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Tuesday, 20 December 2016


For this one, we are going to dive into the future! Not sure how far, but a little ways at least. Maybe in our lifetime - maybe not. The idea we're looking at is something that I've heard a few people talking about lately, so thought that I'd give it a look. It's called a UBI - or Universal Basic Income. The basic idea is that everyone (that's the universal bit) gets a set amount of base (that's the basic bit) money (the income bit), no questions asked, regardless of whether they work or not, etc. Everyone. Now, various people have talked about how this might decrease people working; some countries have done trials, with good results; and as we look towards a time when more and more jobs are being done by machines, this may well become more and more needed.

But I don't so much want to look at the why of it all, the reasons for and against. Other people have done that extensively, and if you want to look that up, go ahead. Instead, I want to provide one suggestion as to how it could work. I'm not saying that this is the best way to do it; this may well not work at all. I don't know. It's just one thought that I've had, that I think is interesting to ponder.


In this example, I want you to imagine that there is no other pay apart from the UBI. The UBI is the only way to get money/currency, unless you want to go into bartering. The UBI might be paid per day, per week, per month - it doesn't really matter. Let's say per week, for this instance.
So, each week, every person in this country gets two units of money. Before you say that that's a tiny amount - a unit could be anything. It could be $1000. It could be less. It could be more. For now, let's just assume that one unit is enough to get the average person through the week relatively easily. So when you go to buy something, it's measured in fractions of that unit - your rent might be 1/3 of a unit, or something. Now. I said you get two units.
One unit is keyed to your ID, some sort of unique identifying number or something. Only you can use it. The other unit, however, is the opposite - you have to give it away to someone else. And the same is true every week. There's probably a website you can go on, where different people show the work they're doing, and talk about why you should donate to them; and each week, you choose which one to donate that unit to. A person can never have more than a certain number of units (five, for example), and there might be some rule against repeatedly giving one person a unit each week.

Of course, you could try this with more than two units - say, keeping one unit and donating two if you have three, or maybe being able to donate fractions of units - but I like this idea. The idea that everyone has this basic income - but then you can still go and do a creative project, or a scientific project, etc, and essentially get other people to fund that. Now, I have no idea how things like businesses and such would work with this - but I think it's an interesting idea to consider.

Would love to know what you think :)

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

On Retrospect and Release.

As I believe I've mentioned a couple of times, this year has been pretty hard. Since I'm coming towards the end of it, I thought I'd use the 20/20 vision of hindsight to look back at it and see what happened.

So there were two big things that have really made this year difficult. Amusingly, the crash isn't one of them. It was annoying, but I think it's actually been helpful, in many ways. And I'm not saying that these two haven't been - there's been a lot of good that's come from these - but they are really what have made this year hard.
The first was moving out, and the second was a challenge to go for an intentional season without pursuing anyone romantically. I talked about it in this blog post, if that isn't ringing any bells for you. Go on, give it a read. I'll wait.

Done? Good. Now.

Moving out has been awesome, don't get me wrong. I've enjoyed so much making my own food, and setting my own diet. It's meant that I've been able to go pretty much vegetarian, which I've wanted to do for ages. I've also met some great people, started some fantastic friendships, and had some memorable times. And it's definitely a step forward that I needed to take, and that I hope I'll be able to continue with.
But it's also been difficult, moving from a six-person house, that's rather noisy most of the time, to living in a five-person apartment where often I'm the only one at home, or people will just do their own thing for the most part in their rooms. (Which, admittedly, still happened back at my family's house.) It's made me feel more lonely, which is something that I always struggle with anyway. And that then served to aggravate the second one.

Taking an intentional season where I didn't pursue anyone romantically was something that I needed to do. (And am still doing.) But it certainly wasn't something I was particularly excited about. I knew why I needed to do it (see the other post linked above for all of that), but it was still pretty shit. Because I'm a Four. The Tragic Romantic. It was pretty much how I defined myself - and that's a problem.
Thing is, I'm an emotional person. That's a given. I can't just not be emotional, or not have emotions. They happen. If they're not directed in this way, where's that going to go?
This is where I think I went wrong, because I didn't make any plans for this. I just tried to bottle it all up the best I could - attempting to not have too intense conversations with people that I could be romantically interested in, trying to tone down the flirting (I act like I don't know anything; but really, I'm terrible, I'm doing it all over the place), and even taking music out of my iTunes and CD collection that were 'love songs', or likely to get me in that frame of mind. That's most music, folks! But in particular, it was a couple of artists that were my favourites, and that I really identified with - Owl City and Brendan James (no, not me, look him up). Pretty much all of their songs fit into this category. So I was denying myself all of this music, denying myself the ability to actually express this emotion and release it in a healthy and safer way.

Is it any wonder that I've been doing terribly with it? :P Ha.

I mean, I've been struggling more this year with porn and fantasy than I have since Valiant Man. I have abysmally failed in not pursuing anyone romantically, though thankfully I haven't done too much. But you could also easily put that down to my shyness around romance in general.


So yeah. I've still got a long way to go. I'm hoping that next year I can do this a little better next year - removing myself from everything, and actually allowing myself to vent some of this emotion in a healthier way, rather than just attempting to contain it all and being surprised when it overflows and spills out uncontrollably. Time will tell, I suppose.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Four Days.

It's winding down towards the end of the year - and doing so rather quickly. It's now less than four weeks until Christmas. *shivers* December is tomorrow. Or is when I'm writing this, anyway. It's....yeah.

I've been getting a bit emotional about the end of this year, because it's when a lot of things are winding down for me. Well, pretty much everything, really. I'm finishing up my lease at the place I'm staying. I'm finishing up my work at BOE. I'm finishing up with my internship, and even finishing up at my church. I mentioned it briefly as part of this post a while back.
Essentially, God's asked me to do two things. Firstly, finishing up and leaving basically everything that I know, everything that I'm familiar and comfortable with, and going somewhere new. Hard part is, I've got no idea where that 'somewhere new' is. (Reminds me a bit of the story of Abraham.) So the second part is taking a week or two at the end of this year/start of next year as a retreat, rest and re-focus time, using that as an opportunity to talk to God about what he wants me to be focussing on in this next season of life - however long that happens to be, whether it's a year, a few years, or some more general things that I can focus on for most of my life going forward. I don't really know. It's all a bit up in the air at the moment! And kinda super-scary.

But it's also really sad, particularly in finishing up at church. I've been there for most of my life now, and it's been like a second home for me. Particularly considering I've been there longer than in any house! It's something I've been involved in in so many different ways - music, sound, creative bits and pieces, communion, even preaching now and then. And yeah, there have been ups and downs, but that's true of any family :)
But yeah. I realised the other day that there were only four weeks left until Christmas - and then I did a bit of a double take. Because Christmas Day will be the last service I have at church. So that means that I've essentially got four days - four Sundays - with those friends left, until I don't know what. That's a bit - crazy. Particularly because these are really the closest friends I have, and the friends I've really grown up with and known for the longest time. So it's strange to think that soon, I'll be leaving to go who knows where. Yeah.

There have been some incredible memories I've had in that place. From Oasis, to Dinomight, to SWORD, to the camps we've been on, to playing songs with Alan's sermons, to Youth Group, to the Creative Team, to the internship this year. And all the incredible people - some of which have moved on to other places, some that are still around, some that have only recently moved in. You are what makes these times and this place special, and it's going to be you guys that are so hard for me to leave. But thankfully, the internet makes the world a smaller place, and I'm always only a message away :) So do say hi now and then. I'd like that.

I don't know what next year is going to look like. I really have no clue. But I do know that God is taking me on an adventure. That he's going to be testing me and stretching me in ways that he hasn't before. And you know what?
I think I'm quite ready for another adventure.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Aiyæthron Updated.

These are my notes and translations thus far for this language that I'm making, which I've called Aiyæthron. Pronunciation of vowels can be found just below. Hopefully, should be reasonably self-explanatory. That one, however, is pronounced Are-ear-yair-throrn. (Short r sound at the end; don't emphasise. Implicit in vowel sounds in this language, but not emphasised unless written.)
Also, not all words will necessarily follow all rules, particularly ones written earlier. I may have to figure out how to make them fit in later. But this is primarily a sound-based language, so it really is about making sure it sounds right. I want it to work right as well, but the sound is primary.

