Friday, April 28, 2006

bizarre news stories

Hard to believe, but apparently Cadbury doesn't own the colour purple after all.

Also, the judge in the Holy Blood, Holy Grail vs The Da Vinci Code case has indulged in a little bit of mystery himself, slotting a code into his judgement. The judgement can be found here in case you're interested in trying to crack it.

spam email poetry

here is some of the best poetry I've read in a long time. it's a piece apparently titled 'XP PRO, OFFICE 2003 AND ALL AT ONLY $12-60 EACH, WE GIVE U LICENSE', and it arrived like a precious gift in my gmail inbox:
beautiful turning again friends respect.
side you motor. happened bought letters is a my.
shining sandwich prison thus?
speaking mischievous thats turning make?
he money back not. young reading human teach end? pride make corner.
*sniff*. you had me at side you motor, but pride make corner clinched the deal.

and then this one is a little piece I like to call "PHOTOSHOP, OFFICE 2OO3, XP PR0, AD0BE & 200 MORE SOFTWARES FROM 15-70 ONLY sandwich":
pretty off bad. anything young goes we leader.
sugar appearance gym prison allow?
gym leader rich hard. studied reference rich find?
love supposed to anything shining.
out friends did, edge love development disappoint different. use night promised again promised?
You know it makes sense. Don't pretend you're not moved.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

marathon man

Ok, I admit it: I'm not only proud, I'm seriously impressed.

He went around in just under 3hr:35mins - not too shabby for having not run for three weeks prior because of agonizing shin splints.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

geek, thy name is Simon

So we've been putting Chelsea to bed at night in her 'big bed' and to make sure she goes to sleep without getting up multiple times, we've been taking turns sitting beside her in the chair, and just reading. Last night I took Eats, Shoots and Leaves in with me and instantly regretted it as I began giggling uncontrollably over this passage. Ok, so I was a little tired and it's easier to get going like that when you're not supposed to (eg. church), but it's still kind of funny. The author is giving a whole bunch of actual examples of misplaced or missing apostrophes. Comments in brackets are hers:

Singular possessive instead of simple plural (the "greengrocer's apostrophe"):
Trouser's reduced
Coastguard Cottage's
Next week: nouns and apostrophe's! (BBC website advertising a grammar course for children)

Singular possessive instead of plural possessive:
Pupil's entrance (on a very selective school, presumably)
Adult Learner's Week (lucky him)
Frog's Piss (French wine putting unfair strain on single frog)
Member's May Ball (but with whom will the member dance?)
Nude Reader's Wives (intending "Readers' Nude Wives", of course, but conjuring up an interesting picture of polygamous nude reader attended by middle-aged women in housecoats and fluffy slippers)

Plural possessive instead of singular possessive:
Lands' End (mail-order company which roundly denies anything wrong with name)
Bobs' Motors

Dangling expectations caused by incorrect pluralisation:
Pansy's ready (is she?)
Cyclist's only (his only what?)
Please replace the trolley's (replace the trolley's what?)

and best of all:
Nigger's out (a sign seen in New York, under which was written, wickedly: "But he'll be back shortly")

Unintentional sense from unmarked possessive:
Dicks in tray (try not to think about it)
New members welcome drink (doubtless true)

Someone knows an apostrophe is required...but where, oh where?
It need'nt be a pane (on a van advertising discount glass)
Ladie's hairdresser
Mens coat's
Childrens' education...(in a letter from the head of education at the National Union of Teachers)
The Peoples Princess' (on memorial mug)
Freds' restaurant

Doubtless there will be more to amuse me in the coming weeks.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

punctuation snobs unite!

I've just started reading Lynne Truss' Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, and am slightly relieved that I'm not alone in my punctuation snobbery, while at the same time slightly disturbed that I'm not alone in my punctuation snobbery. The title is a reference to the joke, "A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air. "Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder. "I'm a panda," he says, at the door. "Look it up." The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation. "Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves."

The following is part of her introduction:
Either this will ring bells for you, or it won't. A printed banner has appeared on the concourse of a petrol station near to where I live. "Come inside," it says, "for CD's, VIDEO'S, DVD'S, and BOOK'S."

