Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Sunday evening song

I have posted about Thad Cockrell once upon a time here, over two years ago, and ever since his album, To Be Loved, has been on almost constant repeat in my car as I drive around the city. Every time I think of changing it I say to myself, 'but I just like this one', so it goes around again.

He's a Christian singer of sorts, but it's not your average Christian music, and each track isn't necessarily Christian. That said, it ends with the title track called Oh To Be Loved, which is fairly straightforward. It's a little slow, and you might wonder if I should go back to Tamworth as it's a little heartbreak country, but I do like it. I couldn't find a decent youtube of it, but you can listen here. These are the words:

Oh to be loved by Jesus
Oh to be loved by Him
Oh to have joy and peace within
Oh to be loved by Him

He knows the names of my sorrows
He knows the names of my fears
Why should I let them bother me
For I know he is near

Oh to be loved by Jesus
Oh to be loved by Him
Oh to have joy and peace within
Oh to be loved by Him

Mmmmmm...

And if no other will love me
In this life I roam
There'd be no love I would long for
I know I am His own

Oh to be loved by Jesus
Oh to be loved by Jesus
Oh to be loved by Jesus

I like those. And tell me this isn't good driving music:

Shakespeare, 30th September


For aught I see, they are as sick that surfeit with too much as they that starve with nothing. It is no mean happiness therefore, to be seated in the mean: superfluity comes sooner by white hairs, but competency lives longer.

Merchant of Venice, Act i., Sc. 2.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Shakespeare, 29th September

The empty vessel makes the greatest sound.

King Henry V, Act iv., Sc. 4.

Sweet mercy is nobility's true badge.

Titus Andronicus, Act i., Sc. 2.

Light boats sail swift, though greater hulks draw deep.

Troilus and Cressida, Act ii., Sc. 3.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Broken-down lives

One of the books I've started trying to read, before I fall asleep in it, is Broken-Down House: Living Productively in a World Gone Bad, by Paul Tripp, a book about the redemptive and restorative power of the gospel. Apparently it was the anniversary of TS Eliot's birthday on Wednesday, and I was reminded by that and the afore-mentioned book title of this piece of Eliot's poetry, from Part VIII of Choruses from ‘The Rock’, so here's a little Friday poetry:

And in spite of all the dishonour,
The broken standards, the broken lives,
The broken faith in one place or another,
There was something left that was more than the tales
Of old men on winter evenings.
...

Remember the faith that took men from home
At the call of the wandering preacher.

T.S. Eliot

Shakespeare, 28th September


To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?

Hamlet, Act iii., Sc. 1.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Yawn

I've been feeling unusually tired this week, to the point of struggling to keep my eyes open over a book in the evenings. Then I thought about the fact that I have had an unusual run of dieting on fish and other things more vegetarian of late, following that rotten cold from the North, and that perhaps what is needed is a few good steaks. (My iron level does tend to sit a little low and take little dips every now and then if I don't pay attention that leave me wondering why I feel half asleep.) So I am going to steak it up and see if I can stay awake and mentally functioning long enough to write something!

Shakespeare, 27th September


                                    We may outrun
By violent swiftness, that which we run at,
And lose by over-running.

King Henry VIII, Act i., Sc. 1.

There is no time so miserable but a man may be true.

Timon of Athens, Act iv., Sc. 3.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Shakespeare, 26th September


How full of briers is this working-day world.

As You Like It, Act i., Sc. 3.

                                    I hold it cowardice
To rest mistrustful where a noble heart
Hath pawned an open hand in sign of love.

Third Part of King Henry VI, Act iv., Sc. 2.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Caravans, trailers, airstreams ...

Oh my! I was a little slow to find this (there are too many H things in my google reader, and basically just too many things altogether in my google reader, and it was buried), but Ally has made me a pinterest collection of caravans and airstream trailers. Go see! Le sigh. How fabulous are they all?

I couldn't decide which one to post here to whet your appetite, but how about a gypsy wagon?


Or this cute thing. What exactly do you call these things?


Click through Ally's blog to see the rest, including some for you uninteresting minimalist folks. :)

Shakespeare, 25th September


The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.

Midsummer Night's Dream, Act V., Sc. 1

Introducing Shakespeare

One thing I intended to do in the holidays was think about what this blog is for and why I keep it and how long it's been since I wrote a substantial post containing an original thought. I didn't really do that. And for all I think about dissolving it often, I do just like to keep it here, for when something takes my fancy to post and share.

