Thursday, September 30, 2010

Another multi-talented person

I've written more than once about people who are multi-talented (Taika Waititi, for example, or Anthony Hopkins or Isaac Mizrahi). Today I was looking up something on the NZ Baptist website, and read the profile of its current National Leader, Rodney Mccann. When I first saw the name, I thought it rang a bell. It should have. Not only is he leading the Baptists in New Zealand (if anyone can), but he's famous as an opera singer. Not famous as someone who's been an opera singer, but someone who still is an opera singer.

I've come across opera singers who've given up their careers when they've gone into some other calling in life, but Mccann seems to have managed to be both a high-profile leader and singer simultaneously.

As the site says: He returned to New Zealand in 1990 to be the minister of Wellington Central Baptist church and is now Regional Consultant to the Wellington Baptist churches and National leader of the New Zealand Baptist churches.

That makes it sound as if he gave up his singing at that point, but the next paragraph shows that this was anything but the case: From 1990 he has performed regularly in Australia and New Zealand with all the major Orchestras and Opera Companies and has been involved in various recordings including Missa Solemnis – Beethoven (Sydney Symphony Orchestra – MacKerras), Verdi Requiem (Opera New Zealand) and most recently Journey to Horseshoe Bend – Schultz (Sydney Symphony).

Well, there you go, eh?

Trafficking, Water, Wallis

Blog Action Day is coming up in Oct - there's a link for more information right down the right column of this blog. Not sure why it decided to hide itself way down there, but now you know, and have no excuse for not finding it!

I was hoping that they'd choose Human Trafficking as their big issue for the action day, but they've chosen Water, which, in terms of the need for clean water in many countries is certainly an issue, and the lack of which results in deaths.

However, I've been getting tweets (tweets galore, in fact) relating to Human Trafficking and consequently that's an issue that's more on my mind. A friend on Facebook alerted me to a site called The A21 Campaign, this morning, so I've been checking it out. In line with its name it has 21 things you can do to help make people more aware of human trafficking. Click here for the list.

I went and heard Jim Wallis speak on Tuesday - he'd been brought to the city by the Professor of Public Theology at the Otago University. He's a fairly low key/laid-back speaker, has a good sense of humour, tells lots of stories, and (quixotically) is married to the woman who was consultant to the series The Vicar of Dibley. She's an Anglican priest, British born.

His theme is injustice, injustice, injustice. You may have heard of Sojourners, the organisation that he heads, but he does far more than that. He has the ear of people in high places - including Barak Obama, and is a Christian who is able to speak into society in a way that many Christians cannot - through lack of opportunity. You might put him in the prophetic mode, except that he wasn't wearing anything outlandish in the way of garb, now was he eating locusts or intending to cook his evening meal over dung; nor had he buried his underwear in the ground and disinterred it a year later (only to find, as would be expected, that it had deteriorated considerably); now has he been fed by ravens at any known point.

Nevertheless, prophet to the nation(s) is pretty much what he is. Thank God for him.

Wallis had plenty of injustice issues to comment on, and there's only so much you can say in a couple of hours, so he didn't speak much about human trafficking, as it happened. It did come up at one point, when he pointed out that there were more slaves now than there had been in Wilberforce's time - millions more. Wilberforce successfully fought for the abolition of slaves but the battle needs to be fought all over again in our day. Check out the A21 site if you're devoid of ideas as to how you might be involved.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Not mocking the elderly

We should never mock the elderly, but I can't resist passing on this video of clips from the now-elderly Star Trek, set to some appropriate music.

Did all these things really take place in Star Trek episodes? I knew they had some odd moments, but this many?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

William James on sciences

The following is a quote I recorded some years ago, from Talks to Teachers on Psychology: and to Students on Some of Life's Ideals- chapter one, by William James.