If this satanic sprinking of redundant apostrophes causes no little gasp of horror or quickening of the pulse, you should probably put down this book at once. By all means congratulate yourself that you are not a pedant or even a stickler; that you are happily equipped to live in a world of plummeting punctuation standards; but just don't bother to go any further. For any true stickler, you see, the sight of the plural word "Book's" with an apostrophe in it will trigger a ghastly private emotional process similar to the stages of bereavement, though greatly accelerated. First there is shock. Within seconds, shock gives way to disbelief, disbelief to pain, and pain to anger. Finally (and this is where the analogy breaks down), anger gives way to a righteous urge to perpetrate an act of criminal damage with the aid of a permanent marker.

It's tough being a stickler for punctuation these days. One almost dare not get up in the morning. True, one occasionally hears a marvellous punctuation-fan joke about a panda who "eats, shoots and leaves", but in general the stickler's exquisite sensibilities are assaulted from all sides, causing feelings of panic and isolation. A sign at a health club will announce, "I'ts party time, on Saturday 24th May we are have a disco/party night for free, it will be a ticket only evening." Advertisements offer decorative services to "wall's - ceiling's - door's ect". Meanwhile a newspaper placard announces "FAN'S FURY AT STADIUM INQUIRY", which sounds quite interesting until you look inside the paper and discover that the story concerns a quite large mob of fans, actually - not just the lone, hopping-mad fan so promisingly indicated by the punctuation.

Everywhere one looks, there are signs of ignorance and indifference. What about that film Two Weeks Notice? Guaranteed to give sticklers a very nasty turn, that was - its posters slung along the sides of buses in letters four feet tall, with no apostrophe in sight. I remember, at the start of the Two Weeks Notice publicity campaign in the spring of 2003, emerging cheerfully from Victoria Station (was I whistling?) and stopping dead in my tracks with my fingers in my mouth. Where was the apostrophe? Surely there should be an apostrophe on that bus? If it were "one month's notice" there would be an apostrophe (I reasoned); yes, and if it were "one week's notice" there would be an apostrophe. Therefore "two weeks' notice" requires an apostrophe! Buses that I should have caught (the 73; two 38s) sailed off up Buckingham Palace Road while I communed thus at length with my inner stickler, unable to move or, indeed, regain any sense of perspective.

Part of one's despair, of course, is that the world cares nothing for the little shocks endured by the sensitive stickler. While we look in horror at a badly punctuated sign, the world carries on around us, blind to our plight. We are like the little boy in The Sixth Sense who can see dead people, except that we can see dead punctuation. Whisper it in petrified little-boy tones: dead punctuation is invisible to everyone else - yet we see it all the time. No one understands us seventh sense people. They regard us as freaks. When we point out illiterate mistakes we are often aggressively instructed to "get a life" by people who, interestingly, display no evidence of having lives themselves. Naturally we become timid about making our insights known, in such inhospitable conditions. Being burned as a witch is not safely enough off the agenda.
Add to this "spelling and grammar stickler", and you have me.


Probably my favourite album growing up was called something like "The Greatest Hits Ever Album" (I remember it had a pink and blue and orange cover and included The Coasters' "Charlie Brown"). It was the only non-kids album we really got to listen to, and was full of pop hits from the 60's.

But my second favourite song on the album (after "Charlie Brown") was "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". This article from The Age entitled "When plagiarism robs the poor of inspiration" reveals the fascinating history behind the song (including the fascinating tidbit that the chorus of "wim-o-weh" was Bob Seeger's misunderstanding of the word uyiMbube, meaning "he is a lion"), and particularly the history of exploitation and injustice, which is deeply ironic given that this song made African music more accessible to the West.
It's one of the world's most popular songs. Whether we overhear our kids watching the movie or see The Lion King musical performed live in its Melbourne run, The Lion Sleeps Tonight makes the heart thump as the drums and Zulu chant call us to Africa.

The song's original writer, Solomon Linda, can perhaps rest easy in his grave in his native South Africa, where he died in poverty from kidney disease in 1962, aged 53. Now, almost half a century later, someone has finally done the right thing. Or have they?

In an out-of-court settlement in February, Disney agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to Linda's family. The family claimed the corporation owed them $US1.6 million ($2.2 million) in royalties for the use of the song in the film and stage productions.

