The Art Site

Monday, May 31, 2010

Warning! Christianity - read at your peril.

Church. It's almost old-fashioned - all those musty-smelling school halls with rows of hard, bony school seats, children's artwork tacked carelessly on the walls, dirty little 'facilities' (toilets) and a narrow kitchen to one side of the airy hall.
Amongst all the little one-roomed churches, school-hall churches and house churches, there are the really traditional ones: Anglican buildings that have been around from before the Flood, stained gray blocks of stone with peepings of coloured glass and rose bushes around the entrance. Full of old people.

Then there are the mega-churches, with tens of thousands of members. The kind of arrangement that the little churches can't comprehend.

I've found (in my many years of experience) that the defining characteristics of a church are not the superficialities of the type of building. When you walk into a church for the first time, several things stand out about it.
The people standing around in little, close groups that can exclude you. Random, friendly people coming up to you out of nowhere, taking an interest in you as a fellow christian. Conversations with people where you seem to get to the heart of what matters in christianity and christian living. Obscenely loud music. Unaccompanied singing, or a piano, with a pianist faithfully thumping away the chords. The cups of tea in awful little brown-glass cups, and biscuits. The feeling you get when you know that the people at the church actually care about each other.

What makes people continue to go to church, even though the repetition of going and the regularity (often) of everything done at church could possibly drive any normal person batty?
Going to church is like having your own mini-revival. What the pastor says in his sermons drives home hard, slicing through your self-contentment and apathy. You have no option but to let your attitudes and opinions bend to God's Word. The songs and hymns condemn you for your own lack of concern for God, and your sinful attitudes - but they also make you long to be the person you should be.
After the service, you mix with other christians. It's refreshing, being around people that you love and who love you. Every week, day in and day out, the reality and stresses of life can erode your 'christianity'. Good christian friends will challenge you, encourage you and help you with difficulties.

One last comment about churches. This is something a friend of mine said to me a year or so ago, and I've always remembered it.. It's unique to be in church. There are very few gatherings where people can come whose sole connection with each other is that they have been saved by God.

I love church. What about you? Do you go to church? If you do, what's your church like?
If you don't - why? Please don't let yourself miss out!

- Lydie

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Hey, Ginga

What's the idea of hugging red-haired people?

Apparently we need it, because we get picked on for our red hair so much.
It seems that there are 'people' who torment red heads, merely because they have red hair. Seems similar to the way Black people were sold as slaves because of their skin. Although the persecution against red heads isn't nearly so great, the same valuing system based on superficialities is being used.
Why is it that red heads are picked out for discrimination then?

We're different. Red hair is in the minority category of hair colours.
What's the stereotype of a red-headed person? A calm person who has a fiery temper (to match the hair) when roused, with green hair, ivory skin and freckles.
My theory is that the only reason red-headed people are discriminated against is because they don't conform to everyone else's standard coloured hair. Red hair stands out amongst the blondes, browns, blacks and grays.
Flaming against conformity, with tongues of vividly red curls streaked with strands of gold.

Hugga-Ginga Day came and went and I wasn't hugged.

- Lydie

Friday, May 28, 2010

North & South and Vampires

I don't know what I'm going to write about with this topic of Elizabeth Gaskell's mediocrely famous book. I asked my friend, who's staying with us at the moment, what I should write about - and she came back with the three-word answer. After asking her opinion, I could hardly refuse to comply with it.
...
North & South is aptly named. Margaret Hale, the gallant and resourceful heroine, leaves her home in the sunny South to go to the nasty north of England with her mum and dad - to a manufacturing town called Milton. Milton just doesn't cut it for the family: they've lived in subdued luxury all their lives, and now have to eke out their living by Mr. Hale's job of teaching. They live in a little flat which they can't keep clean (because of all the nasty smoke and grime in Milton that seeps into the house).
Early on they meet a lovely chap who helped them find the bungalow in the first place [Enter Mr. Thornton].

This is Thornton looking fairly civilized. He's a manufacturer, a manager of his own cotton mill.
He pretty much instantly falls for Margaret (the good, beautiful and disdainful heroine), who distinctly dislikes and detests him. [As every good girl ought to do when first aquainted with a tall, dark, mysterious man - who also happens to be a mill owner].
She thinks he's awful: he doesn't care about his workers, and he doesn't act enough like a 'gentleman' to please her. Plus, he's a manufacturer - how could he be gentlemanly? Naturally Margaret's thoughts on the subject cause a little trouble to Thornton, who's a bit obsessed, and says so.
Take a look at this disturbing picture: Mr. Thornton (the tall, dark & necessarily handsome hero) with Margaret Hale - Thornton appears to be smirking, while Margaret's giving him a look that clearly says: "I'm not scared of you."

The book and movie are filled with all sorts of exciting things: lots of politics and philosophy and strikes and death and romance and things like that. It all fits together superbly, despite Gaskell's deathly tendency. If you read the book/watch the movie, you'll understand what I mean.
Despite all the silly satire, I really do love the story. It's beautiful. Please read the book, then tell me what you think of it.
Oh, and I have an idea for Hollywood film-makers. Can you see it? The next blockbuster: "North & South and Vampires."

Mr. Thornton would make an excellent vampire..

- Lydie

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A Discourse on Dystopia

Ooh! I just noticed that the side bar (the only thing of real interest) is back in its proper place, and that the title for the ginger crunch story is no longer at the top of the blog! *Excited* - that said, I'll launch in to tonight's (really, this morning's) entry on Dystopian novels.
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You've heard of them. They're books written at times in history when wars, repressive regimes and depressions are at their most severe; such times produce books that are counter-cultural. They question the structure and mechanics of society by satirizing the consequences of an exaggerated/extreme form of their own society, and of its leaders.
They're so fascinating. The authors have seen and analyzed their societies and have then projected what they believe may happen to the world because of the way societies run. In so many places you can see that things they futuristically wrote have come true - or are coming true..

Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World after visiting America in the 1930s; he was shocked at its prevalent materialism, commercialism and utopia engendering nature. Here's Iron Maiden's version:
What I found out today in reading the introduction of my copy of the book, was that Huxley believed that some sort of world control was necessary in order for the world to continue after WW1 and the Great Depression. Which is a puzzle - how could he write a book like Brave New World, yet believe that some sort of Mustafa Mond control would solve the world's problems?
I don't understand that. Perhaps he entirely disliked the idea of one world leadership yet felt that it was necessary.
It's a great book.

BNW's just a start though. If you wanted to get back to the real basics, you'd have to start with We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin.

