Tag Archives: thoughts

Not throwing caution to the wind

I have this thing about pain, it’s not me.  Which is odd given I have a very very high pain threshold (which almost saw me not go to hospital with an ectopic pregnancy – so my high pain threshold =/= smart).  I tolerate pain well, but I’m still really cautious.  Doing something that might result in injury (running, jumping, paying sports) are things I tend to avoid.  I’m really scared of falling and breaking something of the sudden pain and the resulting scene that would occur.

Though when I do trip and fall (and I’m still yet to break something) the world doesn’t end, and if I burst into tears with the pain, the world doesn’t end, and on those rare events such things happen someone stops to help me or I am with people who stop and help me.

All the same, I still am really cautious and tend to avoid activities that carry the risk of severe pain (except cooking which I partake in quite a lot).  I’m not sure why I’m quite so timid about such things.  I think some of it has to do with ballet and the excessive care that I took not to injure myself so I could still dance (with the exception of skinning my knees when falling off my bike).

No, I don’t think that’s it.  I climbed trees, climbed hills and cliffs and did child-ly things as a child.  I wasn’t hugely daring, but probably more daring than I am now.  So why have I slowed down more than others I know, though technically less than others… clearly it’s a growing up thing.  I’m far more aware of my mortality than I used to be.  I’ve almost died at least once now, so it’s not like I believe I never will.

I’m not upset or worried about my caution, it’s just something I’ve noticed recently and have been thinking about it.

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Greenwing – a TV series to watch

I don’t know how many people who read this blog have watched Greenwing, but I’m currently rewatching it with my house guest and it is such an awesome – and very wrong – TV series.  I don’t want to spoil anyone who hasn’t watched it, so this post will be quite brief.  One thing I wanted to point out about the series is it’s interesting critiques on gender roles.  The show is set in a hospital, and the characters are either doctors or administrative staff in the hospital.  Thankfully not all the doctors are men, and although for the most part the staff in HR are women – that’s not too far away from reality.  The gender of the character is important in relation to the stereotype they are assigned to play, but whether the character is admin or professional is irrelevant.

You have the competitive, objectifier of women who believes that you have to, “play them mean to keep them keen”, and who really doesn’t understand people or emotions at all.  You have the mouse who is frightened of everything and is cowed by his more aggressive male colleagues, who he just wants to be like.  You have the man who wants to be powerful and sometimes thinks he is, but is generally disliked by everyone because he’s either sleazy, incompetent, offensive or exceedingly eccentric (and sometimes all at once).  You have the character who is affable, well liked, sometimes rude, generally caring and who isn’t particularly open about how they feel.  You have the boyish character who likes to challenge authority, loves a joke, loves supporting those who needs it and is sexually voracious (which is completely fine in the series).  You have the IT guy who is cute, charming and wanted by everyone.

You have the slightly eccentric, but well meaning woman who doesn’t know what she wants exactly, but has an idea and is willing to experiment a little to find out more.  You have the female equivalent mouse character.  You have the woman who is lovely but stressed with her personal life and keeping track of her children.  You have the sexually voracious and generally nice character who likes to be silly (in fact all of HR are silly) and whose sexual nature isn’t an issue.  You have the fat woman who at one stage is picked on by the objectifier and who tells him to “fuck off” (oh and he’s a little scared of her too), she’s also happy with her body and her attractiveness.  There is the scheming, eccentric and rude woman who is one of the best characters on the show.  The perfect woman who everyone aspires to be – beautiful, competent, intelligent, cheerful and always perfect.  There is the rude, sleazy, incompetent, offensive and really wrong character who makes me cringe every time I see her on screen – though she does it SO well.

Extra internet points if you can name all the characters I’ve described in order.

I love this series.  It has many moments of wrong, but is beautifully written, fantastically directed, has an awesome cast and makes me laugh every time I watch it.

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It’s time to grow up

There are some people I know, who I think are fantastic in many ways, who have a trait that tends to bug me a lot.  It’s this, an ability to tolerate/indulge certain (mostly negative) behaviours from individuals because they need to be that right now, or that they need to feel that it is ok to be that right now.  The thing that gets to me most, is not that my friends tolerate/indulge these behaviours from these individuals, it’s generally that I am expected to tolerate/indulge this behaviour as well.