While the amount of the settlement is unknown, lawyers said it would make the family quite comfortable. Anything would be an improvement on the dirt floor carpeted with cow dung on which Linda slept in Soweto with barely a stick of furniture, as described by Sharon LaFraniere in The New York Times last month.

Yet another famous entertainer is about to jump on the bandwagon by celebrating the man who was the issue's original protagonist.

US Billboard magazine recently reported that the next album of working-class hero Bruce Springsteen, to be called We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions will be released next week. It will feature material long associated with Pete Seeger, who turns 87 next month.

On the face of it, this seems a lovely gesture to the folk music pioneer, but the question is: does he deserve it?

Since Linda's song became a 1939 hit in South Africa for him and his group, the Evening Birds - selling about 100,000 copies under the title Mbube (Zulu for lion) - at least 150 artists around the world have recorded it. Pete Seeger, the man who claimed to have discovered it, took the song to No. 6 on the US charts in 1952 with his group the Weavers.

In his autobiography, Seeger says he first heard of the song from American musicologist Alan Lomax. He transcribed it note for note from an African recording and renamed it Wimoweh after misunderstanding the sound of the word uyiMbube (meaning he is a lion). Seeger then credited himself and the other three group members (under pseudonym Paul Campbell) as composers of the song, for which they have received publisher royalties.

The song has earned more than $15 million, largely because of its use in The Lion King movies, but the Linda family has received just $15,000.

All Linda received on selling his copyright to Gallo Studios in South Africa, according to LaFraniere, was 10 shillings - about $A1.20 - at present values.

It is ironic that, of all the musicians who have profited from Linda's song, the original offender of this breach of copyright was in fact one of the heroes of the protest movement who was famous for singing about hammering out injustice all over this world.

In the 2002 documentary A Lion's Trail aired by the US Public Broadcasting Service, Seeger said: "The big mistake I made was not making sure that my publisher signed a regular songwriter's contract with Linda." But why would he need to, Seeger always having claimed to have written the song with his group?

Seeger continued in the documentary: "My publisher simply sent Linda some money and copyrighted the Weavers arrangement here and sent the Weavers some money."

The first of these statements was not true. In 2004, the Weavers' publisher, TRO/Folkways, admitted it had not paid Linda any royalties and promised to give $3000 a year to the Linda family and finance a memorial to Linda.

Too little too late? In 2001 Linda's daughter Adelaide died of AIDS at 38, unable to afford lifesaving anti-retroviral treatment, according to LaFraniere.

Emma Macdonald is a Tasmania-based writer.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

still more 2006 compilation contestants

Little Birdy - tonight's the night: I picked up this album from (believe it or not) the library, and I'm seriously impressed. I know that Powderfinger's Bernard Fanning rated them highly, so it was well worth a listen. A really solid album with several catchy tunes and I love love love her voice.

Bruce Springsteen - Glory Days: It's funky, but it's also a recognition that the old grey mare...well, you know the rest. I'm not old by any stretch, but when you finally catch up with the fact that all the sporting and music stars are at least 5 years younger than you, that sense of "anything's possible for me!" is kind of deflated.

Hi-5 - One Step Forward: To be realistic about my soundtrack of 2006, I think I'm going to have to include either some Wiggles or Hi-5, because I've spent more hours listening to them than any other music. Everywhere we go in the car, we have to be listening to one or the other. This one makes me least want to kill myself. No, actually I think it's kind of catchy.

what do you think?

Nutcases or true disciples?

Copyright 2006 Nationwide News Pty Limited
All Rights Reserved

Northern Territory News (Australia)
April 18, 2006 Tuesday
NEWS; Pg. 3

FOUR Christian activists will face a committal hearing this week over a break-in at a top military base in central Australia.

The Christians Against All Terrorism (CAAT) members will face Alice Springs Magistrates Court tomorrow over a break-in at the joint US-Australian facility at Pine Gap, near Alice Springs on December 9.

Former ''human shield'' Donna Mulhearn, 37, of Sydney, who was abducted and briefly held by militants in the Iraqi flashpoint city of Fallujah last year, is among those charged.

