Thursday, 26 November 2009


Over the September mid-semester break, I went to the National Student Leadership Forum on faith and values. I was nominated by my college principal (and most flattered to be). I’m not entirely sure how I convinced my father to let me go, being that the whole “faith and values” stipulation, not to mention the fact that it is based on the idea of “servant leadership,” inspired by Jesus Christ, no less, made it sound like a bit of a Christian camp sponsored by the government, but the subsidy from the college probably helped. In any case, I’m extremely grateful I went – it was an incredible experience, and most rewarding.

The Forum consisted of keynote speakers at every meal, a variety of graces from different religions, much discussion about what it means to be a leader, our personal values, time in Parliament listening to speeches by K Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull (leader of the Opposition) about their own faith, community service, a Bollywood bling-themed party (complete with dancers trying to teach us how to shake them hips) and small, tight-knit groups, with whom we did, shared and ruminated everything. I was skeptical, I’ll admit, of the so-called “bond” we’d form , but we had so much fun (our community service was a “random act of kindness,” so we washed people’s windscreens for free at a service station) and I’ve kept in touch with almost all of them since, which is fantastic. The whole experience was invigorating; it made me remember what I want to do with my life: help people. Three speeches stand out in my mind. Two of them were by businessmen-made-charitable entrepreneurs, who espoused that it is OK to make money, because money is necessary in order to implement widespread and meaningful change. The third was a man called Dave Andrews, who devoted his life to changing other people’s. He opened up his house to the mentally ill and homeless; he moved to India at some stage to do the same, and was there when Mahama Gandhi’s wife was killed and got caught up in the riots. And he articulated some truths that can sit a little too close to home. He talked about various time in his life when he’d come to the rescue of others, or tried, and been beaten up for his efforts. He explained that “every act of violence is a victory over peace,” whereby inaction can be just as bad as action – to sit by while someone is suffering is just as bad as those who inflict it. Such compassion is rare, infectious and heartening.

One of the things it has made me think about, then and now, is my faith. If you’ve followed me even for a little while, you probably know that I’m a “raging atheist” (as Pepito puts it, so nicely.) But when it came my turn to share my story in our small group discussions I realised something. Just because I’m an atheist, doesn’t mean I’ve of “no faith,” as is the PC phrase. It just means my faith isn’t in some higher being; it’s in humanity. I still don’t whether I believe people are inherently good – I want to, but I don’t know if I can* – but I believe in the ability of people to make good, and that good will overcome. Which stems from or feeds my optimism that all will work out in the end. I resent the implication that I don’t believe in anything. Why does faith have to be religious?

I was talking this over with my friend K last week, and she raised an interesting point about religion (she, too, is an atheist, not that it makes a difference.) We were talking about religion, and whether the hope it provides, and the attempts at providing a guideline for morality justify it (in all its prejudice and discrimination) and she raised the question about morality for morality’s sake. That is, shouldn’t people want to do good because it is the right thing to do? Not for the sake of some afterlife, or greater power?

I was watching something the other day and I can’t remember what it was – it might have been John Safron, or it might have been a movie – and someone said “religion starts wars,” to which someone replied “no it doesn’t, it’s just an excuse, it’s not the cause.” Or something like that, I’m paraphrasing.



*Do people have a redeeming feature? I remember skimming through The Glass House, a thoroughly depressing but very engaging memoir. The young girl who writes and narrates the story asks how her mother can believe all people have good in them. What about Hitler, she says. Well, the mother answers, Hitler was good to his dogs.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Do It - I Dare You

You must spend the entire day in costume and character. The only rule is that you cannot actually tell anyone that you are a time traveler. Other than that, anything's game.

There are three possible options:

1) UTOPIAN/CLICHE FUTURE - "If the Future did a documentary of the last fifty years, this is how badly the reenactors would dress." Think Star Trek: TNG or the Time Travelers from Hob. Ever see how the society in Futurama sees the 20th century? Run with it. Your job is to dress with moderately anachronistic clothing and speak in slang from varying decades. Here are some good starters:

- Greet people by referring to things that don't yet exist or haven't existed for a long time. Example: "Have you penetrated the atmosphere lately?" "What spectrum will today's broadcast be in?" and "Your king must be a kindly soul!"

- Show extreme ignorance in operating regular technology. Pay phones should be a complete mystery (try placing the receiver in odd places). Chuckle knowingly at cell phones.

2) DYSTOPIAN FUTURE - This one offers a little more flexibility. It can be any kind of future from Terminator to Freejack. The important thing to remember is dress like a crazy person with armor. Black spray painted football pads, high tech visors, torn up trenchcoats and maybe even some dirt here or there. Remember, dystopian future travelers are very startled that they've gone back in time. Some starters:

- If you go the "prisoner who's escaped the future" try shaving your head and putting a barcode on the back of your neck. Then stagger around and stare at the sky, as if you've never seen it before.

- Walk up to random people and say "WHAT YEAR IS THIS?" and when they tell you, get quiet and then say "Then there's still time!" and run off.

- Stand in front of a statue (any statue, really), fall to your knees, and yell "NOOOOOOOOO"

- Stare at newspaper headlines and look astonished.

- Take some trinket with you (it can be anything really), hand it to some stranger, along with a phone number and say "In thirty years dial this number. You'll know what to do after that." Then slip away.

3) THE PAST - This one is more for beginners. Basically dress in period clothing (preferably Victorian era) and stagger around amazed at everything. Since the culture's set in place already, you have more of a template to work off of. Some pointers:

- Airplanes are terrifying. Also, carry on conversations with televisions for a while.

- Discover and become obsessed with one trivial aspect of technology, like automatic grocery doors. Stay there for hours playing with it.

- Be generally terrified of people who are dressed immodestly compared to your era. Tattoos and shorts on women are especially scary.

And that's it. Remember, the only real rule is staying in character and try to fit in. Never directly admit you're a time traveler, and make really, really bad attempts at keeping a low profile. Naturally, the dystopian future has a little more leeway. And for the record, I've already tried out all of these in real life, in costume. It is so much fun you want to pee yourself.


Mac vs PC


Sunday, 8 November 2009

Me to a T

I've developed a thing for slogan/illustrated tees.

Recent acquisitions include:

Jay Jays, 2 tees for $30

Little Miss Giggles - I've always wanted one of these t-shirts! New York, $US25

Urban Outfitters, $US25 (quite possibly my favourite t-shirt EVER!)

I get lots of comments on this shirt. People are like "Aw, it's Hello Kitty! But wait, she's wearing glasses...why is she wearing glasses? *pause to read* oh...ha ha." Jay Jays, $20