one sociological conclusion we can draw from this list, it’s that the “type” of booklifter is likely young and male, and there’s probably a link between the draw of the content of these top books and the actual act of theft. In other words, someone who wants to commit a reckless act is most interested in reading about reckless acts.
I’m not sure how this information enriches our lives, unless you’re trying not to get your, ahem, “sex and drugs” books stolen, but what is interesting is that right down the bottom of the article the Bible gets a mention as being commonly stolen from public libraries!

Monday, July 18, 2011

The stem of pastoral problems

We started a sermon series on Romans in church last night, which is looking to be great. I do like Romans. The introductory point was made that it’s a pastoral letter, but that it’s theological, because pastoral problems always stem from theological issues. That called to mind this quote I read recently (H/T on Michael Jensen):

One reason why we Christians argue so much about which hymn to sing, which liturgy to follow, which way to worship is that the commandments teach us to believe that bad liturgy eventually leads to bad ethics. You begin by singing some sappy, sentimental hymn, then you pray some pointless prayer, and the next thing you know you have murdered your best friend.
- Stanley Hauerwas

And I think you can join a few dots to this haiku, from Laurel:

Jane Eyre, coming soon

Speaking of Jane Eyre. It's coming.

Charlotte Bronte never said that

The Ali mentioned in the update on this post is me. There are a lot of things you could misquote to me and get away with it, but I don’t like your chances on Jane Eyre.

One doesn’t like to be the internet policeman who points these things out, but after searching several e-texts, I knew it definitely wasn’t Charlotte Bronte, and I figured that Austin Kleon was the sort of blogger who’d like to know. And I quite liked the quote, so wanted to be sure where it came from.

What is curious is how something morphs around the interwebs from a Mormon President into Charlotte Bronte!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

How to get rejected every time

This is a bit self-helpy, or 'motivational', but I read this article and realised that I do this all the time.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ramblings of more earnestness on Wendy Cope

Now that I have warmed up, I feel like I should write a thing or two of more earnestness and substance about Wendy Cope, a poet who admits that some of her funniest poems were written out of deep despair. Years ago I read a moving newspaper article on her life, and only wish I could find it again. But here's one from the Guardian that will give you some idea.

As a poet she humorously takes on many of life's sadder states, but the sadness is there all the same, and has wandered out of, then back towards, Christianity. She's been known to write such lines as this about Christmas: 'And happy families go to church and cheerily they mingle/ And the whole business is unbelievably dreadful, if you're single.' And then there's this:

Bloody Christmas, here again,
Let us raise a loving cup,
Peace on earth, goodwill to men,
And make them do the washing up.

But I don't think she realises how close she actually comes to the truth in this Christmas poem below, one of her not-so-funny poems. That it's part of the reason Christ came to earth and cried, then died, to bear our griefs and carry away our sorrows. Some celebrate Christmas in July, so here it is.


Why is the baby crying
On this, his special day,
When we have brought him lovely gifts
And laid them on the hay?

He’s crying for the people
Who greet this day with dread
Because somebody dear to them
Is far away or dead,

For all the men and women
Whose love affairs went wrong,
Who try their best at merriment
When Christmas comes along,

For separated parents
Whose turn it is to grieve
While children hang their stockings up
Elsewhere on Christmas Eve,

For everyone whose burden
Carried through the year
Is heavier at Christmastime,
The season of good cheer.

That’s why the baby’s crying
There in the cattle stall:
He’s crying for those people.
He’s crying for them all.

Waiting for buses

I walked in to work today, so walked half way home. Seeing as how it's a Friday night, and cold and raining, I thought I might treat myself to some takeaway dinner from a place near the bus stop. I don't know if I missed my bus while I was in there, but when I came out I then waited half an hour for the next one, at which point two of them came together. Such a situation only calls to mind a certain kind of poetry (no situation is devoid of poetry mind). So, pardon me being crass, but I've been standing in the cold (maybe metaphorically as well as literally also) for too long:

Bloody men are like bloody buses —
You wait for about a year
And as soon as one approaches your stop
Two or three others appear.

You look at them flashing their indicators,
Offering you a ride.
You’re trying to read the destinations,
You haven’t much time to decide.

If you make a mistake, there is no turning back.
Jump off, and you’ll stand there and gaze
While the cars and the taxis and lorries go by
And the minutes, the hours, the days.

Wendy Cope

On hymns

Simone wrote a hymn about hymns. Very amusing! I do like a good hymn, but this so true of them (makes me wonder though, how much of the secular poetry of the same era did the same thing?).