* Italics are currently ponderings as to possible solutions to difficulties encountered.
** [Comments in square brackets are added in to aid in reader understanding of my logic.]

Open/vowel sounds
A - ar - "are"
E - er - "err"
I - ir - "ear"
O - or - "oar/ore"
U - ur - no Eng. equiv. (N.E.E.) [oor]
Æ - ær - "air/e'er" [I do realise this is not the typical pronunciation of this letter]

Apostrophe ( ' ) cuts short; write h afterwards for a h sound instead of an r sound? [ah, eh, ih, etc.]

Closed/consonant sounds
Combiners - L R W Y S Z
DR => JR [compare dive/jive to drive/jrive)
TR => CHR [compare tane/chain to train/chrain]
K/Q => C/CW [All K sounds replaceable by C, as well as hard Q sound {e.g. Qatar, Iraq}; QU sound replaceable by CW - almost is for Qwerty]
X => Z/CS/GZ [Initial X {e.g. Xavier, Xanadu} replaceable by Z, intermediate/ending X replaceable mostly by CS {e.g. Hex, Explain} and in some cases by GZ {i.e. Example}]



ai - life/spirit
yæ - love
thron -> thro-on
                I      I
     (sounds) + (perspective) = words
Aiyæthron - words of life and love
urmdwur -> urm-dwur
                      I      I
       (plant life) + (guardian) -> guardian of plant life -> earth
oayio -> encircler of life -> air
oyo - circle
leæl -> le-æl
             I   I
 (animal) + (provider) -> provider for animals -> water
zhrng -> zhr-rng
                I     I
   (destroy) + (heat) -> heat that destroys -> fire

Cwulrun -> cwul-run
                      I       I
             (noble) + (man) -> nobleman -> prince

Cwulrohn -> cwul-rohn
                         I       I
                (noble) + (woman) -> noblewoman -> princess

Maizwæshiainnaiah -> I see life in your face -> you are beautiful
Shiain -> life in face
Shin -> face
Urmaidwur -> human/person [life in earth]
Mai -> I/me [shortening of above]
Nai -> you
-ah -> only, just, one, singular [e.g. particularly naiah, intimate you]
Zwee -> vision/sight
Zwæ -> see [æ is verb]

Frumshuhng -> frum-shuhng
                            I           I
                       (right) + (true) -> It is right and true -> It is good
Shuhngya -> truth
Grinai -> thank you
Gri -> thank
Prinai -> please Poss. lesser form of “beseech you”?
Tri -> dear

Amairdwum, ca nairah -> Not my will, but yours
a- -> opposite of what it precedes
Dwum -> Will
Ca -> But/etc.
Mair/Nair -> Mine/Yours [r on the end changes it from me/you to mine/yours]

Dt’ung -> Hand
Dt’ungoyo -> Circle of hands -> Family
Dt’ungoyoaidwur -> Life that is the guardian of the family -> Father (+ Bær -> Son)
Dt’ungoyoaidæhn -> Life that joins the family -> Mother (+ Bær -> Daughter)

Narun -> Big
Nin -> Small
Rohnin -> Small + Woman -> Girl
Runin -> Small + Man -> Boy
Wehoayio -> Move + Air -> Wind
Wehoayiorunin -> Boy of the wind (Ijtro)

Dt’ah -> Mouth
Thræ -> Sounding
Dt’ahthræ -> Mouth + sounding -> said/say
Yat -> May
Prinai, yat thron mai dt’ahthræ nor shuhng -> Please, may the words I have said be true -> Amen

Dt’uh -> Eye
Dt’uhæ -> Look (v.)
Dt’uhin -> Look (n.)
Naiah dt’uhin nwunyo -> You look beautiful

Yat ai dahn yæ bærnaiah jrinihl nair æi. -> May life and love follow you all the days of your living.
Bur -> to be behind
Bær -> follow
Jrin -> day, single day, 24 hours

-ihl -> all, together [e.g. naihl, all of you]
-un -> masculine, denotes belonging
-ohn -> feminine, denotes belonging
-an -> gender-neutral, denotes belonging
-a, -la -> present tense, currently happening [used sparingly]
-e, -le -> past tense
-i, -li -> future tense
-o, -n -> plural
-u, -y -> -r, -or or -er [i.e. make to maker, protect to protector]
-ya -> proper noun [i.e. righteous to righteousness]
-yo -> -ful [i.e. colour to colourful]
-yi -> -ing
-yu -> noun/verb to adjective [i.e. love to loved]
Weh -> moving/movement
Nwæn -> seek, pursue
Nwun -> beauty
Jah -> first
Zh- -> emphasised the, i.e. The Aiyædwur, The Will, etc.
Zhah -> the one
Aiyædwur -> guardians of life and love, those who speak this language [possibly also guardians that live and love]
Gwun -> king
Gwohn -> queen
Gor -> place
Gwungor -> king + place -> kingdom
Dahn -> and [used sparingly]
Dæhn -> join
Vræn -> make
Vrænefrum -> made + right -> righteous
Vrænefrumya -> righteousness
Svit -> thing
Teh -> this
Nor -> be
Mæn -> give
Po -> also, as well, in addition to 
Dahndehn -> and + two -> with,  two together
Zohc -> wax
Je -> by [as in X by Y; not as in, ‘it was by the lake’]
Plu -> [as in, ‘it was by the lake’]
Dwæryu -> Guarded/protected

Bah -> One [number]
Dehn -> Two [number]
Fih -> Three
Hohn -> Four
Juh -> Five
Lahn -> Six
Neh -> Seven
Zuht -> Zero
[Base-eight number system; so only digits 0-7]

Mai yæ nai -> I love you [to friend/family]
Mai yæ naiah -> I love you [romantic, I love just you]
Jun -> are
Gæ -> to call [more to name, call out as, rather than physically calling out]
Vrænzwæli -> to make seen -> show
Vrænzwælishuhngya -> to show truth -> light
Wælis -> shine
Awælisiyi -> shining in life -> light of my life [ish]
Tuhn -> am
Dahnyu -> together
Svol -> wisdom
Svolyu -> wise

Names for God:
Zhah -> The One
Yæyi Dt’ungoyoaidwur -> Loving Father
Zh’jah -> The First
Aivrænu -> Maker of Life
Bahfihdæhnyuya -> Three joined in one-ness (Trinity)
Zhai -> The Spirit
Urmaizh’throndwur -> The Word in person/human (Jesus)

Ænu -> God

On Creating A Language: Part 2

I realised recently that I haven't given people much of an update of the language I've been creating, Aiyæthron, since the initial two posts that I did about three and a half years back. Wow, it's been that long. Scary. At that point, all I had written out was the original letters I was using (an alphabet of sorts, though not with the actual characters - this primarily being a spoken language, and not having come up with those as yet); various ways that they did and didn't combine; and the name of the language, as well as the words for earth, air, water, and fire. I've come rather a long way since then. Not quite as long as some, perhaps, but a fair bit. I think I'll put the update of my notes in another post, otherwise this post will just be much too long. But I thought I'd write some further comments on what this process has been like, now that I'm a bit further in.

It's been very on and off, funnily enough, being me! I've found that I've had most headway when I've had a particular goal I'm aiming towards - for example, when I wanted to translate something in particular into Aiyæthron, like a Bible verse, or a poem, or even a song (because I wanted a challenge, you know!).

