24 Hour Book Sale

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This annual event took place on Friday.  I browsed for a couple of hours after work until I went home for tea.  The range of books was about the same as last year.  They gave more space for displaying the paperbacks on the floor of the theatre.  The numbers of buyers remains down so that even in the early evening it was easy to move about and rummage for books.  This was despite there being no rugby match on in the city for it to compete with.  There were rally cars leaving from the Octagon outside.

I spent eleven dollars in the end.  Most of the books I collected came from two areas of the one dollar books: the language section where I picked up a couple of interesting things, including a second copy of a French Phrase Book I already have so it can go back into the cycle of booksales; and the religious section that contained several worthy Presbyterian titles that I can add to my personal library.  There was nothing downstairs in the newer books that was a must buy for my collection.  I also picked up a travel book on Roman Britain and coffee table book on Wales if I want to do more on the history of Brithenig.

I spotted a couple of familiar faces in the crowd and was spotted by them.

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Drawing God in the public square

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This was a lecture presented by Stephen Garner from Auckland University for the Centre for Theology and Public Issues.  The subject was god and religion in comics and graphic novels, which can be an overlooked part of popular culture.  As always I came away with some thoughts.  These come to mind:

Like Garner I encountered those comic book tracts that circulated in earlier decades.  I believe he refered to them as Chicks Comics.  Peter Rollins also refered to them in his book Insurection.  Rollins noted that after the moment of decision-making for or against accepting Jesus Christ as your personal saviour death is almost instantaneous, meaning the soul went directly to judgement before Christ on the great white throne without having lived out a life in the physical world where everything happens.  Those who rejected Jesus were condemned to eternal damnation.  I found that creepy and disturbing.  I think it’s made me a universalist.

Mention was made of Neil Gaiman and his Sandman series.  It was noted that Gaiman doesn’t do Christianity.  I think he makes comment on religion and theodicy in an important story in that series where Lucifer in a deliciously evil scene abdicates from Hell and gives the lord of dreams the keys to Hell.  Morpheus must then decide what to do with the responsibility for that domain, and its consequences.

The DC universe has a cosmogony where god is the Source, the Voice and the Word.  It is part of this cosmogony that people keep on coming back.  Death’s kingdom has a revolving door.  Creative artists want to bring characters back.  Our understanding of the characters evolves as new generations of artists and readers consume comics.  The characters are always in the first generation, the discovery of the new thing.  They are on the path of the hero, but unlike the heroes of legend and history, they can never reach the closure of their quests.  The commercial requirements of the comic industry colluding  with the reading public demands that they are always ‘marrying and giving in marriage until the days of the flood’.  We demand it of them.

A hobbit’s morning at the opera

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So that was La Traviata, the end of the current Metropolitan Opera season.  I delighted in Natalie Dessay’s performance.  I found it fragile and moving.  The pared-down modern setting worked for me.  I was quite weepy by the end.

The highlights of this season for me remain Satyagraha with its combination of vision and music; and Gounod’s Faust, which set in the Manhattan Project was the discovery of a good opera.

Apart from that I’ve been to Parish Council this week, and I will have to act on meeting of the Pastoral Committee.  There is much for us to discuss.

After the Weekend

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Saturday was busy.  I went into work and sat down with the former curator of photographs who showed me how to enter stuff.  We got halfway through all the things I needed to know in a morning.  At midday I left to meet with people to take me out to Karitane for a memorial service for Grace Gardner.

I travelled with members of the Khamzin Tribe.  There was a simple service for Grace in the Karitane Community Hall.  Several people who knew her in the last year spoke, including her partner.  The Khamzin Tribe danced, photos were shared and we ate together.  We walked around the Huriwa Historic Reserve as she had once done with her partner, following its story, stopping to watch the gannets dive into the sea.  We laid flowers around a native tree that they had planted together on the reserve.   As we came home I learned about her death from the Tribe.

After church on Sunday I caught up with the little tasks for which I use the weekend.  The season is getting colder and it has reached the point that I can air clothing outside, but I cannot get them dry.  Now the weekend is over I can set my mind to little projects.  The time to do them becomes limited as winter gets colder.

