a little east of reality

Thursday, March 31, 2005

needles 2

Had the flu shot and IT HURT! Okay maybe not enough to use caps, but enough.

Luckily she bribed us with Starburst lollipops, so I'm currently in raspberry denial. Needle? What needle?

the lowdown: 24 mar 05

My uncle Richard is so quirky cool. He has this neat little life set up just the way he likes it, and it's a pretty interesting mix. Full-time he is a goat farmer. For fun he plays sax (sometimes trumpet I'm told) with a band he's been in for years. He also writes a weekly newspaper column called The Lowdown, a social comment piece that mixes observations and anecdotes with sly references to current events and a whole lot of humour (and much inuendo...eek). He rambles a bit, but if you read it in a Bajan accent it sounds right. Occasionally he mentions the rest of the family, which sometimes gets him in trouble. He often mentions his mother-in-law, which I'm SURE gets him in trouble. Anyway, here is his column for the 24th of March. The 'brother Joe' he mentions is my dad.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


I'm scheduled to have a flu shot tomorrow. I keep trying to remind myself that last winter's vaccination didn't hurt (and that I never did catch the flu) but somehow only the needle has stayed in my memory.

At least work is paying for it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

finding the one

"There is no chance at all. We are all trapped by a singular fate. No one ever finds the one." Charles Bukowski

So Baps came to stay this weekend as planned. She is a person who talks a lot and fast, and I tend to be silent in my empty house, so I wondered how that would go. What happened is that she was quite calm and relaxed and I talked way too much. Is that my sometimes loneliness manifesting itself? Perhaps. I hope she didn't find it too overwhelming. She is looking very well and as gorgeous as ever...one of the few people I know who makes fashion look effortless.

We talked a lot about her life over the last two years or so. She has once again run away from a situation fraught with issues and difficult to face. Though I mean this literally, I also saw a similar metaphorical pattern emerging as we talked. I did find myself questioning (out loud) not only some of her recent decisions, but also (in my mind) her determination to see those decisions as good or reasonable, even with the benefit of hindsight. And even when it seems at odds with her own belief system. It was difficult. I think a friend should be honest with you, and I was, but I also think that a friend cannot make your decisions either. It's her life, and her choices don't always have to make sense to me. I guess I just felt the need to double-check that they made sense to her.

What is perhaps most odd, however, is that she has run straight into the arms of a guy who may very well be the best person for her. Their similarities help them understand each other, and their differences allow them to provide something the other needs. And they laugh a lot. I have to wait two more weeks to see them together, but my gut instinct is that this is a good place for her to be.

God bless dumb luck. After all, this was pretty much what happened with Sky - right when she was most vulnerable to meeting mr wrong, she walked straight into a friendship that became the relationship of her life with a guy that was so perfect for her it was difficult not to use the words, 'the one'.

Ahh, the ONE. Matrix allusions aside, I'm not sure what I think about that idea. I know I don't believe there is just one person we can be truly happy with, but it is the tangential ideas that have me pondering. Does God sometimes direct us to one who's right for us? Or do we all get the chance to meet some 'one' and just not all realise it, or act on it? And how about that theory that you never meet someone when you're looking for them...kind of casts a shadow on computer dating services, doesn't it?

Tetchan passed on an interesting idea (which hopefully she'll help me source later) that there is a certain percentage of the population that we are compatible with, but most of us don't have a social circle wide enough to meet more than one or two who are these potential soulmates. So while there may be many soulmates out there, in our own circle there really might be just 'one' of those.

Or none. *sigh*

Monday, March 28, 2005

a little easter reality

I just realised that I haven't added an entry for Easter, so I thought I'd offer this link to a rather traditional hymn we sang this Sunday, Christ the Lord is Risen Today. Basically all you have to do it click on the first note and the whole hymn will play.

This is the first Easter hymn I ever heard that sounded like a Christmas carol to me. I don't know if its general 'joyousness' comes across without the voices, but it was a nice way to end the meeting and remember that we're not just remembering the Atonement and Crucifiction but also celebrating the Resurrection.

In other Easter news, I gave Lindt eggs this year. Everyone I would normally buy for was away this Easter, so I just put an egg on each desk at work, which made me feel I was at least getting into the spirit of things a little.