I've had a lot of fun shaping different ways that the language goes, and even creating a bit of a story with the language - very Tolkien-ish, which was almost part of the point. For example, I decided a little way in that the æ letter was a bit of a verb-er; it turned non-verbs into verbs when I subbed out other vowels for that one. For example: "bur" is to be behind; "bær" is follow. I also drew influences in the language from lots of different areas, and basically have different sub-sections of language that actually draw from specific places. For example, all of the anatomical words (hand, mouth, eye) are actually sounding quite African, nearly having the click sound - "dt'ung", "dt'ah" and "dt'uh", respectively. (That's a hard "g" on the dt'ung, by the way. The best way I can spell it phonetically is 'dtoonguh'. The best way I can describe the difference between the 'dt' and just a 't' at the start is that it starts more from the back of your mouth, using your tongue more than your teeth.) But then I'm using word for prince and princess that sound positively Welsh - cwulrun and cwulrohn, respectively. Love that 'cw' start!

There's also been all those little annoying bits - like figuring out tenses, plurals, genders, proper nouns, verbs, adjectives, numbers! All quite fidgety, but I've managed to do most of that alright, and a couple of other things besides. I'm probably terribly inconsistent with it, though. Isn't that the case with all language? Ha.

I also love that I'm now starting to build the story of the people that are using this language. They're called the Aiyædwur - either the guardians of  life and love, or guardians that live and love, I'm not quite sure yet. I'm sure both would be true, but I'm not sure which I want that word to mean as yet. They use a base eight numbering system - we use a base ten, for those not aware, which means we have the digits 0-9, and then it starts round again; but these folks have the digits 0-7, and then start back round again. I rather like the idea of a base eight numbering system, because it's a power of two. But it may also well be that that will only be a significant thing within a base ten numbering system - I haven't gotten quite that far yet. I also don't like the idea of figuring out how on earth base eight decimals work. I also think that since they have a base eight numbering system, it would make sense that they'd have four fingers on each hand. Or perhaps they use something else to count, not fingers. We'll see.

I've also come up with both a standard greeting, parting blessing, and a prayer that they use. The parting blessing is this: "Yat ai dahn yæ bærnaiah jrinihl nair æi." Which roughly translates to - "May life and love follow you all the days of your living." Last phrasing is a bit funny, but that's okay. All the days that you live or of your life would probably be more appropriate in English, but it's a different culture, and a different understanding of life! To them, it's always a verb, when it's referring to what we actually live. They don't talk about 'your life' or 'my life' they talk about your living. The prayer is actually just my attempt to translate 'Amen' - which ended up blowing up to this: "Prinai, yat thron mai dt’ahthræ nor shuhng." Which means, "Please, may the words I have said be true." Which is actually more or less what 'amen' is actually meant to mean. So that's all good. Just a tad lengthy. I may be unwittingly composing Old Entish here.

Lastly, in this post, I'll talk about their greeting, because I very much like it. It's one of the longer words that I've constructed in the language, and it's this: "Maizwæshiainnaiah". Not quite pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, but still quite a mouthful. It literally translates as "I see life in your face," but actually means, "You are beautiful." And that's not meant in a romantic sense - I wrote that one out a bit later, "Naiah dt’uhin nwunyo" - "You look beautiful". But there's a distinct difference between those two phrases. You are beautiful; and you look beautiful. The second one is a personal opinion, expressing your particular appreciation for someone's physical appearance; it's inherently biased and individual. Who I think looks beautiful, you may not, and vice versa.
The first statement, however, is completely different. It actually starts from a completely unbiased observation. The fact that we are each made in the image of God; that God is a beautiful God; therefore, each of us is beautiful. So, in part, this is a nod to and reminder of that in their culture. However, it goes deeper still than that! Because these people (and me) believe that each person has a purpose and a point to being here, whether general or specific. And when they are living close to that purpose, you can actually see that in them. The closest way I could put it into words was, "I see life in your face." Because you do. And so this phrase, "Maizwæshiainnaiah", is saying - "You are living in the purpose that God has made you to live, and I can see the beauty and life that that has brought you in your face." And I love that. And this is their common greeting! This isn't just something they do sometimes, here and there. This is something they do all the time. Admittedly, that probably says that they're somewhat of a utopian society - elves much? - but yeah. Just thought that was pretty awesome :)

I'll post all my updated language notes shortly after this. Any comments and feedback would be most welcome.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Human Rights That Should Be.

People should at least be moderately familiar with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations. (Do you realise that was back in 1948? Yep, 68 years ago. Wow.) But I think there are some other things that should be human rights as well. Some people might argue about whether these fit the definition of 'rights' - let's just say that I think these should be truths, universally recognised, for every human. They aren't in any particular order. Just as they come to mind. Some are also more serious than others, as you'll note, but I think they're all still worth saying, for various reasons. These also may overlap with rights that actually do exist, I'm no expert.

  1. Nothing that a person may do, say, or think, can detract, or add, in any way, to their humanity.
  2. Every person has the right to good food. Not just enough to get by; but eating healthily, and well. Having a variety of food available.
  3. People can never be bought or sold, bartered for, or given in exchange for services rendered.
  4. All individuals, countries, races, or tribes, have the right to have their story told and recorded.
  5. All individuals should have choice over what media and information they are shown, including advertising material, excepting critical news from government bodies and emergency services.
  6. An individual that receives any ongoing service or subscription has the freedom to end the service or subscription at any point in time, and must be able to do so in a way that does not require the individual to make personal contact with the provider of the service or subscription.
  7. People should not be restricted (whether directly or indirectly) from entering or leaving a country or area because of circumstances of their birth, such as nationality, political ties or affiliations, family background, religion, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and personal wealth, or any other reason.
  8. No person shall be killed as punishment for any crime, no matter how heinous or horrendous.
  9. When entering a country, any individual has the right to free and accessible language tuition to learn the language of that country.
  10. Wherever a person may be, they have the right to whatever emergency healthcare and treatment they require.
  11. a) No person has the right to treat another as 'less'; for example, using insulting and hurtful language, name-calling, bullying, for any reason - be it associated with nationality, gender, religion, looks, past or present actions, sexual orientation or identification, or otherwise.
    b) Every person has the right to disagree with other people, and voice their thoughts. This may not violate 11a), but must be done in a way that is truthful and without malice. Though truth can and does hurt in many cases, it can be shaped to not do so wilfully.
  12. Every person has the right to creative expression, including satire and parody, and should be given opportunity to practice and learn various creative forms and techniques.
  13. Every person has the right to live.
  14. All individuals have the right to free and accessible education, in any and all subjects that they wish to pursue.
  15. All individuals have the right to clean, fresh water that is easily available, and that does not easily run out.
  16. a) Every person has the right to a private and comfortable residence, that provides adequate protection from the environment.
    b) Those unable to provide this for themselves - because of unemployment, ill health, tragic loss or other extenuating circumstances - will have it provided for them by the State or Country in which they reside.
  17. Every individual has the right and freedom to pursue their own passions, interests, or hobbies, provided that these do not contravene national or international law.
  18. Every individual has the right to claim their own personal space, and request that other people refrain from touching them.
  19. Every individual has the right to free hugs.
That's the most important one ;) I'd love to hear your thoughts on these! Please let me know what you think about them, if you think they're stupid or great, what you would add or take out.

The Oldest Obsession.

In my last few posts, I've been talking about some of my experiences and bits that happened at Beyond Festival. But there's one that I said I'd do a post (or two) about, that I haven't gotten to yet. I think now is a good time for that.

At Beyond, there was more than just music and song. There were also workshops, and some great talks too. One of those was given by Melinda Tankard Reist, a writer, researcher, and campaigner for women's rights; particularly dealing with issues like pornography (though this is becoming increasingly an issue for everyone), violence, sexualisation/objectification in media (and generally), sex trafficking, and sex work/prostitution. It's this last one that she was focussing on in her talk.

There was a lot that she talked about which I either already knew, or guessed. But it makes your blood boil to hear first-hand accounts of it from people who have 'worked in the industry', as you might put it. Something she kept coming back to - it's often called the oldest 'profession', or line of work, that there is. But what other professions do you know where people are regularly treated violently, sworn at, constantly degraded - and then told it's just 'part of the job'? And it's possible that you may know others who work as strippers/prostitutes/escorts who enjoy it, and are doing just fine. And there probably are people like that - but if there are even a few cases where this is happening, that's NOT okay. Not even remotely okay, no matter how much money that they pay. You can't buy the right to hurt someone, and abuse them however you like! Argh! Okay. Attempting to calm down. This gets me a bit emotional, as you may be able to tell. So yeah. It was a pretty powerful talk.