This book was written by that guy with the cool Russian name, in the Soviet Union under Stalin.
Fascinatingly, he got away with writing this incredibly anti-communist, anti-Stalinist book - and the Party allowed him to satirize and condemn it; it even paid him to write articles that satirized the Party for one of the magazines.
The pleasant Leon Trotsky was behind the loosening of control over the arts - but it only lasted for a little while.
The book's all about a society embalmed in glass - everything was made of glass. It's similar to 1984 - because George Orwell nicked a lot of ideas from We.

1984 is where 'Big Brother is Watching You' came from. Elementary stuff.
It's a lot darker all the way through, compared to Brave New World's lightness and colour, synthetic-ness and extravagance. 1984 is descriptively gray and more despairing and troubled than BNW. It also seems more real.
Then there's Darkness at Noon. I've never read this book, but apparently Orwell got some ideas from it - particularly in regards to the interrogation scenes. It's about a man who used to work for the Soviet Union, finally getting dobbed in himself for some nefarious activity, then being locked up in virtual isolation. He starts to realize the justice of his sentence when he understands that the people he dobbed in himself had suffered exactly the way he had. Orwell used the interrogation scenes for his character Winston Smith - in his own interrogation by O'Brien.

They're all deeply disturbing, as is the usual product of people who are deeply disturbed themselves. Yevgeny was a creative genius trapped in the U.S.S.R while Stalin was in power; Huxley took psychedelic drugs, and Orwell.. well, anyone who could write 1984 and Animal Farm would have to be slightly messed-up in the brain.
Have you read any of these books? If you have, what did you think of them - do you think they were prophetic in any way? If you haven't, would these kinds of books interest you?

- Lydie

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

7 ways to transform your study life (cliche, much?)

End-of-semester insanity.

That means I'm slowly suffocating in sheets of paper that have bits of information scrawled on them, have a wrist that is starting to 'go' from all the writing and am somewhat anxious about the unthinkable amount of essays, research, exams and tests that I need to do. It's the time of year when you realise that, after all, your world IS university and the grade that you get back.
It's also the time of year when your brain starts distracting you automatically whenever you even anticipate studying. It instantly offers you attractive alternatives as soon as it catches a whiff of the word 'study' or 'homework' or 'research'. Naturally, most things look attractive next to sitting down at a desk for hours at a time, wrangling with some inexplicable essay.
My brain does this to me all the time. It shares close similarities with other brains in being ingeniously creative whenever the need for sustained study asserts itself.
Like checking one's emails, or playing the piano, or making a cup of tea, or reading a book, or.. checking one's emails, etc.
There are certain things that I have found useful when one needs to study. Here they are:

1) Space. A desk, good lighting, a squeaky computer chair, a heater - a room of one's own.

2) Excellent pens. This point must be strenuously stressed: a good pen that glides over sheets of paper without 'scratching' or running out is essential to study output, elegance of note-taking and general satisfactoriness.
The above pens have a dual-role: they contain miniature spy cameras and also ink: if you have the urge to spy on your parents (if you study at home) or on other, unsuspecting students at uni, give these a go. You can find them here.

3) Water. If you want to utilize your brain to maximum potential (something that doesn't happen often in our house) try glugging down a huge glass of freezing cold water before launching into your ridiculous, confusing study. The results are quite amazing: your brain clears as soon as you drink the water.
Tip: have a glass of water perpetually by you when studying, and remember to gulp some down when your thoughts are become foggy.

4) In this atrociously, unbelievably freezing weather, one must be well armed against the cold, the rain and the puddle-glumness. I find wearing a large, green, nicely lined jacket to be entirely satisfactory in keeping out the cold and keeping in the warmth. I would advise you, O discerning Reader, to do something similar..
5) Sleep is another, vital part of being able to process thoughts the next day... *Lyd looks at time guiltily*

6) Tea. Copious amounts. Warming, soothing, brain-relaxing, calming, de-stressing, caffeinated. Lovely. Bergamot-scented, steaming tea, brewed for three minutes and milk added..
.. And just to reinforce my point, here's a Mary Cassatt painting:

6) Make sure you eat well while studying: Don't go eating nasty, toxic gut-rot junk food. Please don't. It's awful stuff - I know, even though I'm guilty for buying the stuff too..
Eat a good breakfast. Like porridge: steamingly hot, raisin-filled, brown sugar meltingly mixed through, with a little milk..

Tip no. 2: if you cook the porridge with milk instead of water, the result will be smooth and milky and really, really addicting.

7) Finally, pray. That is, if you're a christian - (if you're not, I want to know why: there's absolutely nothing better in this life than being a christian. Porridge just doesn't compare) - seriously, all that stress and miserable anxiety and dampness and coldness gets to you at these insane study times. Pray.
Tell God all about it - he says he cares for us and wants to know. It's a major stress-reliever, since we end up realizing that God's actually in control anyway.

- Lydie :)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Introducing Brave Saint Saturn.

What a name, right? I don't quite understand it myself.
The music is excellent. It's "astro-rock" - astronaut rock music. It's a Christian band, based in Denver, Colorado and the theme of most of the songs is isolation, loneliness, desperation and ultimately hope in God's salvation. These themes come out strongly through the concept of robots and astronauts sent out into space...
What I like most about it is perhaps the pain-filled anger and the hope that creeps in towards the end of some of these songs - particularly in this song, Daylight..

I could easily be their biggest fan - but only because so few people actually know about them.
Well, perhaps that's overstating my commitment a little..
Interestingly, this band is the little side kick of another band: Five Iron Frenzy, and is led by the lead singer of that band, Reese Roper. According to Wiki, BSS is the band which took on all the songs that didn't quite fit FIF's style. The Great Wiki says: "the music of Brave Saint Saturn... is fundamentally rooted in synthesizer-bathed post-punk and haunting ballads. The band also describes themselves as being the "supersonic-philharmonic", in reference to their blending of rock music, classical instruments, synthesizers, and beat loops."
I only understand part of that.
What do you think about BSS? Were you aware of its existence? If not, what were your initial impressions?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Rain and Kiwifruit

That title makes me laugh. Sometimes there are these little incidents in my day, and they may have nothing to do with each other, but they just feel blog-worthy. Usually I have to make them blog worthy by describing the scenario in (what I mean to be) a vivid way, so that you can appreciate them for yourself, rather than write me off as a nut-job. (Which I am, and feel free at any time to do so. It could hurt my pride, but don't worry, you'll never kill it off). That said, I'll begin..
...
It was raining today. It does that sometimes: the sky gets all cross and sulky; it covers up all its happy blue mood in a nasty, smoky gray coat, then has a tantrum and throws cold tears everywhere. Sometimes, when it gets really upset, mini-waterfalls start splashing and gurgling in every drain in the city, and pools and puddles grow and get deeper and start spreading out on to the road. Then cyclists can't avoid all the puddles and they get themselves soaked, while cars zoom by, splashing themselves into the grand swimming pool puddles that make walls of water as the tires go through.
That's what happened today.

