Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Bloody Dan Brown and his damn Da Vinci Code

Dan Brown and his bloody Da Vinci Code is driving me mad. I read somewhere that the worst thing about the Da Vinci Code is that people who've read it think that they know something about symbology and religion. It comes up no matter who you are talking to.

I've always felt that the more I learn, the more I realise how little I know. The reverse is also true. If you read one book on a subject you feel like you know enough to talk knowledgeably about it in conversation. But in reality, one book is only one interpretation or point of view. I know you can't possibly read everything on a subject but how much information would give you a balanced, overall view.

This morning one of my workmates was talking about Andrew Denton last night. Apparently he was interviewing a female Islamic scholar who was promoting her new book. I didn't see the show so my workmate was telling me about it. I know she was telling me because I would have been interested, but I got annoyed because what she was describing was a very simplistic view of the issues. My workmate was speaking as if she knew a lot about Islam just from watching the interview. Every man and his dog has a different interpretation of Islam - especially around contentious issues such as women's issues. You can't possibly understand Islam through one book or through one persons interpretation.

With these two examples, I don't think that any of us are really qualified to talk about anything beyond what we are having for lunch!

I'm so naive - I really had no idea how complex things can be. I am generally a big picture person so I find it difficult to deal with all the smegging details. Sometimes I feel like details will be hounding me to my very grave.

Anyway, enough whining for now. On a positive note, my Islam lecturer has granted permission for me to write my short essay on Family Planning and Birth Control in Islam. I hope to specifically focus on the population policy in Iran. It's really interesting in that they had to implement family planning practices because the economy could not keep up with the population expansion. The economic circumstances effectively forced the theocracy to endorse the implementation of family planning practices. Khomeini in particular endorsed family planning and said that one educated and healthy Muslim is worth more than five uneducated and unhealthy Muslims (or something like that). I've also found some stuff where family planning practices are denounced as western and therefore evil. It will be interesting to find out how the clerics reconciled these interpretations.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Book Group

We took my niece to Alma Park Zoo on Saturday - she is three and she had a wonderful time. I've never seen a child so completely unafraid of animals. She was as happy as a lark feeding the deer, the donkeys, the sheep and the kangaroos . My sister and I had our photo taken holding a massive carpet snake and while we doing this, my niece walks right up and starts stroking the snake (which was about twice as long as she is tall) - I was stunned. I took two rolls of film of my niece feeding the animals and playing with Handsomest.

On the uni side, didn't do any work over the weekend. I finished my short response paper about Islamic Democracy on Friday. Suprisingly enough, I found it really interesting to write about. The whole idea of shura (which means consultancy) being translated as democracy struck me as a bit of a worry, but generally the author demonstrated that Islam is not about being a political dictatorship. The article was written in the 1970's but is still very relevant. I still need to decide on a topic for my short essay - I'm leaning towards writing about the implementation of a Population Policy (birth control) in post-revolutionary Iran - I think I'll need to clear this with the lecturer though.

I haven't done a skerrick of work for my other subject - but I'm not concerned about it. Clearly I'm in denial.

We had book group on Sunday which went really well. Everyone was really articulate and thoughtful. It's working out better than I could have hoped. Venerable was in fine form even though we all completely bagged his ideas about the homo-erotic overtones in the book. The Gorgeous Tall One suggested The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracey Chevalier as our next book. I read Girl with a Pearl Earring earlier this year and totally loved it - so I'm quite excited about it.
I watched The Shipping News on the weekend too. What a fantastic film - Kevin Spacey was excellent, as was Judy Dench. It was so picturesque. I've read some other Annie Proulx books and she writes with a fantastic tone. The movie really caught this. It was so quiet. I enjoyed it as much as Girl with a Pearl Earring which I saw earlier this year. Lost in Translation was another film that was very still (for lack of a better description). I recently read another book by the author of Lost in Translation which was also very good. Maybe I write a seperate post about it.

