Friday, February 28, 2014

The genes in my jeans

This is a very silly and trivial post, but it is Friday after all.

Over the course of my life, until the present time, I have been asked more times than I find particularly flattering, such questions as "what sport do you play?" and "how far do you ride your bike?", or been subjected to similar exclamations, ad nauseum. The reason being certain features of my legs, which apparently give the impression that I engage in a lot of athletic activity.

Now, while I do jog, and have in the past had some athletic success, I don't think the jogging would be sufficient on it's own, and this is something of a case of the chicken and the egg. So to shed some light on this whole phenomenon, I thought I would post this old picture of my father (he's the one operating the camera) that was once featured in a brochure advertising some kind of agricultural show (which I am assuming has no extant copyright claims).

What you are supposed to note here are the dimensions of his calf muscles, seen here filling the width of his trousers. And the fact that these were 1970s trousers. They weren't any skinny jeans.

I think this should silence all future discussion of this awkward topic. There is simply no escaping the input of our ancestors, for better or for worse. I think I would need to be almost skeletal before I had any "thigh gap" to speak of. Such is life.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Marriage Plot

I have some friends who are into books and teaching English and who have been members of past book clubs and the like who are into Jeffrey Eugenides. I’ve never read a novel of his before, but when I came across The Marriage Plot at one of those temporary bookshops that appears in vacant spots in shopping centres, going cheap, I bought it, then started reading it at the airport.

The heroine is studying literature and doing a thesis on George Eliot and Jane Austen, then on the very first page it said this about her book collection, so you could say I was a little hooked:
There was, in short, the mid-size but still portable library representing pretty much everything Madeleine had read in college, a collection of texts, seemingly chosen at random, whose focus slowly narrowed, like a personality test, a sophisticated one you couldn’t trick by anticipating the implications of its questions and finally got so lost in that your only recourse was to answer the simple truth. And then you waited for the result, hoping for “Artistic,” or “Passionate,” thinking you could live with “Sensitive,” secretly fearing “Narcissistic” and “Domestic,” but finally being presented with an outcome that cut both ways and made you feel different depending on the day, the hour, or the guy you happened to be dating: “Incurably Romantic.”

It’s a novel about college relationships, so it’s a little “modern” if you know what I mean. And I don’t know that that’s altogether helpful for someone like me, who has accepted that I will probably never get married (because men never ask me anywhere, or respond with any very convincing appreciation or enthusiasm when I make any kind of “overture”, which I wouldn’t be making in the first place if the man was interested enough to do it himself) or engage in what people who manage to get themselves into relationships engage in. But one mustn’t live in a bubble, and I am enjoying this book a good deal more than similar others I have tried. (I didn’t finish The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen, because I just plain didn’t like it, and I didn’t finish Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami either, because I wasn’t that enthralled.) And perhaps I can console myself with this, written after Madeleine enters a relationship:
In Madeleine’s face was a stupidity Mitchell has never seen before. It was the stupidity of all normal people. It was the stupidity of the fortunate and beautiful, of everybody who got what they wanted in life and so remained unremarkable.
So perhaps having never gotten what I wanted, in terms of relationship, I can at least be vaguely remarkable? Somehow I don’t know. Only if reading books makes you more interesting than actually interacting closely with people does.

This book is perhaps sounding very much like “chick lit”, but Eugenides is more dense, and it comes with college students waxing lyrical about Derrida and Heidegger and what not (though there is perhaps a gentle poke at the pretentiousness involved) and interesting comments on one student’s (one of two potential heroes so far) grappling with theology.

But for now, here is a less heavy spiel on what has become of “the novel”, in explanation of the title of this particular novel, which I thought was curious, though the feminists might scream:
In Saunders’s [a college professor] opinion, the novel had reached its apogee with the marriage plot and had never recovered from its disappearance. In the days when success in life had depended on marriage, and marriage had depended on money, novelists had had a subject to write about. The epics sang of war, the novel of marriage. Sexual equality, good for women, had been bad for the novel. And divorce had undone it completely. What would it matter whom Emma married if she could file for separation later? How would Isabel Archer’s marriage to Gilbert Osmond have been affected by the existence of a prenup? As far as Saunders was concerned, marriage didn’t mean much anymore, and neither did the novel. Where could you find the marriage plot nowadays? You couldn’t. You had to read historical fiction. You had to read non-Western novels involving traditional societies ... You had to go, literarily speaking, back in time.
Is this why I like and read mostly the old books? I need to ponder (though I suspect not entirely). 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Shame interrupted

The latest book I am reading on the Kindle, which I downloaded when it was going free, or cheap maybe, is Shame Interrupted, by Ed Welch. I’m so far finding it really helpful. Perhaps only some of us have times of significant shame in our lives, either brought to us by ourselves or by others, which can become crippling if not dealt with, as it’s a very debilitating state to be in (Welch aptly introduces shame as ‘The Quiet Killer’). This is a book offers a way to process it and find a way out.