The others are Jim Dowling, 50, of Dayboro, Brian Law, 51, of Cairns, and Adele Goldie, 29, of Brisbane.
All four face charges including trespassing and damaging Commonwealth land.
Police allege the group cut holes in the external and internal fences at Pine Gap.
The group said it was conducting a citizens inspection in protest at the facility's involvement in the ongoing war in Iraq.

The committal hearing is expected to last two days.
April 17, 2006

I'm not sure yet. Initial reaction: I'm more than a little sceptical and it feels passive-aggressive, and therefore not genuinely non-violent.

Check out their blog too for a more detailed account.

a two year-old at St Paul's...

We caught the tram down to St. Paul's church for their Easter Sunday service. For all its grandeur and beauty, it was not a kid-friendly experience.

Lots of standing and sitting and singing of morose hymns. Much hushed silence and crowding into cramped, hard-backed pews. Hundreds of people straining to hear a single, usually male voice as the only action.

None of these things pose a problem for an adult (though they may bemoan them), but for a child (particularly one who has not grown up with such strictures), the rules implicit here are almost impossible not to violate.

I went outside with Chelsea halfway through. Excluded from even passive participation.

I have to say, I love a Catholic church service. It's all so precise and correct (or mostly :D) and aesthetically beautiful; from the architecture to the choral singing, it radiates a transcendance I never experience in other churches. It stands solidly in a tradition, a strong tradition, that has never lost sight of its history, and has attempted faithfully to stand in the tradition of Jesus for almost two thousand years.

Yet it is these very same things which also indict the Catholic church, and all others who succumb its excesses. Two thousand years of tradition should mean that they've worked this stuff out better. After all, in biological evolutionary terms two thousand years might not seem like a long time, but for a religious tradition, you'd think they'd have got it a lot closer to right by now.

The picture on the left there is the booklet we received containing the liturgy recited on the day; in its post-Chelsea state, complete with purple pencil marks. It just struck me as a perfect image of order-meets-disorder at the crossroads between organised religion and children. (Incidentally, Chelsea kept pointing at the picture of the three women in the middle and announcing loudly and proudly, 'Jesus!'" She had the right idea, clearly.)

The quote that kept returning to me over the whole time (a close second was Marge's comment that Catholic church with all its standing and sitting and kneeling was "like Simon Says, without a winner") was that of Jesus saying "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them; for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs." (Mt. 19:12) Yet here we sat, in the most highly evolved Christian tradition in existence, after two thousand years of opportunity to get it right, and children were entirely excluded. If that's not hindering, I don't know what is.

I have to say the Catholic church is not alone here. I don't think any of the churches that I've been a part of have engaged seriously with what it means to not hinder children in coming to Jesus. Sure, there's often the token children's talk or Sunday school time, but what of the serious attempt to integrate all ages and stages? What patience is there for those less intellectually or socially developed to be considered central to the process? I guess the question that really drives all of this is "Is it possible for me to sit in church without embarrassment or fear of retribution, knowing my daughter is making noise?"

I mean, for the whole "free worship" thing we Baptists have going on, what do we have to show for it? Throwing out half the good and necessary parts of gathered worship (when's the last time you heard a prayer of confession in a Baptist service?) and then getting into a rut of doing it one way all the time doesn't make you free. Of all traditions, we have the flexibility to work out some engaging and experimental worship, even to the extent of making it a fluid thing, reflective of the context - yet we don't.

We've erred on the side of inclusion with inspiral (Chelsea is usually present for most of the night until she needs to go to bed), though at times that's made things difficult for the rest of us. But she's getting to the age where that's going to be both more necessary and more difficult. Necessary because she can actually start engaging with the ideas, and difficult because she will no longer simply be able to crawl quietly around between us and play with toys.

I'll admit too that it's only been since having a child - or even more recently, since that child has been able to be actively involved socially - that this has become an issue. So in the interests of fairness, I can see why celibate priests might find it a little difficult to relate to the problem it poses.

But we need to do this better. Not only for the sake of the children - that only perpetuates the whole intellectual condescension that already goes on. I mean for our sakes - because, as Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

That tells me it's not the children who need to grow up; it's the adults who need to grow down.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

hothouse flowers

You know it's going to be a good night when the pass-out stamp they use on your wrist reads 'Jesus loves you'.

