30/4/2006

Just Wow

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:20 pm

Talking politics in the elevator today with a guy who lives the floor below us in the apartment building. We were lamenting the fact that Prime Minister Harper is likely to bring us closer to the US, and that that’s worrying with the rising drumbeat for war in Iran, and he told me “We lost a soldier from this building a few years ago. Actually, you’re in 1305, aren’t you – that’s where he lived. His name was Richard Green.”

Here’s the Wikipedia article on the former resident in the apartment in which I’m writing this: Richard Green

28/4/2006

Hate Bush? – moi?

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:18 am

Lorne mentioned in comments that I seem to have a hate for Dub the Shrub. I dunno whether ‘hate’ is quite the right word – ‘fear’ might be closer to it. Someone who has got 2400 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis killed in the war we didn’t have to have deserves a certain amount of dislike and distrust, IMO.

And I did find this rather hilarious: http://www.salon.com/ent/video_dog/latenight/2006/04/28/polls/index.html

Credit where credit is due

Filed under: — Bravus @ 6:33 am

New Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper achieved a major coup yesterday by resolving the long-running softwood lumber dispute with the US. The Americans even gave back 4 billion of the 5 billion in tarriffs they illegally collected on Canadian timber imports. Nice one, Mr Harper.

27/4/2006

The Price of Dubya at the Pump

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:35 pm

Item on Salon today about President Bush saying ‘Well, if we’d opened up the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve for drilling 10 years ago we’d have an extra million barrels a day and prices wouldn’t be this high.’ A reporter asks some of his staffers ‘…and if Iraq was producing as much as it was before the war, how much capacity would that be?’ They can’t answer, so someone else does the research and finds out that Iraq is producing 1-1.5 million barrels a day less than it was before the war.

So I’ve never believed this war was about oil, and still don’t. Oil is just another casualty of the worst president for a very long time. But the oil prices are going to push up inflation, which is going to push up interest rates. So when you’re paying at the pump, and paying your higher mortgage, thank Dubya.

25/4/2006

Harper Takes A Leaf from Dubya’s Book

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:43 pm

April 25 is ANZAC Day – the day on which Australians remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country in wars. I remember getting up in the dark to attend the ANZAC Day march and dawn service, and marching in the same parade with the old World War I ‘diggers’.

The bodies of four Canadian soldiers, killed in Afghanistan, flew back into Canada today, but there was no media coverage, no photos of the coffins, and the flags in Ottawa weren’t even flown at half mast (those in Edmonton were). Prime Minister Stephen Harper seems to be reading from George W Bush’s playbook: pretend that no-one dies in wars and hope that the citizens won’t realise that war costs lives.

I’m not a big fan of Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan. It started out as a peacekeeping mission and the Canadians (and Australians) are still doing some excellent work in that area. But the mission has been expanded to actual combat operations, and that’s largely because the Americans are over-extended in Iraq and need troops freed up in Afghanistan. That doesn’t seem to me like a smart use of Canadian lives.

But whatever I feel about the war, these soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice to support their country and international peace and freedom. In my opinion it’s an absolute disgrace that Harper refuses to acknowledge and honour their sacrifice.

My New Face

Filed under: — Bravus @ 6:25 am

…on the web, that is. I have this workshop (‘Building Your Virtual Classroom‘ (pdf)) I’m giving today, all day, to 40 people who have paid to attend, and yesterday was the only time I had available to really finish off my preparation for it.

So, of course, I procrastinated by updating my home page! I’m still ready for the workshop, but I also changed the ‘look and feel’ of my home page, updated everything, validated all the links and so on… I know the old background was pretty ugly for some people, so I hope this one makes everything more legible.

Oh yeah, and please link to your home page in your comments, if you’re happy to do that.

24/4/2006

Schizophrenia ≠ Multiple Personalities

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:30 pm

Someone said it again today: “I’m not schizophrenic, I haven’t got multiple personalities”. It bugs me every time I hear it – even before some preacher once said it in a sermon I heard got into a standup argument in the middle of the sermon with a person who had either been schizophrenic or knew someone who had.