More awesome, was she actually had someone there who had contributed one of the chapters to the book that she was talking about, where she told first-hand accounts of people in the sex industry. Her name was Alice - possibly (probably) a fake name, like the ones in the book, to protect her. They attract a fair bit of the not-so-good sort of attention.
Anyway, she had a pretty incredible story. It's not really one I can tell here, but you can read a bit of it in the blog two links back. It's....yeah. Pretty crazy. And she's incredibly brave to be able to share that, which was really awesome for us. She really went in deep into how it all effected her emotionally, and psychologically, even now, after she's been out for a little while. Because when you've been creating highways in your brain - it's hard to change their course. You have to create new highways; and that takes time, unfortunately. It's not an overnight thing.

What was probably one of the best things about it, was that it was the fullest gig that I saw in the venue that I was running sound for. It got pretty packed - the guy that played afterwards had it pretty tough! He did well, though. What disappointed me, though, was that there were almost no guys there at all.

And the thing is, this needs to be fight for the men as well, not just the women. But the hard part is - though there are certainly cases of men being victims of sexual abuse, and that should never be ignored - much more often, we're on the other side of the coin. Rather than sharing a story of what's been done to us - we're sharing the story of what we've done. Even if that's just porn, masturbation, fantasy - that's something that can be really hard to do, particularly if it has us in over our heads. Porn is made for addiction - and it does the job very well. And it keeps getting darker and darker; getting more violent, less personal (though now we have equality - there's plenty of porn that objectifies both women and men!), and more extreme in any way it can. All of it just a Google search away, in our world. It's all about lust - the oldest obsession.

And that's not even touching the surface - what about guys that have gone from the screen to actually doing things in person? Taking advantage of people, sexual exploitation, slavery, or manipulation, trading money for sex, rape - I could go on. There are people who have done all of that, and worse, some of whom you may know without realising it. The problem isn't so much that we have so many of these people. Well, that is a problem, yes, but that's actually maybe not the big one. The problem is, there are still way too many people that look at what I've written there, and are still thinking in the old way.

Still going, "Lock these people up! Put them all into a deep, dark hole, that they can never get out of!" Some of you might want to bring back the death sentence - or for those of you reading in a country that still has it, implementing that. I'm rather glad that I live in a country that doesn't have it, and I very much hope that the rest of the world will come to their senses before too long. But that's another blog post.

If you didn't watch the video - we need to change our attitude. Because addiction - even addiction to porn, or sex, of any type - is actually to do with a lack of connection, and good relationships. Not people being crazy and deranged or psychopathic. The more we're locking people away....the worse they're going to be. That's a general rule, by the way. We totally need to rethink prison. Another blog post! (Though I'm really not educated enough on that to comment.)

I've been rambling for way, way too long already, and I've still got another post to go. *sighs* If you've come this far, you're either very patient, or about as interested/invested in this as I am. Probably both. I'll wrap it up.

Whether you're talking about porn, the sex industry, or sexualisation of women/people in general - this is something that is permeating our society. You can't avoid it unless you're a hermit. It's in advertising; movies and TV; magazines; how we talk, dress, and act. If that's something that we want to change - and personally, that's a rather big YES for me - that's going to take some gargantuan effort. Because some people have invested rather a lot of time and money into making this all work, and they don't really like it when you take that away.

But for what we might be able to get out of it - a better chance at real relationship, and actually perceiving people better; I think that's well worth it. :)

And because you got through it all, here are some photos of cute baby animals! :D

Saturday, 8 October 2016


As I mentioned in my last few posts, I was at Beyond Festival last weekend. There's still at least one more post I'm planning to do from my time there, maybe two. Then I've got another random one, because there's been too many weighty ones recently....anyway. It was pretty awesome, but there was also something that got me thinking.

Before it was Beyond Festival, there was one called Black Stump, which was pretty much around the corner for me. And each year, I'd apply to play there. Each year, I wouldn't get in, but I kept trying. I'd had friends play both there and at Easterfest, so it was something I really wanted to do. Playing in the talent shows at them was fun, but not really the same as having your own slot.
This year, I didn't even try applying to get in. It was out in Canberra, and I wasn't sure exactly how I was going to get there - whether I'd end up carpooling, or bussing it, or something else. Keyboards are not conducive to either, unless you've got a van. So I just volunteered to do sound. Ended up doing the sound for quite a few different performers - one of which was a young girl, about 16, who was playing the guitar and singing with the skill of some of the people I did a uni course of music with. And she played the keyboard as well (one of my only two keyboard players the whole time).

It got me a bit....thinking, I guess. Not the right word, but I'm running with it. Since late high school, music is something that I've been interested in really focussing on in what I do. I did something fairly radical in deciding to do it as my uni degree, when most people expected me to go for something sciency. But I didn't do much in terms of gigging. I went around a few different songwriter's nights and open mic nights, but that was about it; there wasn't a lot near me. Transporting a keyboard isn't fun. I also wasn't keen on playing in bars and pubs - partly because they were bars and pubs, which I just generally didn't like (not being a drinker), but also because that's where you play covers, and I wanted to play my own songs. Not that I couldn't play covers. But I wanted to perform my own songs, and share the stories that I had written with people. I think I did busking two times with my ukelele in Camden, and that was about it - got maybe $10 in shrapnel off it. I never really looked into getting a busking permit, which I'd need for busking in Campbelltown (where I live now) or in Darling Harbour, for example, which is usually where you see them. Besides which, I don't have a ukelele any more!

I kept writing songs, though. Here and there, I recorded bits and pieces, some at a pretty good quality. (Though not compared to what they expect for radio, for example.) I've currently got over 200 songs written, three albums released, and ideas for at least six more albums ready to go. I am, however, terrible at selling myself. Always have been. I hate trying to put a price on myself or what I do, because for me there really isn't a price. You can't put a number on it that accurately represents what it's worth, and what I've put into it. (Reason #3897 why I hate money and wish it didn't exist - but that's for another post!) So I ended up not going very far at all; I don't have many people that know about or listen to my music, and very few that I don't personally know. Whereas I know quite a few friends that have done quite well - a couple from school, but mostly from uni (funnily enough, being a Bachelor of Music). And there's always the niggling thought - could that have been me?

Then I see a 16-year-old, that's already doing as well as some of my friends that I know. And it makes me pretty seriously question if maybe I just never put enough effort into it. I divided my attention too much; held to my idealised view of how I wanted it to be, and wasn't willing to compromise. So this is what I get. And now it's just too late.
And part of me really hates that and is scared by that, because these are stories that I think are important - stories that I want to be able to tell, and share with people. I don't want to think that they have no purpose or meaning, that these stories will just fade out of existence like nobody knew they were there in the first place.

Then another part of me takes rather a different tack. It says that I'm putting way too much of my identity into this, and if I'm so scared by the idea of it fading away - then maybe that's exactly what it needs to do. Maybe I'm too tied up in the idea of being a singer, being a songwriter, being a performer, being a musician, being a pianist. My identity needs to come from God, not anything that I do, not any skills or talents or passions that I have. And that's super-duper hard for me to think about it like that. And I know that there's certainly some truth to that - that I have been finding a lot of my identity in this. And so maybe that is what I need to do. I don't know.
Perhaps my songs were only ever cries for attention from a place of unhealthiness - feeling unseen, and unloved (ala Shake It, for those of you who were at the album launch; for everyone else, I'll link it here once I get that song up).
And perhaps I'm too good at saying "Yeah, I've got problem X, Y, and Z" but never actually doing anything about it. It's one thing to say that you're struggling with something. It's another to actually take action. As pretty much anyone who knows me well enough can tell you, I'm terrible at being proactive. Absolutely terrible.

I don't really have any answers at the moment. Perhaps my chunk of time at the end of this year/start of the next will help with that. I'm not sure. But this is a song that I wrote while I was away on Black Stump around this whole question and issue.