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Coloured balloons and forever knowledge

I’ve got nothing to say, so how about a photo of some coloured balloons in front of the Arc de Triomphe? One of these days I am going to go to Paris. (From the movie Funny Face, via here.)

And some advice on learning, just because (excuse the language). So true. I’ve always said I wished I had a more ‘classical’ education. The most useless stuff I ever learnt was the stuff that was too over-applied to a particular set of circumstances. I like the term “forever knowledge”.
Here’s the thing: the world is constantly changing. Every day, in every industry, there’s some new technology that throws a kink in the way we do things. The important thing is to work on your brain — every industry needs people who are smart, who are inquisitive, who question everything, and who can adapt and make shit. If it were me, I wouldn’t go to ad school, I’d go to an awesome liberal arts college and get a good, broad education. Read the classics. Pick up some “forever knowledge.” Learn how to learn. Learn to write and read. You can pick up the rest in internships and by dicking around in your spare time.
(From here.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I love because ...

Here is another repost of one of Don Carson's Holy Sonnets, based on 1 John 4:10, 1 John 4:19 and John 20:21. I think this one is grand.


I love because you first loved me: your love
With irresistible enticement paid
In blood, has won my heart; and, unafraid
Of all but self, I’m driven now to love.
I love because you first loved me: your love
Has transformed all my calculations, made
A farce of love based on exchange, displayed
Extravagant self-giving from above.
I love because you first loved me: without
Regenerating power provided by
Your Son’s propitiating death, no doubt
My strongest love would be the mighty “I”.
Your self-originating love’s alone –
The motive, standard, power of my own.

D.A. Carson

The perfect man and how you know

If you want a lot of hits on your blog, you should post the perfect man line “I killed a bear and wrote a poem about how sad it made me feel”. But what is disturbing me about this is the people googling this subtle variation “I killed a bear for you and wrote a poem about how sad it mad me feel”. I mean, what sort of girl wants a guy to kill a bear for them? How exactly does a fellow present a girl with a dead bear? And what’s a girl going to do with a dead bear?

In the Ali version of this perfect man scenario, the guy has killed a bear for some higher and nobler cause, say because it was about to attack the village children, or eat old Mrs Brown’s adored fluffy lap dog. He hasn’t just killed me a bear. A guy can go and shoot feral pigs or foxes (here in Australia) to save and protect the native wildlife or something, but I don’t want my own dead bear. In fact, in my version of the perfect man scenario, the guy doesn’t actually need to kill the bear, he just subdues it somehow or removes the defenceless, threatened me, village children, or fluffy dog from its vicinity, perhaps as he gallops by on a white horse, and leaves the bear well enough alone.

Anyway, that’s a segue to an embarrassing admission. On Saturday night I had a very pleasant evening catching up with two old friends, known mostly from a previous church. One of them was a student minister at a church where I was (in fact they both were, at various times), and a couple of weeks before we were both leaving to go elsewhere we sat in a pew and had a conversation, and it was like, why didn’t we a conversation like this months ago? So we have been keeping up, albeit infrequently, since. Anyway, after a spot of Japanese she had to go on home, so the other friend and I decided to come back to my house and get a DVD from Redroom on the way, chosen rather randomly from what was on offer, also wandering into the local Vinnies for a bit of Saturday night op-shopping.

What we ended up watching was How Do You Know? starring Reece Witherspoon. This was everything you could imagine from that information. Now, I actually don’t mind the occasional rom com, and I even own Sweet Home Alabama, because I like that one, but How Do You Know? beats all. It was a little quirky, but altogether too groaningly cheesy. There was even a little motivational spiel, based on the story of the guy who founded Play-Doh, about how we are all one small adjustment away from the life we’re supposed to have, or something along those lines, delivered when “the one” gave her Play-Doh for her birthday (who writes these scripts?!) … So, if there is an answer to the question, I think it’s in the Play-Doh. (The character played by Owen Wilson was good for a laugh however, for his ridiculous ‘thinking on the outside’.) I pulled out the crochet, because there wasn't enough in this movie to warrant my full attention.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Much loved by God himself

Listening to love songs over and over is not so helpful for some of us. So, in the measure, I thought I’d post some of Don Carson’s Holy Sonnets of the Twentieth Century. I have posted these before, but that was long ago, and especially since the book is now out of print, they could be heard again. So, soak in these two sonnets, based on Ephesians 3:14-21, which is one of my favourite prayers in Scripture.