I was recently reminded of how good Shakespeare is, and how quotable, and so, with the aid of a Shakespeare birthday book from long ago, I thought I might start posting, regularly (but I won't make promises on how regularly, because you know how these things go), snippets of Shakespeare. Nearing the end of September, on a Tuesday, is a queer time to begin, but why wait for a more obvious starting point. And it seemed only fitting to begin with this next quote, that being Shakespeare on poetry, from 25th September in my little book.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The end of Bonhoeffer

In my recent holiday I did manage to finish Bonhoeffer, by Eric Metaxas. It’s a book I couldn’t do justice to in a review, and I read it slowly – partly because it warrants being read slowly, and partly because I was dreading the ending – which doesn’t lend itself to one-post reviews. But I am sure many are familiar with the actual story, and this is an excellently told biography. (There are some criticisms abroad of its portrayal of Bonhoeffer’s theology, but given how much material is quoted from the pen of Bonhoeffer himself in the book it is well worth reading even so, and you also gain a broader understanding of the theological climate he was living and thinking in, which was very different in 1930s Germany to what it is today.) Blog friends Nicole and Jean happened to be reading it at the same time, unknown to me when I began.

I felt a great sadness nearing the end, over the deaths of those who died in the conspiracy. So many of Germany’s most noble and courageous souls, men of great character and conviction, lost their lives in  their brave defiance and in their attempts to halt unspeakable evils. The world must surely be a poorer place for their absence. Yet Bonhoeffer didn’t view his own death, or the ‘sweetness of death’ itself, that way, as Jean quotes here, and as Nicole quotes here from Bonhoeffer on suffering faithfully. You can read other quotes from Jean here and here (and search here for previous posts from the book).

It’s a book that stirred me deeply, being both so inspiring and so challenging. (And I somehow managed to finish school without ever studying the World Wars – I can’t understand that failure of the education system I went through – so there was much more to learn along the way.) Do yourself a great good and read this book.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Crochet post - Violet's rug

Late last year my sister had another baby, which of course meant another rug to make, and I have now begun.


I wasn't going to make the Babette blanket again that I made for her big sister and brother because the joining is so time-consuming, and because I just wanted to make something different, so it took me a while to work out what exactly I would do. I originally planned to use several different motif squares, but in the end settled on only one, which will be interspersed with the plain squares seen on the left. In the end these are rugs for kids to use, so I want it to be reasonably robust.


This is square is called Briar Rose, from the 200 Crochet Blocks book. It's nice but is well and truly going to need blocking to stretch it out flat, and hopefully I can join it neatly to the plain squares even though the stitch count is slightly out.




These photos are the adorable little recipient, taken on my recent holiday. (It's seriously hard to get good pictures of moving children! This one is walking at ten months and into absolutely everything.)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Saturday night in

Maybe I just like being tragic. But I sat here by myself and watched He’s Just Not That Into You this evening. I was actually at a friend’s celebrating a birthday last night, and somehow movies came up across the room in conversation, and a couple of guys said they'd watched this particular movie because their female housemates had been watching it, and the comment was made ‘that’s actually not that bad a movie’, and I thought, ‘well, interesting that you blokes think so’. So, having nothing else on, and it being quite a long time since I hired a DVD (I can never remember my sodding password at the store anyway), I got it out. Interesting, and a good reminder to not make up excuses for guys who don’t take initiative, don’t call, don't respond to anything, don't 'make it happen' ... because if they don't, essentially they are just not really interested. I actually did read the book years ago, because another flatmate owned it, and it was useful at the time. A girl needs regular sanity checks on such things.

I was actually trying to work on the latest crochet project while watching it, but repeatedly discover that I can’t really crochet and watch movies at the same time, unless the crochet is basic and I have seen the movie before, otherwise I'm going to miss half of it, so not a lot of progress was made.

Duende


Since I like a good untranslatable foreign word for a thing, especially a thing wherein lives the melancholy, I liked this post by Glendyn at Hoaxville about the Spanish word Duende (apparently considered by linguists and translators as the hardest word to translate from Spanish: see here). It would seem that it's meaning in art, tener duende (having duende), is a little different from it's straight translation. It's all a little difficult to explain, obviously, but I do like the quote from Nick Cave, taken from Wikipedia, which I will reproduce here as it's a little hard to read in Glendyn's post:
Australian music artist Nick Cave discusses duende in his lecture pertaining to the nature of the love song (Vienna, 1999):

