Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A Dog's Eye: peacemakers

Image result for anzac day imagesToday is ANZAC Day. It is a national holiday and arguably Australia's most important holiday. It is a commemoration of all those people who have served our country in war: particularly those who died or who were permanently injured. On this day we honour bravery and sacrifice.

Image result for anzac day service imagesThis morning I attended an ANZAC Day march and memorial service in Palmerston. In one part of the ceremony people bring wreaths and lay them at the foot of the memorial. Towards the end of this procession of wreath laying, a man walked forward with, I presume, his three young sons. He was carrying a large sign which said Palmerston Islamic Centre. 

Many Muslims have a hard time in Australia. They are a somewhat controversial group of people who suffer from very negative stereotyping which is perpetuated to a large extent by the media. This man's action, in identifying himself as a Muslim, was a brave statement of peace. He was saying to everyone present at the ceremony, that although he is a Muslim, he respects and honours Australian tradition. Most likely he is an Australian citizen. He may have even been born here. In effect he was announcing his love for his country: Australia. I believe this man is a peacemaker.

The values we acknowledge on ANZAC Day are universal values, but I wondered what some of the other people in the crowd thought about this man publicly declaring his religious faith. Many people think religion is the major cause of war. ANZAC Day is not a celebration of war. Most of us want peace, but many people are trouble makers rather than peacemakers. The Bible says we should do everything we can to make peace, and to live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18) On the surface this looks challenging, perhaps even impossible, but in our spheres of influence we can make a difference. We can be peacemakers.

Being a peacemaker requires action: courage, sacrifice and humility. Lots of people talk about peace, but few do anything to make peace. This man's actions at the ANZAC service this morning inspired me to redouble my efforts to be a peacemaker. By sharing this, I hope to inspire at least some of my readers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Snake Oil 2: Dentist Messiah

Image result for dentistDentistry is a hard sell in Australia for two very good reasons. Firstly, it is outrageously expensive. I've lost count of how many people have told me they would rather fork out for an airfare and include some dental services in their holiday plans than have the work done here. Secondly, visits to the dentist involve some degree of physical pain and discomfort. Many people don't go to see dentists until they have to, and even then they may choose not to.

A good smile is said to be a desirable thing and, at least superficially, a good smile is said to require good teeth. Some are born with great choppers while others are not. In the latter category are those who shell out for a makeover: cosmetic dentistry, while others, either by choice or necessity, deal with the enamel coated cards they have been dealt.

Image result for smilesAccording to the ad which inspired this post, smiles are good for health, and good for relationships. In fact a smile can change the world. However, to really make an impact and to be happy and have a better life, you need a beautiful smile; not just any smile. You need an amazing, brilliant smile. Such a smile equals confidence and confidence means power.

It's hard to deny the attraction of a good smile, the eye-catching brilliance of straight shiny pearly whites, but I'm not sure you need good teeth to have a great smile. Generally, I think smiles are beautiful, but do you need good teeth to have a good smile?

I've thought about having my teeth done. Coke-cola and cigarettes have taken their toll so if money wasn't an issue, I'd probably give it more serious consideration. But what would it really do for me? Are immaculate molars, capital canines and incredible incisors really the key to a fantastic life? If I'm to believe the snake oil salesmen, then obviously the answer is yes. Would you consider cosmetic dental work? Have you already had some done? How did it impact your life?

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Mirror 3: Central Intelligence

Starring Dwayne Johnson (Robbie Weirdicht/ Bob Stone) and Kevin Hart (Calvin Joyner), the 2016 action comedy Central Intelligence was, despite its potential, a bit of a confusing attempt at film making.

Image result for central intelligence film imagesOn the positive side, many of the lines were quite funny, as was seeing Johnson play such a geeky, gormless character, albeit with mixed success - his bizarre CGI/fat suit thing notwithstanding. However, his schizophrenic switches between dork and crack CIA agent were jarring and unbelievable-but pretty funny. The action scenes were quite creative too. It was an entertaining film, but the real problem was the attempt to deal with the theme of bullying.

Bullying is a serious issue which touches just about everyone, either directly or indirectly. I was bullied at school for being so thin, and I also participated in the bullying of a couple of migrant kids, one in particular, who was the only Asian child at our primary school, was treated quite cruelly.

The message from Central Intelligence was that the way to deal with bullying is to become a loner, transform your body from fat to muscular, and learn how to fight. Then beat up people who try to bully you or your friends. The final piece of the puzzle is to attend your 20th high school reunion and do something completely outrageous to make everyone love you, when 90% treated you like dirt during high school, and made your life hell.

With a little more focus, the story could have had more drama and much more impact. In my view, Central Intelligence trivialized bullying. There was one scene in particular which showed the unfilled potential of the bullying theme. Weirdicht has to seek help from Trevor Olson, the man who, in high school, inflicted him with the cruelest and most significant humiliation at the end of year rally. Olson is now a very successful banker or something. After Weirdicht and Joyner make their request of him, Olson pretends to be remorseful about what he did to Weirdicht in school. He even suggests he has been born again and wants to apologize, which he does with apparent sincerity. During the whole conversation, Weirdicht is silent: paralyzed as he faces his tormentor from 20 years ago. He demonstrates that he has not gotten over what happened to him. 