The science of logic never made a man reason rightly, and the science of ethics (if there be such a thing) never made a man behave rightly. The most such sciences can do is to help us to catch ourselves up and check ourselves, if we start to reason or to behave wrongly; and to criticise ourselves more articulately after we have made such mistakes. A science only lays down lines within which the rules of the art must fall, laws which the follower of the art must not transgress; but what particular thing he shall do within those lines is left exclusively to his own genius. One genius will do his work well and succeed in one way, while another succeeds as well quite differently, yet neither will transgress the lines.

Pity some of the supposed scientists, like our old friend, Richard Dawkins, didn't pay attention to what James has to say here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fear of Music...and proofreading

I came across a book published in 2009 today at the Library (I was waiting there until my wife picked me up to take me home - I'd just had a tooth out, and was feeling a bit under the weather).

The book is David Stubbs' Fear of Music: why people get Rothko and don't get Stockhausen. Stubbs' argument is that ordinary people now accept modern art in all its varieties, even its way-out, off-the-wall-and-onto-the-floor varieties, but they don't yet accept modern music (and by modern we're talking about music that was created as far back as the early years of the last century, in some case). I haven't read the whole book yet, but I think his case isn't entirely waterproof. There are plenty of visual artists whose work isn't that well accepted, and plenty of great composers from the earlier part of the 20th century whose work is.

Stubbs is more concerned with the Stockhausens, the Vareses and other similar composers, many of whom worked in the electronic music area. The names may be known, but their music generally isn't. (I'm listening to a double CD of Varese now, and certainly it isn't terribly accessible stuff.)

Anyway, I'm not going to write a review of the book as such, but comment more on something that's very odd about it. I've seen books with proofreading errors in them before - they've become increasingly frequent even in an age when spellcheckers are freely available - but I don't think I've ever seen a book where words were meshed together, or out of sequence in the sentence, or where sentences in some cases made no sense whatsoever. And the other major editing problem happens every two or three pages: you'll be reading along and suddenly there's a gap in the line. You think - hmm, that sentence didn't quite finish, and then you find that it's finished on the next line after what appears to be a paragraph indentation.

How could any publisher let this go out into the world looking like this? How could the author himself let it go? Didn't he get any proofs?

I had a look on the Net to see if anyone else commented on it. This is one of the more generous reviews on This book has its origins in a blog post, and it shows - it really needs the hand of an editor, or at least a decent proof-reader. Nevertheless, it's a decent overview of the position avant-garde music has in contemporary culture, and if it doesn't quite manage to pull its threads together into a sustained argument, there are plenty of ideas and opinions to chew on.

Others are a little less polite. Certainly the book starts out interestingly: it does seem to try and be a potted history of music in the 20th century as well, but it's too disjointed for that. Anyway, I guess if it got me listening to Varese, it can't be all bad.

There's a very full review on Rouge's Foam, which puts the book in perspective in a way I could never do. One line in it strikes me as undercutting the basic premise of Stubbs' book: Unfortunately the ability to experience music meaninglessly is arguably not just rare, but impossible. Sorry, Stockhausen...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Despicable, teeth, health

I went to the movies the other day with my daughter and her son. (Yup, my grandson - you're pretty sharp, aren't you?) The movie, for those who want to know, was Despicable Me, and while it took a little while to warm up, it got itself into a reasonable amusing state by the time it was finished. I think it's one of those movies you need to see again in order to catch up with all the little details that make it interesting.

Anyway I was chewing one of the lollies my daughter had handed over to me and suddenly bit on something that wasn't anything like the jelly texture I'd been throwing around in my mouth. Hmmm...a piece of tooth had broken off. It turned out to be mostly filling when I got it out in the light, and I thought, Okay, that means the dentist can probably just clean it up and cover it over.

Nope. One x-ray later, and the dentist is talking about removing it. Which meant taking casts of my teeth set-up so that they can add another false tooth onto the plate I already wear. At this rate there'll soon be nothing for the plate to hang onto.

Today I've been at home (still on holiday) plateless. Which means the pirate look (gap in the front teeth area) is very easy to display - and very ugly.