Slanting rain fell quietly but heavily on the road as the cyclist cycled. Each raindrop that fell on the cyclist exploded noiselessly and absorbed itself into the fabric of the cyclist's coat. The black woolen jacket still kept the cyclist warm, but very gradually and imperceptibly, it got heavier. Thin fabric, most unsuited to wet-weather cycling, encased the cyclist's legs, and quickly the light brown fabric was stained a deep brown with soaked fibers.

Although the cyclist was wearing a sporty red helmet, the cyclist was not wearing a rain-proof coat and hood, and therefore the slanting rain drummed through the helmet and transformed the brave, bouncing hair into strings. The cyclist blinked raindrops from ___ eyes and resolved to wear a rain jacket next time.
...
While writing the above, I felt it was strangely reminiscent of another blog which I used to read. In style, rather than in value. The blogger stopped writing a long time ago, and the unwritten blog became merely a statistic in the ranks of all the other forlorn, unwritten blogs. The writing that happened on the blog was good; it was unique, and powerful in places. More's the pity the blogger stopped writing.
And now, for kiwifruit.

...
Tonight I had a sudden, inexplicable urge to eat kiwifruit. It all started when I walked past the fruit bowl in the hallway..
Hastily, I grabbed one which felt like the perfection-of-ripeness and crept into the kitchen, grabbing a spoon and an oh-so-sharp Swiss knife. It was excellent.

Cutting through the misleadingly nasty, furry, brown, leathery, skin stuff, the vibrant green-streaked, tiny, shiny black seed-embedded fruit with the creamy oval of whiteness in the middle brought me back to my childhood..
When we used to eat kiwifruit for morning tea, and the sharp, burning tang of the kiwifruit left our tongues all raw and prickly-feeling.

One wasn't enough, yet three was almost too much. At around about two-and-a-half kiwifruit your taste buds declare 'no more' and the extra half kiwifruit is almost wasted as you dutifully gulp it down.
I never used to have much of a thing for this national fruit, but now I truly appreciate them.

- Lydie

Sunday, May 23, 2010

thoughts

You might have noticed that strange things are going on in my blog. There's a post title where it shouldn't be, and everything of actual interest (ie. the side bar) is at the very bottom of the page. I don't quite know how it happened - a problem with the html, obviously, and since I'm not flash at reading html (ha! get the pun..) this blog will look kind of weird for a while. Probably until big brother comes back from the U.S. and fixes it up for me. Love you much, big brother.
That said, I'll get on to the real stuff..
...
I've been thinking, recently. It's a habit I'm picking up from somewhere - possibly Uni.
.. About the fact that we talk to ourselves. We all talk to other people a fair amount during the course of the day: share a word or two when we bump into a friend (for me, literally) somewhere, or drink tea with our families, or go out for a coffee with someone. It comes naturally.
But all of the time we're talking to ourselves as well. We create commentaries on events that are happening, on the state of our lives, on what we think of other people; we sift through ideas in our brain, deciding with ourselves what is true and what is false. Sometimes we even argue with ourselves - like an internal version of this picture..
Gotta love Dr. Suess..
This doesn't stop when we're talking to other people either. Perhaps, for the brief time that we're actually talking, we're not talking to ourselves much - it's hard for our brains to multi-task on two similar jobs. But we're incessantly thinking about what we're going to say next, or we'll notice to ourselves things about the other person - be reading their expressions to decide what to say.
The way we talk to ourselves is fascinating as well. It's like talking to a really, really, close friend who knows you extremely well. This friend gives us feedback - they know the best times to pity us, encourage us or boost our self-esteem. They usually know just the right times to make us feel more cheerful, yet can also give us insights into our own character and motives - sometimes alarmingly.

I'm not saying that this person is someone other than ourselves of course. I just find it really strange that we can talk to ourselves at all. It seems odd that your mind has all these different voices - who all sound like you, yet tell you different things: persuade, encourage, pity you or debate with you. How can we debate or talk with ourselves?
It would seem to indicate that we have several people residing within ourselves. I don't like entertaining that thought too long though, it's disturbing. Besides, it's not true.

Despite the bizarreness of it, it's an incredibly useful thing to have, this self-talking. Thinking, I believe it's called.
How much would we get done, or how would we ever know what to think about something if we didn't have different voices telling us different ways to think about things in order to weigh up evidence? How would we know what we believe unless different voices could persuade and convince us to believe certain things?
- Lydie

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Mirrors

It's strange to see your own reflection.

Of course, everyone has knowledge of their appearance, even if some seem to be unaware of the concept of a mirror. But when you look at yourself looking at yourself in a mirror - it can have an odd effect on you. You're suddenly seeing what other people see when they look at you - all the little things that other people could judge you by: messy, frizzy hair that sticks up in strange places; buttons askew, spots, freckles, under-eye circles, smudged makeup. There is a realization that people actually see the outside of you, rather than feeling with you all the thoughts and ideas that you have, which you see as making up your identity - all they have to go on is externals.

But more than that, you see yourself as a whole person - the external that covers the internal you.
Sometimes you re-adjust your perceptions of yourself, of your character by looking at the image of yourself. You wonder whether the image reflected back at you embodies your character - if it is true to who you are. Then (if you're like me) you decide that a lot of what you look like is due to your character anyway - that what you do and how you think evolves your appearance. It accounts for little frown lines on the top ridge of your nose, and the curving crease-lines at the corner of your eyes. The slightly watchful, determined or dreamy look that comes from drooping or widened eyelids.

Like the girl in the above photo, you often compare yourself with other people, or with an ideal of female/male beauty/good looks. If the balance lies in your favour, you feel confident; if not, you stay dissatisfied.

Thoughts?

- Lydie

Friday, May 21, 2010

Discipline

I haven't written for two days. I blame it on my crazy uni schedule of essays due every week for four weeks, but of course it's really my own fault. If I'd been organised, as certain helpful people have pointed out to me, I wouldn't have had to stay up into the wee sma's writing furiously, and I certainly wouldn't have nails that are an inch long.

There are all sorts of good things that result from an organised, disciplined life. For instance, if I slept eight hours every night, I would have a beautiful, glowing complexion and would never suffer from zits. Similarly, if I drank eight glasses of sparkling, clear water each day I would be able to concentrate on my studies better, would never have headaches, and my beautiful, glowing complexion would become more radiant each day.

