Saturday, 31 July 2010

A Glimpse Of Gorgeousness

I could lie to you and say that I'm going to try and present an accurate and balanced account of the evening.

I could claim that what is to follow will be eloquent and illuminating sharing of my experience but...



I saw Stephen Fry.

He told us about his travels and his writing and how he met some of the magnificent people with whom he has collaborated with over the years and he did a Hugh Laurie impression which sent my friends and I (and everybody else in the theatre) into glee raptures and a Patrick Stewart impression that almost killed us and I'm going to be geeking out for the rest of my life that I got to see one of my favourite actors just being charming and random and wandering about a stage going over time and just generally being marvellous.

I now have a list of books and movies to follow up on and want to know much much more about Oscar Wilde.

Because I saw Stephen Fry.


Sunday, 25 July 2010

Baldy And The Beast

Whilst I may never have the money or inclination to see all the performances I regularly vow that I'm going to attend I have been seeing steadily more of them in the last few years, mainly by distracting certain parts of my brain with bright colours and sparkling lights until I've already made the bookings and it's too late for them to back out.

It isn't that I don't enjoy live performances and live music - I adore them - but for some reason there's always been a little bit of me that seems to spend all its time checking its watch and wondering when it can get back to doing nothing much or being nowhere in particular.
It is a part of myself that usually makes me quite quite cross and which I am determined not to let rule my life.

So in my latest bout of 'Shut The Heck Up Stupid Pedestrian Loser Lobe' I bought tickets to take my parents to see Bill Bailey and to take my sister and her fiance to see a theatre production of The King and I.

Bill Bailey - Monday 19th of July
No matter how many times I see Bill Bailey*, he always manages to surprise me. He always has fresh material, he revels in audience participation (even when it goes terribly, terribly wrong) and he is a genuine genius with music. He performed Gary Numan's cars on a series of bike horns, his spiderweb like cape of hair flying along behind him as he honked energetically in a way that required both my parents to take their glasses off to wipe away tears of laughter.
Some comedians you get the feeling that secretly they'd quite like you get piss off and that if you don't laugh at an adequate volume they're wishing cancer upon you.
Not only does Bill Bailey not exude a cancer cursing aura, he enjoys himself, he's honest without giving too much of himself away and he constantly plays with you, letting you see that he's smarter than you suspected before lulling you easily back into a goofy grinning daze.
One of the wonderful things about people with multiple genuine passions is that it gives them a lot of material to work with and they're eager to share things with you, sometimes things you'd wish they'd kept to themselves but which you just can't stay angry with them about.
If you get the chance go see him, he's a joy**.

The King & I - Saturday 24th of July
My sister and I have always loved this movie - and admittedly get a little bit starry eyed about Yul Brenner and his flashy impressive wardrobe*** - so when we found out that there was going to be a performance in Melbourne the tickets almost bought themselves. Brother-in-law-to-be knows that marrying my sister bring with it certain responsibilities and is also a bit of a musical chap himself so he was happy to come along.
The amount they manage to do in the confined space of a stage and with props and sets that can be easily moved between and sometimes during scenes will always excite me about the theatre. It doesn't take away from the illusion, it reinforces the creativity and fun of the thing.
Strangely enough I think the one thing they did stay absolutely true to were the King's outfits for each scene which was a nice touch. You don't want people trying to rigidly impersonate a movie to perfection, if you wanted to see that you'd just watch the movie again.
As usual with stage performances based on films****, there were a few songs added to give some of the minor characters more time on stage and to give a bit of a different interpretation. This all had a couple of old dears sitting near us muttering - not as quietly as they thought - "I don't remember this from the movie!" and "They're just funning around, you know directors,".
I have of course had the songs stuck in head for days now but it was worth it.

*OK, this is only the second time live but DVDs and televised comedy showcases count too...