Schizophrenia is often talked about as ‘split personality’, but that doesn’t mean a number of separate personalities within one person, like in the movies ‘Sybil’ and ‘The Three Faces of Eve’ and the book ‘When Rabbit Howls’. Those stories are about what is now called Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and was once called Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) (a much rarer condition), not schizophrenia. The ‘split’ in schizophrenia is between different aspects of one personality.

So it might be less snappy in conversation, but it’s more accurate (and less likely to offend) to say ‘I don’t have Dissociative Identity Disorder’ …or perhaps just to say ‘I only have the one personality!’

Linkage:

DID: Wikipedia, DSM-IV
Schizophrenia: Wikipedia (some immature morons have defaced this somewhat but the basic content is intact), DSM-IV

(PS. When I was searching for old posts on this topic in case I’d talked about it before, Google Ads tossed up an ad that said ‘Free Schizophrenia! Today only we are giving away free schizophrenia’. Wonder whether they get many takers…)

22/4/2006

Confessions from a Mis-spent Youth

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:15 am

(we don’t actually have the concept of a ‘statute of limitations’ on past crimes in Australia, but I think it’s late enough in the game that these won’t come back to haunt me too badly. My Mum has passed away and I don’t think my Dad reads this blog, so…)

I met with my teacher education students for the last time yesterday. Well, they’re not really students any more, most of them – one more week of practice teaching and they’re teachers. They’ve been student teaching for 8 weeks so far, and we just met for an afternoon to allow them to share their stories and experiences, and think a bit about what they’ll take away from the student teaching that will help them in their teaching careers.

One of the topics, as often happens, was their surprise at who the students are: sometimes capable, confident, engaged and interested, but also sometimes apathetic, bored, rude and stoned or drunk.

They were also somewhat mystified by how many students had been stoned or absent the day before… April 20 is 4/20, which is kind of ‘international pot-smoking day’… I kinda knew that, just from having my ear to the ground, and a lot of these teachers didn’t know, although they’re a lot younger than me.

I had to smile to myself just a little bit, though. After all, I’d gone to high school drunk on at least one occasion, smoked pot between final exams, been perhaps the least motivated student around, been suspended from school… and here I am teaching teachers how to deal with kids like me.

I guess at least my mis-spent youth means I have some empathy for the kids that are tougher to deal with, and some hope for their redemption… oh yeah, and I can smell weed a mile off!

21/4/2006

Knit Green

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:09 am

Tomorrow is Earth Day. From Salon.com:

“Least impressive way to demonstrate your eco-consciousness: buying stuff.”

Making stuff is much greener, if you’re, say, knitting a sweater for a fairy penguin that’s been the victim of an oil-spill. In this penguin-warming tale from the Sydney Morning Herald, also linked by Grist, knitters make outfits to save the lives of oil-soaked birds found off the coast of southern Australia.

“The knitters continually push the fashion envelope,” the newspaper says, “with matching bride and groom outfits, AFL teams, and, from one elderly English woman, ‘the whole Manchester United soccer team.'” Calling the knitters “a worldwide army of little old ladies,” the Herald reports that one donor to the cause has knitted 260 penguin sweaters a year for the past three years.

18/4/2006

Vancouver, Habitrail Modern architecture and some Gibson Fans

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:17 am

17/4/2006

Vancouver Real Fast

Filed under: — Bravus @ 5:29 pm

Just popping over to Vancouver for the night tomorrow night to meet up with a bunch of on-line friends from the William Gibson Board, some from France, some from the US and some from that area. Should be a fun trip, and the last chance to catch up with some people while I’m still in the northern hemisphere. I’m going to ask Alex if I can borrow her camera, which is smaller than mine, and capture some photos of the occasion and the city.

15/4/2006

Scary Thought

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:50 pm

Hadn’t thought about it this way, but someone said it today and it rang true: if America had had leaders of the calibre of Bush during the cold war, it’s likely an enormous number of us wouldn’t be here.