If I planned to fall asleep at 10:00 pm and woke up at 7:30 am as a natural part of my disciplined, orderly life, I'd soon find that everything that needed to be done in the day would be done efficiently and, most importantly, it would be done. A consequence of this self-discipline would be a complete end to getting to Uni classes late, and would almost certainly entail respect from my classmates.

If I kept my room in a perfect state of equilibrium - with the top of the piano utterly cleared except for a neat stack of hymn books, and with every shelf of books cleared of surplus accessories, if every item that was not desk-related was eliminated from my desk, if there were no hazardous cords tangled on the floor, and if the bunk beds were made up - life would be pleasant and ordered; I would know precisely where each book was on my numbered and categorised bookshelf, and I would never, ever have a problem of spare socks.

If I gave up baking while at Uni and allowed other people to use the kitchen, I would be able to focus exclusively on my studies and I would achieve excellent grades. Similarly, if I didn't allow myself to become weighed down with extra activities other than church bible studies and church sermons, my grade levels would be extraordinarily high.

Life would be a beautiful thing to live if I were able to just have a little self-discipline.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The bizarre connection between wedding dresses and maple fudge

This evening, my friend Emily and I sat around our dining room table, eating warm maple-and-walnut fudge, and looking at wedding dresses.
The reason for the fudge was that she just got engaged, and fudge seemed to be the thing to make to celebrate. The reason for the wedding dress pursuit is quite obvious.

We cracked walnuts, chopped them up and added them to the hot, swirling, maple-syrupy, caramel fudge mixture. There really is something about making this confectionary. Any food preparation is my thing, naturally - unless I'm being forced to cook lumpy, salty mushroom soup, or some other sort of unpleasant concoction.
And any kind of sweet-making has lovely associations: of the good old days when we'd sell toffee apples outside schools and at Kids' Fests - old-school connections.

Yet fudge means more. It is difficult to analyze my special affinity to fudge, but I'll give it a shot. It's really the making of it that makes me all brooding and dreamy - preparing it is visually stimulating I guess. First, you stick all the components in your mums' sturdy iron pot, and set it on low to slowly melt the sugar granules. Then you turn up the heat to gradually caramelize the mixture - and add to it your salt, maple syrup essence, and/or vanilla.

When you're utterly convinced (and you need to be UTTERLY convinced) that the mixture is at the soft-ball stage, you swiftly take your mums' sturdy iron pot off the element and onto a board, and start to beat the mixture with an extremely vintage hand-beater. The kind that all good citizens of our free country know about and use.

Then, when you're sure that the fudge has lost its gloss, and is fairly thick, you rapidly pour it into your (already buttered and lined) vintage fudge tin, where you spread the soft-grained, matte fudge to all the edges. You quickly place it in your fridge, and get down to the serious, complicated work of licking off every bit of fudge you can from all the (many) bits of equipment you've used.
The relationship that fudge and wedding dresses share is this: what better thing to do when looking at wedding dresses (or whenever, and whatever you're doing, actually) than to eat maple-and-walnut fudge, still firming up and slightly warm?

There is only one, minor problem: one's consumption of fudge could lead to problems of not being able to get into the wedding dress.


- Lydie

Ginger. Crunch.

It's Gingery. And it Crunches. Hence, the name.

The top layer - of caramel colour and disposition, is a glace icing cooked with golden syrup, butter, ginger and icing sugar. It sets firm after you've poured it onto the...
Bottom layer - golden brown when you take it out of the oven, and soft. After it's had that icing spooned, and spread over it - and after you've left it on the bench for a while to harden, it literally crunches. These two components naturally complement each other, the one being soft, and the other.. crunching.

This simple, unassuming iced biscuit is pretty much a slice out of New Zealand's history. It's quintessentially an Edmonds recipe, and Edmonds is more New Zealand than New Zealand. Its sweet, buttery simplicity is straight from the days when all good citizens of our free country ate simple fare and liked it.

Let's take another, long look at the non-beautiful yet taste bud-inspiring goodness:

And here's a revolution in ginger-crunch making: pictures in icing..
Mmmmm. Yes, please. Here's a recipe for this incredibly taste-bud stimulating, warm, melting, spicy, buttery deliciousness. Go on, make it. You'll get an incredibly unhealthy addiction.
-Lydie

Monday, May 17, 2010

Of theme songs, sounds and smells

Everyone has a theme song of their lives. What's yours?

Here's mine. It's the one that comes out of me whatever I'm doing - whether I'm scrubbing up the dishes, walking across wet fields in the rain, biking around, or just singing it at the top of my voice in our cul de sac - much to the surprise of our neighbours, no doubt.

This song is integrated with this one.. It's so beautiful, and I love that she's singing about her relationship with God, rather than just another human romance.

On a similar, yet different topic. Everyone has sounds that mean something to them - remind them of home, or are somehow comforting. You must have them. What are they?
For me, it's the popping of the toaster, the little sound the kettle makes as you switch it on, the steaming and rumbling of the kettle as it reaches a boil, the soft, sighing sound a pillow makes when you lie your head down on it, the first drops of rain on the stones on the path outside my room, the rustling of hedgehogs in the leaves outside, the satisfying sound pages make when you turn them to get to the next, gripping page of your book. I could go on. I won't.

Similarly; smells.
Everyone has favourite smells. What are yours? I have two main ones: crackling bacon as it's just beginning to smell delicious, and the hungrifying smell that toast makes when it's starting to burn. But there are others.. when I'm cooking curry, the warm spiciness that just seeps through the entire house, or steaming, fragrant tea, or the dry, aromatic smell of basmati rice, or sniffing an open bottle of vanilla essence (believe me, the smell is amazing if the VE's the real stuff - no chemicals), chocolate brownie when it's cooking, sweet, malty aroma of milo, all hot, with a skin forming and marshmallows plunged in and melting. The sharp-sweet, woodsy, tangy, wild smell of a braeburn when you bite into it.. I could continue, on and on. I won't.

Do tell me what your theme song and favourite sounds and smells are though. :)

- Lydie

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Pine Cone



It's 12:00am, and five minutes ago I didn't have anything to write about. I asked my friend Siminy, who's staying over at the moment, what I should write about; the answer: 'write about that pine cone over there.' Sadly, looks can kill.


The pine cone in question, pointed out to me by Siminy, is a large cone, though not fully opened and raw sienna in colour.
At the moment, it is tilted slightly upwards, resting on a yellow UFO-type gourd, and surrounded by other cones, gourds and curly bean-tree pods. Two environmentally-friendly light bulbs shed light indirectly over the entire arrangement, making the deep recesses of each cone darker, and highlighting the curved tips of each segment.