**I was going to write 'cracker' here (an English/Australian term that means good'un, in the same vein as some older folk would use the description 'cracking good time' but have been reliably informed that in the US this is a racial slur that means 'white people' and whilst that is perfectly accurate it might have been a bit confusing that I was insisting it was a reason to attend his performance.

***And washboard abs.

****And suddenly Disney films, now I come to think of it... Stop messing with a classic Disney! Nobody wants to hear 'Human Again'! There's a reason it was left out of the original cut!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

The Nerdiest Thing

I've always known I was kind of lazy.

And I've always known I was kind of nerdy.

But it wasn't until I decided to buy a new bed way back when that my laziness met my nerdiness to form a perfect storm.

I was trying to decide whether I should buy the mattress I'd chosen in the double bed size or go all out and get the queen bed size.

I knew I'd have to work out whether I could fit a queen-sized bed into my bedroom and what I would have to do with the rest of my furniture once it was in there.

I couldn't be bothered actually moving my furniture.

So I measured the room and the furniture.

And did this...

And it all made sense at the time...

And it did work...


There's a level of self-knowledge that you don't necessarily need to achieve...

From which there is no going back...

Will it encourage me to be a more efficient nerd?

Or a lazier person?

Saturday, 10 July 2010

A Balanced Diet: In Which Ricochet Overworks A Metaphor And Shouts A Bit

As I was leafing languidly through a recipe book I discovered something startling.
You can put hazelnut oil on salad.
I didn't even know they MADE hazelnut oil.
I wanted to try it.
Right now!
Delicious hazelnut oil infused French salad on my table, on my fork, in my tummy!
So I trotted down to the supermarket and... they didn't have it.
Neither did the other local supermarket.
Apart from being miffed it got me thinking.
If I hadn't read about these recipes and these items I wouldn't have known to look.
Obviously I haven't memorised the contents of the supermarket but gradually there has been a smaller variety of products on offer and then less choice of brands of those products available.
And strange as it may seem all I can think of is the internet and the proposed Australian internet filter.

Yes, I know once again I sound crazy but I'll explain myself. At great length.

If you haven't heard of it you can find an in-depth explanation of the filter here but the basic story is that the Australian government is using 'think of the children!' to propose banning the access to any webpages they find distasteful.
For the whole country.

Considering child pornography is already illegal and not just available to all and sundry who know how to use a search engine, this is a bunch of bull-twang, especially when they start listing other things to ban 'just in case the kiddies see them' including certain types of fetish pornography and pages discussing euthanasia, abortion, rape and video games.
Without context.

A test run of the filter, as it is now, resulted in the blanket banning of all sites that mentioned rape or child molestation including those which offered support and legal advice to victims.
All this is being offered instead of expecting parents to take responsibility for their children and said children's net use.
As the banned sites are to exist on a secret blacklist that isn't to be disclosed to the public it leaves the option open for the government to block pretty much whatever they like, including blogs or sites that post political protest material or criticism just in case this promotes riots, dissent or a change in government which is clearly not good for the kiddies.

So with that brief summary before you, let us return to my crazy-ass theory.

You go to the supermarket, you pick up all your corporation-approved and provided essentials and every now and then you'll spot something you haven't tried before or something you've not heard of, you have a look at the suggestions on the label and you think 'yes, I'll give this a go'.
Now imagine this supermarket is a metaphor for the internet.
They've decided that, oh I don't know, peanut oil should not be offered for sale because some people are allergic to peanuts and might accidentally be offered something cooked in peanut oil by some irresponsible or ignorant member of the public.
So they type 'no nut oil' into their ordering system and in one fell swoop knock half a dozen oils off the selection including macadamia nut oil and other such products.
People who used to buy this oil now can't find it and the supermarket uses the fact that these people are now forced to purchase other alternatives and aren't protesting this lack or requesting it en masse as a rationale to keep the discontinued products off the shelves.
People who have never heard of peanut or macadamia or hazelnut oil never get the chance to try them or even consider trying them.