While I was on the plane coming home yesterday I finished Tim Parks non-fiction book, Teach Us To Sit Still. I'm not sure where I first came across this - think it might have been advertised on the Book Depository site (did you know that books and magazines are the second most ordered things on the Internet, as far as New Zealanders go? I'm glad I'm not in the book trade anymore.)

Anyway, I'll do a longer review of the book in due course. Suffice to say, it's very well written, full of interesting corners, and metaphors and dreams, but most of all, it presents a picture of a man torn between his two selves (he explains that at one point). The result is that he's in constant pain in his abdominal area. I was interested initially because it was thought at first that he had prostate problems. Seemingly that wasn't the case, but nothing medical seemed to be able to pinpoint what his problem was. The book is about his discoveries in that regard, his 'cures' (not quite cures in the usual sense) and his insights into his own personality. Great reading.

Diet, Pullman, air travel

Who needs to know about the best diet pills ever? There are other ways to lose weight.

Last night I flew into Dunedin from Auckland. We were due to land at 9 pm, and were pretty much on time, in spite of a headwind. In the end we actually landed about 9.30 after half an hour of circling the city. That delay might have been okay, except that every time we approached the airport the squalling winds buffeted the plane around in a horrific way, and anxiety was the major emotion on board. The unfortunate thirty-something man in the seat opposite mine, across the aisle, brought up his dinner, then his lunch, and perhaps even his breakfast. That's not a pleasant way to lose weight, but it's effective. Anxiety is probably pretty good too. I'm sure I was several pounds lighter by the time I put my feet on the ground.

On a totally different tack, I came across this delightful piece by Betty Smartt Carter in the Books and Culture magazine today. It relates partly to Philip Pullman's most recent book, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, but it goes beyond that, back into Pullman's famous (children's) trilogy, His Dark Materials.

It begins:
The following is a story that attempts to show how a recent novel could have happened. It is not the story. It is not even a plausible story. Sometimes it reads like fairy tale and at other times like a product of Google Translate. The effect is intentional.

Once there were two brothers from Norwich. The younger brother, Philip, became a storyteller. He had a gift for describing the natural world without sentimentalizing it. The older brother, Pullman, became a teacher and a champion of human liberty. He liked stories, too, but thought they ought to serve a Greater Purpose.

Its tongue-in-cheek style takes the edge of its satire, but only a little.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How to spend a holiday

I'm on holiday for a week - which is going to be interrupted by a course in Auckland (at the other end of the country for those who don't know our geography) which will take four hours, but will cost me an entire day tomorrow. I'm going to take next Monday off in lieu.
The course was an afterthought: I'd been due to go on holiday for a few weeks, but the course notice arrived in my email last week - about Thursday, I think - and foolishly, instead of ignoring it, I showed it to my colleague (my de facto boss) and within a zippity doo of an hour I was booked to go to Auckland and had someone available to pick me up at the airport, transport me to the course site, and bring me back again. (A free early evening meal is now being thrown in as well, so I can't complain.)
As to the holiday, I've now had two days of it, and yesterday wasn't too bad weather-wise, although it got very cold in the afternoon. My wife and I got up early and loaded up the van with accumulated rubbish (accumulated and smelly) and headed out to the tip. The dog came too and was not impressed at being kept in the vehicle while I unloaded it. Frantic was the attitude he assumed.
Then we went and picked up a trailerload of soil/compost from 'Designer Trees' and rejoiced in the fact that the trailer was thrown in for free...for an hour. Back home, and over the next hour we slaved away at emptying the trailer's contents into a couple of our raised gardens. That's hard work when you haven't done it for a while.
While it was still fine we went down to the nearly new Bunning's Warehouse (my first trip - it looks almost identical to Mitre 10 to my jaded mind) and bought some items for the garden. But by the time we got home the weather was turning off rapidly, and none of the plants have made it into the garden yet.
Today's plan was to replace some of the glass in the glasshouse. We measured up, and my wife had some thoughts about perhaps it would be more economical to replace some of the glass with a firm plastic, so that required another trip to Bunning's where we found the sort of thing we needed. We also got some glass for the missing panes out of the roof - the glasshouse had suffered quite a bit of damage in the terrific wind that we had a few days after Christchurch had its awful earthquake.
But today the weather wasn't going to give us any clemency whatsoever, and most of the glass replacement was done in the freezing cold, or with snowflakes drifting down onto us. We got the roof sorted but nothing else at this stage. I spent the other part of the day inside, getting warm again, and avoiding wasting my time looking at sites like those called acne treatments reviewed or how to gain a six-pack in three minutes a day, and worked hard at getting notes typed up for the Varsity course I'm doing. I had to tell myself severely that I wasn't allowed to do any music writing today; the course has been suffering a bit of late because of that.
So I guess you could call it successful, in spite of the weather. I had been hoping for lovely sunny days over this week, but it doesn't look as though my hope is going to be met. Pooh.