When Olson, ends his faked apology by confessing he was just kidding, had no regret at all, and thought Weirdicht was still an idiot, the latter simply leaves without saying a word. Devastated by the powerlessness and shame as though twenty years have not passed, and he is still an obese eighteen year old being tortured by his heartless peers.

Weirdicht became a loner, joined the CIA, worked out for 6 hours a day and spent his life killing people and blowing things up. When he and Joyner revisit their high school, Weirdicht has a flashback of the humiliating incident, but then tells Joyner that he squeezed all those memories into a little ball and pushed them down deep inside him. Joyner grimaces and says, "That doesn't sound healthy man."

It's not. Nor is it helpful to make half baked attempts at dealing with serious issues in films or in real life.

Let me conclude by saying the irony of the title is not lost on me either.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

relationDips 2: meat and three veggies

Image result for meat, potato, carrots and broccoli on a plateI grew up in the 70s and 80s on meat and three veggies for dinner. I ate a sandwich for lunch pretty much every day, and some variety of sugary cereal for breakfast. Spaghetti bolognese was as exotic as it got. Mum was a good cook and we ate well, but variety was invarious or perhaps unvarious or even disvarious. My life in general, like my food was uniform. It was simple.

Those of you who have been around for any number of years, operating in the adult world, know that eventually things get complicated. The first real complication for me was my parent's separation which occurred at the same time that the hormonal cyclone known as puberty hit me. I then had to start high school in new suburb without knowing a single person. I lived with my grandparents during the first six months or so of that tumultuous 13th year of my life.

Food remained a constant amidst the emotional upheaval. Nana was a good cook and I continued to enjoy hearty meat and three veggie meals. My interest in girls blossomed concurrently with the blooming of their feminine bodies, and developed naturally into a plethora of infatuations and obsessions, but I never saw food as anything other than sustenance. Sure it was enjoyable, but I never thought about the incredible variety of food that I was missing out on, simply because I wasn't curious about exotic foods. On the other hand, I was intensely, monomaniacally inquisitive about girls.

I began to broaden my culinary horizons,in my 20s, when I traveled and lived overseas, initially for a period of about 18 months. In some cases I ate new things because the alternative was not eating at all. It was hardly surprising that these experiences fostered a love of interesting food. To this day, I will try anything once. Being an adventurous eater has made my life much more interesting by opening the door to all manner of appetizing delights.

Image result for images of food and sexThere is no reason to be stuck eating the same foods day in and day out when there is so much potentially scrumptious temptation on offer. Strangely, this argument is used by some people to argue against monogamy in relationships. I say strangely, but there is some sense to it, isn't there? Why stick with one woman when there are so many to choose from? Why spend you're whole life having to make love with the same person? Meat and three veggies? Come one! There's so much more available.

Based on a complete misunderstanding of the purpose of sex, and ignorance of its power, this philosophy would be embarrassing and laughable, if it weren't so dangerous. How can you compare food, which exists for enjoyment and sustenance alone, with relationships? 

Apparently you can, if the evidence is anything to go by.  Don't worry, I'm not about to start spouting statistics about sex, divorce, and adultery, nor decry the abomination which is the pornography industry. I don't need to go there. All I need to do is present my life as exhibit A, and tell the judge that I rest my case.

By the way, I still eat a sandwich for lunch most days so maybe there's hope for me yet.

Friday, April 6, 2018

A Dog's Eye 1: Life can be like a movie

Image result for forget paris imagesI'm a romantic. If pressed I would say that my favourite genre is romantic comedy, because I like the warmth and fuzziness. I like fairy tales. Who doesn't, right? What's not to like about a happily ever after tale, especially when so many of our own relationships and of those people we know, and hear about, do not have happy endings. That's the main reason films, television shows and books are so popular. Escapism. Vicarious living.

We know, however, that real life is rarely like fiction. Fiction is a highlights package on steroids. It's an exaggerated presentation of life's high and lows. Even in the 'in between times', when there is neither anything terribly exciting or traumatic happening to the characters, there is still a healthy dose or 'larger-than-life' being shown to us. 

Real life is mostly the in between times. It's mundane. Routine. Pretty much the same thing day after day. We appreciate the 'just like the movies' moments because they are rare. And many of us are addicted to fictional entertainment for the same reason: our lives are filled with so much humdrum, or negative, stress and worry inducing stuff that we want to escape.

Last Wednesday, I arrived back in Darwin, sleep deprived, but exhilarated - almost overwhelmed by my own 'just like the movies' moment. For me though it lasted five days. For five days I was living a romantic comedy, with perhaps the only difference being that the complication was very short. From the imaginary game of tennis on the sidewalk to the long farewell at the airport, I felt like I was dreaming.

Image result for romantic airport farewell imagesI still do. Now that we are separated again by distance, I feel strange and a little lost, as though nothing will be quite right until she is once more in my arms. (awww...I told you I was soppy)

When have you had a 'just like the movies' moment? I'd love to hear your stories.