(Ephesians 3:14-21 and 1 John 4:10)

Much loved by God himself – transcendent thought!
And what a love: not cautious, sensible,
A metered mite – mere word, a syllable,
A “love” – cheap, plastic coinage, sold and bought
At varied prices, all inflated, sought
In counterfeit; but inexpressible
In worth, and tested in the crucible
Of crucifixion (hatred come to nought!).
I trace this love’s strong roots and find at last
Not objects loved, but God’s own wellsprings free –
An ocean without bottom, shoreless, vast,
As timeless, endless as eternity.
Receive my stilled devotion, O my God;
As object of such love, I’m overawed.

D.A. Carson

(Ephesians 3:17b-19)

To grasp how wide and long and high and deep
This love of Christ, experience it when
Mere knowledge burst its categories, then
Escape the fragile frame of language, reap
The richest crop salvation brings, and heap
Up memories of a sea of love, again
And yet again cascading o’er us – men
Can know no other bliss so rich and deep.
Lord God, in love you have established us,
And rooted us in soil no less fine:
Not single plants exposed to every gust
Of wind, but all the saints drink love sublime.
Make me to know – a creature hewn from sod –
The measure of all fullness found in God.

D.A. Carson

Monday, July 11, 2011

Make You Feel My Love

And 28,655,457 people have watched this cover of Bob Dylan.

Skinny Love

And since this is a sad music moment, I confess that I do quite like this cover of Bon Iver's Skinny Love (the singer is 14 years old, which is a little in congruous with the lyrics, but nevermind ...).

Sadness I'm your girl

I first watched this clip some time back, because it was on the same European blog as where I got the blue yeti clip featuring John Hamm from Hermann Dune, and made a draft post of it on 24th May. Since then it has been gaining momentum around the web. It's quite mesmerising; you can't not watch it to the end.

Lykke Li - Sadness is a Blessing (Director Tarik Saleh) from Lykke Li on Vimeo.

(Now watch the little blue yeti to prevent drowning your sorrows.)

Saturday, July 09, 2011

We have not ...

Here is another hymn we sang at L'Abri that I recorded in my journal. I have noted that it was written by John Bacchus Dykes but I think he must have written the tune as it seems Thomas Pollock wrote the lyrics. This one makes a good confessional sort of prayer.

We have not known thee as we ought,
Nor learned thy wisdom, grace and pow'r;
The things of earth have filled our thought,
And trifles of the passing hour.
Lord, give us light thy truth to see,
And make us wise in knowing thee.

We have not feared thee as we ought,
Nor bowed beneath thine awful eye,
Nor guarded deed, and word, and thought,
Remembering that God was nigh.
Lord, give us faith to know thee near,
And grant the grace of holy fear.

We have not loved thee as we ought,
Nor cared that we are loved by thee;
Thy presence we have coldly sought,
And feebly longed thy face to see.
Lord, give a pure and loving heart
To feel and own the love thou art.

We have not served thee as we ought;
Alas! the duties left undone,
The work with little fervor wrought,
The battles lost, or scarcely won!
Lord, give the zeal, and give the might,
For thee to toil, for thee to fight.

(I don't have this fifth verse in my journal, and maybe there's a reason for that, because it sort of falls over at this point in my opinion, but here it is.)

When shall we know thee as we ought,
And fear, and love, and serve aright!
When shall we, out of trial brought,
Be perfect in the land of light!
Lord, may we day by day prepare
To see thy face, and serve thee there.

How the light gets in #2

I wanna be Laurel that's why. Lyrics by Leonard Cohen, lino print inspired by Michelangelo and 2 Cor 12:9-10.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Home alone on a Friday night

There is a crack, a
crack in everything, that's
how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen's Anthem, turned into Haiku.

Here's the song verse:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in
-Anthem, Leonard Cohen (which I've been taken with before)

I don't know what took my fancy to mess about with perfectly good poetry (I felt like being a teenage emo this evening and facebooking a whole stream of melancholy song lyrics, so I thought I'd blog them instead), but here's another go (which doesn't work so well):

Seems I'm still hurting
Can't turn the other cheek - I
love you, but can't speak

Leonard Cohen's Coming Back to You, turned into Haiku.

Here's the song fragment:
Maybe I'm still hurting
I can't turn the other cheek
But you know that I still love you
It's just that I can't speak
-Coming Back to You, Leonard Cohen

(Some of Leonard Cohen's lyrics are so good. It's a shame very little of his music does anything for me. I actually hung out in Berkelouws bookshop earlier and was looking through a book of his lyrics in the poetry section, which I've looked through many times already, and one thing lead to another ... 'til I wrote a silly blog post.)