Quiz result: Which famous leader am I?

Now that is a cool result! Okay I'm going to take a break on the quizzes for a while.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

phases of the moon

After scanning Tim's blog I now have the phases of the moon on my sidebar. I may swap it later for the one that shows you a new 'wow look at this' astronomical sight each day, if I can locate it again.

The moon really is beautiful though. Sure, it might just be a hunk of rock not even spinning in space, but some things shouldn't be analysed too carefully.

By the way, if you check out his blog and the first entry you read is the one that should be titled "confusing people with dense Tao explanations: 101" read on. He doesn't always write like a Far Eastern Nietzsche. (^_~ Tim)

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Maybe this is what I'm missing. Perhaps you don't get that final push into superherodom unless you have a nemesis making an issue out of it. Maybe I just couldn't think of a good enough costume. And why is there always an assumption that crime happens at night. Where are the daytime superheroes? Posted by Hello

Friday, March 25, 2005

reincarnation and karma

I was talking with Cramer and Quasi the other day. They both believe in reincarnation, and I was particularly curious as to how Quas reconciled that with her Christian belief. To me the two are incompatible. Her response ~ that Christ taught about reincarnation ~ surprised me. That's one I hadn't heard before. I went on a bit of a hunt on the net, and found argument to that effect with numerous references from the New Testament. As it turned out, every reference is (according to the interpretation I understand) references to the pre-mortal existence with God. They've taken them all as references to past mortal lives. Anyway, she may have been referring to other sources outside the Bible as well (Dead Sea Scrolls and the like) but I haven't pursued it any further for now.

Another curious thing she told us was that when she was a young child she had memories of her previous life. Cramer suggested that they may not have been her own memories, but have come instead from what Jung described as 'the collective unconscious'. I find that idea intriguing.

Reincarnation in general I find an interesting, but unconvincing, concept. Quasi sees us as raindrops, metaphorically falling to earth at birth and returning to our collective existence at death in the same way that rain eventually evaporates and returns to the clouds. Each time we do this we bring more experience and understanding to the whole of which we are a part. It's a pretty idea, but my gut response is 'to what purpose?' Learning is integral to existence, but learning only for learning's sake only ever seems valuable to me if it's temporary. Surely understanding should eventually lead to action, change, progression...something more...or what is the point?

The other problem I have with that concept is that it renders what we do meaningless. If our only purpose is to learn and share, then despair, cruelty, selfishness, etc, are just as worth experiencing as hope, kindness and integrity. Perhaps she would answer that this learning does lead to progression, that we would seek good in order to live better in our successive lives. Then our purpose becomes more than learning. But again, to what end? If all we're destined to do is relive life over and over again, what's the point? I know the buddhist answer to this - nothingness, Nirvana - but this all came from a Christian.

Some would say that we try hard to be good in one life because our situation in life depends on our karmic baggage from the last. I find this idea appalling. What it really says is that if people have a terrible life we can basically assume they were evil in their past life, ergo they deserve their lot. That's not only illogical (because a lot of bad stuff happens to very good people...were they all evil in their last life??) - it's also a good way to absolve ourselves from responsibility.

The terrors of life either just happen (sickness, untimely death, natural disaster) or they are the product of people's actions (war, violence, abuse, manipulation, injustice). People are not 'starving in Africa' because they are paying a karmic debt. They are starving because other nations ruled Africa and arbitrarily created country borders that led to territorial warfare. They are starving because of harsh climate and corrupt government. They are starving because when 'first world' farmers want to reduce an abundant harvest to keep prices from falling, they would rather dump the extra in the ocean than send it where it is needed. Maybe, if I want to be really honest and introspective, one of those people is starving because I have too much credit card debt and have rendered myself too poor to help even those I would really like to help. Actually I'd be more likely to give to the Fred Hollows Foundation, so they might still be hungry, but they'd be able to look for food at least (sorry, bad joke. FHF assists people with cataract blindness.)

Okay, 'starving people in Africa' is a cliched example. But this principle occurs much closer to home, too. I don't believe that my friend's baby died because of something she or her husband (or the baby) did in a past life. I think that, for no reason other than an allergic reaction, a sudden and unexpected medical emergency occurred during labor and it was physically impossible to save both lives. Twenty years ago they probably would both have died. Trying to find a reason for things is human, but sometimes the reasons people invent when they have no answers are just so ridiculous, and occasionally cruel. It's a terrible shame that their baby died, but death is a constant possibility in our frail human existence. It's not a punishment, it's just a fact.