If you have any comments or thoughts on this, would be more than happy to hear from you! :)

Thursday, 6 October 2016

I Get You.

This all started when a friend of mine, Jason, pointed out that I use the phrase "I get you," rather frequently. And he's right, I do. Both in verbal and online conversation. He's actually been encouraging me to do some talking in schools and the like, and joked that I could use it as a bit of a tagline. Then - my brain working the way it does - I started to think of the philosophy behind the phrase, and actually came up with the end of a speech centring around that idea. Then, at the Beyond Festival I was at last weekend, another friend of mine, Chris, led a creative session where he had a pre-cut lino print that we had to print out, and then fill in the image with what our 'social justice movement' would look like. What we'd get out on to the streets and shout about, wave banners saying, etc. Those who know me well enough might know that I'm not really the type to be waving banners or shouting on the streets - I can be fairly shy, and I'm also not very confrontational. To me, banner-waving is very "us vs them" thinking, whereas I like to try and work in a more inclusive way, that doesn't force people to one side or another. But "I get you," is straight away what my mind went to. And so we have the print below.

You can't read the text too well, except for the bigger banners. That's what I'll get to now, by talking about the actual thought behind this phrase. As a side note - this gives you a bit of insight into how much thought I put into everything that I do.
Part of the idea very much comes from a quote by Dr Stephen R. Covey, when he was talking about one of the concepts in his book, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People. It was his fifth habit, Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. This is the quote: "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply." The basic meaning of "I get you," is "I understand you." I get where you're coming from. I'm listening. Note; this does not presuppose that you agree with whoever is talking. That isn't required. And that isn't what's most important. What's most important is understanding, and compassion. These are more important than agreement and consensus.

Across the top of that poster, I wrote this:
Disputes are fuelled by misunderstanding. Misunderstanding is fuelled by a lack of listening. A lack of listening is fuelled by a lack of compassion.
Compassion and understanding can solve near any dispute.

So much of the time, discussion and argument happens because everyone is clamouring for their side to be heard. They're not ready to listen, much less understand, to what the other people are saying. They're just thinking about how they're going to reply. They're just thinking about the "but". The rebuttal, the counter. And I know there are times when I've been guilty of this as well. Even in times where I've been wanting to help someone - because I'm wanting to help, when I'm listening to them, I'm just thinking about what advice I could offer, or how I could help them in other ways, rather than actually engaging in what they're saying and trying to understand the situation.

There is a time for advice and help, yes. But first - let's get understanding and compassion right. Let's learn how to listen again. Let's start saying "I get you," rather than focussing on whether we're going to say "I agree," or "I disagree". If we did that a little bit more - then maybe the world would be a better place. #IGetYou

And that, folks, is how much thought I put into those three words. Yep. That's also bits of the speech that I came up with, and all the bits from the poster are in there. I've joked with Jason that we should have #IGetYou t-shirts made up. Reminds me a little of the Free Hugs movement. Though they're certainly not mutually exclusive. Hugs are awesome.

Anyway, that's enough from me for now. I think I'll have a couple more posts up over the next couple of days (hopefully) to do with one of the talks that I was in at Beyond Festival as well, and it gets into some pretty heavy stuff. So we'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Writings From Beyond #5 - Running With Koalas

This last one I actually did after the workshop. When we did that previous one, Cameron asked us to write down a few abstract ideas that we might try and write about. My instant idea was 'fear is a magpie', and I really liked how I could use that. But the next thing that I thought of that I wanted to write about was self-worth - it's something that's been on my mind a lot lately, and I think it's important to talk about. But I couldn't for the life of me think of an animal to give it, so I did the magpie one in the workshop. I managed to come up with this one later on, but I think it might be a little too similar to Cameron's 'Kindness Is A Guinea Pig', though I tried to make it a little different. I started with the idea that bad self-worth is essentially trying to run away from yourself, and just continued along that track. Anyway, I'll let you have a read, and let me know what you think. Hope you enjoy :)

Running With Koalas
I'm running, running.
Then someone says I did really good work today. 
I go back to running, but suddenly I've got a little koala on my left leg, weighing me down.
It makes running rather more difficult. I keep going, regardless.
Someone else thanks me for helping them out - and before I know it, I've got another koala hitchhiker on my right shoulder.
But I'm determined to not let them slow me down. 
A person tells me that I'm beautiful, and they love me.
A massive koala comes and tackles me right in the chest!
 I can't run - they're too heavy. 
 But then, I realise - they're not dragging me down. They're hugging me. And I don't need to run any more.
 Self-worth is a koala.

Writings From Beyond #4 - Click And Swoop

The second thing we did in the second workshop was about tying an abstract idea to something concrete - the latter being an animal. Cameron did a whole book of these in The Zoo In You. My immediate idea was this one here, and I'm quite happy with how it turned out. Hope you enjoy :)

Click And Swoop
I glance over the terrifying drop.
Suddenly, I hear a swoop and a click near my ear -
A magpie has made it clear that I shouldn't be here.
I'm in amongst a group I don't really know.
I see a magpie - and I duck my head down;
Perhaps he won't see me if I can't see him now.
I walk up to her door, I raise my hand to knock -
Was that a magpie? I don't wait to find out.
I run back down the path - it would have hit me, I don't doubt.
Fear is a magpie.
And if you let it have control, 
Pretty soon you can't get anywhere
Near his tree, when the magpie is on patrol.

Writings From Beyond #3 - Master Of Motion

In the second workshop, we focussed in on animals. We had to think of our three favourite animals - and order them - and then write about one of them, in a particular way; he had us go through a bit of an imagination exercise first. Then it was the burst writing first, this time. Again, it's more narrative, and I'm not a big fan of it; the turn was again quite difficult. I don't think this is as good a one as the other bit of burst writing, but it has some nice moments. I know it ends quite suddenly - I ran out of time, and that was the line I needed to end it on, but didn't know quite how to get it there. The imagining was feeling yourself become the animal, and then moving as the animal, and then facing a challenge, and then seeing yourself in the mirror, and the animal speaking a line to you - that last line was that line, and it's something I really wanted to use. But yeah.

Master Of Motion
The water streamlines past. I am the master of motion; there is no wasted movement, no clumsiness. Everything is sleek and perfect. Where my bottlenose turns, so do I. I move my tail up and down, and I burst out of the water in a graceful arc. As I come back down, I notice something - is that my brother? No, the fins aren't right. This one isn't from my family. I challenge them, but they are not deterred - so I charge at them! They don't turn away, but instead charge at me as well - we get so close, and then SLAM! My bottlenose crumples and my body spins into some invisible wall. I don't understand. What is this? I am hurting, but more confused than anything. I am meant to be free.

Writings From Beyond #2: The Echo

This is the second in a series of writings I did at Beyond Festival in Cameron Semmens' workshops. In this one, we did a burst of writing, and were encouraged to explore the different senses, as well as talking about an issue in the world of today. I think the idea that I got was reasonable, but I struggled with finding a reasonable turn (point where it changes and surprises you, like the 'colour wars' in the previous poem). I did manage to get one in there, and I think it's okay - but this is more narrative, not poetry as such. Hope you enjoy :)

The Echo
The turn of the jailer's jangling keys reminds me of that echoing gunshot that reverberated through my whole life. He smelt bad - it had obviously been raining outside, but those brown stains from his shoes clearly weren't just mud. His squelchy, heavy footprints came closer, until I could almost feel the humidity coming off his soaked dark clothes. He says it's time. I turn to my little brother, and tell him that I'll see him again soon. Will it be soon? I don't even know. I hug him for the last time. I make it a good one - people call them bear hugs, but I must have been more boa constrictor. Too quickly, the jailer steps in. And takes my brother away.
I can still hear the echo. 

Writings from Beyond #1: Which Colour?