The Christian paradox

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:00 am

I’d been hoping to move to more variety on the blog, away from the fairly exclusive focus on religion lately (with a little politics), but when I came across this I had to share it. I might have e-mailed it to some of you already.

It focuses on America, but that’s too easy: I think we need to look closely at where Australian and Canadian Christians have fallen into many of the same traps and ‘silenced Jesus’.

Anyway, this author says it much better than I can.

The Christian paradox

14/4/2006

My God

Filed under: — Bravus @ 5:50 am

I like these lyrics:

If I should find myself in blackest night,
and fear is stabbin’ me all over,
a tiny prayer cracks the dark with light,
and I hear sounds behind my wall.
Inside, a still small voice, it calls and calls.
Then like a thunder bolt it falls and falls:
My God

When life becomes more real than children’s games,
or we’ve become too old to play them,
We’ll grow old gracefully,
we’ll hide our shame.
but there’s that voice behind the wall.
And like my conscience, it is still and small.
Each word is mercy, protects us all:
My God

Know who wrote them? Alice Cooper.

It seems as though the few posts over the past couple of weeks about Bible interpretation and other issues have left some of my friends wondering what is left of Christianity if we do away with a very strict Biblical literalism. For example, if we assume that there was death before Eden and the Fall, does that mean that eternal life is a myth too? I don’t think it’s necessarily so, and that theme is getting explored in the earlier post about death.

A couple of final comments on the interpretation thing and some of what is around it, and then some consequences of that for who God is to me and how I (tentatively) understand faith.

  1. The fixation on a text-derived religion derived from a single text is not something I can continue to subscribe to. I believe we see God in the natural world around us, in other people, in those we love, and in other faith traditions and ethical ideas. The Bible is one important revelation of God, but to privilege it and use it to the exclusion of all the other ways we can learn of God is to fall into a form of idolatry, making the text the god rather than allowing God to be God.
  2. That position does have consequences for doctrines – like recent creationism – that are erected in defiance of other kinds of evidence, and on very carefully developed (and, I have argued here, misunderstood) textual justifications. It means that there are other tests of the justice, mercy and power of doctrines and ideas than the use of ‘proof texts’ from scripture.
  3. No-one should pretend that they follow literally everything in scripture anyway. In how many Christian churches do you see animal sacrifice? OK, so maybe that changed in the new testament. What about women not speaking, and with their heads covered in church? Every church picks and chooses which bits of the text it will apply and which bits it will ignore, so the claim that every word is to be literally followed breaks down in practice in every case. And that’s a good thing: no stoning for a whole range of crimes and sins.

I realise that what I’ve said here places me outside the mainstream of Christianity, at least as it is practiced in the West today. That’s not such a bad place to be, but I’m still a Christian, a follower of Jesus and Jesus’ teaching, and I still believe the Bible has value and teaches us how to live and how to find salvation and live as part of the Kingdom of Heaven.

But I realise that things like the attitude of some of the Bible writers to homosexuality and toward women and their role are things that arise out of particular cultures at particular times, not universal rules that require repression and intolerance as part of faith.

To me, God is an infinite reservoir of love, that I can draw on when my own stores are too shallow (which is pretty much all the time) and reflect onward to everyone around me. God is the Creator: but I don’t understand the specific creative techniques God used and is using in an on-going way.

God is not an old white man with a long beard a long way off. God is infinite and contains the universe, and is throughout it, everywhere, all the time. God contains all possibilities of gender and race and culture and age and an infinity of other things besides. God is the ultimate reality… and is wild and alien, and will not sit still to fit into the tiny, cramped boxes we try to cram God into.

