For the past fortnight, I’ve asked many people, in the course of general conversation, to indicate any tips they have on the Melbourne Cup.
To my surprise, the majority of people have responded with blank stares, and explanations like, “I haven’t followed the Spring Carnival this year,” or “I don’t gamble Father.”
These answers, in themselves, are good! I haven’t followed the Spring Carnival this year either, or any other year. Once at university, and once again in the seminary, I had friends who threw themselves into form guides and Saturday betting, but I could only muster half-hearted enthusiasm, and in a matter of weeks even this limited interest was exhausted.
But I didn’t enquire about the racing carnival, or betting in general. I enquired about the Melbourne Cup, which is a cultural event. It’s a bit like asking someone in Grand Final week who they’re backing on Saturday. “I don’t follow a particular footy team,” or “I don’t watch TV” aren’t pertinent answers to the question, but now that I think about it, I got a lot of these responses in September, too!
I mention this not to criticise my respondents, but to highlight a cultural phenomenon. On Sunday, the parish youth group visited some of our house-bound parishioners. One of the parishioners we visited had emigrated from Holland after the war. She loves Australia very much, but she said there is one thing she has always missed: singing.
In Holland, she said, everyone sang. Even the smallest country parish had three or four choirs, of very high calibre. And every social gathering, whatever the context, incorporated singing. But in Australia, we don’t have that tradition. It’s one of the ways we are culturally impoverished. But, I would hasten to add, we have different cultural riches. The Melbourne Cup is one of them. Or it was. Now, not so much.
Maybe the culprit is atomisation. It’s not that people are too busy now, to review the field, or enter a Cup Sweep. People are always busy, and always have been. It’s just that people have no interest, and more pointedly, no compelling reason to be interested. We had more reason, once, to show interest in things that didn’t particularly appeal to us, because they united an otherwise disparate group. It gave us an opportunity to share something with people we don’t share much with.
We needed to do this — to “confect” common interests — because otherwise we didn’t share anything much with anyone, beyond our family and close friends. But that has changed. The communications revolution has connected whole worlds of people who share natural interests. For example, I can read the blogs of country priests all over the world! Technology reduces the need, I think, to cultivate commonality with the people who actually surround us.
Now, I must confess, this blog has itself become atomised. When I started it, I regularly blogged on a very broad range of subjects, from footy tipping and seminary life to English literature and French philosophy. Now, not so much. Time to revert, I think.
Here are Simon the Pieman’s tips for the big race:
- 3. Red Cadeaux.
- 9. Ethiopia.
- 12. Seville.
- 19. Simenon.
- 22. Dear Demi.
Have great Cup day! Mike Brady and Slim Dusty have both got Cup songs! Have a look on YouTube! Thank you Fr John for letting me put my tips on your blog!
I’m gratified to see that Simenon gets a mention. I’ve liked his form since I first started attending to the potential Cup field a fortnight ago. Simenon started his racing career as a jumper, and the unusual length of the Melbourne Cup is especially suited to him. His odds have shortened a lot since then, but I maintain he is still underrated.
The state of Victoria is afflicted by some of the world’s most permissive and pernicious abortion laws. The annual March for the Babies seeks to redress this state of affairs. This year’s march, which occurred yesterday, was marred by violence.
There’s no television reception where I’m staying, so I don’t know how the TV news covered the protest, but there is plenty of online comment. Lifesitenews reports that MP Bernie Finn is furious with police inaction:
What we saw today was literally a public mugging on the streets of Melbourne and Victoria Police let it happen,” Finn fumed. “We had people being assaulted, being kicked, being stomped on and they sat back and watched.”
Bill Muehlenberg, who was at the protest himself, ponders why pro-choice activists, who ostensibly demonstrated in the name of freedom and choice, proved so illiberal and intolerant:
Women are harmed greatly from abortions: physically, emotionally and psychologically. Indeed, that is part of the explanation for the utter rage, hatred and viciousness of these protestors.
Many have had abortions themselves and they are really hurting because of it, and seeking to take out all this on anyone who dares to tell them that they have taken the lives of their own babies. Many are the walking wounded, and instead of getting help which so many pro-lifers offer, they get even more bitter, angry and resentful.
Several seminarians joined the March for the Babies. Here, second year seminarian Michael Buck relates his own experiences and conclusions:
It has always taken a certain degree of courage to join the March for the Babies each year, given the sort of reactions that can be expected from many people when they discover that you spent your Saturday afternoon protesting against abortion. This year, however, is the first time since I began attending the march in 2008 that I have had cause to worry for my physical safety.
The march began as usual from the Treasury Gardens, supposed to begin at 1pm but there is almost always some delay. I was running a bit late as I made the walk down from the seminary in Carlton to the Treasury Gardens, so I joined the march at the intersection of Spring St and Flinders St around 1.15pm. The march had only just begun, and, as usual, I was surprised by the impressive display of thousands of people. Interestingly, a number of people remarked after the march that they thought the numbers had decreased compared with last year, but as one woman said, there seemed to be more ‘prayers’ among the marchers this year, and that was certainly reflected in the hostility with which the counter-protesters verbally derided and physically assaulted the pro-lifers. It was very confronting to see a group of people who seemed to deliberately identify with darkness, anger and hate, yet the stories of how disarmed they often became when met with an act of charity or a gentle word from a pro-lifer shows that these people have often been deeply wounded and need to be treated with charity and truth.