So far it looks at how we experience shame (which, incidentally, was one of the first consequences of the fall in the garden), how Jesus himself was shamed (mocked, rejected, betrayed, abandoned, outcast and just about everything else that causes shame) and so bore our shame, what this might mean for our shame before others.

I do find it difficult to re-find passages on the Kindle, but here is a little portion after a treatment of some of the Beatitudes:
The first four beatitudes draw attention to our relationship with God. The message of the kingdom must begin with that relationship for it to sound like good news.

Here is the challenge. Your shame is about human relationships. What do other people think of you? Where can you fit in? Even now you could wonder, what does God have to do with this? The things God says are good, but they don’t seem connected to the deeper issues. For example, if you are a public failure, it is good that parents or friends love you, but that love doesn’t touch the rejection you experience. The love doesn’t take away the failure.

The acceptance of the King, however, coupled with the knowledge of how to live before him, will diminish the power of shame ...
If any of that sounds remotely relevant, I'd recommend the book.

A family birthday

I have been away for a week for a family gathering to celebrate my Pa's 90th birthday, and feel way behind on all things online, but here are some photos. 

This is my amazing 90-year-old Pa with his brown hair.

I don't post that many pictures of myself, but here I am in conversation with Pa (with weird-looking hair myself). He's still mentally "with it" and reads theology books and drives the car and so on.

This is just me standing by an old petrol pump in from of the entry to the Queensland Auto Museum, which is where this event was held. We enjoyed some scones, then a tour of the museum, and then lunch in the retro cafe.

I have about a bazillion photos of old things inside the museum, which looked a bit like this.

But this was apparently Slim Dusty's caravan. My Aunt and I wanted to tow this away and park it in the back yard for doing crafty creative things.

This one is my niece staring in amazement at a juke box.

And here is my Nan and Pa with my uncle who lives here in Canberra and who gave a little speech. Nan and Pa have six children, eighteen grand-children and twelve great grand-children at last count. All six children and their spouses made it, but there were six grand-children (and a lot of spouses of grandchildren and the great-grandchildren) missing as they are scattered to the winds, but it was a special time to gather together.

Friday, February 14, 2014


So it is Valentine's Day. If you're a single woman, stick your fingers in your ears, your hands over your eyes, and sing la la la la ...  Or maybe this.

Someone in my Facebook news feed a while back said they wished someone would put the Apostle's Creed to music, only I can't remember who. But I am actually up in Queensland at the moment for a family reunion for my Pa's 90th Birthday, and my Aunt happened to show me this.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The old steriliser unveiling

I told myself to take this blog back to the good ole days, when I actually wrote a post about something, and that maybe if I didn't scratch the itch with little posts, I might write something bigger and better. Thus there has been nothing. But for today, here is the finished product of that old steriliser I found on the footpath, that I have mentioned once or twice (here is the original find).

Boy am I glad to be finished with epoxy enamel paint. Because there was an underside to the lid and the flap inside and the thermometer casing, I had to paint it in stages, but it takes a very long time to dry thoroughly (like ages!), so then I'd notice that the part that it was resting on while I painted and dried another part was spoiled, or had newspaper stuck to it, so I'd fix that part up and paint that part again, and on it went. Then because I had to hold the flap and the lid an the the thermometer casing, paint would get on my hand, then it was on the light switch and the tap handles and my toenail and the floor, and my unit smelt like turps for weeks from trying to get the wretched stuff off all the things ...

But here it is. For some reason the colour was truer to life in this filtered instagram picture that on my DSLR, so here is the instagram picture. It is a bit more candy green than I was aiming for (the colour is called "Dublin Jack" and is deeper and greyer and a little more Irish on the colour card than this), but this colour does have a retro kitchen vibe. I can recall old white canisters with gold lettering and lids in this colour.