I'd been hanging out to see these guys for so long, since I heard back in January that they were touring, so the anticipation was intense, doubled by U2's postponement.

The crowd was pretty much exactly what I suspected they would be; mostly thirty-somethings who haven't done the live show thing for a few years now so look slightly uncomfortable about being at the Corner Hotel; plus a handful of fifty-somethings re-living the last band they listened to before getting too old. It was kind of weird standing up the front with some grey-haired people, although less so when the bassist has the most grey hair of anyone in the room (although admittedly his reaches down to his shoulders). Still, I must say, it didn't take me long to get over the age thing. Just standing there singing familiar words with people is enough to realise that music transcends age, stage, or anything else.

The first band was The Live Room, HF's fellow Irish band, and they were really pretty good. Very tight musically but a little bit underdeveloped songwriting-wise.

Second band (Shane Howard) was a strange choice for the second support act, but he was introduced and backed up on didgeridoo by Liam O'Maonlai (HF lead singer). Basically Shane plays folk protest songs (read: predictable left-wing diatribes), so it just seemed a strange mix of mood.

Then HF came out just after 10, and played till...well, after 12 sometime. I didn't take notes of the setlist, so it's definitely approximate, although the first 5 songs or so are right.

Hallelujah: A good upbeat one to kick it off, I think from the new album.
Be Good (Wholly Loving Eyes): This is one of my favourites of theirs, with the refrain "Be good, be kind, be wholesome and be free/And keep your wholly loving eyes on me".
Give It Up: I was really hoping they'd play this one, and there it was, bam, third song out. Really had the crowd on their feet.
Forever More: This one is off one of the albums I don't have, so didn't recognise it.
This Is It (Your Soul): Funky as. Finished with the repeated refrain, handed to the audience of "Let the light inside shine from the inside out". Actually, the crowd had to be prompted by Fiachna O'Braonain (guitarist), which was a little awkward. Over the rest of the night people just assumed that was what they wanted us to do, meaning most songs stretched out to 7-8 minutes or longer.
Magic Bracelets: Liam mentioned that this one was dedicated to some reggae guy who he said was the godfather of reggae (he was a voice coach for The Wailers). Halfway through this song I realised that a lot of people around me knew the words, and it turns out it's off the new album, so there are clearly some hardcore HF fans in Melbourne.
I Can See Clearly: Everyone had been waiting for it, of course. Even though it's a cover, their version defines the song for most people. I'd say it wasn't a particularly searing rendition (they invited some girl up on stage to sing it with them, and I'll never know why - she did nothing), but it wouldn't have been the same had they not played it.
Hallelujah Jordan: Oh. my. goodness. I wasn't disappointed with this version - probably the highlight of the show for me. He even did "Hallelujah loves the bottle/More brittle than her body/More brittle than the heart that she'd broken yeah" with just the guitar and his voice sung out to the crowd, no microphone. In the recorded version, that's the climax of the song, and it still was here, but in a quiet way that made it all the more powerful.
You Can Love Me Now: More funk. Driving beat. Single-worthy material.
Don't Go: Apparently this song was originally written with a kind of samba beat, and that's how they played it. It actually changes the whole mood of the song, from a wistful but upbeat breakup song to a playful invitation, like someone at a party urging their friend to hang around a bit longer. "don't go/ don't leave me now, now, now/while the sun smiles/stick around and laugh a while". They introduced the band at this point too, and had solos from each, which meant this song went for about 15 minutes (or more even).

After what seemed like forever (I was pretty convinced they wouldn't come out again, and was torn between being happy with what had been and being disappointed they didn't think it was worth coming out again) they did do an encore. Actually for an encore, it was pretty darn long; about another third of the show in fact.
Celtic song: Liam and Fiachna came out by themselves first and Fiachna sang this song a capella. He has this amazing, nasal deep voice. It was great for me to realise that this is the kind of music my ancestors listened to, sang along to, played, Cornish being closer to Irish language than Saxon (English).
One Tongue: So appropriate after the different language previously. It's a peace song essentially, urging people to get together and communicate. I could post the whole song's lyrics, but instead I'll just leave the link.
Your Love Goes On: As gospel as it gets: the refrain 'Your love goes on and on' really did go on and on. Probably a bit long really, because it's a great song; the first song (and single) off the new album.
Celtic song: Another Celtic song, but this time with Fiachna on a little tin whistle flute and Liam on one of those handheld drum things they just hit with their hands. Sounded incredible - the amount of different sounds he managed to get out of that drum shows the calibre of musician he is.
Sweet Marie: Some would call this song boring: I call it hauntingly beautiful, and their version on this particular night leant far more in the latter direction.
I'm Sorry: Great way to go out, on a high. It's a really upbeat song, despite the words.