In other words, sometimes shit just happens, and sometimes we make it happen, and neither thing can be explained by blaming the innocent.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

From Gloomy's creator, Mori Chack: "It is only natural that a bear attacks humans. I wanted to express that in a cute manner." & "I draw the kind of things I want on my own walls. Gloomy was born because nobody else makes something like this." Posted by Hello

gloomy the bloodthirsty bear

A package from the US rocked up on my desk this morning. Yahhhhhhh, Gloomy's arrived!!

Gloomy is a cute pink bear from Japan...with blood dripping from his claws and mouth. He's now sitting on the corner of the shelf at work where I keep my project folders, looking most ferocious and cute. ありがとうございます to jojo, who scooped one up for me at the Gloomy shop in Osaka on his recent trip to Japan.

I went looking for a picture on the net to post until I can take one of my real Gloomy. I ended up with the one above. Mine is plush, not vinyl, and he doesn't have the bloodstain on his chest, just the bloody claws and mouth. I also found this rather graphic picture of Gloomy attacking his poor long-suffering owner and this article on Gloomy and his creator. Quite interesting.

Why is Gloomy so cool? Japan is so full of cute stuff that it can be a bit much. As one person put it:
"If you gotta be cute but you're sick of it what do you turn to?"
How about Gloomy, the bloodthirsty bear? I think the quote I liked best from the creator was:
"It is only natural that a bear attacks humans."
So Gloomy's a toy...so what? He's still a BEAR, right? It's so true. If we actually had a bear sitting on our pillow, he'd probably eat us and then go raid the cupboards for dessert.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

distractions and the need for focus

EBay Australia has this competition at the moment where you can win $1000 for chasing down an item by a rather cryptic clue (some good and some made up by people on crack as far as I can tell). I'm trying but have only come close a couple of times (and there've been 16 clues so far). Could certainly use the money and I can always use another distraction at work. ^_^

That's one aspect of being back in an office I like (the scope for distraction) though I do miss the immediacy of teaching - the direct interaction, the visable moment when someone understands something for the first time. I guess that's what I'm getting in return for agreeing to get up so early and teach seminary. I get to teach teenagers again on a daily basis. Just like my Japanese students they're not always so focused (it's 6.30am after all) but every once in a while there's this moment where a concept hits them and they start thinking out loud or asking questions or just looking ahead into space with an intensity that screams 'ah-ha moment' and it is SO COOL!

We had a moment like that yesterday. We were talking about (Mark 1:35) how Jesus, right in the middle of a really busy time of teaching and healing and dealing with people all the time, took the time to 'depart into a solitary place' and pray. (Mark mentions more than any of the other four Gospel writers how Christ rested and spent time alone.) Anyway, then we listed all the other people they could think of in the scriptures who deliberately sought a place alone just for the purpose of pondering/refocussing themselves/solving spiritual problems and talking with God without distraction or interruption. We compared today's modern lifestyle with older times and discussed how we have all this extra spare time (thanks to technology) but also a myriad of new ways to fill time, some of them not very valuable. Because there's always something we can do to use up our time, if we don't deliberately make time to seperate ourselves from the rest of life and ponder/pray/connect with God and the universe, it will never happen.

Lastly we talked about the effect these times of solitude had on these people and their lives. In each case, this choice was a gateway to profound ideas and experiences that changed their thinking, their spiritual understanding and in some cases their path in life. At that point, the whole class was silent (and not in that comatose way) because they got it and they saw it in terms of their own lives, their own relationship with God. It was a pretty cool moment.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

as winter drizzles in

More and more lately I'm leaving the house while it's still dark, but I've been able to fool myself that it's just the deepening of Autumn. I was still barefoot at home and walking out of the house each day in short sleeves.

Today that changed.

As I walked from the car park into work a persistent chilly drizzle made me slip a jacket on and wrap it tightly around myself. Soon I'll be shaking my duck down quilt to fluff it back into warmth and making space in the hall closet for my air cooler to hibernate, by taking out and dusting off the column heater.