13/4/2006

Inhale – Love of Life/Exhale – Fear of Death

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:44 am

The title is a line from a Rollins Band song that I love… other lines include ‘Inhale – Power/Exhale – Force’ and ‘Inhale – Resolve/Exhale – Ambition’. But it neatly encapsulates something about a conversation I had with my Jewish friend, David Blades, a few years ago. He was saying he really only began living fully once he realised and accepted the fact that he would die. He’s a biologist, and felt that the realisation that death is an integral part of life was important as part of our human identity.

As a Christian – remember, we’re taught that Eden had no death, and that death is an alien force, a consequence of sin – I argued with him, and said that life (and eternal life) is something to be grasped with both hands and enjoyed, and death something to be resisted at all costs. This has arisen again in the Origins discussions (promise, this is the last mention of those here for a looong time): creationists seem to be strongly opposed to the whole concept of evolution because by definition it requires billions of generations of death in the creation of life.

I’m more ambivalent now about death, I think. On the one hand, I love living, and want to live and love as long as possible. On the other hand, I think clinging too tightly to life can, ironically, make us miss it. Recognising that we are mortal makes (or should make) every moment more precious in some way.

Add to that the realisation that, if we live longer on this earth it just makes our ecological footprints bigger and leaves less resources for our children and descendents, and I think maybe I’m starting to come to a sort of accommodation with the idea of death. Or maybe these are just reflections occasioned by getting older…

One Quick Note on Iran

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:41 am

I haven’t said a lot about the rising drumbeat for US attacks on Iran here, partly to avoid too much politics, and partly because it’s just too damn depressing. Plus I know there are a number of Americans who read this blog regularly, and as much as I try to clarify that it’s the fault of the administration, not those people, constantly talking about the bad stuff America is doing in the world at the moment just seems like a slap in the face to my American friends somehow.

But I really only just realised this myself this morning (I’m a little slow), and thought I’d point it out here: Who are the Americans’ main ally in Iraq, the people in control of parliament and of the Iraqi security forces? The majority Shiites. (Since the Americans deposed Saddam and his Sunni supporters, and since they have to be careful about supporting the Kurds in order to keep Turkey relatively happy.) Who are the majority and government in Iran? Shiites. So any pre-emptive attack on Iran by the Americans has the very strong potential to further exacerbate the already on-going and escalating civil war in Iraq…

12/4/2006

Jimi and Perfection

Filed under: — Bravus @ 7:26 pm

Listening to Jimi Hendrix playing ‘Voodoo Chile’ on the radio today. He’s an unbelievable innovator, both in terms of effects – the wah wah at the beginning of that song and the whole sound he gets out of his amp – and in terms of the playing, and has so much soul in his playing. But what I was struck by today was how many bum notes he hits. I grew up 20 years later, listening to Yngwie Malmsteen playing stuff a million times faster with every single note ringing out perfectly clearly, so hearing these ‘mistakes’ – and on a studio album, not a live show – was a bit jarring.

We can definitely argue about the relative merits of those two guitarists’ playing – and also think about how high Jimi was a lot of the time when he was playing – but my point is not even really about Jimi vs Yngwie… it’s about the quest for perfection. Presumably Yngwie doesn’t play it perfectly in the studio first time, every time. In fact, I suspect most songs are pieced together out of multiple different takes. It’s breath-taking, but it’s artificial somehow…

What do we gain, and what do we lose, when we stop allowing mistakes?

11/4/2006

‘What you want is what you need’

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:53 am

…is the tagline of the new Toyota Camry ad playing in cinemas. As if we don’t have enough trouble already in our (consumption-driven, debt-bondage-ridden) society in distinguishing between wants and needs.

10/4/2006

We will, we will… nuke you!

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:09 pm

Anyone else find it ironic (as well as terrifying, but a low level of on-going horror is something we’ll have to live with for at least another couple of years) to hear that the Americans are contemplating nuking Iran as a means of stopping Iran getting nukes. It’s because the Iranian leadership is too dangerous and irresponsible to be trusted with nukes, ya see…

9/4/2006

The Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything

Filed under: — Bravus @ 11:11 am

I turn 42 today and, as a Douglas Adams fan, am expecting to know The Answer any moment now.