Curvy and golden, the gourds can be seen between the sharp, conical browns of the cones. The arrangement has been placed in a glazed basket with the lines of smooth, thin willow twisted over each other, disappearing around the edges of what I can see of the arrangement. Warm contrasts of ochre and burnt sienna meld with the pine-green vinyl table cloth, the whole arrangement appealing to the certain inner standard of beauty I have.

These pine cones have fulfilled their purpose in life: They started off young and green and ambitious, then slowly grew, their seeds maturing in the hollows of each of their segments - until finally, the seeds became detachable and the wind took them. Little, pointed oval seeds that had translucent sails, twirling down to the ground. After a while the pine tree would detach the old, de-seeded pine cones from the tree and they would fall, thudding onto a prickly blanket of brown needles.

Their life was over. All was achieved, done. But then, a woman came walking through the pine trees with her daughter, and the two exclaimed over the huge pine cones - lying messily over the grass - and picked them up, filled their arms with them. They drove off to their house, and made them into an arrangement with yellow gourds and bean pods.

- Lydie :)

Thanks, Earl Gray

Ahh, finally I'm writing. It's a quarter-past-two in the morning, and I've just sent off my essay to be checked by my English lecturer (relief) after rearranging for the millionth time the phrasing, spelling and grammar. And so to write - and after that to sleep, to sleep perchance to dream. Aye, there's the rub - for in that sleep of sleeps what dreams may come when I have shuffled off this interminable blog post - will give me pause. There's the tiredness that makes calamity of so long a day.
I better stop there - the fact that I'm writing in the wee sma's is problematic enough without misquoted Shakespeare to boot.
...
About every fifteen minutes in our home, someone or other will request for the kettle to be put on, so that we can have a "nice, hot cup of tea". Humble Earl Gray tea bags have played a central part in our family's long and glorious traditions - nothing says home to me like that demand for tea at all hours of the day.

Tea. It's steamy and has a glowing amber colour when you pour it out of the thick-skinned teapot and into the thin-rimmed tea cups. The smell is slightly bitter, but the softened fragrance of the bergomot (the secret ingredient in EG tea) gives it a comforting smell. As soon as all the tea is sitting in the six cups, trim milk (it has to be trim, because blue milk is both fattening and too milky for tea) is poured in, and the two liquids are stirred. The result is pretty, if you think about it hard enough. The tea stains the milk a warm caramel colour, and as the milk is being mixed through with one of our second-hand silver spoons, it tangles itself in patterns with the tea.

Gingernuts. They were obligatory when it came to drinking tea - back in the old days, that is. In the days when we had morning tea together around the school table, an activity that consisted of cups of tea and gingernuts to be dunked.

Another thing that I connect with tea is visitors. We drink tea with special visitors, because a well-brewed cup of Earl Gray is the polite thing to offer guests, and then to drink in our thick-rimmed flower-splattered tea cups. On such occasions, cake plates of the same flower- splattered variety appear on our green vinyl table cloth, along with cake forks, and a little jug of trim milk. Without fail, there will be cake of some sort, or a slice - arranged just so on a pretty white plate. The visitors are duly impressed, but cover their amazement by saying in diluted tones: "What delicious cake. Did you make it, Michele, or did you buy it?" - then Mum has the well-known experience of saying: "Oh, yes, I did." And the visitors are doubly impressed.
Good conversation ensues when the visitors have demolished the cake and drunk several cups of tea each.

- I have a feeling this post was kind of weird. Blame it on me and the early hours.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Farm, Part 2

I was going to continue yesterday's story where I left off, and talk about how we fought our battles in the Wild Woods - but suddenly realized that I've forgotten how we did it. I know we did go off and and make forts, but I can't remember just how we defended them, or the politics and rules of the battles. What I do remember, is the times we went to the Rotten Willows...

Along down the road from the friends' house were the sheds, where the cows and sheep were kept sometimes, all full of stones and mud and dung. The garage was there, too, with old machinery bits and knives and tools hanging up behind the creaky sliding doors. Beyond the sheds was the guest house, where people stayed sometimes when they wanted to come and see the country, and a real farm. It was just a cottage, really, surrounded by hedges and pine trees and sheep and eucalyptuses, and it was little and snug-looking, with a chimney that smoked. Inside it had an old-fashioned kitchen, and a fireplace, a tiny bookshelf of books with bibles and hymn books and Jane Austen, and in all the rooms were springy mattresses. And that was all there was in that house.

Further down the road was a big old hay shed, which had a tractor sitting in it gathering cobwebs. After the children had gone down the windy, stony road they came at last to the Rotten Willows. Between the wires of the fence, the children climbed into the thick grass-and-buttercups paddock which led on to the willows. Beyond the little bit of grass and gorse and buttercups was the wood. It was called the 'Rotten Willows' because there were so many willows in that paddock, and many of them had fallen over, and funguses were spreading on them. Between the big, old willows, some erect and some horizontal, was tall green grass. In some parts of the wood, the trees had fallen over and there were huge craters of earth that had been made, because the trees had uprooted a lot of that soil when they fell over.

Those trees were pretty in the evening sunlight. Falling sunshine sifted through the thin, green leaves of the willows, making them glow and touching the branches' outlines with tracings of gold.
Finally, after trudging through the mud (because the paddock was marshy), slipping on the damp grass, and dodging fallen trees, the children arrived at the hut. It was a beautiful hut, and very different from the forts they had made in the Wild Woods. In those woods, the children had cut down branches and found sticks and gathered armfuls of pine needles to make their forts strong. This hut was made from a tree that had partly fallen over, but left a big part of the trunk in the ground. The most exciting part was that the trunk was completely hollow, and three people could sit inside if they squeezed. The only real problem, the eldest of the eight children decided, was that there was no roof to this hut, and the elements could do their worst. So the older children of the eight agreed, after serious discussion, that they would each go off to fallen trees and find as many strong, large-pieced bits of bark as they could find, and use it to make a roof for the hut.