In his brilliant lecture entitled “The Theory and Function of Duende” Federico García Lorca attempts to shed some light on the eerie and inexplicable sadness that lives in the heart of certain works of art. “All that has dark sound has duende”, he says, “that mysterious power that everyone feels but no philosopher can explain.” In contemporary rock music, the area in which I operate, music seems less inclined to have its soul, restless and quivering, the sadness that Lorca talks about. Excitement, often; anger, sometimes: but true sadness, rarely. Bob Dylan has always had it. Leonard Cohen deals specifically in it. It pursues Van Morrison like a black dog and though he tries to he cannot escape it.Tom Waits and Neil Young can summon it. It haunts Polly Harvey. My friends the Dirty Three have it by the bucket load. The band Spiritualized are excited by it. Tindersticks desperately want it, but all in all it would appear that duende is too fragile to survive the brutality of technology and the ever increasing acceleration of the music industry. Perhaps there is just no money in sadness, no dollars in duende. Sadness or duende needs space to breathe. Melancholy hates haste and floats in silence. It must be handled with care.”

All love songs must contain duende. For the love song is never truly happy. It must first embrace the potential for pain. Those songs that speak of love without having within in their lines an ache or a sigh are not love songs at all but rather Hate Songs disguised as love songs, and are not to be trusted. These songs deny us our humanness and our God-given right to be sad and the air-waves are littered with them. The love song must resonate with the susurration of sorrow, the tintinnabulation of grief. The writer who refuses to explore the darker regions of the heart will never be able to write convincingly about the wonder, the magic and the joy of love for just as goodness cannot be trusted unless it has breathed the same air as evil – the enduring metaphor of Christ crucified between two criminals comes to mind here – so within the fabric of the love song, within its melody, its lyric, one must sense an acknowledgement of its capacity for suffering.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The doctrine of creation

So I am back at work and have had things on most nights this week, but here is a quote for you, stolen from Justin on facebook. (I know it's not exactly fashionable, but I do believe in a world created by God, and studying science at University didn't convince me otherwise.)
The doctrine of creation trains us to imagine ourselves as we truly are: dependent on God, not the authors but the recipients of our nature and our destiny … The doctrine of creation directs us to associate everything that is, including ourselves, with the notions of contingency, finitude, but also goodness. Consequently it fosters certain habits, such as confessing that what security we have stems wholly from the reliability of that Word that sustains the universe. The doctrine of creation thus encourages a daily practice—a daily diet—of prayer, a habit that expresses our utter dependence on God.
~Kevin Vanhoozer

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Unforgotten

I started flicking through this new children's book in a book store on the weekend, and found myself needing to read to the end. It's beautifully told and illustrated, and this trailer is so quietly moving.

 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Poetry Day - Boat people

Picture from here.

Boat People

Torn from
their moorings
by tempestuous events,
cast upon open seas
hoping for
distant kindness.
Crowded undernourished
ill-equipped
they float
under God's eye
menaced by fears.

They drift
in the
shoreless conscience
of our world.

Their frail light
flickers
in ocean's night.

Bruce L. Smith 1984
I'll Not Pretend

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The pleasures and sorrows of work


This is perhaps old information to many, and I went to hear Alain de Botton speak at the Opera House on the topic some years ago myself, but I am just now reading through his book The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work. (Then to my amusement I did what all intelligent, sensible and God-fearing folks do and had a go at a Facebook application that determines your vocation based on nothing but your date of birth, and got the result above.) I don’t especially want to keep doing what I am doing for work, but I don’t altogether know where to go next either. The problem isn’t that I don’t know what it is I love to do. I do. The problem is just how to turn any or all of those things into something that generates a stable income. In truth, I also hoped that I might be entrusted with children to raise, but as that requires that a Christian guy ask me out, which is the impossible dream I don’t see being realised any time soon (and time is running out), I can’t consider that an option. So I feel like I am in a strange place where the things I would love to do either don’t lend themselves to a secure income, or are not things that I can plan/take action towards. And at the moment I feel like work is something I do to earn some money, and I do what I enjoy doing in my spare time, but perhaps the two don’t have to be so mutually exclusive, and I'd like to be a little closer to the 'coal face' of what matters than I am now.

So I was interested in this section of Alain de Botton’s chapter where he spends some time with a career counsellor. I don’t necessarily endorse all that he says, but it is curious that this notion of a ‘calling’ gets links to Christianity, and that only from the medieval times. What he writes in the second part is also strangely comforting.
... he remarked that the most common and unhelpful illusion plaguing those who came to see him was the idea that they ought somehow, in the normal course of events, to have intuited – long before they had finished their degrees, started families, bought houses and risen to the top of law firms – what they should properly be doing with their lives. They were tormented by a residual notion of having through some error or stupidity on their part missed out on their true ‘calling’.