Of course we've been lucky. I probably should be feeling glad that the cold weather held off as long as it did. But winter lasts a long time in Canberra, so I don't think I'm out of line hoping that this is just an anomaly and that the true start of winter is a little further down the track.

Monday, March 21, 2005

When the sky gets like this I look up and immediately the theme to The Simpsons starts in my head. Always seems wrong when the words don't actually materialise out of the clouds. Posted by Hello

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Canberra sky

When I first got to Canberra (December 2003) I didn't really want to be here. Over time that's changed and now I'm pretty happy here (may still end up in Sydney one day, but we'll see).

One of the first things that changed my thinking was the sky here. There's not a lot of industry in Canberra and I'd just come from three years in Osaka where, thanks to the smog, the sky is pale grey all the time. Even in Adelaide, where I lived for three months before finding work in Canberra the sky is a paler blue. Here the sky is glorius. In spite of drought conditions we always seem to have some kind of cloud cover and honestly some days when these big, rolling clouds bunch together in the sky against a deep, vivid blue it's like we're just waiting for the choirs of angels to start singing.

Here's a photo to show you what I mean about the colour. The quote is from the Carly Simon song, "Let The Rivers Run".

the sky is the color of blue you've never even seen in the eyes of your lover Posted by Hello

Friday, March 18, 2005

interesting but free

“We were never bored, because we were never being boring.” (Pet Shop Boys)

I’m on a rather tight budget lately, which pretty much sucks. At first I was always complaining to myself that I had nothing fun to do, because I had no money to spend. And it IS pretty easy to find something fun to do when you’re rolling in ready cash, but it isn’t really the key. So recently I’ve been on a 'free fun' quest.

Of course there's always the standbys - books I've been waiting to read, friends to catch up with, etc, but I've also been scouring the community noticeboard on the local radio station's website to find something to go out and do.

Two weekends ago I got lucky – free Japanese film night put on by the embassy. Ended up meeting up with an old friend from university. Great night, even if the film itself made me nostalgic.

Last weekend was even better! The Whitlams and Killing Heidi were playing in a free concert (as part of a whole free day) to celebrate Canberra’s birthday. Humphrey B Bear was also there...hmmm, yeah, okay.

This weekend is a long weekend, so I was REALLY trying to find something interesting to do for free. And I found…a miniatures and dollhouse exhibition.

That’s right. An entire exhibition of…really small stuff.

Okay so the fun-o-meter was not exactly going off. But then I considered that maybe I was just ‘being boring’. So I might be looking at little things this weekend.

Unless something better comes along…

"The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity." (Dorothy Parker)

Thursday, March 17, 2005

a little east of reality?

Anyone's who spent some time living in another country knows it can be a mind-opening experience. And if it isn't at least a little different to home...well what was the point of going?

But anyone who spent some time living in Japan will understand why it qualifies as one of those countries that changes you forever. Japan can seep into your bloodstream without you even noticing, in spite of the fact that you might feel more of a foreigner by the time you leave than when you arrived. I can't count the number of people I know who love Japan, or things Japanese, in spite of spending two or more years agreeing with other foreigners every day or so just how weird it is, haha. So yeah it's East Asia, it's the Far East...and it's definitely a little East of reality, on a good day.

Okay, but why am I calling my blog this when I'm starting it more than a year after getting back from Japan?

Because my interests still lie there, in the music, the TV dramas, the language. Because I still have friends there that I miss, places I'll revisit, bands I will see again. In spite of having a life I enjoy in Australia, the j-world is still in my bloodstream even now, and I always have a holiday to Japan planned in the back of my mind.

I think too that there's a lot now that I think or feel, or remember, that no-one here 'gets' (and by no-one I mean none of my close friends and family). Especially when I first got back, it seemed like they thought I was a little East of reality, too. I'm okay with that now that I've figured out that chatting with the crew (Tetchan, A & jojo, who are all back in the US now and Mari, who is still in Japan) on the net or phone fills the need. Even if we hardly mention Japan it doesn't matter. The point is that when I do there is nothing to explain. They get it.

I guess the point of this first entry is: when you're wondering, 'why is this Australian so into Japan?' Answer: because for three fun years she was IN Japan.

There are other things I could warn you about. But where would be the fun in that?