I was at Beyond Festival over the weekend, and was fortunate enough to have some time in a couple of workshops with Cameron Semmens. If you haven't heard of him, look him up! He's a great performance poet, and in each workshop he took us through a few different things to get some writing happening. The first one was around several key things to remember when writing, which he talked about a bit, but I'll just list here:

  • Be invitational, not confrontational
  • Ask good questions, rather than giving answers
  • RE-humanising, not DE-humanising
  • Raw + personal + honest, not preachy + idealised
  • Light touch, not sledgehammer
  • Metaphors, not commands
And then we did some writing, keeping in mind those ideas, but particularly looking at the idea of just using questions. You can read that one below. There's a few other bits of writing that I did in the workshops, and I'll be posting them all up in quick succession! This one I rather like, and I hope you enjoy it too :)

Which Colour
Why do people not like grey skies, when it makes everything more green? Or do people just not like green?
Why do people like one colour more than another? Is my colour better than yours? Are we going to have colour wars?
Would you fight with balloons of coloured powder, or super soakers that spray colour everywhere?
Do all colours fade - or do some get brighter? Which colour are you?

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Scraping By.

I currently have $20 to my name. Check that, $15, because I decided to spoil myself with a hot chocolate. Or at least, when rent goes through at some point today. Thankfully, I'm getting paid tomorrow. Unfortunately, most of that money is already going to vanish to pay for something else I'm working on.

For the last few weeks, I've been living pretty close to being bankrupt a number of times. If you've been keeping up to date on Facebook, you'll be aware that I currently have no car. As much as I enjoy not having to deal with having a car any more (I seriously hate cars), it makes it rather difficult to get work - and I have enough difficulty normally. Not being strong, not being fast, and not being able to sell stuff takes out trades, hospitality, and retail straight away. That's probably 80% of casual jobs or something. Yeah. But I've probably ranted about that before at some point. 

Regardless, money isn't being fun for me right now. Thankfully, I don't tend to spend that much, so I can get by okay. I don't really go out much, I don't drink, and since I moved out I've gone vegetarian. So that all helps. 

There's been a lot that God's been doing this year. He's given me lots of challenges, but lots of opportunities as well. I had the album launch recently; I've gotten bits of work here and there that I've been enjoying; the internship has given me lots of space to help my church do what it does even better. And I've got no clue what he's got planned for next year, but I think it's going to be big.

But right now, I'm not seeing how I'm going to even get there. Financially, short of something big coming through, I'm going to be in debt before long. Emotionally, I'm swinging between being relaxed and being a wreck. Spiritually - I'm having major difficulties in trusting that God is going to get me through this. I believe that he will, somehow. But I don't know what state I'll be in when he does.

I've shared a couple of videos recently, talking about how the opposite of addiction is connection. Well right now, there's a lot of times I'm struggling to find or see that connection. All too often, it seems to exist more in theory than in practice. And that's hard. 

I don't really have a nice one-liner to end this on, folks. I guess we'll see what happens. 

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Thoughts on Money and Work.

Warning: rant approaching.

The world does not take kindly to creative people, in general. It doesn't have time for dreamers, for idealists, for those who want to follow their passion. You wouldn't think that, of course. Because the movies, the media, always says that that's what we should do. Follow your dreams, follow your passions! Pursue those crazy ideas!

Oh, need money. You need money. You cannot survive without money. We have made it so that you cannot do anything without money.

People can have a perfect idea of what they want to do with their life. They can have a dream about what they want to do; know exactly how it is they could do it; have a plan for how they want to spend their time; but they're not able to, because of how money works in this world. The number of people that you have that dreamed of doing one thing, but then ended up doing something else - is just way too many.

And really, this isn't just a problem for creatives. It's probably especially a problem there, but it applies across to so many other fields. And it begs the question: would a society without money work? Are there jobs that people just would never do if they weren't paid for it; are there people that are so greedy that they would never let it become possible? Or does it just seem too much like socialism, or communism, or head-in-the-clouds thinking, and people will just be against it from the start?

For my part, I think that it should work. And that it could work. But whether it would....perhaps we have gone too long like this. Time will tell.


Friday, 2 September 2016

Pushing On.

I haven't been posting much - at all - over these last few months. And it hasn't been for lack of time - I've been having a fair few days free here and there - and neither has it been for lack of things to talk about; there's been rather a lot. Unfortunately, I've been really struggling with self-motivation this year in general - guess that's what happens when you move out! Does make it harder. The fact that I've got a decent helping of Nine in me probably doesn't help. (Enneagram reference. Yay!)

But yes, there's been rather a lot happening. Work has been all over the place; I finished up at Koorong, started doing a few other casual jobs - but then my car decided to pack it in. Or, rather, I had a crash. Thankfully, everyone was okay, though my car looks like it had a run-in with the Incredible Hulk. Getting to different jobs without a car has been markedly more difficult; even getting to church or the shops can be an issue. It just takes a lot more time out of my day. I don't mind walking - I actually rather like it - it just takes a lot of time. I've started to look around for other work that's either more easy to get to by public transport, or that I can just do online, but not too much luck yet.

To compound that, money is a bit of an issue at present - I thought I'd be okay with the jobs I've gotten, but the problem is that I haven't had a shift yet at one, and another is project-based; so it pays me half at the beginning, and half at the end. Wouldn't be a big deal, but our schedules seem to not line up well, which means that the end of the project seems to keep getting further away. Since I'm under 25, I have to pay the age excess on top of the normal excess to insurance, so it's a fair bit of money that's coming out of my pocket each week - and not nearly as much going in. So I'm trying to find a job quickly to even out the balance, without going back to jobs that I'm neither good at or passionate about, which is why I finished up at Koorong.

Just to make things a bit more interesting, God's given me a bit of a challenge. I talked about it a bit in this video. Essentially, at the end of this year, I'm taking a week away somewhere - I really don't know where - to re-focus and start with a bit of a clean slate. And then just asking God where he wants me, what he wants me to be doing and focussing on - because I've really stretched myself thin, and it shows in a lot of ways. So starting from scratch, finishing up with everything I'm doing, and going in to a new season. I have no idea what that will look like. But we'll see when we get there.

We do have to get there first, though. The end of the year is still four months away, including this one. And for me, I know that each day has been hard and challenging in different ways. Sometimes, because of loneliness; others because of worry, or fear; sometimes temptation; and sometimes, like I said before, dealing with my lack of self-motivation. It makes everything harder, really.

But I keep pushing on, because I know that God is with me, and helping me to get through. I don't really know how he's going to make everything work. And it's quite possible that not all of it will. I don't know. But I trust that he's going to get me through, one way or another. However long it takes.

Friday, 26 August 2016

What is life?

This time, you won't find the blog post here. Rather, I'm going to do a bit of a redirect, to a new site that I'm working on, called Crux.

The post is centred around a simple, but important, question: what is life? You can find a link to it right here.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Politics: what *should* it look like?

These days, it seems that pretty much everyone is tired of politics. Tired of the Devil's Fork to choose between, tired of things not happening - or the wrong things happening - tired of people spending too much time on things that should be simple, and tired of the ever-increasing length of ballot paper.

Here in Australia, we run under what's commonly referred to as a democratic system. Technically, however, it's actually a democratically-elected oligarchy (oligarchy meaning "rule by the few"; notably different to aristocracy, which is "rule by the rich"). This means that everyone gets together and votes for a select group of people to act on their behalf; rather than everybody voting and discussing and having authoritative power on every decision, because that's rather hard to do in a country of any reasonable size. And the prevailing modern Westernised opinion has been that all democracy is good; anything else (for example, monarchy, autocracy, socialism, communism, etc.) is regarded as generally bad. At this point, however, I'd like to put a good ol' spanner in the works. 

Recently, we've seen rather stunning evidence that national votes on important issues can lead to rather disastrous results (see: #brexit). Similar patterns - though not quite as large-scale - have been seen or predicted elsewhere, as well. It's the general idea - which isn't particularly new or strange - that while individual people can be quite smart and sensible, large groups can often display the opposite (unless the group is skewed, of course; talking here about a random selection across the population).