For all dog lovers...and others

OK Go has produced another intricate music video - I have no idea what the song's about, and really it hardly matters given the way in which the video works. But anyone who likes/loves/adores dogs will be impressed by the teamwork of the animals in this one.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Not so sharpe, these soldiers

Dark circles under eyes is an odd way of saying something - the lack of 'the' before the 'eyes' gives it a kind of person speaking English as a second language feel. So I'm not sure why a company would advertise themselves with such a link. Mine not to reason why, mine but to do or die, to paraphrase Charge of Light Brigade. (This removal of the the definite article is catching.)

Talking of soldiers charging into battle, I've been spasmodically watching the Sean Bean series, Sharpe, on Prime television over the last few weeks - it's on Friday night, so it tends to come at that time of the week when making an effort to do anything else is wearying. I'm not up with the story enough to keep track of who's who, and quite honestly, only Sharpe and one other character, an Irishman - played by Daragh O'Malley), seem to consistently appear (although I'm no doubt wrong about this).

In last night's episode, as far as I could make out, they were trying to conquer some walled city (in Spain?) by first creating a breech with cannon fire, and then sending in men to scale the broken wall. How anyone was ever supposed to survive these absurd break-ins is beyond me, especially when they had no protection from the gunfire coming from the city walls above them. This type of warfare was still in play in the First World War, when sending thousands of men into battle with no armour was the norm. Even the Romans, way back in the year dot, were far more canny. They used shields against the arrows and spears and other weapons, and had some armour. These guys in Sharpe just run straight into the gunfire, and fall over like ninepins in a bowling alley. Absurd.

Of course Sharpe and his core cast of characters survive everything going - which is just as silly as the way in which the warfare is conducted in the first place. (As was the survival of Pete Postlethwaite in this episode: he played a Sergeant with several screws loose, and managed to get away with nothing more than a leg wound - and that was given to him by that arch sharp(e)-shooter, the Irishman who'd such a marksman normally he should have been able to pinpoint a spot on his head and actually hit it. No doubt Postlethwaite lives to chew the scenery another day and eventually come off worst.

Bean was in the Jodie Foster movie, Flightplan, which we caught up with the other night. It proved to be better than expected, though hung on a fairly thin premise. Nevertheless it made the most of its surroundings, with lots of sinister Hitchcock-like moments, and a bunch of people who seemed perversely inattentive to the problem at hand. The two baddies were suspicious from early on; we just couldn't see why they were suspicious.

