Friday, June 29, 2012

Fingers aren't Sausages

Some of the cartoons being fed to children as entertainment these days disgust me. They seem to be celebrations of violence, and of the grotesque and macabre. A deformed character with extremely anti-social behaviour, a sick looking beast of some sort with uncontrollable anger, a morbidly obese animal having its blubber filmed in slow motion, and a ghoulish looking chef practicing cannibalism. Oh, it's good stuff. Very uplifting, and morally strong viewing indeed.

The shows to which I have referred, and which you may recognize, are relatively new shows, but violent cartoons are not new. I watched Tom and Jerry as a child, and I saw Wile E. Coyote get blown up and squashed more times than I can remember. It's the same thing isn't it? Not in my book, but you can make up your own mind. The disturbing trend towards increasingly graphic depictions of heinous acts is of course not limited to children's cartoons. How funny is it when Homer throttles Bart, causing his eyes to pop out of his head as he struggles for breath? Children watch a hell of a lot, and I don't use the word 'hell' lightly, of shows that they shouldn't be watching: shows which promote values which most people find abhorrent. Breaking the law if it suits your purposes. Using violence to solve problems. Disrespecting parents and authority in general. The list goes on. Here are the lucky few children's cartoons to be named and shamed in Square Pegs.

Spliced is a show about mixed up, freaky animal mutants and their mixed up freaky animal mutant friends. The happy sounding theme song talks about the animals having been constructed in a lab by being spliced, and diced and regurgitated. In one episode, a large animal eats all the other animals who I thought were his friends. They escape from inside his stomach by detonating an explosive. The result is their liberation while the large animal is stripped off all its skin and stands with its internal organs on display. It's so funny.
Horace in Slow Motion features a lovable, portly pig who performs his greatest bodily acts in slow motion. In one episode, thankfully they are all short, we have the hilarious pleasure of watching this corpulent pig stuffing his face with cake while attempting to run on a treadmill. In Monsterchef, the cook chops off someone's fingers and puts them inside pastry to serve, before ripping our his own intestines and adding them to a soup he is casually stirring. Yummy!

Let your children watch these sick and twisted shows by all means, and call it harmless fun if it makes you feel better, but don't forget to pray that we don't end up with a society swollen with sick and twisted individuals. We've got enough of them already, don't we?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

There's a Hole in my Life Jacket

Six asylum seekers have died and 90 more are feared drowned in the water off Christmas Island. The politicians have so far resisted engaging in their usual pathetic bagging of each other's boat people policies out of sensitivity for the deceased, but they won't hold their tongues for long, rest assured. The ignorant and politically opportunistic will soon screech again about us being overrun by illegal boat arrivals despite the fact that the UNHCR calls the numbers of arrivals modest and manageable. We can only hope the babies in Parliament mature quickly and begin to make rational, humanitarian and bipartisan decisions. Hope.

There was some hope initially for more survivors until Home Affairs minister, Jason Clare, talked about the search being scaled back after the critical 36 hour period had elapsed. He talked about victims surviving if they had life jackets. I thought his comment was ridiculous. The safety of the passengers was probably not a priority for either the captain or crew of that boat. I don't think they get paid delivery bonuses for their illegal human cargo. Apparently there were some life jackets on the boat as they were seen floating around in the water. Shows you the benefits of a life saving device when you don't know how to use it. Fat lot of good those life jackets were. There probably weren't even enough of them.

What desperation drives people to hand over their personal fortunes to smugglers and risk their lives in long and dangerous boat journeys? The ill informed and the heartless criticize these "queue jumpers" without realizing that there is no resettlement queue for refugees. Only 0.77% of the world's 10.4 million refugees gained access to resettlement last year. Hope makes people strong and brave and irrational. Hope makes people ignore reality and danger. Hope is, sometimes, the only thing a person can cling to when everything they have has been stolen from them. Hope can kill people but it's better than dying, or living for that matter, without hope. Hopeless, like those life jackets floating in the water, of which there were no doubt too few to save everyone even if they did know how to use them. Hope is a life jacket.

For more facts on the issue of boat people or IMAs (Irregular Maritime Arrivals) as they are officially called, you might like to follow the link below.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Inside Out

The expression to "wear your heart on your sleeve" which denotes the way a person shows their emotions, or lets their insides hang out for all to see, is interesting because it refers to the exception rather than the rule. Most people are intensely, almost fearfully, private.