The trouble began once the march reached the intersection of Flinders St and Swanston St, with the iconic Flinders St Station, Federation Square, St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral and, (last but not least!) Young and Jackson’s Prince’s Bridge Hotel, on each corner of the intersection. It was a stark image that even peaceful Melbourne is a battleground between the cultures of life and death. The pro-abortion group had banded together and were physically blocking the progression of the march through the intersection and up Swanston Street as planned. The march was halted, and there was much confusion about what was going on. Blaring music and shouting were clearly audible even from my position, at about the half-way point of the marchers, where I was unable to see the confrontation at the front. Word was quickly passed back through the crowd that the pro-abortion crowd had stopped progress, that there had been physical violence, and that Bernie Finn (the Hon. Member who, I believe, organises the march) had requested that we sit down to show that we will not move until the police come and clear the way. The wait lasted around an hour, during which a large group of us prayed the Rosary, but unfortunately a number of elderly marchers, who could not sit down and were struggling to stand in the sun for an hour, had to leave the march during this time. Eventually, the order was given to turn around and redirect the march up Russell St.
It was a relief to be on the move again. As we were walking up Russell St, the counter-protesters raced along beside us to again get in the way and stop us. As we marched, they shouted profanities, insults and blasphemies, and I witnessed one woman physically stopping a marcher from continuing, screaming insults at him and pushing into him. The poor man, who looked to be in his 60’s, was clearly intimidated but to his credit did not once push back or become aggravated. Very quickly, some female marchers came to his aid and calmed the woman down.
The worst of the day’s violence occurred at the steps of State Parliament. The pro-abortion rabble tried to wreck what had been set up, and claimed the central part of the ‘stage’ which was preventing the proceedings from continuing. Eventually the police surrounded them and they were moved a small way away down into the crowd, and we could begin. Throughout the speeches (according to another seminarian who was ‘on the frontline,’ as it were, next to this group) this group at the front continually screamed curses and pushed and shoved pro-lifers. Yet the violence was worst at the back of the crowd, unfortunately close to me. Two of the counter protesters rode bicycles into the crowd, with other cronies running in behind them. It was shocking to see elderly people knocked to the ground, and others injured by the bicycles hitting them. As pro-lifers tried to stop these people, naturally by physically stopping them, the violence started. One frenzied man repeatedly took swings at the pro-lifers, but I only saw him make an impact once. Others were being shaken and shoved. Many of the pro-lifers were middle aged, some were elderly, and this violence was shocking and frightening. Of course, the police were all up the front, and by the time they got to the back the violence had wound up as pro-lifers formed a wall and blocked the pro-abortionists out.
This year is the first that I have witnessed such violence at the March for the Babies, and I must say that I was thoroughly disappointed in the policemen who did not secure the safety of these peaceful protesters. It was clear from early in the day (and indeed the night before!) that the counter-protesters were intending to take an aggressive approach, and not only did the police fail to clear the intersection at Flinders Street, but they did not prevent the physical violence. In future, I hope that more police will be present and a more careful watch be kept on the counter protesters, so that violence which so easily could have been prevented, will be.
In the meantime, yesterday’s events are a good reminder of the need for continual pressure on our government, and perhaps more importantly, prayer for the conversion of this country and the protection of mothers and their unborn children.
God bless yesterday’s pro-life marchers, and their apostolate. Please God, our country will soon relegate to history the legislated slaughter of the unborn.
God bless, too, yesterday’s pro-choice counter-protestors – especially those wounded by abortion. May they know the peace only Christ can give.
Three years ago, Martin Daubney was editing a soft porn magazine. You’d be right to imagine he defended porn on the grounds of free speech and expression.
Now he is an outspoken critic of pornography. Online pornography, anyway, which is not only grotesquely hard-core, but also pathologically addictive.
As the presenter of a Channel 4 documentary called Porn On The Brain, airing next Monday at 10pm, I’d been invited to sit in on a forward-thinking class led by sex education consultant Jonny Hunt. To establish what these kids knew about sex — including pornography — he had asked the children to write an A-Z list of the sexual terms they knew, no matter how extreme.
Most of these children had just hit puberty and some were clearly still children: wide-eyed, nervous, with high-pitched voices. But when Jonny pinned their lists on the board, it turned out that the children’s extensive knowledge of porn terms was not only startling, it superseded that of every adult in the room – including the sex education consultant himself.
‘Nugget, what’s that?’ asked Jonny.
‘A nugget is a girl who has no arms or legs and has sex in a porno movie,’ chortled one young, pimply boy, to an outburst of embarrassed laughter from some, and outright revulsion from others.
You can read the rest at The Daily Mail.
I imagine Daubney’s documentary will be screened on the ABC later this year, or maybe SBS. That seems to be the pattern for British-made documentaries.