That was precisely what they did. The younger children discovered that the long green grass would be a nice thing to sit on if it was picked and spread inside the hut, so they went to the greenest, tallest patches of grass that they could find, and started to pick. It didn't take long for the big children to make the roof - they climbed up the tree and made a network of sticks which they wove the pieces of bark into. Those big children were clever, and brave.
As they worked, they directed the younger ones to keep bringing grass, and some of them would spread it out in the hut so that it covered the lumps and bumps and became soft and comfortable to sit on.
When they had all finished they looked at what they had done. It was a beautiful hut, just perfect for sitting in on a hot day.
Then they went home: they crossed the paddock, crept under the fence, walked down the windy road past the tractor and sheds and garage, and climbed up the hill to have dinner in the big old farmhouse.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

the Farm

Once upon a time there were four children. They all had red hair, except the littlest, Nathan, whose hair was coaly black. And they all loved adventures. In their backyard was the biggest willow tree in the world, and Andrew and Simon, the eldest of the four, climbed up it because they were big and brave and they could do things like that. When they got nearly to the top they could see lots of streets and trees and if they climbed right to the very, very top, they could see the police station and the Port Hills. The youngest two thought their elder brothers were very old and brave, and never climbed to the top of the tree but instead they swung on the rope swing that was tied to one of the branches of the tree.

Those four children loved their willow tree, but what they loved even more was going out to the country, and having wars and battles with their four friends who lived on a farm there. It was a long, long way to the farm, and the children were usually whiny at least some of the time when they were driving there with their parents. Their parents' were called Mum and Dad: Dad drove places in his car and was a teacher and Mum cooked nice food in the kitchen and taught the children how to read and do maths.
There were things that they could do to pass the time while Dad was driving. Everyone's favourite game was 'I Spy', and nobody was grumpy when they were playing that game. The most exciting part of the whole trip was five minutes before they arrived, when everyone tried to spot their friends' house-on-the-hill first.
Simon usually won, because he was smart.

As soon as the four children got to the farm, they unpacked the car and took all the big bags to the different rooms in their friends' house. That farmhouse was really big, and it had a huge, narrow hallway with a bookshelf of all sorts of books for old people, and the carpet was all different colours in diamond shapes. Lydia, one of those four children, would try to step only on the insides of the triangles, not on the edges, when she was walking on that carpet. It looked funny when she did it, but Lydia was like that.

As soon as they had unpacked all the things in the car, and had had a glass of juice and a piece of cake in the big kitchen, the eight children started to plan the wars that they would have. Their parents were talking about grown-up stuff in the lounge with the fire on, so the children went outside. First of all, they took the weapons that they would need from the box outside the house, then they walked all the way down the long, curvy driveway which had hedges all the way along it, and across the sheep paddock at the bottom of the road, and into the Wild Woods.

When they were in the Wild Woods, they could see all the pine needles and pine cones and hills and mushrooms, and it was musty and damp-smelling in those woods. Then they divided into sides. Andrew was always the captain of one army, and Matthew (the oldest boy of the four friends) was the captain of the other army. Andrew's army was always the bad army, and Matthew's army was always the good army. But it didn't matter who was bad and who was good, really, because the reason you have wars is so you can fight in them.
...
to be continued? Up to you.

- Lydie

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lonely Dragon


There's something isolating about being at University. My friend Emily and I were talking about this recently - studying for a degree can entail a kind of loneliness that is similar to solitary confinement.


Biking to, and walking into uni every day is still a strange, semi-isolating experience for me. If I've arrived in time for the lecture, there will be students everywhere, walking down the little paths around the place, talking and laughing with their friends, sitting around drinking coffee, chatting and lounging like they've never heard of the word 'assignment', some of them who you know will be worth millions of dollars some day - faces intent, purposeful, their minds headed in one direction: success. It's strange to be on your own, heading in your own direction - yet not completely feeling that you belong.

There's the fashion aspect. It's unsettling to be surrounded by so many carelessly well-dressed people who wear expensive clothes yet appear to have given their 'look' absolutely no thought. As though they were born into their clothes and accessories, and from that point they've never given it a moment's thought. Their 'style' has morphed from fashion trends and their own taste into something natural - yet unfamiliar. I look down at my own clothes - the ones I gave a moment's thought to before exiting the house that morning: way out of fashion jeans, blue yet fading slightly at the knees, and turned up at the ends - a pro-life top with a "Love Lets Live" message, and a silver cross. I'm sporting a black jacket that hangs loosely over one arm, and am wearing a falling-apart backpack. Although I wouldn't want to be a mirror image of some of these girls, I feel distanced by my set-apartness.

Being at uni means a lot of solitude for most people. I theorize. It's like that for me. I'd say (although I'm a bit of an eccentric) I'm not the only one who feels this creeping loneliness from time to time, merely because of all the solitude that is somehow enforced on us by the nature of what we do.
You do need solitude to think, yet at some point an extended period of solitude can turn into loneliness.. For me, I can be feeling fine with being by myself, studying away on something - then my thoughts turn away from what I'm studying/observations of things - and an awareness of how isolated and alone I am grows on me.

Emily said she'd been having a think about this, and had come up with a theory: that a lot of this loneliness and isolation that we feel is actually based on the selfishness which is ingrained into our student life, and even continued when we are at home. It's a selfishness that builds up when we spend most of our time alone pursuing our own goals - because there is really only one person we need to be concerned and preoccupied with: ourselves. This makes us feel miserable, and that in turn can give us these feelings of loneliness.

Anyway, I'll finish this ridiculously long rant with a quote from Shakespeare's play Coriolanus. Apparently the word 'lonely' was first found here - along with a few other unimportant texts: "Though I go alone, like a lonely dragon..." Act IV Scene 1.
What are your thoughts on loneliness?

- Lydie

Monday, May 10, 2010

Les Mis (erables)


It's an epic book. I'm using that word 'epic' in an almost - literal sense: the book's gargantuan! It has 1,232 pages (or thereabouts, my copy does anyway), and Hugo doesn't scruple to go off on tangents about Waterloo, King Louis the sixteenth (I think it's the sixteenth), Napoleon, the poor, Paris, sewers and convents. To name only a couple of his fascinating, but long-winded commentaries on social issues and politics.

If you want to grow in forbearance, then this is the book for you.

On the other hand, there are moments when Hugo really achieves great things in his writing. His story line is unique - Jean Valjean is a hero in the stricter sense of the world: his heroism comes from his conversion?/transformation at the beginning, where a higher power triumphs over him, and during the rest of the book he does battle with the remnants of his old life. Through this internal battle, he becomes a more visible hero in regard to saving other people.
I just love him. I'm sure he'd have to be no. 1 or 2 in my list of heroes - the list I haven't made. I'm unsure whether the priest, Bienvenu - that man of excellence who helps Valjean initially should have first place or not. He's the epitome of righteousness - and he makes the book a must-read.

Eponine's the heroine of the story I'd say, over Cosette who I can like but not sympathise much with. Here's Cosette with Marius..