If I complain about one of these people and say, “Ow, my eyes have been sporked“, then far too often I feel that the other individual (often masculine oddly enough) will be defended, and I am expected to attempt to compromise around their behaviour and it’s negative impacts on me.  I feel that I am expected to be the grown-up while the other person is often indulged in whatever tantrum, bad behaviour, etc, that they are undertaking that I am objecting to.  “Oh but you don’t know where they are right now” and “But they’re not really like that” aren’t good enough.  Compromise is not a one way street.

If someone is being an arsehat, then I’m going to call that out.  I understand that the support I’m going to get from some of my friends is going to be seriously lacking, but that’s going to be ok.  Because right now, I clearly need to be angry and intolerant of all arsehatted behaviour.  I will be spending a lot more time being intolerant of arsehats and the negative impact that has on me.  Because it’s time we all grew up.

 

 

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The Catholic Mass

Now I’m a long, long, long time ex-Catholic (ok, probably not that long, but long enough), I don’t hold a torch for Catholicism (you might have noticed with my posts about the place focusing on The Pope), but I still have family involved in the Church, and spent some very happy times there (going LALALALA about certain aspects).  I enjoyed the Mass as it was, the rituals were comforting and familiar, and I liked the ideals (that I understood) of Vatican 2 – the inclusiveness of the actual Church goers (you know, the people that fund the Church for the most part) in the rituals. (An aside, I learnt more about the whys and wherefores of Vatican 2 from Brides of Christ than I ever did during 12 years of Catholic education)

Anyway… I read with some dismay the changes to the Catholic Mass that are the beginning of an attempt to roll-back the progressiveness of Vatican 2 (how this works with the infallibility of Popes I have no idea).  The Age had a useful explanatory article (warning picture of Pope Benedict – I mean Emperor Palpatine) detailing some of the changes to the Mass wordings.  I don’t know about other people, but I struggle to remember changes to texts when they’re suddenly changed, particularly if I’m not happy about the changes.

So, the Catholic Church has decided that rolling-back Vatican 2 is a good idea because… well politics and power and removing power from the individual churches and concentrating it higher up.  It’s always annoyed me that such a large institution, one that claims it serves the faithful, is such an undemocratic organisation.  Surely those that fund it and use it, should have a say in how the organisation runs.  It’s not like democracy is a new thing, but I suppose that dictatorships are even older.

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:13-15)

So off you go Mr Pope, and Mr Cardinal, and Mr Bishop, and Mr Priest.  Go and wash the feet of your faithful, the feet of those who provide the church with money to fuction and provide charity to others.  Go and ask what they want, and stop imposing things from on-high as if you are the only men in the world who have a direct line to God (if ou exists).

British commentator William Oddie trumpeted in the conservative Catholic Herald last month that the liturgy battle is over but for a bit of mopping up, and ”the good guys won”.

”The new translation is wholly successful, and if we had been using it from day one, thousands of people repelled by the banality of the translation now being superseded would still be regular worshippers rather than lapsed Catholics. I really believe it’s as important as that.”

But it takes a particularly fervent advocate to suggest, as William Oddie does, that a liturgy-led revival will reverse declining church attendance.

Bob Dixon, head of the Australian church’s Pastoral Research Office, regards the idea as ”absolute fantasy. When we asked people why they stopped going to church, almost nobody said it was because the church has lost its sense of reverence by using modern English. They said they stopped because they can’t find relevance, they can’t see a connection between the church’s agenda and their own agenda, they disagree with certain church teachings.”

DIXON has two concerns. Nearly a third of Australian church-goers come from non-English-speaking backgrounds , so will a more elevated, less idiomatic liturgy create language hurdles for them? Second, will some of those disenchanted with the church over sexual abuse by clergy say, ”you have this crisis and you are just fiddling with the language”, and leave?

Seriously, people don’t leave a Church or a faith because they think that the language used in the liturgy is “banal”.  I’m with Dixon who suggests that perhaps there are far more important reasons than boring language behind people leaving Catholicism.  Perhaps the priests, the bishops, the cardinals and the pope need to sit down and listen to people who have left or who are going to leave – and decide what is really in the Church’s best interests versus the power-hungry grabbing that is going on now – just saying.