Now let's imagine the person in charge of fruit and veg ordering is a weirdo prude who decides that any long, cylindrical vegetables may be too phallic to be offered to minors or unsuspecting virgin diners by lecherous chefs or dinner party enthusiasts who might be secretly getting off on it.
So all these fruits and vegetables are knocked off the system in favour of less arousing tubers and so on.

Seeing as many people these days use the supermarket (internet) as their only source of produce (information) and might not have the inclination, opportunity or awareness to visit farmers' markets (read books/newspapers or listen to radio stations) or are worried that produce (inforrrrrrmation!) from specialist stores might be out-of-date or dangerous to their health (if it isn't on the internet it might be behind the times or *gasp* biased!) the consumer is - to summarise - screwed.

I'll drop the metaphor to conclude lest I write any more torturously long sentences but my point is this:

No, of course I'm not advocating the availability of child pornography or pornographic material that is composed of the real-life assault of unwilling participants. That material infringes human rights and is rightly illegal.

But on the other hand, whilst I'm not personally interested in many varieties of legally produced pornography performed by consenting adults that cater to people with specific tastes that doesn't mean that I think it should be made inaccessible to the adults who do find it arousing if it is used in private with other consenting adults.

I do not think the government should be allowed to block access to websites discussing the ethics of euthanasia or even instructions and advice on how to help administer or self-administer euthanasia just because it isn't legal in this country and/or the legislators find the concept personally reprehensible.

I do not think a government should be able to have a secret list of banned material, or that the only criterion offered for a site being added to this list is that the material is 'distasteful'.
Who gets to decide?
What do they think will happen if the general public has access to this material?

The internet is a vast and sprawling cluster-hug* of data, some of which I never EVER want to see, but I do not under any circumstances want the government to tell me that I'm not ALLOWED to see it.
If the material is illegal or criminal then they have ability to prosecute, to contact the ISPs concerned and have the websites shut down.
Anything else is censorship which implies that people aren't intelligent enough to be capable of distinguishing reality from recreational fantasy or to make their own judgements on the validity of information presented to them or their own decisions concerning how to live their lives or whether/when to end them and enforces a narrow band of morality that is decided for the many by a select few.

If you're worried about the children, hold the government accountable to provide a good education system, adequate funding for hospitals and GP training and actually spend some time with the new people you saw fit to bring into the world.
Make some personal effort to make sure the world you're leaving them is a better place than when you entered it.
Don't expect the government to do it for you and for the love of all that is, don't give them an open mandate to do whatever they want under the claim that they're doing just that.

PS. I still want my goddamn hazelnut oil salad, dammit!

*Yeah, I'm still not swearing on my blog for funsies. You can now start replaying Grandpa Simpson's anecdote about tickling fluffy bunnies into their cuddle-bunkers if you so desire.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Evolution Revolution

I've never quite been able to wrap my head around why some religious folks are so dead-set against the concept of evolution.
Every time it pops up in the news cycle, causes controversy in regards to schooling or is cited as a source of conflict between community members or different communities, I get all scrunchy face-level baffled.
Why can't science and spirituality be considered together?
As if it isn't possible to believe in both the slow unfolding of the cosmos and all that follows AND a supreme being?

The spontaneous creation of a universe and a world with a fully functioning ecosystem would be an impressive display of power and has formed an important part of the Judaeo-Christian story (amongst others) but there are so many ways to look at it.

The religious texts say that God created the world in six days and the orthodox faithful refuse to accept any alternatives but consider this usage of a time-frame.
In the beginning there was no time, no temporal units in the dense new matter, who is to say how long the 'days' mentioned actually lasted? They could have each spanned millennia, hundreds of millennia, after all 'a day' is a human concept based on how long it takes one particular planet to make a full revolution as it makes its slow way around one particular star.