Liam is an absolutely incredible performer, and his dancing is just awesome. When he came out from behind the keyboard, as he did maybe 4 or 5 times over the night, he just danced with all his might, with complete abandon. Amazing. And they're clearly mature and accomplished musicians, quite apart from their songs as a band.

To be honest, I think I was just rapt to be out listening to live music, and a band I respect and admire greatly. I drank it in like a dehydrated person would a bottle of iced water. Hopefully it'll keep me hydrated until November...

more 2006 compilation contenders

Stone Temple Pilots: Vasoline - A short but sweet as song with like two chords. A thumping bass line that gets your heart racing every time.

Stone Temple Pilots: Interstate Love Song - Country music (and let's not kid ourselves, this is country music) never sounded so good. You know a song's good when it still works acoustically, and this song certainly fits that bill. The soaring chord progression can't fail to move you, even if the lyrics seem to make no sense (feeling like a hand in rusted shame? what?).

Bruce Springsteen: Thunder Road - This is Nick Hornby's number 2 song of all time, and I must say it's a good one. I knew it from Counting Crows using it as an alternate in the middle of Rain King, the most killer version coming from their live Face the Promised Land (FTPL) cd, the title of which is derived from Adam's misquoting of Thunder Road's lyrics (it's meant to be 'We're riding out tonight to case the promised land'). Still too earnest from a young Bruce, but I think most of us can relate to the earnestness of youth, and Bruce tells a story in song better than almost anyone (maybe Paul Kelly excepted).

Hothouse Flowers: Hallelujah Jordan - Nothing will compare now with the live version I heard the other day, but it's still one of the most heartbreaking songs of lost love ever written. Not that I can relate to the whole boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, girl leaves boy for another boy, boy becomes an alcoholic as a result story from personal experience, but the lyrics evoke such tragedy it's hard not to sympathize.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

shifting gears

Watching ABC news last night, there was a report on the massive drought and subsequent famine affecting millions of people in the horn of Africa at the moment. People are having to walk more than 50 kilometres just to find some drinkable water for themselves and their livestock. As a result, tens of thousands of people are dying and their animals are dropping around them. There is nowhere near enough aid going in there to make the slightest dent in the situation. You could not help but be moved by the pictures, and I found myself wondering if there was anything we could do, or if we were doing enough.

The next story, introduced with the words "now, from the other end of the spectrum", recounted the sale of a Fred Williams painting for the sum of $1,987,000. Someone paid almost 2 million dollars for a slab of canvas with some paint slapped over it, while children died a horrible, drawn out death for lack of drinking water. The shift from one story to another could not be exaggerated; it made me physically ill.

I'm not naive; I know this happens all the time, whether it's reported or not, and in some ways it's good to juxtapose unjust images like that to make a point. But putting stories like that together in the news shows the exact kind of callous disregard for human life and dignity that we demonstrate as a society. It only serves to further numbs to the reality of people's suffering.

On a related note, did you know that less than 5% of the money dedicated to foreign aid in the Australian budget goes to NGOs like TEAR and World Vision? Neither did I, until Tim Costello mentioned it at the Jim Wallis thing. Mostly it goes to Australian companies to help build infrastructure in various countries, instead of relieving poverty. In fact, AWB got 5 million dollars of our 0.28% of GDP aid, of which it appears about one million disappeared into the pocket of Trevor Flugge. So you think it's bad that we only contribute 0.26% of GDP to aid projects when Howard has pledged 0.36, and our fair share is more like 0.5? We've got a long way to go.