But then, what happens to this idea of representative democracy (which America seems to call republic, even though that's actually not quite the same)? Well, it rather falls a little short of where Western society seems to hold it up. But by the same token, we intrinsically distrust leadership by one person alone, whatever they're called - we too easily see the faults and failings in the individual. And yet, time and again, it has been the individual that has brought great change; sometimes for the better, and of course, sometimes for the worse. So the problem becomes: how do you choose the right person? Or, what does the right person even look like? Which qualities are most important? Courage? Vision? Innovation? Wisdom? Moral character? Experience? Trustworthiness? Or perhaps the old system is better: rather than trying to find these things in someone, choosing someone earlier in their years and training them in these things. 

Perhaps there is no 'best' way, though; like as not, each has as many flaws and failings as the next.
What do you think? What would you like politics, or government, to look like?

Sunday, 12 June 2016

The Second Act: Yeah, I See You.


Yesterday I went to see Now You See Me 2, alternatively titled The Second Act. I was quite a fan of the first one, so I went in with high hopes. I must admit, I was a little disappointed. But there were some good points - so I'll focus on these first.

I loved the continuation of the Lionel Shrike story, and bringing back in a focus on relationship, and giving a nice twist to Thaddeus Pike. I probably should have seen that one coming, given how it was twisted similarly to the reveal at the end of the first one. There was also a bit of fun in seeing more tricks again from The Horsemen, as well as ones from other players. It was also nice to see the scope expanded a little - but I got the feeling that it wasn't necessarily done intentionally. Here we get into the negative.

The film starts in the US, like the first, but then spends a lot of time in Macau (part of China), before finishing off in London. In some senses, this seems a little strange. They try to explain it away with lines like, "One of the oldest magic stores is in Macau," and "the Eye has a lot of history here," but it still feels like they're just there perhaps because it was cheaper to shoot, though that's not something I've researched. I also found Daniel Radcliffe's character a bit strange; or perhaps I'm still just not used to him doing other roles than Harry Potter. But I saw him as very over the top, and cheesy. The new Horseman that was brought in did an okay job - and they did do a good job of looking at how she worked, or didn't work, into the group - but it did feel a bit strange with her there so suddenly. (Though, admittedly, what else are they going to do?) The Eye also felt like rather a let down, though there is a suggestion that something could come up for a third movie - but that's if they can get enough support to make one. The twin idea was also a little strange, but they pulled it off okay.

The most annoying thing for me, though, was that I was able to see how they did a lot of the tricks straight up. As soon as I saw the rain, I thought that it was probably a rain machine. As soon as I saw the twin bumping into a 'hobo', I knew that that would actually be someone. As soon as they got to the 'hangar' and they were having lights shone in their eyes and the like when they were getting on the plane, I knew that it was just a more elaborate version of what had already been done to the Horsemen with the two different tunnels, and that they weren't really getting thrown off the plane. Maybe it was just me, maybe some other people noticed these as well.

So while I enjoyed some things about the movie, and had fun with it overall - I was a little disappointed by it. What did you think? I'd love to hear!

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Open Letter to the Australian Leadership OR Bowls and Boats

This is a fruit bowl.
I call it a fruit bowl because I put fruit in it.
For example, at the moment there are apples and pears in there.
I happen to be also rather fond of avocados, but their fruit status is rather more complex.
By botanical definition, they are a fruit. 
But my tastebuds protest that they are vegetable.
So should they be allowed to reside in the fruit bowl or not?
I tend to put them in there.
After all, it’s only called a fruit bowl because I usually put fruit in it.
But it’s really just a bowl.
And I could put anything in if I wanted to, if it wasn’t too big.

There are only ever two arguments made against taking in refugees and asylum seekers that ever seem to stand with people.
The first is against the people themselves; fears surrounding their reasons for coming here, whether they are actually terrorists, and if they’re actually genuine.
The second is that the country can’t sustain the influx of that number of people; there isn’t the infrastructure, or the economy, or the space, or something similar.

In regards to the first; we can be wary of putting avocados in with apples and pears.
But really, we just need to see that it is just a bowl, and it is we who have defined it as solely a fruit bowl.
Refugees and asylum seekers are first, human.
As are we.
Could there be terrorists among them?
There could also be terrorists among us.
But if we let that fear control what we do, then they have actually succeeded in their purpose.
That doesn’t mean that we do nothing; but we have other means of finding terrorists and other threats than just stopping people coming in.
This is a brute force method, rather than a targeted strategy.
And it’s not helpful.
Particularly not for these mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters that come to us.
Hurting, and in pain, and asking for help.
If we respond by turning away, then this just shows the world who we truly are.
We are working against humanity.

In regards to the second; yes, the bowl is only so big.
And yes, if you try and fit an elephant into that bowl, it will not work.
The bowl will probably break.
But we are one of the biggest bowls there is.
We have “boundless plains to share,” and yet we seem to be worried about running out of space.
This seems rather strange.
Yes, it will be hard.
But people are willing to make it work.
People are clamouring to be able to help.
Volunteering their time, their homes, their money, their energy and resources.
It might involve more of an investment than you would like.
But this is an investment into humanity.
And into our country.
And into the future.
I think that’s worth it.
And so do rather a lot of others.
Why don’t you?

*NB: I’m sorry if anyone is offended by the analogy used, or at being compared to an apple, pear, or avocado. I happen to be rather fond of each of them. And no, I don’t think we are as different as apples and avocados. But from some of the talk, you’d think that other people do.

Monday, 9 May 2016


Hello again! Hopefully, I'll be able to start posting on here every now and then a bit more regularly - trimester has just finished, so I've got a little bit of time where study is behind me. Which is nice :)

I wanted to post up on here about a bit of a challenge that God has put to me. Well, God through a good friend.

Long-time readers, and those who know me well, know that in many things I can be ruled quite strongly by my heart. In part, perhaps this is a reaction to a time when I tended to be much more dominated by my head - but whyever it is, that's what I've experienced. Particularly, of course, when you start talking about romance and the like. (Yay for being a Four!)

One result of this is that I'd pretty much follow my heart without question when it came to romance. Which, you know, would seem to make sense on many levels. It certainly made more sense to me than following my head, and having a list that people had to fit to before they'd be okay. But it meant that I often ended up chasing after a relationship in itself, which is a problem. Because that's something that God needs to fill. You can find the most beautiful person in the world (and there are plenty of beautiful people), the most loving and caring person in the world, and they won't fill our heart's desire for relationship. Only God can do that. My head knew that, but my heart was being rather stubborn in catching up and getting with the program. To the point where it was chasing after relationship to avoid the hurt of relationship not working out, at times.

So I was challenged to change the game. To take an intentional period where I'm not chasing after anyone, or after any relationship but the one that I have with God. I reflected on it a bit, and it didn't take much reflection for my heart to get very grumpy about the idea, balk against it a lot, and generally dismiss it as not good. Which was enough reason for me to see that it was something that I really, really needed to do. So I made the call. I started about four weeks back, and I'm going until at least the end of the year. The 'at least' is so that I can reflect on it then, and if my heart's still out of whack, I keep going until it plays ball. And also so it's more tricky for my heart to just wait for that end time and focus on then, because there's not necessarily a specific end time.

You may or may not have seen me wearing this over the past little while. It's a little reminder to me of my commitment, this season that I'm in. Originally the thought was to do a purple and green band as an alliterative reminder - purple for patience and green for God - but it was too finicky and didn't really work. So I've used this instead, and I remember something a little bit different.

I remember that if I want, one day, to be tied to someone else, that I first need to be tied to God. The image that comes to mind is that of an old sailing ship in a big storm. The waves are getting bigger and bigger, and it gets to the point that the captain knows he can't do anything. "Tie yourselves down!" he shouts. Now, if at this point you tie yourself to someone else, this is going to accomplish next to nothing. It just means you'll be thrown overboard together. You first need to tie yourself to something more sturdy - like the mast. If you do this, then you will weather the storm together. Otherwise, you will be lucky to survive.

I think the same is true in relationships, and in marriage. If we - if I - look first to trying to make a relationship work with someone else, then sure, a relationship might happen. But it ultimately won't last if I haven't first put the time into making sure that my relationship with God is healthy; that I'm drawing my love, identity, belonging from him, not from whoever I'm pursuing. I need to be tied to God first; and then, when I am tied to someone else, I know that that tie will be so much more enduring and sturdy, and will stand true through what comes in life.