Incidentally, the has had a facelift. There are plusses and minuses: it looks better, but you have to dig a bit further to find stuff that came up much quicker previously.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Clipping coupons

I was reading somewhere on the Net the other day about a woman who saves all the coupons she receives and actually gets the discounts that are offered, thus saving herself a considerable amount of money each week. It's hard to gauge how this works, but then I'm not in the States where coupon clipping seems to be a much bigger deal than it is here. For instance, with New World supermarkets, even though the company regularly sends out these little booklets advertising all sorts of discounts on various grocery items, no one actually uses the booklets; they just take off the back page which has the barcode on it and get the check out girl/boy to zap that. Saves all the hassle of pulling pages out of the book (which is the way it used to work) and presenting each of these individually to the check out chick (a term which can cover the blokes as well, if my son, who worked as one for some time, is reliable in his information). In fact, if other people are anything like us, they just use the same bit of card with the barcode on it for several months, and toss out the booklets into the recycling each time they arrive.

Anyway, all that is a lead into the subject of Billy's Savings Club, which seems to be a kind of online coupon clipping outlet. At the moment they're doing a bit of a promo on moving companies. Billy's is quite a fun site in this regard: under the info about local Tucson movers, say, or a Phoenix moving company, you can discover the good and bad points about these cities (or any others you choose). You might find that the crime rate will put you off, or the pollution (Houston's bad, apparently); the knowledge that Phoenix has over 200 golf courses might be a real incentive to you. (Regrettably, not to me. The last time I 'played' golf, it was a total embarrassment, even to those who remained polite.) This is certainly a little more interesting than tearing pieces of paper out of a booklet; that is, if your ultimate pleasure in life (as it seemed to be in the case of the woman mentioned above) is clipping coupons as hobby, recreation, and employment.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Authentic Theft

Came across the following wonderful quote on the Prodigal Kiwi(s) blog today - no doubt it's already all over the Internet, but let me add it one more time...

Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery — celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to.”

Jim Jarmusch, The Golden Rules of Filming.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A Russian flying boat/sea plane/something or other

After I wrote the last post, my cousin, who's presently in Jersey in the UK, wrote and gave me a couple of links to videos of the Ekranoplan KM Caspian Sea Monster. I'd never heard of this seaplane before. It's not a pretty-looking thing, I must say; quite clunky, in fact. And it seems....large - a real monster. The comments on the first video provide some background, although, like so many comments on You Tube, it's hard to pick which commenters actually know something and which are just guessing their way through.

The video below is about 11 minutes - and the commentary is in Russian, so you have to guess what's being said about it. There's an intriguing moment about six minutes in when the thing lands on the sea then slides up onto the sand.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Flying Boats

I've had a bit of a thing about flying boats for some time. It was one of the topics I did some serious research into preparatory to writing an article on it, when I first began writing for publication, back in 1988 or thereabouts. I eventually published an article online on the topic, many years after I couldn't find a home for the original piece.

I actually went on a flying boat - or rather, it was called a 'float plane' - last year while I was on holiday in Taupo. Once it's up in the air, of course, it's no different to any other kind of plane (though the original flying boats certainly were different) but it's the getting off the water and landing (if that's the word) again that's the interesting part.

And talking about research (see paragraph one) I came across this note in the Te Ara Enclyclopedia today while looking up information on Orakei: The first flying boat to be flown in the southern hemisphere took off from Bastion Point on New Year’s Day, 1915. It was designed and built by pioneering aviators Leonard and Vivian Walsh, with the help of their sisters and an engineer. Later in the year the Walsh brothers opened a flying school on the Mission Bay foreshore, training 100 pilots for the war in Europe. Flying boats were an important part of the Waitemata scene until 1989.

Until 1989! Flying boats were barely visible after the 1950s, according to some sources.

On another topic altogether (typical of the style of this blog) I've just been looking at a site that's advertising itself as one of a number of online Elementary schools. The site in the link will take you to a kind of overview of online schools, which is okay, but they also feature on this page something called 'infographics.' These are kind of like those posters they used to have up on classroom walls so that the kids could absorb the information day by day (especially at those times when the teacher was being excessively boring).

However, what slightly amazed me were some of the topics. For instance: 16 Things about Hugh Hefner; Stats on Prostitution; A Gun for Everyone; The Brief Guide to Boogers; A Passion for Beards; Striptease....