Some argue that insisting that life evolved from the most basic common components into gradually more complex and diverse organisms as a reaction to their environment, food stuffs and predators/competitors disrespects or denies the involvement of a deity but that doesn't have to be the case.
Why wouldn't a being of infinite wisdom and compassion also be a being of infinite curiosity?
If you've got nothing but time and a whole universe to yourself why wouldn't you nudge things and wait to see what happens next?
Why wouldn't the slow playing out of consequences be as fascinating and satisfying to a divine being as to anyone who has ever taken a chance and made something new under their own power, from artisan to scientist to chef?

At its most essential, the idea that God created the universe in order to create the Earth purely to put human beings on it seems very self-centred and egotistical on behalf of humanity, and seems to glorify humans more than their creator.
If you allow yourself to contemplate the possibility that human beings were not the intended end product of creation it doesn't automatically follow that there is no power outside ourselves and that it might not care for us.
Just because a parent doesn't know how their child will turn out, can't anticipate their exact physical characteristics or personality or future actions doesn't mean they can't rejoice at their birth and revel in their accomplishments.
Just because everything might not have sprung fully formed into being doesn't mean that its existence is not a point of wonder - consider the scope of the whole.

I'm not saying that atheists or agnostics have to believe that there is a God or a pantheon of gods.
I'm not saying religiously observant people have to accept everything that science has to offer or believe that we'll ever be able to explain everything that makes up our reality.
Just to all have a think about it and accept that whether you are looking at the universe through an analytical or spiritual lens, it is a miraculous construct.

We've come a long way as a species in the centuries since the current dominant religious dialogues were founded, we're now able to understand much more complex ideas and maybe that includes being able to grasp a more intricate explanation of existence no matter how you're framing it.

To the religious: Give God credit for possibly being a more inquisitive and creative being and for the creation story we began with maybe being the most complicated explanation fallible human beings were capable of dealing with at the time.

To the scientific: Seeing as even our best guesses concerning the beginning of the universe essentially boil down to 'there was nothing and then it blew up' try not to discount or dismiss other people's beliefs out of hand even if you don't share them.

To everyone: The fact that we exist at all is pretty freaking amazing, enjoy it and if you hold your beliefs dear then you shouldn't worry or feel threatened when other people don't share them as long as nobody tries to force you to accept their view against your will. Allow everyone the chance to make up their own minds on the matter.

For myself, well, as Nick Cave says, "I don't believe in an interventionist God, but I know darlin' that [some of] you do..."
Doesn't mean we can't all get along and acknowledge that no matter how it came into being, the universe is a mind-boggling and marvellous thing.

The discovery that the sun revolves around the Earth instead of vice versa didn't cause the Earth to be rent asunder, scientific discovery need not be seen as a reductive or destructive force.
With everything new we learn, it increases not decreases our ability to appreciate and marvel at the intricacy of our wider environment and of our own physical beings.
That has to count for something.

Disclaimer time: I was raised in an Irish-Italian family which, whilst fairly laid back about observing religion and very tolerant of all religious and non-religious views, allowed me a front seat view on Catholic dogma and communities.
I tell you this so that if you read this and feel that my soul might need saving or think that I would benefit from a deeper knowledge of Christianity you can rest easy that I am fairly familiar with the material. Please do not try to convert or convince me as I'll not be changing my views for any reasons that are not my own.
I also tell you this so that if you read this and you are non-religious or follow a religion not encompassed by this post you don't feel that I am trying to convert you, disrespect your beliefs or lecture you. My own beliefs are a composite of many strains of both scientific and spiritual discussion and I won't be turning this blog into any form of evangelical podium.
I am at heart a bit of a hippie who believes that as long as you do no harm to others as far as this is possible and do what you can to lead a fulfilling life and live up to your full potential that whatever you believe is your own business.
Sorry for the big rambling explanation but seeing as I don't usually cover topics quite so contentious here I thought I should make sure I made myself clear.
In the event any insulting or close-minded comments appear rest assured they'll disappear shortly after.