This curious and unfortunate term had first come into circulation in a Christian context during the medieval period, in reference to people’s abrupt encounter with an imperative to devote themselves to Jesus’ teachings. But Symons maintained that a secularised version of this notion had survived even into the modern age, where it was prone to torture us with an expectation that the meaning of our lives might at some point be revealed to us in a ready-made and decisive form, which would in turn render us permanently immune to feelings of confusion, envy and regret.

Symons preferred a quote from Motivation and Personality, by the psychologist Abraham Maslow, which he had pinned up above the toilet: ‘It isn’t normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement.’ (pg 113)

...

The true range of obstacles in the way of unlocking our potential was more accurately acknowledged by the German sociologist Max Weber when, in his essay ‘Science as a Vocation’ (1918), he described Goethe as an example of the sort of creative and healthy personality ‘who appears only once in a thousand years’.

For the rest of history, for most of us, our bright promise will always fall short of being actualised; it will never earn us bountiful sums of money or beget exemplary objects or organisations. It will remain no more than a hope carried over from childhood, or a dream entertained as we drive along the motorway and feel our plans hovering above a wide horizon. Extraordinary resilience, intelligence and good fortune are needed to redraw the map of our reality, while on either side of the summits of greatness are arrayed the endless foothills populated by the tortured celibates of achievement.

Most of us stand poised at the edge of brilliance, haunted by the knowledge of our proximity, yet still demonstrably on the wrong side of the line, our dealings with reality undermined by a range of minor yet critical psychological flaws ... We are like an exquisite high-speed aircraft which for lack of a tiny part is left stranded beside the runway, rendered slower than a tractor or a bicycle.

I left Symon’s company newly aware of the unthinking cruelty discreetly coiled within the magnanimous bourgeois assurance that everyone can discover happiness through work and love. It isn’t that these two entities are invariably incapable of delivering fulfilment, only that they almost never do so. And when an exception is misrepresented as a rule, our individual misfortunes, instead of seeming to us quasi-inevitable aspects of life, will weigh down on us like particular curses. In denying the natural place reserved for longing and error in the human lot, the bourgeois ideology denies us the possibility of collective consolation for our fractious marriages and our unexploited ambitions, and condemns us instead to solitary feelings of shame and persecution for having stubbornly failed to become who we are. (pg 127)

The winter I chose happiness

Boy, I haven't had a cold that hung around for this long in years. This one clearly got me when I was down. After being mostly home all week I felt ready for some action/interaction today, and was contemplating something impulsive, but in the end I concluded I just need to rest, keep on blowing my nose, and be ready to hit the ground running at work on Monday. I did however do something minorly impulsive, in a holidayish-treat sort of mood, and wandered up the street and bought Clare Bowditch's new album. I barely know her music and I don't even know if I'm going to like it, and that isn't usually how I do music. But the album is called The Winter I Chose Happiness. Isn't that poetically nice? I also did like this film clip when Pip over at Meet Me at Mikes posted it.

 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The day I filled my handbag with water

Today I gave a new meaning to the phrase ‘fishing around in your handbag’ for something. I was in an elective lecture in one room and when it finished needed to go back upstairs for another, so I whisked my (mostly full) drink bottle of the desk and into my bag, without realising the lid wasn’t actually screwed on. You know what happens next. And because I have a nice leather satchel I didn’t even realise for a while that I was actually full of water, so everything got a good fully-immersed soaking. Stuff was floating in there!

And in the middle of a conference one can’t exactly tip a bag full of water out just anywhere or spread the contents of their handbag out to dry. So I did what I could in the bathroom and then for the next lecture I found myself seated between two of the academics making apologies for the strange and unnecessary things I placed around my desk and the things I upended on the floor beneath me. I’m thankful that the book I had purchased was actually in a plastic bag which did a fine job of water-proofing it, and I hadn’t put my notes or bible in my bag just to walk upstairs so they were safe also, and thus the wet paper was minimal. But, folks, my supply of tissues for the day was something else! Honestly ...