 

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Japan

When I came home on Friday night and found my husband (husband 2 for ease of reference) watching footage of the tsunami in Japan, I was horrified by the sheer devastation.  I had been out drinking decadent (and delicious) hot chocolate with my husband (husband 1), my girlfriend and a dear friend after work and gym, and generally having a fantastic evening.

I stood behind my husband (number 2) and watched the tsunami, listened to the news reports, and watched in dumb horror the destruction occurring to my brothers and sisters to the north (and in winter when everything is going to be so very very cold).

As it happens, my husband (number 1) and I had organised to travel to his brother’s 50th on Saturday, and so that morning piled into the car to drive to Albury for the party.  We stayed at a gorgeous B&B, went to the party (and my FIL didn’t upset me even once – a new record!), travelled home via a friend’s place (where we had tea, scones and deep and meaningful conversations) and eventually got home Sunday night (thank the FSM for Labour Day in Victoria).

On return I turned on my PC and started talking to my sister, while catching up with the news and finding out how much worse the devastation of Japan was.  She shared two links with me, the first a collection of quotes from arsehats suggesting that aid should not be sent to Japan because Japan had bombed Pearl Harbour – or that the earthquake was return karma for bombing Pearl Harbour.  Now for everyone who doesn’t have a grasp of World War 2 history (because clearly that isn’t important to some people), the Japanese did not start WW2, and the US retaliated for the bombing of Pearl Harbour with the ATOMIC bombing of two CIVILIAN cities (not military targets) – an actual war crime. So if Japan was to be paid back in any kind of karma for Pearl Harbour, that nuclear bombing certainly was it and then some.

The whole karma payback for Pearl Harbour thing is also incredibly US-centric.  It certainly doesn’t address anything other grievance that other nations may have with Japan, and given some of the atrocities that occurred during WW2, there are certainly the potential for a lot of that.

The second site my sister shared with me was Karma Japan, a site that started collecting racist and bigoted commentary from Twitter mostly regarding the earthquake in Japan.  Many people apparently suggested that Japan deserved an earthquake because they killed dolphins and whales.  Clearly every other nation that kills dolphins and whales doesn’t deserve earthquakes and tsunamis.  Karma Japan has also published positive commentary from those who are condemning bigotry and racism, and provides counter argument to the hate and ignorance.

My favourite article of all on the earthquake and tsunami that has hit Japan (yes I am serious) is this from The Age, “World Rushes Aid to Japan“.  I am happily stunned by the generosity of past enemies and poor nations (well provinces) towards Japan in her hour of need.  In summary:

  • China’s Red Cross pledged one million yuan ($A150,000) to its Japanese counterpart
  • The Afghan province of Kandahar announced $A50,000 in aid

I feel that I am unable to even grasp the magnitude of this event (and the aftershocks and the possible nuclear meltdown).  It’s going to take Japan a long time to recover and rebuild, just as it will take Christchurch a long time to recover and rebuild.  I wish there was more I could do other than donate money to the Red Cross.

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Personal stories

“Where’re you from?”

It’s a question I’ve been asked at least thousand times by at least a thousand different people.  It’s such an Australian question (to me), the curiosity of knowing where someone (and since they’re asking me – usually a fellow white Australian) is from, an opportunity to hear a story, an opportunity to hear something new or some gossip about another area you might have ties to.  It is a very old style question after all.  It harks back to the days when people travelled less, and to meet someone new was an unusual thing, therefore asking where they were from, and for them to fill you in on news from other areas was a novelty and useful.

Continue reading Personal stories

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Uselessness of prayer

Let’s assume for the moment that there is an all loving, all knowing, and all present deity.  Let’s also assume, for the moment, that this deity wants the best for everyone that they created, disregarding the fact that each creation has free will, lives on a planet that would as soon as kill you as look at you, and that the free will given to each creation is often used against the creator’s guidelines.

(Let’s think about a world where an all loving, all present, and all knowing deity existed and wanted the best for its creations – we’d never be sick, we’d never die, we’d never be injured, we’d not have disabilities, we’d not age, we’d never be in pain, we’d never be at risk from earthquakes, floods, fires, poisons, carnivorous animals, etc.  We’d be wrapped in swaddling clothes, kept as infants and never know the world.)

