book review

NaNoWriMo 2016

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I awoke this morning to find that the crazy storm that ripped through Melbourne last night knocked the neighbours’ conifer tree over, and it fell right through one of their cars before landing halfway across the fence. The State Emergency Service cleaned up most of it last night, but it wasn’t until I opened the curtains this morning that I realised the top quarter of the tree has taken up residence right on top of our landlords’ nicely landscaped garden. I’ve sent off the photos and emails to the agents who manage the property and am awaiting their advice. But I don’t want to spend the whole day anxiously ruminating and time is running out for my NaNo plans. Normally by October I want, at the very least, a vague plot for my NaNoWriMo story. I already have the Hallowe’en decorations out and no workable story yet. Hopefully the looming pressure of the self-imposed deadline will fire up my creative gears.

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Easter Sketching

It’s Easter Monday here in Australia, and after a lovely day yesterday driving along Victoria’s beautiful Great Ocean Road, we’re having a quiet day at home. I spent some time this morning enjoying a coffee (long black, made in a plunger – whenever my friends visit and try my coffee they politely refuse any refills and never manage to finish a whole cup, which suggests to me that my preference for dark and slightly bitter drinks isn’t universal – but it but it works for me!), and reading more of Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation (1961). I’m reading a 2007 edition by New Directions Books, New York, with an introduction by Sue Monk Kidd.

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27 March 2016. iPhone 5C snapshot taken out of the car window (from the passenger side, of course!) on the Great Ocean Road near Separation Creek and Wye River. The trees bear the marks of a bushfire that tore through the Otway Ranges in late December 2015 and early January 2016. The eucalyptus trees are terribly burnt and yet sprouting green leaves on their trunks (a survival mechanism they have in response to the fact they do tend to catch on fire). Behind the twisted and tortured looking trees here is the vast greenish-blue expanse of Bass Strait, and if you drew a line directly southwards from here you’d cross one island then end up in Antarctica.

Merton is one of those writers I simply cannot read in one sitting. A single paragraph from him can be so laden with rich meaning and depth that more often than not, I might make it through about three pages before I have to set it down and journal my thoughts as I read. I have a notebook set aside for taking notes and quotes from books – that’s a useful habit that I picked up in my university days. I know everyone learns differently, but for me I find that handwriting quotes and my own personal responses to a text enables me to delve more deeply and memorise pithy sayings. By writing it down I tend to remember it and be able to plug it into the neural networking system… I vaguely expect that at some point in my life I will have amassed enough information to categorise everything, ever. I can’t even talk to people these days without running a mental sub-routine that is trying to analyse the content of their speech and apply to them an ontological category: “Hmmm, this person is talking about coffee, but I suspect that they are a member of the … subculture, their religious self-label is … but I think they’re also heavily influenced by … philosophy…” Yeah, I don’t know. The things that amuse different people, I guess. (more…)

Books: Laudato Si’

At some previous point I already noted that I read Pope Francis’s 2015 Laudato Si’: On care for our common home. It is available for download at the Vatican website (see HERE for the text, PDF and other language versions).

I haven’t really got the words to fully do it justice. It is an appeal to all people – not just Catholics – to reflect on our relationship with the Earth, nature and cosmos. To consider how our actions of consumption, greed, control, and for many Christians, a theology of Dominion, deplete and damage the world of which we are a part. And that it is the poorest of the poor who experience the worst effects of environmental degradation. This Papal encyclical is a God-send for me, as a person of faith with a university degree in Environmental Sociology, and who tries to live a minimalist lifestyle (somewhat unsuccessfully) and who makes an ethical and ecologically-conscious choice to live on a plant-based, wholefoods diet (“diet” in the sense of a lifestyle of healthy eating, as opposed to a temporary fad to effect extreme weight loss), and who is deeply concerned with the sociological impact of theological perspectives on ecological conditions.

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Books: The Force Awakens

As promised, here is the first installment in some March 2016 book reviews, quotes, and responses to books that I’m currently reading. This Lent I decided to fast facebook and alcohol and have been using the increased time and greater clarity of mind to invest in reading books.

Round one, the various Star Wars: The Force Awakens books. These represent the first books I’ve read in the Star Wars universe that are not what us ooooold (late 20-something and above) Star Wars fans would call Expanded Universe. The EU, that’s what the younger fans (teens and early 20-somethings) call non-canon – or ‘Legends,’ if they’re feeling a bit more charitable. Having been informed by countless young fans on SW discussion forums that the EU is non-canon, I’d like to point out that I am fully aware of this fact, and also that considering it’s an entirely fictional universe, we can probably all just calm down a bit and appreciate the EU stories for what they are: bloomin’ good tales about the characters we love.

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2016 – Update. A loooong overdue update.

Hello, both new and faithful blog readers!

It’s been a long time – I apologise for that. In Victoria, Australia the summer school holidays only came to an end a little under two weeks ago. I chose to spend the holidays as I so often do: grappling with pointless drama as Christmas throws us back in the deep end with some dysfunctional relationships we would normally avoid, followed by the process of trying to recover from the psychological trauma by booking extra visits to my mental health practitioners, and then a couple of weeks to relax with my kids. We spent the final two weeks of the holidays cramming in films – one per day. My kids got to watch the entire Harry Potter series for the first time and, as I hoped they would, they loved it. They are both now reading the books. As a book nerd parent, I always dreamed of the day I’d see my kids comfortably reading 600+ page books. Sadly, a few films into the marathon we heard the devastating news that Professor Snape actor Alan Rickman passed away and I’ll be honest – I spent that day in tears. I don’t normally cry at celebrity news but when I do, it’s at the passing of Alan Rickman and Leonard Nimoy… or the first time Rage Against the Machine split up, circa 2001. (more…)