I suggested The Shipping News for book group but one of the girls had already read it so we'll leave it off the list for now. I think I'll read it during semester break (that way I will totally enjoy it and not be ravaged by guilt for procrastinating on assignments).

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Exodus 25 and Nick Cave - Match made in the proverbial

I've been having an interesting email conversation with my friend Venerable about Exodus 25.

Essentially it's about the specifications for making the ark of the covenant (and it's made me very wistful for Indiana Jones). Anyway - 25:21 talks about the mercy seat. I know Nick Cave had a penchant for the Mercy Seat (it was burning, it was glowing and it was also waiting) and I've also thought that it was just about the electric chair. Not so, on closer examination he actually talks (well, sings) about the ark too.

Venerable thinks that his use of the word 'stowed' is two-fold. Firstly (he writes), I think that he is talking about the placement of the ark within the religious doctrine as a 'mercy seat' on earth. Secondly, I think that he is placing the ark and Christianity into an historical context.

I still think that mercy seat is a problematic term. It also means a literal "seat of mercy" - a seat that grants the sitter mercy or a seat occupied by one who dispenses judgements with mercy? He has told the truth and he is past wishing punishment on those who are wrongly punishing him so both of these could fit. But the very last line turns this on its head - "But I'm afraid I told a lie".

Venerable said that he'd never really thought or read the lyrics before, but they were like WOW.
We were reading Exodus 25 for my magic class. It's interesting because magic by Christians demonstrates the will and divine power of God and so is not actually magic, but magic is magic by any one else is evil and in league with Satan.

He is an awesome song writer. I was thinking while reading Dharma Bums that poetry is not very popular or well known or written by average people anymore. Now I think it has just changed form - this song is definitely poetic.

Can't say that I've ever seen Jesus in my soup, but then, I don't eat a lot of soup.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Another day in paradise

Uni yesterday was really good. We did our little quiz and I knew most of the answers so I should do ok. In Islam, one of our discussion topics was Islamic Democracy which is coincidentally the topic of my next short response paper. I am starting to get a little panic stricken about the sheer volume of assessment due for this subject – I have something due every second week.

It's quite interesting that I do leave everything to the last minute considering that I stress so much about it all. Maybe it's some bizarre subconscious punishment regime.

After lectures I caught up with one of my favourite friends, Venerable, and we talked about Dharma Bums - it was interesting to hear what he had to say. Our conversation helped to clarify some ideas that have been spinning around in my head.

Today has been a very boring day at work – I've done nothing but horrible mundane stuff that I’ve been successfully procrastinating on for weeks.

Just talked to a horrible man on the phone who was trying to sell me a computer program that would allow me to make an extra $40 000 a year in income. He got very cross when I said that I wasn't interested – he kept trying to push me into using the software. I said I was too busy and not interested which were apparently not reasons that were good enough for Mr Pushy Salesman. Next time I'll say that I don't need an extra $40k as I have income from private investments and I’m moving to Uzbekistan to work as an unpaid volunteer with the orphans.

Handsomest went to a Gentle Ben gig last night (while I was snuggy asleep in bed) which he said was fantastic. Unfortunately they were trying to work within the decibel levels that the local government have instituted. The big problem is that inner city redevelopment has gone mad with people moving into the Valley in the last five years. Once they get there, they realise that live music is loud and their apartment is not sound-proofed enough. So they complain to the local council who then slap warnings and fines on the live music venues. It's bad enough that the costs for running a live music venue have skyrocketed with real estate prices, let alone that they have to keep the music down.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Work - already?

Have been sick with a cold (cue violins) but I’m feeling much better now. Had a great weekend even though there was little or no reading done. We didn’t end up going to see Dallas Crane on Friday night – I was too sick and it was far too cold. Handsomest was a little upset, but I guess they’ll be back.

I’m now reading a Lisa See book called Dragon Bones. I own one of her previous books, The Interior, which I quite enjoyed and I am fairly certain that I’ve read another one, but I can’t remember for certain (maybe the Flower Net or something). Anyway, while not brilliant, her books are certainly entertaining. It’s interesting to read especially in the context of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Her research is pretty good although the storyline can be a bit confusing.

