Thursday, September 30, 2004

End the lies rally

I was suspicious of this rally because while it implicitly claims to be anti-Howard and anti-Liberal/National Coalition, it uses Australian Labor Party rhetoric. However, an enormous list of organisations, including smaller political parties, are supporting it. It's on this Sunday in every capital city and several regional centres.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Bush and Christianity

Although I'm an atheist myself, I spend a considerable amount of time trying to convince my atheist friends, who were not brought up as Christians, that Christianity does many excellent things. I point to the amazing social work of the Sisters of Charity and many other Christian organisations. The Sisters of Charity in particular do not proselytise while they work. Neither does the fantastic Lifeline telephone counselling service, despite being run by Wesley Mission (superintendent Gordon Moyes is a NSW Senator in horrible Fred Nile's Christian Democratic Party). Unfortunately we live in a country where the government does not properly care for the needy. Thankfully some charities do incredible work for the poor, such as Bill Crews' Exodus Foundation. If you've got some dollars to spare and want to give them away, you can be sure he'll do good stuff with them.

My own experience of the Catholic church, and in particular the youth organisation Antioch, has often been fantastic. Antioch was all about unconditional love and respecting and listening to other people. Good stuff, right? There are plenty of good bits about Christianity that I've tacked onto my atheism without any inconsistencies.

The bits of Christianity that scare me, however, are the fundamentalist bits - where you're so stuck in a particular thought pattern that no amount of reasoning will allow you to escape. At uni there is a VERY strong fundamentalist Christian movement called Campus Bible Study. This movement grabs people when they have just started university; when they are lonely and confused. The first two people I ever met on campus were from CBS. Then I lived in a residential college for six months that was overrun by CBS people.

My concern is not the fact that these people are Christians. My concern is that their belief structure results in willful ignorance. Follow the chain:
  1. if you don't believe that Christ is your saviour, you will go to hell;
  2. you believe that Christ is your saviour;
  3. you change your life such that everything you do, every thought and action, revolves around Christ;
  4. friends/logic/whatever influences you to the point that you are not sure that what you believe is true;
  5. you CAN'T escape/take time off/lapse in agnosticism in order to assess your beliefs because if you die in the meantime, you'll go to hell

You MUST try to force yourself to believe, to ignore your doubts, to pray yourself into believing. And prayer works because prayer, in my opinion, is meditation. And like hypnosis, meditation is very powerful to those who can do it.

Moreover, if the first people you meet at university are from CBS, chances are all your friends are from CBS. So thinking too much about your faith might result in losing all your friends. You'll go from having an enormous social and support network to having no one.

This is bad enough. But Peter Sellick (Deacon associate at an Anglican church in WA) has shown me that it's not just Christians who are affected by their fundamentalism. It's all of us.

The anti-intellectualism that fundamentalism promotes; the black and white morality and the confidence and self-assuredness (which comes from all that doubt-denying above) has produced an American president who is impervious to reason. There is little hope. Please let there not be four more years of stupidity.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Kath and Kim

The wonderful Australian comedy Kath and Kim is being exported. My friend Cameron wrote to me "Something you may not have known about your beloved Finns...they don't know what a 'hornbag' is." I reckon if my Finnish friends don't understand Kath and Kim, it's a compliment to me. Think about it.

There's a more plain English explanation of the concept here.

Monday, September 27, 2004


Yes, I know that writing a post about a half hour Australian dinnertime serial is lame. Admitting that I watch it every day is perhaps going to lose me some respect. And don't misunderstand me - I don't watch it despite thinking that it's complete garbage (that's The Bold and the Beautiful, which I can only watch if I'm doing something else concurrently); I actually think it's a good show.

Anyway, the post isn't about Neighbours; it's about the impressive fact that the coming out story of a teenage lesbian is being shown at 6:30pm.
Neighbours fans are really happy about the storyline. The gay media is moderately impressed. Unsurprisingly, however, conservatives are making an unhappy noise.

I think it's bloody brilliant. The portrayal is as realistic as one can hope for in a soap in that time slot and it's sympathetic to the lesbian character.

I was so naive about sexuality as a teenager. At school, often someone was "accused" of homosexuality. And instead of standing up for someone's right to be anything they want, those who were most supportive of the accused denied the accusation. I remember denying a few on friends' behalf.

I remember a mysterious rift between my group of girlfriends and another girl. No one would tell me what was going on. I discovered years later that the other girl is a lesbian. I wouldn't be surprised if that's what the rift was about. It makes me really sad to think about how she must have felt. What makes me sadder is if I had known, I probably wouldn't have supported her. Supporting her would have most likely made me an outcast as well - something I wouldn't have been prepared to deal with in high school.

Maybe, with changing social attitudes, I would have responded better if I went to school in this decade. Maybe not. Legally, the situation is still the same. The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby is fighting to change the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act because private schools (like the Catholic school I went to) are exempt from it. Private schools can still discriminate against gay and lesbian students by refusing admission, expelling them or treating them unfairly on the basis of their sexuality. Shame.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Fancy food

The fancypants dinner I had for work on Monday was incredible. We went to Marque Restaurant in Surry Hills. I knew that a French restaurant that caters properly to vegetarians must be good. I was on a group tour of Europe in 1998 and in Paris the vegetarians were fed a few cheese and tomato slices. This was better. Oh boy.