Patriotism is not enough. I must not have hatred or bitterness towards anyone – Edith Cavell

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Starting to worry about getting out to Karitane for Grace’s memorial service on Saturday afternoon.  I think I shall have to contact the people out there to see if they can connect me up with somebody travelling out.

Two lectures on this week:

Transforming the Rainbow Serpent into the Rainbow Spirit

An attempt to create an aboriginal theology in Australia.  The theologian Norman Habal met with Aboriginal Elders to formulate a theological document based on Genesis chapter 1.  For the Rainbow Spirit Elders, as they called themselves, the Rainbow Spirit is the same as the Rainbow Serpent.  The Lutheran Church objected to confusing the serpent from Genesis with the serpent from an aboriginal cosmogony.

The representation in art of the Rainbow Serpent is the wandjina, a phallic symbol representing the male/female human being.  I wondered if this is the equivalent of the Adam in Genesis, created in the likeness of the first ancestor (god), before being separated into male/female bodies.

The criticism of this theology is a fudging of context.  The Rainbow Serpent is a generative force involked in initiation ceremonies across Australia to allow youths to enter into kinship groups, rather than the first ancestor of the Genesis story.  So does this mean that Christians, in their own initiation ceremonies, baptism and confirmation, create new kinship groups?

Creative Responses to Extremism

If you go looking in Dunedin you can create your own public lecture time table.  This week’s lecture from the Centre for Theology and Public Issues was a discussion on recent events in Norway where a blond Norwegian from uptown Oslo killed 80 people.  The monster turns out to be one of us, a member of the minority dramatically imposing an agenda on the majority.  Instead of dividing the Norwegian people the act has united the majority as recognising and embracing the Muslim community that lives among them.

I wonder if Anders Breivik is another sick figure like Clayton Weatherston, or the death of the New Zealand girl by her English boyfriend, or Osama bin Ladin watching videos of his speeches in hiding.  The trial means his derangement, if it is so, does not excuse his motives.  The investigation slowly reveals his darkness to scrutiny in  the light.  His extremism must justify itself.  There is a challenge for the limits of freedom of speech.

If violence is an unacceptable alternative for individuals then why is it acceptable to nationstates, the representation of the lawgiver, to act with the instrumentality of violence.  We live with the acceptance of such instrumentalities in our daily lives, in drama, and at play.  So, is peace studies the end-goal for a just world?  How would my nation respond to a similar atrocity in our own country?  Not very well, I suspect.

Hobbit-Spotting

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It’s the end of the week, and I did things.

It’s Archives Week and we went to Archives New Zealand on George Street in Dunedin to see the displays the local archives had put out there.  The theme was on Scandal.  The Settlers Museum put on a display about the Vauxhall Gardens, which was family fun to visit during daylight hours and a meeting place for those of negotiable virtue after dark.  Yvonne prepared a display on the Scandal of Neglect for the Presbyterian Archives, what happens to records left forgotten to vermin, in ceilings under the heat of iron-clad roofs, and wrapped in moisture-holding plastic in damp vaults.  National Archives prepared two displays, one about Amy Bock, who scandalised conservative nineteenth-century society for disguising herself as a man, even marrying another woman; and about Superintendent Macandrew, the provincial governor of old Otago, who when sentenced to gaol for debt, managed to have his own house declared his prison for a while, the first case of home detention.

I was told on Wednesday that the Department of Anatomy had organised a memorial for Grace that afternoon.  She did not want a funeral.  Most of the people there were from her workplace and were not familiar to me.  I drank a cup of excellent coffee and listened as others spoke to her memory.  I don’t mingle willingly and left after half an hour when the speeches ended.  It was an unfulfilling occasion.  I am determined not to do the same to those who remember me after my death.

Currently reading Streetlife by Leif Jerram.  It’s a social history of European cities written from the perspective that great men do not begin events, it is in the movement and motives of people on the street that history happens.  What an exciting book!  It is bursting with ideas.  I’m loving reading it!  I was inspired to get out of the library because I had seen it in the University Book Shop window and I wondered what it could tell me about the life of cities.  Now that I have started reading it I am considering buying my own copy.  I think it is an important book.