.. and here's a picture from a musical of Les Mis - it's of the 1830 revolt, with the men at the barricade.

And on a bizarre note, here's a crazy picture of Javert (the law-abiding, villainous police officer) and Jean Valjean.. I don't think it was supposed to be weird, but it is. Note the odd expressions and wig..

If you want a good, satisfying, never-ending book to read, Les Mis is the answer. Getting to the end is a big achievement, but it's worth it. Honest.

- Lydie

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Stars, and things

This evening mum pointed out to me the scene outside, from where she was sitting by our lounge window. The trees were rigid charcoal outlines, branches curved upwards, and the fence was the dividing point between black earth and darkening sky. The base-line of the sky was a soft apricot colour which blurred into gray-blue. Extending up over the fence was a network of branches belonging to our baby walnut tree, and through them the first star glinted, luminous - situated halfway between the division of sky-colours.

We looked at the view, mum sitting on the couch, me leaning over the back of it, sinking in some of that completeness of a well-made scene. Then Mum called Dad to come and look.
It's interesting, the way we humans are made to appreciate beauty. Seeing something that seems perfect in intricate beauty satisfies us, as well as challenging our perceptions of beauty.

Because these things of beauty - like the open, pink lily standing erect in the vase across from where I'm typing - are beautiful because they are made up of many complicated parts that are united in making one, beautiful picture.
And while we appreciate, and our souls give a sort of inward sigh of pleasure at seeing something beautiful - (doesn't that sound corny, now?) - we see the different parts that make up the whole.

Just like a bunch of flowers (while I'm on the flower theme). ...Like the bunch that's beside my laptop right now, a present Mum got for Mother's Day, has beauty in each individual flower and in the entire display. I feel like I'm stating the obvious but I'll continue anyway- the florist knew that bright pink gerbras and soft, creamy ranunculuses would not go together, and so she chose the green, white and purple colour scheme. Similarly, I know God, like the florist, has excellent taste in creating both flowers with all their parts, and people, so complicated but (sometimes) nice to look upon, and landscapes/views.
Right. That's me for tonight (whoops, early morning!)

- Lydie

p.s. You anonymous people really are mysterious! Love it!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

The Apple

I had no idea of what to write, so I decided to pick an object to write about. The first thing that came to mind was apples (oddly enough). As in, the random-generator part of my brain chose from the millions of things I could have talked about, and somehow alighted on the subject of the Great Apple.

Apples are great. They actually are. In fact, this relatively humble and common fruit plays a big part of our lives. An apple has many purposes; let me list them.

They are the perfect size to slot into the empty space of our lunchboxes, being a rounded, yet oblong shape.
In Autumn, apple picking is a delightful occupation. I remember back in the good old days when Mum would take the four kids along to the local apple orchard - we would bring along stacks of plastic bags and fill them full of the crisp, juicy things. The trees would have lost almost all their leaves by this time, be piling up and caressing the thin tree trunks. There would be apples on the ground, too, that we would try to avoid: some slushy, some bird-pecked, some seemingly perfect, crimson against the brown leaves.
Taking that first bite into the reddest, bloomiest part of the huge apples was the quintessential part of Autumn-season.

When we got home, the back of the car would have big, knobbly bundles of apples - about thirty bags full, which we'd put in a storage unit we had in the yard, and distribute to our friends.
Oh the joy of cooking with apples.
Apples are so unassuming - they are not luxurious like grapes are, they don't have sophisticated, complex personalities like pomegranates, they aren't ethnically superior like dates and figs, and they aren't posh and grown-up like melons.
No. Apples speak of childhood and melting apple pies with spicy cinnamon and dripping cream, of freezing weather in Christchurch, blue skies, auburn leaves, sparkling apple cider, thick duvets and good books.

Apples really do have a lot going for them. The initial bite is the most important, as every experienced Apple-Lover knows. In that first crunch you realise for better or for worse, what you have gotten yourself into by picking that particular apple. It is the first vampirish bite that reveals the nature of the apple: the thickness of the skin, the tangyness, whether the cells of the apple are pushed firmly together, or if the apple is a bit mushy. The sweetness: whether the apple is redeemingly sweet, and whether or not the tangyness complements the sweetness.
These are important things to reckon with when selecting apples to buy: One ought to have a feel for which apples are suitable and which are unworthy.
Braeburns (as every good Appelite knows full well) are among the best of the lot in the apple world. The tangyness reigns supreme while the sweetness aids in rounding the flavour.

So, are you a fellow lover of apples? Did I convince you? Did this post bring back memories..?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Light

Radiant. Dazzling. Bright. Sparkling. Twinkling. Gleaming. Illumination. Phosphorescent. Lambent. Lucent. Lustrous. Scintillant. Shining.

I like words that attempt to capture the elusiveness of light. They are all picture words that describe some part of light's character, and they make a slide show of pictures in your mind when you read through them. The painfully dazzling light of the sun as it falls in the evening, a rose petal, translucent, veins dimly seen, light accentuating its outer rim. Or women's hair: the sheen light makes by highlighting each strand, making the colours glow vividly. Swirling water, half-and-half shadow and sharp light. Points of light that twinkle in people's eyes.

I love light. In paintings I've done I've tried to catch the shimmer of light on a leaf or a rose; light creates life in art. It is maddeningly difficult to do though, and I end up worshipping Monet for the way he made light sparkle, giving light a life of its own in his paintings.

Here are some pictures that light gives meaning to..









...Sigh.

- Lydie

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Streams of Consciousness

The truth: I don't know what to write. I'm sitting here, curled up on the top bunk of the bed in my room. It's 1:01 in the morning and I know I've killed the deadline by an hour, but I also know it doesn't matter, so long as I can get something typed on here. So my brain's skimming through possible concepts and blog-unworthy ideas: the possibilities of writing about isolation at uni, the way women view themselves externally, the cobwebby mysteries of Bronte, fashion and why women put themselves through it, whether a woman's beauty is a man's perception or an extrinsic reality, the idiocy of abortion, loneliness, and baking.

Beware: Stream-of-consciousness begins..
It's past one of the clock. My brain (so useful during the day) is of little help to me now. I really ought to have dreamed up something to write about during the day.
Why do people write, anyway? Why does it matter whether you or I or anyone else on the blogosphere, or in the rest of the literary world, bothers to type out a few vague ideas, a couple of poorly-strung together sentences? There are millions of blogs. Billions of minds that feel the need to express what they feel. But then, what would happen if millions of people suddenly lost the need to express themselves in writing?
Perhaps it would result in a suffocation of readers, who need stimuli to create mutations of ideas in their own minds. After you have read something, much of what you are left with is ideas and concepts.