Already, my heart is putting up one heck of a fight, and throwing everything it can at me to give it up. Depression is an old favourite, as are shame and guilt. So if I'm not looking fantastic, this might be why! But I know how important this is, and how crucial it is to get this right. My heart can have a temper tantrum all it likes, I'm in for the long haul.

I'm posting this for a few reasons. Firstly, accountability. The more secret something is, the easier it is to change it or get rid of it. But if I make it more public, then it becomes a lot more concrete. Secondly, support - because I'm darn well going to need it. I've already had some of my worst days in a long time over this period, particularly in terms of depression, but thankfully they've been and gone pretty quick. Thirdly, as a bit of encouragement to others. I don't pretend to have it all worked out, but I hope that in my process of working things out, people can find a thing or two that help them in their life as well. :)

Saturday, 23 April 2016

World Autism Awareness Day talk

Hey folks! Again, been a while. Not long ago I did a talk at an event my family does each year, a high tea to raise funds for down syndrome, and also to raise awareness. But this year, they also did it to raise awareness for autism, and that's what I spoke on. I had a lot of people telling me that the talk was really good, so I thought I'd put it up here with the various links and videos that I used. Hope you find it helpful!

Hello everyone. My name is Brendan - chances are you already know me - and I’m part of the Raymond family. As you’re probably aware, this year we’ve decided to expand today to include not just Down Syndrome, but also Autism. This was a very intentional decision, made because - well, it runs in the family. But also, more and more in today’s world, we’re seeing it pop up and become increasingly common. So it’s good to actually understand it a little.

Initially, though, a couple of disclaimers. Firstly, my experience and knowledge mainly centres around high-functioning autism, or what was known as Asperger’s Syndrome. My knowledge and experience of low-functioning or classic autism is fairly limited - I’m hoping that I’ll be able to cover both in what I say, but chances are there will be more of the former.
Secondly, we found out about autism in about 2012. By that time, I was nearly twenty. When we went to the psychologist, he essentially said that I probably had Asperger’s in the past, and I still thought in much the same way, but I didn’t really have it any more. So that’s me.

For those who are completely in the dark about what autism, Asperger’s, or any of this means, I’ll give you a quick run down.
The big umbrella term they’ve come up with is Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. That covers classic Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, as well as a couple of others that I really don’t know much about.
“In simple terms, autism occurs when a child has trouble communicating and understanding what people think and feel. This makes it very difficult for autistic children to respond to gestures, facial expressions, touch and even language.”

People with ASD can:
  • Be oversensitive or undersensitive to particularly sensory material (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste)
  • Have repetitive body movements
  • Avoid eye contact
  • Display strong attachment to particular objects
  • Be resistant to even small changes in routine; things need to be the same
  • Be oversensitive or undersensitive to physical touch

There is a lot more than that to it, but that’s some of the main thrust of it. One of the main differences between classic autism and Asperger’s is that autistic people often have developmental delays and difficulties with language; whereas Aspies don’t, and may well excel mentally, but still have difficulties emotionally and socially.

As a note - the last estimate for how common autism was in Australia was about 1 in 100. In America, they think it’s closer to 1 in 70. And if you’re wondering, those numbers are a lot higher than they used to be. And we see that reflected a lot in popular culture - how many TV shows or movies are now centred around this idea of an incredibly smart person who solves the puzzle through their massive brain power, but seems very crazy and just doesn’t get along with people too well? Sherlock Holmes is the classic example, but there are many others. The Mentalist, Bones, The Finder, The Imitation Game, Lie To Me, The Big Bang Theory - even characters like The Doctor, or Spock, can be seen as having traits common to autism or Asperger’s. The nerd is the word, people!

But I want to get rid of some common ideas that people have about autism, or Asperger’s.

Vaccines cause Asperger’s.
This is possibly the most damaging myth that has ever been circulated about autism, or Asperger’s. It started about 18 years ago, with a guy called Andrew Wakefield, who published an article in an English medical journal talking about a link between autism and the Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine. But there was an investigation into it, and they figured out that he made up a lot of the data, and was also getting a bit of money on the side for some of the things he was doing. His paper was retracted and his medical license was taken away, but the damage was already done. These days, because of the people that are against vaccinations, we’re starting to see a resurgence in some diseases that had been basically eradicated before.
At the moment, scientists aren’t exactly sure what causes autism. They know it has a lot to do with how the brain grows and matures, and it also has a strong link to genetics. But more than that, they’re still trying to figure it out. But it’s not about vaccines! If you’d like to know more about this, after today, I’ll be putting a link up on the event page and on my profile that links to a comic that talks about this really well.
(Or you can just find the link below.)

Autism only effects males.
This one is pretty common as well. The thing is, it effects more men and boys than it does women and girls, but there are still plenty of girls on the spectrum. The struggle is, a lot of the time they’re better at hiding it! So they can be very much under-represented by the statistics and the numbers. It can also effect boys and girls very differently, and people are more used to how it effects guys, and so recognise it more. But it does also effect females, and we’re getting better at seeing it.

People with autism are emotionless.
Now, I’ve talked about a lot of fairly recent references to autism or Asperger’s in film and TV. But I want to use here an example that isn’t typically connected to either of these, that’s a little bit older. But I think it’s actually a classic example. And I also think it’s something that you’ll know well. 
(The link is below. If you want you can watch all of it, but I just showed it from the 2:47 mark.)
Andy Dufresne. Convicted by the court of murdering his wife and another man she was in bed with. And his face….was expressionless. You didn’t see any emotion there. “You strike me as a particularly icy and remorseless man, Mister Dufresne. It chills my blood just to look at you.”
Aspies and autistic people are not without emotion. Where they can struggle is with understanding emotion, communicating emotion, showing emotion - but that doesn’t mean that they don’t feel anything. It can mean that they don’t understand what they feel, or they don’t show what they feel, or they don’t say what they feel - but that doesn’t mean that they don’t feel.
(Since doing this talk, I've actually watched through The Shawshank Redemption again, and found another great scene that speaks to this as well - it's right near the end, where Andy has just finished his massive time in solitary, and he and Red are talking, sitting down against a wall. Andy talks about how his wife said that he was a hard man to know, and he feels that he drove her away. Another interesting point.)

All autistics are savants.
Often, in these TV shows and movies, these people have ridiculous mental abilities that almost seem supernatural. Whether it’s incredible memory, or powers of deduction and analysis - and that’s what we hear about in the news as well. People creating these incredible works of art from memory, or sitting down at a piano and being able to play anything, or knowing a hundred languages. But savant autism is actually extremely rare, and the exception rather than the norm. This does not mean that many autistic people are not very talented - but being a savant is a very extreme version of this, that is the exception rather than the rule. Here again, I love looking at Andy Dufresne, because he’s not particularly exceptional in how he’s depicted. And I actually really encourage you to go back and watch The Shawshank Redemption sometime, and see if you can spot the little indicators here and there.

I’d like to end by looking at another video. I think a lot of the time, parents of Asperger kids, or autistic kids - or even adults on the spectrum, can worry about something. And with ASD, the main worry isn’t work. I mean, that is an issue, particularly with classic autism, but I don’t think it’s the main issue. The main issue that people can worry about, I think, is relationships. How they’re going to relate to friends, people at work, even their own family - whether a romantic relationship will ever work out for them. Social interaction, and emotional communication are one of the biggest obstacles for people on the spectrum. And you really don’t have to look very far on the internet to find a lot of examples of people who have been or are in a relationship with someone on the spectrum who are finding it really, really, hard. And it is, I’m not going to cotton-wool it. It is hard, and it is difficult. But it can work.

Living with autism can be hard. So can living with someone with autism - feel free to ask any of the girls in my family, I’m sure they’ll have lots of stories for you! But just like anyone else - these people have something to offer. They have gifts, strengths, weaknesses, challenges. They’re people. Different people - both different from each other and from everyone else - but still people.

And that’s what I want you to remember.