But I digress… So there is this deity, and he/she is everywhere, everywhen and loves everyone – even those who do not acknowledge his/her existence, those who’ve done the wrong things, and those who’ve never heard of him/her.  So, this deity wants the best for his/her creations, wants them to be happy and to feel his/her love.  So when this deity hears that one of his/her creations wants something, what does this deity do?  Just to be clear, I’m not talking about a small desire (winning the lottery for example), but a really big need – that their partner not be chronically ill, that their house not be flooded, that their family have not burnt to death in a fire.

Right now, according to most existing beliefs on the planet, gods work in mysterious ways, which is a way of saying that your prayers are as likely to be answered as they are if you pray to me.  Seriously, if any deity existed, floods would be reversed, the dead would be brought back to life now (not eventually some time in the distant future when you’re also dead), earthquakes would be reversed, bushfires would burn out and restore everything to the way it was, injury would be reversed, illnesses reversed, and crops restored.

Surely, if any deity existed, there would be no poor, there would be no natural disasters or “acts of God” (what type of God causes such things anyway?).  Surely if any deity existed, he/she would want to demonstrate their presence (this act of faith thing is yet another scam) by saving those that are at immediate risk of harm or death.  Surely, an all loving, all present, all knowing deity would actually intervene in natural disasters to make sure that people were safe, their property and livelihoods were safe.

Nope, I’m not buying the existence of a deity right now without some actual proof – reverse the floods, bring the dead back to life, heal the sick, and go on bring some world peace while you’re at it.

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Things I wish I’d learnt as a child

  • How to be rude to those that deserve it
  • How to be angry
  • How to complain effectively
  • How to negotiate
  • How to bargain/barter
  • How not to be racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, biphobic, ablest (I learnt these far later)
  • That sex wasn’t something to be ashamed of
  • That I should love my body and that I can be healthy at every size
  • How to think critically
  • How to manage personal politics
  • How to budget effectively
  • How to spot abusive behaviour in relationships and how to get out of them
  • How to say no
  • How to be loud
  • How to stand up for myself

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Aliens (redux)

Ok, so I didn’t end up finishing my post exactly how I hoped, because I left out stuff, so here is the stuff I left out (because I was sleeeepy).

My girlfriend’s reaction to slaters was more along the lines of “ew, gross” than “ARGH, take it away, take it away”.  That said, she grew up in an environment where gardens were enjoyed but not something she had to tend, so the likelihood of her coming across garden critters such as slaters was much reduced than my childhood – where we gardened whether we wanted to or not.  I think that the fact that my household considers slaters to be cute is a socialised thing.  We learnt that they’re harmless and fun to play with (they roll into little balls).  My girlfriend has had no such exposure and it’s a small chitinous thing with lots of legs, which does sound gross.  This is a nice supporting argument for e.smith’s post about likes, dislikes, attractions, and revulsion not being innate.

The second bit that was in my head when I first started thinking about this post, was the narrator’s commentary in Jeff Wayne’s musical of War of the Worlds.  I don’t like the narrator actually… he’s condescending, rude, and acts superior to everyone else in the story, he’s almost unemotional, which given his world is being taken over by massive tripod aliens with laser beams is ludicrous.  In both HG Well’s version of War of the Worlds, and in the musical (which is from the same work), the people of the village are curious about the capsule that has fallen from the sky, and initially fear that a man is trapped inside.  Eventually the capsule starts to open:

Next morning, a crowd gathered on the Common, hypnotized by the unscrewing of the cylinder.  Two feet of shining screw projected when, suddenly, the lid fell off! Two luminous disc-like eyes appeared above the rim. A huge, rounded bulk, larger than a bear, rose up slowly, glistening like wet leather. Its lipless mouth quivered and slavered, and snake-like tentacles writhed as the clumsy body heaved and pulsated. A few young men crept closer to the pit. A tall funnel rose, then an invisible ray of heat leapt from man to man and there was a bright glare, as each was instantly turned to fire. Every tree and bush became a mass of flames at the touch of this savage, unearthly Heat Ray. People clawed their way off the Common, and I ran too. I felt I was being toyed with, that when I was on the very verge of safety, this mysterious death would leap after me and strike me down. At last I reached Maybury Hill and in the dim coolness of my home I wrote an account for my newspaper before I sank into a restless, haunted sleep. I awoke to alien sounds of hammering from the pit, and hurried to the railway station to buy the paper. Around me, the daily routine of life – working, eating, sleeping – was continuing serenely as it had for countless years. (from Jeff Wayne’s musical – emphasis added)