Family news

I have another little niece of nephew set to enter the world in November. This is the third for my younger sister. (It is the actual baby in the photo. I just removed my sister's details from it.)

You know what this means for me - I have to make another sodding rug! :) (But they want a surprise this time on the sex, and the others didn't get their rugs till they were two years old, so I am in no hurry on that.)

My younger sister and family recently went to Melbourne to visit my older sister and family, and my older nieces thought they'd teach Annie a few things, among them Justin Bieber poses (much to Annie's Mum's delight!). So cute though.

Thursday, July 07, 2011


A novel is never anything but a philosophy put into images.
- Albert Camus

A midweek poem, on sleep

Frances posted this poem the other day, and commented on it as a better critic of poetry than I am. I'm one of those somewhat under-appreciators for whom subject often triumphs over technique and form, and I like what this one says. So here's a poem for a Thursday, on sleep.

Variation On The Word Sleep

I would like to watch you sleeping,
which may not happen.
I would like to watch you,
sleeping. I would like to sleep
with you, to enter
your sleep as its smooth dark wave
slides over my head

and walk with you through that lucent
wavering forest of bluegreen leaves
with its watery sun & three moons
towards the cave where you must descend,
towards your worst fear

I would like to give you the silver
branch, the small white flower, the one
word that will protect you
from the grief at the center
of your dream, from the grief
at the center I would like to follow
you up the long stairway
again & become
the boat that would row you back
carefully, a flame
in two cupped hands
to where your body lies
beside me, and as you enter
it as easily as breathing in

I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary.

Margaret Atwood

An old hymn for your consideration

And if people are going to redo old hymns, I'd like someone to revitalise this one please. We sang it at L'Abri in Switzerland way back in 2001 (where I wrote it in my journal), and it comes from the Lutheran hymnal. I'm good with the old language, but I'd like a new tune. (I'm fairly sure we sang it to a different tune to what I can find on youtube, which I still have in my head, but I don't know what it's called.)

(*I'm not entirely sure what the third line in the final verse "to your Redeemer pay your vow" is getting at, but perhaps it is just the fourth line "and sing with joy and gladness".)

All Praise to God, Who Reigns Above
by Johann J. Schuetz, 1640-1690

1. All praise to God, who reigns above,
The God of all creation,
The God of wonders, power, and love,
The God of our salvation!
With healing balm my soul He fills,
The God who every sorrow stills,--
To God all praise and glory!

2. What God's almighty power hath made
His gracious mercy keepeth;
By morning dawn or evening shade
His watchful eye ne'er sleepeth;
Within the kingdom of His might
Lo, all is just and all is right,--
To God all praise and glory!

3. I cried to Him in time of need:
Lord God, oh, hear my calling!
For death He gave me life indeed
And kept my feet from falling.
For this my thanks shall endless be;
Oh, thank Him, thank our God, with me,--
To God all praise and glory!

4. The Lord forsaketh not His flock,
His chosen generation;
He is their Refuge and their Rock,
Their Peace and their Salvation.
As with a mother's tender hand
He leads His own, His chosen band,--
To God all praise and glory!

5. Ye who confess Christ's holy name,
To God give praise and glory!
Ye who the Father's power proclaim,
To God give praise and glory!
All idols under foot be trod,
The Lord is God! The Lord is God!
To God all praise and glory!

6. Then come before His presence now
And banish fear and sadness;
To your Redeemer pay your vow
And sing with joy and gladness:
Though great distress my soul befell,
The Lord, my God, did all things well,--
To God all praise and glory!

The Lutheran Hymnal
Hymn #19
Text: Deut. 32:3
Author: Johann J. Schuetz, 1675, cento
Translated by: composite
Titled: "Sei Lob und Ehr' dem hoechsten Gut"
Composer: Melchior Vulpius, 1609
Tune: "Lobet den Herrn, ihr"

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The new Garage Hymnal

I was listening to the new Garage Hymnal CD, Unity, last night (my flatmate's brother is in this band, so I get a sort of second-hand privileged access ...). I really like it! I had to put it on again this morning while I got ready for work. They sing a version of Fairest Lord Jesus that I particularly like. Here's a really pared back little clip of it (on the CD it's rocked up).

The vocal sound on the CD occasionally reminds me of something else - I think it's Sarah Blasko (no, I've since decided one of them sounds like Missy Higgins).