Monday, April 10, 2006

trying to get through

I remember
Like a little child kicking against a stone wall that I built myself
I won't feel guilty
I'll just rise up
I have to be myself

I'm just trying to get through
Trying to get through
Trying to get through
--Hothouse Flowers, Trying To Get Through

Jim Wallis

I came across this guy through Ched Myers' association with the Sojourners community, of which Jim Wallis is a part. And I came across Ched Myers through Marcus Curnow, who I came across through the NMC group...anyway, there's a degree of 'meant to be' about it all. I went and saw him (Jim) speak yesterday. In fact, it was funny - I decided to sit in the front row for once (hey, I figured I might as well sit somewhere I could see - I was there by myself and I went as far to one side as possible) and when I sat down, I looked across and about four seats away was Tim Costello; then I saw that next to him and three seats away was Jim Wallis, and next to him was Steve Bradbury, head of TEAR Australia and the Micah Challenge (who were organising the event). For a second there it looked like I was next to speak.

Jim didn't speak about anything revolutionary for me (although it probably would've been five years ago) but it did resonate deeply. I suppose he's a lot further down the same road I'm on, so it's useful to have people like him to look at and see how they did it. But he did make a couple of comments that are worth noting - both of them pretty much throwaway lines.

The first is that "parenting is a counter-cultural activity". He actually said that when he says this, he finds an enormous degree of resonance among parents - that they always nod vigorously in agreement, and I'd have to say I'm no exception. Almost everything about parenting makes you swim against the stream of society - challenging the idea that life is about me (it's now an entirely unselfish exercise aimed at the best interests of your child), trying to combat the advertising aimed at your children; almost all the values thrust at us mitigate against good parenting. I don't think I'd ever really thought about that before, but it hit me powerfully.

The second was a brief thing he said about activists (or everyone really, but it's more acute for activists) - that there is a constant choice between hope and cynicism. Activism is full of people who know the reality of a world that is not as it should be, and in that sense are "good people"; yet they have lost the sense that it can be changed. Too often I fall on the cynicism side, I have to admit. It's easy to get discouraged.

He told the story of an African American girl he knew who got her PhD, and decided that instead of going into industry she'd go back to the streets to help people there. She died not long after, at quite a young age, but he said she would always get angry when people said that the problem was too big, or there's a lack of leadership - not just frustrated, but angry. She would say "Don't you get it? We're the ones we've been waiting for." In other words, don't wait for another Martin Luther King Jr. or whatever - be the new Martin Luther King Jr. Or just be you where you are.

I'm not sure that idealism is any more useful than cynicism, but I'm also pretty sure that hope isn't the only difference between the two.

So keep up the good work, Jim...

2006 compilation

After the runaway success of my 2005 compilation not a crazy frog in sight, work has already begun on my 2006 compilation. I'm going to keep a running tally of the candidates, and then narrow it down when December comes. So while you'll get a sneak preview here, you won't know the final tracklist until you receive it. I even have a tentative title, but you won't get that until then either.

Chelsea Morning - Joni Mitchell: I've been wanting some Joni Mitchell since Adam Duritz, lead singer of Counting Crows, mentioned her as a significant influence - in fact, her album Blue is his favourite album ever. So when I saw her best of at Kmart for $2.50, I figured it was money well spent...and how. Sure, it's over-earnest 1970's folk, but she has a voice like an angel and some really great tunes. And when the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning is your daughter Chelsea, and the cd alarm clock goes off and plays "Woke up it was a Chelsea morning and the first thing that I heard/Was the sun outside my window..." it just works.

Out of Control - U2: I've had to learn this year that life is totally out of your control, and the more you can come to grips with that and live into it rather than trying to desperately wrest control back, the more you truly live...not only is that true of life, but of concerts too. When U2 postponed their Australian tour scheduled for March, it was incredibly disappointing, but well and truly out of my control. They'll be back in November though, and this song has been on regular rotation at their shows, so I'm hoping they'll play it. Has a baseline and tempo to get the heart thumping.

In Bloom - Nirvana: "He's the one who likes all the pretty songs, and he likes to sing along..." I found the Nirvana best of at the library and dang if it doesn't bring back a whole lotta memories for me of high school and the moods that surrounded it. Although, as the conversation in The Simpsons went:

Lisa: It may be bleak, but this music is really getting to the crowd.
Bart: Eh, making teenagers depressed is like shooting fish in a barrel.