My wife and I ran into an old acquaintance the other day who was serving customers when we noticed him. As we waited, my wife asked for a reminder about the name of the man's wife. Ex-wife, I corrected, and then watched her shocked expression. She made a comment about how she thought they were a strong couple, and we agreed that you never really know what's going on underneath the surface. Behind the social veneer, the brick wall we all build to protect ourselves, are our real lives, and many of them aren't very pretty. To all but those closet to us, we wear a mask and play the roles we are expected to play. We fake smiles. Fake interest in others. Fake enthusiasm. In Australian vernacular, we bung on an act.

To some extent, our unwillingness to share the carnage of our personal lives with others could be seen as a protective act towards them. Who wants other people's crap when they have their own assorted miseries and sufferings to deal with? Imagine what it would be like if we all let our insides hang out, if we all wore our hearts on our sleeves. If we shared our pain.

Here's a piece of me: while accepting the obvious that I still have much to learn, I feel anxious and uncertain about the continuation of this course. I lost my part time job last week and this has added to feelings of regret that I quit a secure job to pursue further study. As much as I pray, as hard as I try, I cannot find peace in this situation, and yet I cannot get out of it. I know I can trust God with my future because he has always been faithful to me, and his plan for me is big enough to cover my earnest, albeit occasionally wayward, attempts to follow Him, but it still feels all wrong.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Gold Seekers (The Australians, #7)The Gold Seekers by William Stuart Long
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Number 7 in the Australians series, and I'm happy to say I am still in love with this great saga by WSL. I especially liked the character Luke Murphy whose story is the main narrative thrust of the book. I was cheering for him and feeling his pain. Familiar characters and their offspring keep reappearing, nicely woven into the tale which is essentially a fascinating look at the Goldrush period in Australia's history. Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

Friday, June 8, 2012

Violent Friends

Crime is a very popular genre of both book and film in which extreme violence committed by depraved people is depicted in horrific and nauseating detail. Why do we love it so much? Why do we find death, and in particular gruesomely imaginative murder, so entertaining? We are sick aren't we? Would it not be fair to say that a society which is amused by mentally ill people perpetrating heinous acts of violence, is a sick society?

On November 20, 2010, David Auchterlonie was taken into the bush by a couple of his mates to help him celebrate his 17th birthday with some booze and marijuana. When they arrived at the designated spot, David was tortured, tormented then murdered with a double sided axe by his friend, Matthew Milat, the nephew of infamous mass murderer Ivan Milat. This crime was so disturbing that the sentencing judge remarked, "that any person, not suffering from a psychiatric disorder could behave in such a manner is almost inconceivable." Almost but not quite. Writers of crime imagine such heartless and evil acts for their bread and butter. Readers and viewers greedily participate, shocked and disgusted perhaps but nonetheless entertained. It is, after all, only make believe, and the pyschopath usually gets caught or killed by the authorities in the end so our unslakeable thirst for justice is satisfied. In the fictional fairy tale world where no one really gets hurt and good triumphs over evil, we feel safe to enjoy perversion.

The story of David Auchterlonie rendered me speechless as I watched it on the news. I wonder if his family would enjoy a movie like Wolf Creek or a book like The Wasp Factory. I wonder if his mum will pick up the latest crime thriller and revel in the tale of a cold blooded murderer who takes the life of their friends for fun. I wonder if any of the family members of victims of violent crime can read stories like We Need to Talk about Kevin, or watch films like The Hills Have Eyes or American Pyscho. There must be something seriously wrong with us.

To think that there are people like Ivan and Matthew Milat, Martin Bryant, and Anders Breivik roaming around in our societies, on our streets, obsessed with evil intentions, perhaps even possessed by the devil himself, planning, watching,...time bombs waiting to explode. It might make you wonder just how well you know your friends?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Australia's Worst Weed

The Queensland government has named the Lantana vine "the worst invasive environmental weed in bushland", and scientists have been plotting the downfall of this rapacious weed using biological warfare for over 80 years. They have introduced over 30 organisms to attack the plant, like a small Mexican grub which eats the Lantana from the vine, and a Brazilian beetle which absolutely loves Lantana leaves. Although many of these bugs are still happily doing their thing, living large on the fruit of the pestilent plant, the Lantana continues to thrive. Having arrived in Australia in the 1840s as an ornamental plant, it now infests more than 4 million hectares of land.

All those involved in the battle against the Lantana vine are impressed by its extraordinary perseverance.

Around 200 years ago, Jesus called himself the True Vine, his father the vinedresser and all who followed him, branches. He said those branches which remained in him would bear much fruit despite being hated and persecuted by the world. In speaking of the close relationship between the triune God and his followers, Jesus thus revealed the source of the church's strength.

Like the Lantana, the Christian church has overcome all attempts to destroy it, both from within and without. Unlike the Lantana, the church continues to prosper as a force for good in the world as Christians continue to abide in the true vine, loving and forgiving all by the divine power which lives within us.