We started with a chaud-froid egg - served in an eggshell with breadsticks. My internet research tells me that's a hot poached egg with cold maple syrup, sherry vinegar, chives and maybe cream. It's meant to combine the flavours of hot, cold, sweet and sour. It was truly awesome.

Further groaning and smiling and pausing of conversations followed through a beetroot tart, potato risotto and the strongest chocolate and espresso mousses in the world. The wine kept flowing and even the petits fours were unique. It was the most amazing food experience I've ever had. I paid for it when I got home, because I guess too much rich food is not good for the tummy, but it was worth it.

The speeches and presents and all that were really nice too. I realised how important it is to feel a kind of happy closure to a job. I was able to thank people and be thanked. The bill was gigantic, so I won't be going back with my own money until I've got another job!


I just watched the Turkish version of The Nanny, Dadi, on SBS. The sets are similar, the characters are the same - just renamed - and the storylines are identical. It's worth watching if only to experience how completely bizarre it is.

John Kerry was just on Letterman. He's so unimpressive. Hopefully he'll win anyway. I guess it's much the same with Mark Latham. "Anyone but Bush/Howard."

I want a pile of kittens.

A government investigation has just found that patients at a psychiatric unit in Tamworth were abused and bullied by staff. It's widely accepted that psychiatric care in public hospitals in Australia is of a low standard. A recent episode of Four Corners noted how difficult it is to get any real treatment for depression when you're poor. Perhaps this media exposure of the issue will result in some change, but I'm not optimistic.

Monday, September 20, 2004


I've got a big meeting and dinner for work today. I'm still having lots of trouble sleeping, so hopefully I don't stuff any of it up due to tiredness!

In the meantime, I read this great (not new) Scientific American article about synesthesia - the condition in which senses are blended. I knew about synesthesia already; what interested me was that cool experiments have been conducted to prove that this is a real condition.

Real nerds will know all about this already. For everyone else, it's here.

Friday, September 17, 2004


I ended up going with non-engravable gifts so that we could all get extremely useful stuff. It's wonderful to wander through shops trying to spend money that isn't yours ... until you're really tired and the shops are all about to close. We didn't find the right things in Peter's or Myer, so we went to David Jones for a completely new shopping experience. Everything was so beautifully laid out and amazingly well lit that it was more like a gallery than a department store. It didn't seem to be more expensive than elsewhere and the staff were wonderful so I'm definitely going there first next time. My mother would be proud.

Since then I've been struggling to sleep. I'll sleep for three hours and then wake up. My body is so tired that I can't do anything useful when I wake up except watch tv. I've been getting lots of Six Feet Under (season three) under my belt. I watched the first two seasons on DVD and downloaded this one. Season four is showing on tv, so I'm taping it as I catch up with what went before.

Six Feet Under is awesome.

Last night I managed to get a bit more sleep, so hopefully this strange superawakeness thing is wearing off.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


I'm still working a bit at the moment - to tidy everything up as the company winds down. One of my jobs is to organise a fancy farewell dinner for me and some other staff. I don't mind this at all of course, because it means we'll eat somewhere nice.

Still, this isn't enough. The person throwing the dinner (my "pseudo-boss" I guess, due to a complicated series of resignations and role assumptions) wants to present us all with gifts. Different gifts if necessary. Nice, huh? The thing is though, he wants me to organise that too.

I was a bit put out by this at first. But maybe it's actually really cool - being able to spend $100 of company money on something I want. So I'm going shopping at Peter's on Thursday. Peter's has this enormous selection that seems wonderful ... until you realise that it's so big you'll never be able to choose anything. I'm hoping to have more luck by actually visiting the store.

It probably needs to be engravable, so glassware is a good bet. Any ideas?

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Dancing Howard

You may have seen this already, but just in case you haven't, I couldn't resist linking to it. Dancing Howard is a wonderful public service. Even conservatives might get a kick out of it.

Also, it seems ALP policy is actually meaner to the poorest Australians than Coalition policy. As if I wasn't disillusioned enough. Read more here.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Am sick... no blog. Bad cold. I'm a bit miserable.

In the meantime, have some pictures of cats that look something like Mickey, courtesy of Daniel who sent them to me to cheer me up.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Divine she ain't

I try not to buy the paper on Thursdays so I don't accidentally read Miranda Devine's column. I know someone who does the opposite. Whether it's because he's a masochist or he just thinks it's important to know what idiots think, I don't know, but I thought of him when I chose to read silly Miranda today.

Ms Devine's entire column is devoted to enumerating many examples of terrorism and war crimes that have been perpetrated by women.

What's your point Miranda? Of course women can be just as awful as men. Given the worst circumstances, both can be hideous. This isn't news. Didn't you go to high school?

Certainly terrorism is awful. What happened in Beslan made me sick. But simply pointing out that women can no longer be considered the "gentler sex" is a sexist distraction.