Give It Up - Hothouse Flowers: I'm seeing these guys tomorrow - woo hoo! - and have had their first three albums on heavy rotation as a result. They were pretty much the first band I got into, before U2 even (although U2 were partly responsible for making them famous), and so it reminds me of that time. The lyrics of this one are just great:
I'm coming face to face with my conscience
Coming to an understanding of myself
Clear out all the old cobwebs
Clear the old books from the shelf

This song is inspired by a good man and his tune
Thinking good of others, sing Amazing Grace to you
It doesn't really matter if you're all jumbled up inside
As long as you know love is as endless as the world is wide
Just so optimistic, and positive, and the music reflects that...and goodness knows they have their share of depressing songs, so it's nice for a change.

Walking in Memphis - Marc Cohn: It's not necessarily specifically or exclusively a this-year song, although I've probably heard it more this year than any other year, it's just a dead-set classic. Seriously, it's one of the best songs ever written. I mean, if you have to have only one hit in your lifetime, like Marc Cohn, make it this good. Never fails to move me - the music just sounds like what it's describing. A whole thesis could be written on the line, "She said 'Tell me are you a Christian, child?' and I said 'Ma'am I am tonight!'"

I Can See Clearly Now - Hothouse Flowers: Ok, it's a cover, but it's a classic cover...this would probably be the Hothouse Flowers song most people would be familiar with. And seriously, when it goes to double-time, you just can't help feeling like the world is an ok place to be.

More to come.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

happy to be wrong

One of this new season's episode of The Simpsons featuring Ricky Gervais of The Office.

Al Jean (one of The Simpsons writers and former ALF writer) announced that Fox has signed them for two more years. Phew. That will make it at least 19 seasons and counting, I think. Awesome...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

your point being...?

When will people realise that the Bible isn't trying to be a literal historical document of events and stop trying to do research like this?
"The New Testament says that Jesus walked on water, but a Florida university professor believes there could be a less miraculous explanation - he walked on a floating piece of ice...

The study found that a period of cooler temperatures in the area between 1,500 and 2,600 years ago could have included the decades in which Jesus lived.

A drop in temperature below freezing could have caused ice thick enough to support a human to form on the surface of the freshwater lake near the western shore, Nof said." (Full text here.)
Any attempt to demystify stories like this completely destroys the point of them. The point is not that the gospel writers wanted to tell people that Jesus was able to defy the laws of physics. The point was that for the Jews (and other ancient people of that time), the water was a profoundly frightening thing: below it lay the world of the dead, for starters. Telling a story about Jesus walking on it completely calmly is a point about who Jesus is, and the disciples' reactions are about what discipleship is like (ie a profoundly terrifying thing, humanly speaking).

Just like the feeding of the two crowds in Mark is not about Jesus' rationing skills, it's about Jesus' sufficiency for all people, and John 9 is also not about healing a blind man, it's about who can and can't see who Jesus is, and why - etc, etc.

Not that I'm not a fan of the idea of Jesus the original surfie - and on a piece of ice, no less.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

bittersweet simpsony

The announcement I'd been dreading yet hoping for came today: Simpsons movie out in 2007.

Now for those of you who know how much of a Simpsons addict I am, you might be surprised to learn that I could possibly dread such an occasion. Here's why.

This movie has been in the offing for many, many years now: Matt Groening has talked about it many times. But consistently, he's always said that it would be the last thing they'd do. Like, it would be their way to go out. That they would save all the best stuff (and they've been working on this for many, many years now) and put it in this movie. So while I'm rapt that it's finally got a date for release, I'm also a little sad. Cue The Verve:

'Cos it's a bittersweet Simpsony this life...

Monday, April 03, 2006

shiny and new, yet well worn in

So I decided I need somewhere to keep the stuff that is about me, but not about inspiral (gasp - is there such a thing?!) so here it is. If you don't get the Mr Jones reference, that's a shame...but you'll live.

I'll be going through the inspiral blog for stuff that's not relevant to inspiral but is worth keeping around. So this will feel a little bit lived-in anyway with a bunch of old stuff.

I'll be seeing you a fair bit I guess.