The perfect man

"I killed a bear and wrote a poem about how sad it made me feel."
I don't watch a lot of TV these days, but on Monday night I was at the house of the friend I'm reading the bible with, because now that I don't have guitar class we've gone back to Monday nights, and when I got there the TV was going, and on came this ad, for I can't remember what show (Offspring?), and the narrated voice says "she thought she'd found the perfect man" and then this fellow appears with a bear draped over his shoulder, and that's what he says. How we laughed!

Monday, July 04, 2011

Crazy bananas

There was a time when I had a banana almost every single morning on my breakfast. Those days are a dim distant memory. This morning I thought I would give myself a Monday morning treat and just have one. I reckoned that this might cost me about $2. But no, it was $3.37! - for one banana! It's not even a big one. For a while there I was considering the occasional banana as a flood relief contribution. Now I am not so sure ...

Sunday, July 03, 2011

A dress for Annie

A drum roll is required for this .... I have finally finished Annie's dress! (Annie is my four-year-old niece.)

To make this I used the Hooded Sweater Dress pattern by Anjibeane, but I didn't want the critters on the front of it, so I made two removable brooches, using patterns out of the Happy Hooker book.

As you may notice, it's not at all technically difficult, just time consuming! I actually had all these colours in my stash, but ran out of the pink (which is discontinued), and thought 'thanks goodness for that' because I was done with the stripes (that's why the sleeves go solid red). I don't know that I'd make the body striped again, or if I did, I'd do two rows of each colour so you came back to where you started and could leave your wools attached, because changing colours at the end of each row gets very tedious, and you have lots of ends.

I'm so relieved to be finished! I don't know that it is going to be that comfortable, because single crochet can be a little stiff, but she will be warm as toast because it's pure wool.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

The sound of silence

I like this post from Practical Theology for Women. Silence will always be interpreted as rejection, even when that's not how it's intended:
Silence has often wounded me more deeply than any other sound. It's the sound of someone's heart who is just not interested enough in me to even make an attempt. Many of us choose silence because we don't know what to say, but it gets translated instead as “I don't care about you” whether you mean it that way or not.

Poetry day - for the shame

I've featured various sonnets from this sequence many times on this blog, but not this one. So, here is sonnet thirteen from Christina Rossetti's Later Life: A Double Sonnet of Sonnets.


Shame is a shadow cast by sin: yet shame
Itself may be a glory and a grace,
Refashioning the sin-disfashioned face;
A nobler bruit than hollow-sounded fame,
A new-lit lustre on a tarnished name,
One virtue pent within an evil place,
Strength for the fight, and swiftness for the race,
A stinging salve, a life-requickening flame.
A salve so searching we may scarcely live,
A flame so fierce it seems that we must die,
An actual cautery thrust into the heart:
Nevertheless, men die not of such smart;
And shame gives back what nothing else can give,
Man to himself,--then sets him up on high.

Christina Rossetti

Fun things #2

Then on Thursday evening I went to hear one of the guys in my connect group ("my mate Dave" - just name dropping that now incase he's big-time famous one day) and his band The Wild Frontier play for the Folk Club at the Hive Bar in Erskineville. (We joke about the connect group band we're going to form one day, because we have so much musical talent in ours, though I don't know that they'll want me and my flute.)

This was a good night. I asked the friend I have been reading the bible with if she wanted to come along (because you can't go to gigs if the only person you know is actually playing), and she jumped at it, so we got some dinner nearby first and went along. She cracks me up, dropping matter-of-fact lines all the time. For example, the venue has a cosy ambience (ie, it's not all that large, either downstairs of upstairs) and I was standing up against the bar downstairs initially, feeling like I still kept getting squeezed and jostled by everyone trying to get past, so I say 'I feel like I am in everyone's way here' and she says 'no, that's what people do in bars - take up space'.

Dave is very cool (seen here in the middle); he plays the banjo (bottom pic), which is all that needs to be said.

They played some of their own songs (you can listen online at the above link) and a couple of covers, one of Neil Young and another that was originally Dusty Springfield. There were four other acts on as well, all of which I enjoyed. A girl even got up to read poetry, and, much as I appreciate poetry, I thought to myself 'this could be painful', but she was great! I've now joined the group Shut the Folk Up!

Fun things #1

On Thursday I strolled out during lunch from work and came upon this very pleasant surprise! Someone in our street has been 'yarn-bombing' or 'guerilla knitting'. I snapped these as unobtrusively as possible, trying not to annoy cafe patrons too excessively.

The tree

A tandem bike - with a granny square bike seat. Love it!

The bike and the tree in the street