Even if it can be successfully argued that men are more treacherous than women in general (and I'm not taking a bet either way), guess what? News flash! Terrorists aren't normal people. Leslie Cannold (a fellow at the University of Melbourne's Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, so it's not exactly an equal battle of wits between her and silly Miranda) wrote something very very good about this in the same publication, here.

I've learned my lesson. I will turn the page next time.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Pet peeve

I really ought to get over it, but it drives me NUTS.

People keep saying "what the...?" instead of "what the heck?" or something less polite.

It works for Rove.

It doesn't work for anyone else.

There were three kids behind me on the plane on Sunday night. They must have been around twelve years old. I could tell from their conversation that they'd been in some kind of competition that day. Based on how incredibly annoying they were, I'm pretty sure it was a debating competition. I debated when I was twelve. I can only hope that I was better company. One of them kept saying "what the...?" and I resisted the urge to get cranky. No doubt their retort to my crankiness would have been just as irritating, so perhaps I did myself a favour.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

There was something in the air ... that didn't want to stay there

I've got a fabulous excuse for missing the blog for a few days...

I made a last minute decision to fly up to Brisbane on Saturday night for Mark's party. I had an excellent time. And despite only three hours' sleep and a hangover everything was going well until Sunday night.

My plane back to Sydney was delayed for an hour and a half and then when we got to Sydney the plane was in a holding pattern for forty minutes because of the storm. THEN we were diverted to Canberra.

This just doesn't happen in Australia, so nobody knew what to do. The airline tried to make plans to turn back and were negotiating with Sydney to be allowed to land after the 11pm curfew. But apparently the ice on the runway was too hazardous.

Two hours after landing in Canberra and several snacks later we were let off the plane. Still nobody knew what to do, and Virgin could only secure forty beds for three hundred people because Qantas was competing for accommodation for its similarly stranded passengers. For some reason only one bus could be found that would drive to Sydney, so then cabs were brought in to drive everyone back. A few of us just couldn't cope with the idea of being in a cab for three or more hours and chose to stay the night.

By 2am I was finally in a hotel bed. It might be because I was so damned tired and incredibly glad to be in a bed, but I'm now in love with the Crowne Plaza Canberra.

Three hours after getting to sleep I received a wake up call to get on the return flight. Virgin were too lousy to pay for breakfast, so I compensated by grabbing all the shampoos and bickies. I even stole a muffin from the restaurant buffet. Not very noble behaviour, but sleep deprivation is my excuse. And it was worth it for the look on Daniel's face when I got it all out of my bag.

Anyway, you wouldn't read about it (well, I guess you are reading about it), but not only were we at the airport ridiculously early for the scheduled flight, but the flight was then delayed by nearly an hour.

I've been recovering ever since with piles and piles of sleep. Daniel reckons this will cure me of doing crazy things like flying to Brisbane at two hours' notice, but for some reason it hasn't.

Friday, September 03, 2004


I went to the dentist yesterday and am still in more pain than I think is really justified. Still, there's codeine, sleep and the fact that I don't have to work at the moment so I'm not complaining. Not to mention nearly two hours of nitrous oxide yesterday. Fortunately (or not) I don't have an out-of-body experience on nitrous. In fact I accused the dentist of turning it off towards the end of the appointment, when it was actually on the highest setting allowed.

And it's my own fault for turning my back on the dentist five years ago. Thankfully, however, I was sensible enough to go back. Unlike some complete freaks.

Passion of Tinseltown

At the risk of offending some, I'm posting a link to Dave Palmer's clever pieces satirising The Passion of the Christ. I think it's clever. I'm pretty sure I would have thought it clever when I was a Christian (I certainly thought my shit happens coffee mug was excellent). So that's my justification, and don't say I didn't give you fair warning.

Sydney talks

If you're in Sydney and you enjoy public lectures/talks/forums, then this site is for you. Other cities in Australia coming soon!

Happy birthday Mark!

Mark Cocquio turns 30 today! Sorry I can't be in Brisbane to share it with you. I know I'm missing a great party...

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Soundtrack to war

I'm really excited that George Gittoes' documentary, Soundtrack To War, is finally going to air tonight. I heard the radio version on the wonderful ABC Radio National two months ago and it was just incredible. Music is so very powerful. In Iraq music is used to rev up the troops, blasting from the tanks as they drive into battle, it's used to cope with the horrors they face, it's used to pray, it's used to commemorate the dead and it's used to grieve. And the variety of music is astonishing - from gospel to soft rock to rap to metal. Even, surprisingly, the Bee Gees. Much of the music has been composed there in Baghdad; in particular lots of rap.

Listening to this doco allowed me to connect with the soldiers, with music as the common denominator. I could see the people involved in the war before the politics. Powerful stuff.

I understand that this has already aired in the US on VH1, which makes sense because although the documentary is Australian, most of the soldiers are American and most of the music is American. It's also not explicitly anti-war, so broadcasters may feel more comfortable showing it.

The 7.30 Report did a piece on this doco, and the "new generation" of soldiers here. It's hard to imagine that so many of them must be younger than me.