To be fair, the infographic on prostitution is not salacious: it shows concern for the fact that huge numbers of women are forced into prostitution everywhere in the world, and that many suffer badly as a result. It also discusses trafficking. The Gun poster is subtlely critical of the excessive number of guns in the US.

But the Hugh Hefner one is something I wouldn't want on the wall of any classroom where my kids were studying, and the striptease one is no better. Neither of these take any sort of moral stance; they're written as though Hugh Hefner's lifestyle was in some way admirable, and equally, the striptease one comes across as though it (and its variants, such as poledancing) were a pretty okay thing. (Have you noticed how many programmes on TV now feature a scene in a club where poledancing is going on, often right up beside the characters who are discussing the latest bit of the plot.)

I wonder why anyone thinks this is somehow educational? Think I'll go back to flying boats - at least there are no moral issues with them....

Photo of RNZAF PBY-5 Catalina XX-T - taken about 1945 - place on by 'Adelaide Archivist.'


In his brilliantly argued critique of the new atheism, Terry Eagleton ridicules those who treat religion as a purely explanatory entity. 'Christianity was never meant to be an explanation of anything in the first place. It's rather like saying that thanks of the electric toaster, we can forget about Chekhov.' Believing that religion is a 'botched attempt to explain the world' [quoting either Dawkins or Hitchens - or, Ditchkins, as he melds them] is on the same intellectual level as 'seeing ballet as a botched attempt to run for a bus.'

Quoted in the introduction to Mere Theology, by Alister McGrath, pg ix - original source is Terry Eagleton's Reason, Faith and Revolution: reflections on the God Debate, published 2009.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Earthquakes, winds and printers

The earthquake that hit Christchurch yesterday has left an appalling mess, but amazingly, there was no loss of life, thank the Lord - though there were some near misses.

Tonight here in Dunedin, we're having gale force winds; they've been thumping against the house since before tea time, and apparently there are tree branches littering the roads. Our neighbour's fence has collapsed, and if the wind keeps up that won't be the only thing.

The worse part about this wind is that it's supposed to be travelling up the island and will hit Christchurch tonight, or tomorrow. Hopefully it'll wear itself out before then.

On another (non-weather related) front altogether, one of the things about writing blogs regularly is that you forget what you've written a couple of years ago, and when you go back things seem quite fresh to you. For instance, to take a random post, a couple of years I wrote a piece on the WorkReport blog entitled, Poking around the printing world. It discusses a day I had a great deal of problem with the printer that used to be in the office where I work (we've since replaced it, thank goodness). While I don't mention color printing (note the American spelling - that's for those people who think this is the way the word should be spelt), I do go into some detail about the frustrations that the printer was causing. There was a time when I threatened to toss it out the window - we're on the fifth floor - just to let it know it was way out of favour. I never got to do that and see what state the thing would have been in after its lengthy fall - unfortunately. We're too frugal to consider throwing a piece of equipment out the window just to see the mess, however satisfying it would have been!

When I bought the computer I'm typing this on, we got a printer thrown in. Dell were the people who supplied the computer and printer (by a series of confusions the printer arrived some weeks before anything else, and I'm sure I've written about it somewhere on one of my blogs). We installed the printer and it worked well - and then I rang Dell to find out how much the replacement cartridges would be. They were an exorbitant price, and at that time, because the printer model was new, they weren't even available in New Zealand. In the end we put the old printer back into use (it can use recycled cartridges without problem, and they're a great deal cheaper) and the brand new one is sitting on a shelf sulking.

The very first printer I had was a wonderful old dot matrix. We used to use them at work in the shop too. They were extraordinarily fast, rarely went wrong, and would happily print page after page without requiring replacement inks. I'd be using them still today if it wasn't for the fact that they wouldn't have a hope of printing out most stuff you want to print now. Which means that we have to use printers which use expensive cartridges which don't last a fraction of the time the ribbons that used to go in the dot matrix machines lasted.