We are intrinsically social creatures - made that way. I suppose that most of our lives are spent in a certain isolation, all those thoughts locked inside our brains. Only a few of them ever gain expression and the rest are stored away in some compartment of our minds, waiting to be expressed or meditated on someday.

There is something about writing that clears your mind and organizes it. Unless you are writing in a stream of consciousness, you are forcing your brain to order information and see each idea clearly. It is the same for reading: when reading something well-structured your mind accepts information more speedily. Speaking is similar, however it is not so necessary to be accurate when speaking: other people can fill in gaps for you of information they know already.
If we didn't write we would lose a part of what it is to be human.

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Essential Diary writing

Writing a diary is my thing. When something 'big' happens in my life I recourse to my diary to write it all down in an ordered and sometimes even clinical, way.
This isn't just a fad. I was looking through some of my diaries last night, trying to find some book review I'd done. I couldn't find the review, but it was fascinating to read what I'd written about my life and the world when I was 12 - 16 years old.
There are these philosophical and political ideas that are just creeping into my writing - at one stage, in my youthful 16 years I wrote:

"It scares me to think that I will become a mindless bolt in the machinery of the state if I don't literally take a stand against my society. We are not animals but they are indoctrinating our new generation that we are a higher level of apes. What frightens me is that by telling our children that they are animals, they are creating animals. Human beings who were never told that they are made in God's image, that were never taught morals...

Their evil plan is working. Already we live our little autonomous lives in our ignorance and stupidity. Someone irritating person said "Ignorance is bliss". The thing is, bliss doesn't matter if there's no grounding of truth behind it. We need to be real men and women and discover the truth, however painful it is."

Somewhere else, on the subject of mind slavery and conspiracy theories I was cooking up about the government's evil plans:

"Another way to get rid of thinkers or at least cut their numbers is to teach the new generation not to think. Because thinking is dangerous. Keep everyone simple, unified, ignorant, and the result will be Government slaves. Just like 100% tax would be slavery, so a deliberately uninformed mind is slavery. It is a pawn in the Government's game of chess." - 30 September 08'

Do you write a diary? Do you find it helps to organise your thoughts and help you to see events and ideas clearly? Do you write to your diary like Anne Frank, or are your posts to yourself?

- Lydie

Monday, May 03, 2010

On Lord of the Rings, Marshmallows and Hot Chocolate

My brother Nathan and I are reading The Fellowship of the Ring at the moment. Gandalf has just 'died' - fallen into the black abyss of the Mines of Moria with the hideous Belrog. Aragorn has already proved his leadership skills, shouting: "Come! I will lead you now! We must obey his last command. - (which was "Fly, you fools" - Gandalf's gracious parting words) - Follow me!"
The rest of the company are outside the Mines, falling on the ground, weeping and pulling their hair out while the sun shines with obscene brilliance.

We have four days to finish forty pages of the book - wherin, methinks, we shall learn of Lothlorien, the gladsome Galadriel, and her hippy Lord, Celeborn. I dare say we'll hear from Boromir, who up till now has hidden his true feelings of the ring.

Nath and I have a tradition/rite of drinking hot chocolate and devouring marshmallows while reading books by the Great J.R.R. Tolkien.
There isn't anything that one can sip while reading a good book that rivals a steaming mug of cocoa that has marshmallows slowly melting and spreading on top.
Nothing.
Although we've found hot blackcurrant works well if chocolate powder is in limited supply.
And now, the certain somethings you've been waiting to see. Can't have a post on LOTR without including some pictures from the movie..

Here's the ultimate tall, dark, handsome hero: he's also got a sense of humour, natural leadership skills and vast quantities of courage.

As all dark, handsome heroes are apt to do, he doesn't marry the woman he should - the heroic, 'feminist', capable and lovely Eowyn (Miranda Otto in this picture)

Instead he goes for the perfection-of-beauty, Arwen. She's a stunner, but she's also got a very dreamy aura around her that makes me want to shake her back to reality. Aragorn seems to like her though, so I guess the tall, dark, dreamy women have their place.

Here's the tragic protagonist, Frodo Baggins. He's kind of obsessed with the ring, quite similar to Gollom but better looking:

What is it about the Lord of the Rings that you like? Is it chiefly the characters, the story, the vivid imagery, or the concepts? Do you ever read stories aloud to anyone? If you do, do you get into it and try to re-create the different voices?
And one more question: Please guys, I need things to write about. Sometimes I just don't have enough ideas happening, so please fire me some things you'd like me to write about, and I may (or may not!) give it a go! :)

- Lydie

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Sunday, May 02, 2010

The West's Ageing Population - what can we do about it?

Every 'advanced' Western society around the world has a common problem: the number of babies being born are increasingly lessening, while the number of people dying outnumber them in these countries.
So what's the problem?
There are many economic issues that this fact causes - one being that because of the scarcity of young people, there will be many more old people who will retire, then need money from their governments. And where does the money come from? From young people who will be taxed harder because they will be supporting a huge number of old people.

Another is that there will be so few young people, making it necessary for immigration laws in these countries to be slacked, as more youthful workers will be needed to pay for the aged. This causes problems too: while population decreases in the countries these immigrants come to, the immigrants themselves are likely to quickly re-populate the country, helping to cause divisions due to religious differences, cultural rights and diminishing the heritage of the new country they live in.

Here are some greatly disturbing facts from Stats NZ:

"The changing age structure of New Zealand’s population is inextricably linked with

a projected decrease in births and a projected increase in deaths. Births exceeded

deaths by about 30,000 in 2005 (June year), but deaths are projected to outnumber

births from the early 2040s."


the stats keep coming:


"The 65+ age group is projected to make up over one-quarter of New Zealand’s

population from the late 2030s"

and this, also chilling:


"The 65+ age group is projected to make up over one-quarter of New Zealand’s

population from the late 2030s, compared with 12 percent in 2005." (find the info here)


BBC News enlightens us to the never-before-seen situation in Italy (the vanguard of birth control and abortion, it would seem..)


"By mid-century there may be one pensioner for every one productive worker in Italy, which begs a simple, devastating question: how on earth is Italy going to maintain its pensions system?"

"...When will Europeans wake up to the implications of consistently low birth rates? Well, in the words of one European professor of population studies, probably not until they are all in their wheelchairs and they suddenly realise there is no one left to push." (read the whole article here)


This part of the article shocked me:

"Demographers calculate that by 2050 the current population of 56 million could have dwindled to 40 million."

I can guess why all this is happening. Can you?
Do you think this trend can be reversed, and if so, how should it be done?

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