I have a short exam on Tuesday in my Magic and Astrology in Ancient Greek and Jewish Writings class. It should only be about 20 questions so I don’t need to panic too much. But he always asks a couple of tricky questions and his favourites relate to bible passages. I can never keep the books or numbers straights (Exodus 25 – is that the one where Noah throws down his rod?) so I’ll have to read this stuff again tonight and hope that it burns in my brain. Also have a short essay that I should get working on but I have no idea what to write on. I’m interested in the Sibylline Prophecies so maybe I could do something on this – but the amount of stuff might make it better for a long essay.

What have I learnt today?
I’ve learnt that (nice) furniture is very expensive and that redskins (lollies) are so hard that my jaw aches before I’ve finished chewing them.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Uni Work and Bus Buddies

I just finished writing my article review for my Islam subject on a 1928 article called Veiling and Unveiling. It was an interesting article because the easy to spot conclusions were flawed but the more lateral conclusions were pretty good. She talked about Western nations that have a small number of veiled women are more advanced than Islamic nations with a large number of veiled women. She’s quite critical of Islam’s modern scientific development and she effectively lays the blame with the tradition of veiling. Her argument that some Western nations are more advanced compared to Islamic nations due to veiling is not really justifiable. In the past Islamic society has made a huge contribution to science and the arts yet Islamic women have a long history of veiling. But there is no attempt to explain this disparity. Perhaps a clearer link would be that Western nations might be more advanced because it is more common for these nations to have women actively participating in the nations advancement. Women’s active participation in the workforce effectively doubles the number of intelligent minds able to be utilised. It’s a bit hard to ferret out the rest of what she was talking about but I only had 500 words. Went to 610 words anyway.

I saw Bubble Boy on the bus last night – unfortunately he spotted me and sat next to me the whole way home. I chatted to him for a bit and mentioned that we are going to see Dallas Crane play on the weekend. And this is why he is known as Bubble Boy – he has no idea about anything (including Dallas Crane). Perhaps a better example is that the first day I met him (he fell asleep on the bus whilst leaning on me) he was reading Nostradamus (or however you spell it). The interesting part was that he believed it was all true. I mean, sure, read it, but critically assess what you read – don’t just believe it because it’s written in a book. I know I can be a complete intellectual snob, but honestly, how hard is it to use your brain? Why do some people believe everything they read or are told? Another example of Bubble Boys brilliance: I told Bubble Boy that I get Handsomest Husband to pick me up from the bus stop at night (even though I live about 300 metres down the road) because there are always murderers lurking around. Obviously there are not REAL murderers lurking, but it’s not always safe to walk home in the dark on your own. Bubble Boy looked quite panic stricken for a moment until I told him that I wasn’t being serious.

Laziest Girl - Inaugural Entry

Because I number among the laziest of people ever, and because I have an appalling memory, I thought that I’d use this blog to keep track of what I’m reading, seeing etc. I've never had the discipline, or inclination, to keep a diary but I'm interested in whether I start to see things differently as I become used to writing stuff down.

I just finished reading The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac for Book Group at the end of the month. It was pretty good, but I don’t think it’ll ever be in my top ten. Some of the phrases are beautiful – he describes Chinese signs as “big wild crowtracks”. One of the characters wakes from “his nervous small sleep of dawn”. I also liked that Kerouac wasn’t too hung up on punctuation. The length of some of the sentences makes you feel a bit disconnected by the end of them. It’ll be interesting to hear what the others have to say about it.

I'm also reading a book by Marina Warner called Indigo. Its kind of based on the story of the Tempest. I'm about a quarter of the way through and I think I might abandon it - its not really grabbing me.

This week I'm into strawberries, muesli and Greek yogurt for breakfast (still) and Butter Chicken for dinner.

I've been watching Ultraviolet on DVD and on the TV I'm still watching Book Group (my favourite show at the moment).