Progress ain't always progress. But at least the newer buildings in Christchurch stand upright because of newer building codes. That's the sort of progress that's worth having.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Blogger, musicals, and pink diamonds

Along with a bunch of other people around the world who use Blogger I've been frustrated by the sluggishness of their current draft update version. First it wouldn't allow you to update photos from your own computer, and then it began loading something - don't ask me what - at great length before you could start writing anything. Someone on the Blogger help pages suggested using Windows Live Writer to write the blog on and then transfer it over to Blogger once it was set. Apparently WLW gives you a kind of WUSIWUG page (which Blogger does too, though it has a couple of quirks). Anyway, another alternative is just to go back to the old version of Blogger until they get it sorted out. Which I've done.

Well, my collaborator (on the musical we're writing) came round for a read-through on Wednesday. We basically read through with her taking all the female parts, and me doing all the males. It took a little bit of remembering where you were at times, but overall it was a good way to get the feel of some lines that might not have been so clear. I'm hoping to get some other theatrical friends together some time in the near future and have a proper read through, though it's a little difficult in that there are lyrics at various points through the script and these don't necessarily lend themselves so well to a read-through.

One of the characters owns a diamond mine, where she makes a number of the others work for her. Remembering that this is a fantasy, a fairy story, such things are possible, of course. It occurs to me that the mother of the little boy who's the main character could be wearing a diamond ring, just to bring in a bit of irony. I like doing things like that, but my collaborator isn't quite so keen. Still, diamond engagement rings, are fairly common, so there's no reason why the mother shouldn't wear one.

The collaborator and I had some debates over pointing in advance what happens at the end. I wanted just a couple of lines that seemed to be said in an off-hand way but which actually pointed to the climax. The collaborator was not impressed: we compromised after some time with one line which is just a passing comment, and only the most keen ears will connect it up to later events. To me it just gives a kind of neatness to things. There was another similar issue, but it must have sorted itself out as I can't remember any longer what it was about!

The pink diamond in the picture which came from the Argyle Diamond Mine in Australia, is valued at US$450,000. It's colour range is 'flame intense.' Photo by Swamibu


By failing to read an email that came in the other day in time, I managed to miss knowing that the 1st of September was Random Acts of Kindness Day. Admittedly it's becoming increasingly hard to keep up with all the 'Days' that we're supposed to celebrate in a year - I think some group or other has every day covered, and some days are covered several times over.

However, I do support the idea of RAK Day. It acknowledges that we're all in this together; the people around us aren't extras in our personal biopic movie; that however much we may think someone else's life stinks (and ours, by contrast, is virtually perfect) that doesn't make them less a human being, or any less a child of God. Honouring someone with a random act of kindness is good for everyone's soul.

The email I got from the Love Your Neighbour organisation suggests three ideas for starters:
  • Pay for a strangers' coffee
  • Bake a cake for your neighbour
  • Make this the day you play cricket with your kids in the backyard
The last one doesn't really seem like an RAK to's something you should be doing with your kids anyway (although cricket in the backyard at this time of the year is a bit of a non-starter due to the soggy nature of the grass). But paying for someone's coffee might be fun - and might even start up a conversation that helps you see that other person as real, instead of - 'fictional.'

I have this great tendency to invent lives for people I see on the bus or in the street - they'd probably be horrified if they knew what I've made up for them, and it's likely I'm wrong in 99.99% of the cases anyway. I think I'm a great reader of people, but it's possible I'm not!

Baking a cake for your neighbour gives you an opportunity to find out what their door chime actually sounds like as well - so you get to have a bit of additional fun in the process. They get to have fun imagining what that cake actually tastes like before they try it - which might not be so hot if I've baked it.

RAK Day doesn't have to be limited to the 1st of September. You can celebrate this day every day - in fact, you/we/I probably should!