So in this story people were curious, so curious they approached the strange object to see what would happen.  When an otherworldly creature came out of the craft, they crept closer again to look.  Only when they were threatened and some killed, did the crowd scatter, but not too far… they resumed their daily activities, despite the fact that several of them had been killed with a laser like device, which to me isn’t even remotely plausible, but in HG Well’s view of the world at that time, it may well have been.  And perhaps it is still now, perhaps if aliens did turn up tomorrow a percentage of the population would continue on as normal, failing to see a threat until it is in their faces (or they are dead), I do know some incredibly oblivious people after all.

So yes… when the aliens eventually arrive, I’ll go and hide until I have proof they’re safe, my husbands will want to watch and see what happens, and there will no doubt be some people saying, “Flying saucers?  Bah… I have things to do.”

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Aliens

NOTE: SPOILERS!!

I’m reading Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood collection (containing Dawn, Adulthood Rites and Imago), and I’ve been thinking about alienness, specifically how we react to things that are very different to our experience or how we’d actually react if aliens arrived tomorrow.  This post was also partly inspired by e.smith’s post, “I can’t help myself, it’s innate” and by my girlfriend’s reaction to slaters.

A small, multilegged, browny grey, crawling creature with a segmented back and two small front antennae
A slater, a small, multi legged, browny grey, crawling creature with a segmented back and two small front antennae. Photo credit: Joe Buckingham*

So, after reading Dawn, I thought about whether or not I’d be repulsed by aliens or scared by them, and I thought about all the science fiction I’ve watched and over the years, and all the weird and wonderful creatures I’ve watched on nature documentaries and how I react to seeing something for the first time.  I’ve had conversations with my husbands (yes that is plural and it is not a typo) about what we’d do if spaceships hovered over the city (I’d run to the hills, they’d want to stay and watch).  My initial reaction to new and different things is caution.  If I found a creature that I’d never seen before, I’d watch it before deciding whether or not to touch or interact with it.  I’m not likely to know if a creature is going to sting me, bite me, poison me, spit at me or any other defensive reaction.  In the event of aliens hovering over my city (a la Independence Day – terrible movie, but fits this scenario well), I’m going to want to wait and watch and see if I’m likely to be harmed before approaching something new… so in that way, I understand Lilith’s reaction to the aliens, though without the corresponding fear – mostly because I haven’t experienced a true level of alienness.

And I wonder, does the fact that I have been exposed to science fiction since I was old enough to start remembering TV (Dr Who to begin with), mean that my reaction to an alien, if I ever come across one, is going to be different to someone who hasn’t been exposed to as much science and speculative fiction.  In most SF, aliens are taken as given, and it’s rare that a human panics when they first come across one, and they’re either on the side of humans or against them – depending on which story is being told.  Will that influence me, make me cautious instead of scared?

It’s an interesting train of thought, and one clearly I’m unlikely to tease out further in my lifetime – what with the current lack of aliens wandering around.  It’s also not something that many current SF writers (that I have read – please provide suggestions below if you know of any others) are addressing currently – that being how humans would react if aliens turned up tomorrow and were not evil.  District 9 put aliens in a slum and otherwise generally ignored them.  Galaxy Quest had a couple of characters faint, but generally the cast of the TV show got on with saving the universe, with help from some fans.  Babylon 5 only briefly touches on earth’s first contact with aliens, specifically the Centari who lied to them about them being distant relatives, but no mention of mass panic.  Many stories have a government or secret organisation out to kill the alien, but everyone else harbours it and keeps it safe.

I’m enjoying Lilith’s Brood, and am most of the way through Iago now.  The ideas and issues identified by Butler in the series are as fresh and current as when she wrote them.  I do recommend the books to anyone who hasn’t yet read them.

*Joe Buckingham’s Flickr link here

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