So I walked around for the rest of the day with a drenched leather bag and soggy things. I now have those soggy items spread around here at home and my phone in a bag of rice (which seems to be working!). Is it just me or do other people do such things ...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Exploring the Psalms

I typed that post below up the other day and didn’t get to posting it. I have actually spent the day at the Moore Theological College School of Theology on the Stirred by a Noble Theme: Exploring the Psalms. Apart from the fact that I thought I was going to give myself a hernia trying not to cough in the first lecture, while the tears ran down my face, and my ears have been blocked all day (I thought I was feeling alright yesterday!) it has been a good day. I particularly enjoyed Laurel Moffat doing a little segment on Engaged by Poetry, in which she took us through one of Shakespeare's sonnets, and Andrew Shead’s talk on Theology in Poetry: Translating the Poetry of the Psalms, where he went back to the Hebrew and translated a Psalm into a poetic form more closely resembling the original and also translated one of the Psalms in Lamentations into an acrostic. (It might be no surprise to readers that such things light my fire.)

Let's hear it for introverts!


There has been some discussion about the interwebs in recent times about introverts, and the fact that some of the “care for introverts” directions floating around may be a little sooky, so I laughed out loud when I read a short article by Eleanor Robertson, in Frankie Issue 48, on introverts. Here is a portion:
The best way to tell if you’re an introvert is to imagine how you’d feel if someone told you that you had to spend an entire day every week totally alone. The more extraverted will usually wither during a period of extended solitude, keening for the stimulation of other humans. Introverts, on the other hand, will breathe a sigh of relief and ask if the arrangement can be made permanent. There are obviously lots of people who sit somewhere between these two poles, but in my experience, the extremely extroverted are suspicious of the introverts, because extraversion tends to be normalised and rewarded in our society ... most of our social environments cater for introversion about the same way as tropical beach holidays cater to a nocturnal penguin.

There are ways to make your introversion work for you, which is why I’m sitting here writing instead of working in an office or retail job until I mentally collapse and try to build my own personal orbiting space station ... Additionally, if you’re into solitary creative activities, like making art or music, or sitting quietly in a dark corner by yourself while you breathe in a regular pattern and imagine you’re the only person on Earth, you’re at a unique advantage!

Having said that, I do think it’s up to introverts to try and [(sic) to] learn better ways of coping with society’s fascist expectation that you occasionally leave your house and interact with other human beings. Sure, you could just hide under a pile of blankets and make someone bring your food without ever making eye contact, but we’re all in this together!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Having a coke with you

A holiday post. I found this video of Frank O'Hara reading Having a Coke with You over at Austin Kleon's tumblr. I've linked this poem before here, and the link no longer works, so it ought be here again. The words of the poem are below, which might help if you can't understand the first line.




Having a Coke with You

is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them

I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
as the horse

it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it

Monday, September 10, 2012

Home

So I have made it home, from my leg of the “big adventure”, as my five-year-old niece kept calling it. We actually got into Sydney a day earlier than planned on Saturday evening, with only one stop over in Armidale. The road trip wasn’t so bad. The two older kids had DVDs to watch, and the 10-month-old, who has been sick, the poor little thing, seemed to appreciate the extended chance for sleep. All of them then stayed the night in my flat here, which was some kind of circus, before leaving yesterday afternoon. It was sad to see them go, though I confess to a small amount of relief, because I seem to have caught what the baby had (which the others had all previously had, and is some nasty thing called the “100 day flu” up in Toowoomba) and was starting to feel pretty miserable myself and like taking to my bed.

I’m not so surprised I am sick, even though "I don't get sick", because the first night I was there I went in to go to bed in the room I thought I was just sharing with my niece and discovered that her little friend Chilli the dog had snuck in and was asleep on the end of her bed on the floor. Chilli is a very sweet little dog my sister and brother-in-law inherited off a couple who broke up and needed someone to take it, and she really does have a beautiful nature. My niece loves Chilli and Chilli loves her, and occasionally, only when my brother-in-law is away, Chilli sneaks in to her room for the night and is allowed to stay there. I’m not actually a big fan of dogs inside, but I thought if sweet Chilli stayed where she was all night, it would be fine. But she didn’t did she. She soon ended up on my bed, and shuffled around and walked all over me and interrupted my sleep all night. Then another night my niece woke me up asking for a drink in the middle of the night, then twice she asked me if it was morning yet before 5 am, and some nights I had my nephew in the room too, who still has a bad night cough, and so it went on ... till I was somewhere beyond tired.

So I stayed home from church last night after the travelers left, which is unusual for me, as I wasn’t expecting to make it in the first place and was feeling like rubbish coughing and sneezing and being unable to breathe through my nose. I was looking forward to an unbroken sleep last night, and instead I got up every few hours to blow my nose for five minutes. But I don’t normally get a full-blown flu, so I am hoping I can beat this in a day or two. We shall see!

Now, off to do all those other things I had in mind to do with these days off I have, or maybe I shall just go back to bed ...