Meanwhile, Don Jon was released in American theatres this weekend. There’s no word yet on an Australian release date. A decision will be made based on the film’s US reception.
Having read the Wikipedia article (which contains spoilers), I know enough about Don Jon only to know that I don’t know enough to recommend it. I’m sure the American blogosphere will oblige with thoughtful reviews in the days ahead.
If you are addicted to pornography, it’s important, I think to seek multifaceted treatment, which incorporates the spiritual (especially the sacramental) and the psychological. It’s certainly not advisable to become a resigned recidivist, repeatedly committing and confessing the same things without any struggle or hope of conversion.
Sacramental confession and spiritual direction are critical, but speaking with a trained counsellor also helps. I can recommend these counsellors:
The Mask You Live In looks like it will be an interesting film. Its kickstart campaign has raised $101,000 of its $80,000 goal, so I guess production is now underway.
The film is directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, whose previous film, Miss Representation, critiqued popular culture’s portrayal of women and influence on femininity:
Healing the culture is important, but so is self-knowledge. Culture forms us, for better and for worse. Beyond Blue has created an amusing but informative website about men’s health:
And the Young Men of God movement might offer suitable spiritual healing:
In the year 2000, Fr Ken Barker MGL was in Assisi for the Jubilee year. Praying at the small church where St. Francis and his brothers spent a lot of their time, Fr Ken sensed that the Lord wanted to initiate a movement of young men in Australia. These young men would rise up as leaders in the church though deep faith, purity of heart and strength of character. At this same time two young men in Canberra, Nick Seselja and Ben O’Heir, had a similar vision and decided to start a regular gathering for local young men. Soon after they heard about Fr. Ken’s experience in Assisi and a short while after YMG was born.
I’ve never been to a YMG conference or retreat, but I do know that Fr Ken Barker is a remarkably good and holy priest.
Twelve years have passed since the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Those who can remember can’t help but remember where they were and what they were doing when they learnt the terrible news. It’s one of those epochal moments.
Wars have been waged in the wake of the attack, and recent events in Syria demonstrate the ongoing tumult in the Middle East. But it’s not only the political and strategic ramifications which imbue September 11 with its significance. It still looms large, and it’s still immediate in some sense, because of the sheer human tragedy. The images of people falling to their death is something I’ll never forget.
Apart from that, the attack in New York — like the attack at the Boston Marathon — shocks us because it’s unusually relatable, in contrast to terrorist attacks in Baghdad and Kabul which are easily categorised as “somewhere else.” (Michael Cook has a thoughtful piece on this hairy topic.)
I still remember the shock I received when the footage I was watching on TV — which I presumed was Tel Aviv or Jerusalem — was revealed to be New York City. A thought quickly formulates: this could have happened to me. What would I have done?
Maybe that’s why this book extract is so compelling:
When the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center, Marissa Panigrosso was on the ninety-eighth floor of the south tower, talking to two of her co-workers. She felt the explosion as much as heard it. A blast of hot air hit her face, as if an oven door had just been opened. A wave of anxiety swept through the office. Marissa Panigrosso didn’t pause to turn off her computer, or even to pick up her purse. She walked to the nearest emergency exit and left the building.
Others in Marissa’s office ignored the fire alarm, and also what they saw happening 131 feet away in the north tower. Some of them went into a meeting. A friend of Marissa’s, a woman named Tamitha Freeman, turned back after walking down several flights of stairs.
“Tamitha says, ‘I have to go back for my baby pictures,’ and then she never made it out.”
Research has shown that, when a fire alarm rings, people do not act immediately. They talk to each other, and they try to work out what is going on. They stand around.
The extract comes from The Examined Life, which is a psychoanalyst’s take on human foibles and habits, what strengthens us and what weakens us. I’m not a great fan of psychoanalysis, which strikes me as something of an unfalsifiable pseudoscience, but I’m interested enough to buy the book.
DJ Pangburn’s This is your JFK assassination . . . this is your Pearl Harbor is especially interesting to me, because like him I was in my second year at university, and where he trudged, in shock, to a class on American politics, I trudged, in shock, to a class on post-Soviet Russian politics. Unlike Pangburn, though, I resist the righteous self-congratulations which mars his essay. I like to think I do, anyway (he wrote in righteous self-congratulations).
This week’s Catholic New Media Conference was full of excellent content. I came away better informed, and fired up.
But one of the best things about conferences is the networking opportunity. I met lots of interesting people, one of whom was Tristan McLindon.
I feel like I already knew him. His parents live in Hamilton. His brother lives in Ballarat. And his wife was one of my Sunday School students.
Wait. What? I taught Sunday catechism to Gr 3-6 kids for a few years while I was at university. I really didn’t think that was so long ago, until I learnt these students are now at the marrying age. It sure puts a 32nd birthday into perspective!
It’s worth noting that Tristan is 22 and Veronika is 20. Tristan tells the story of his whirlwind romance and early marriage at MercatorNet. It’s a great story, well-written:
“Hi, I’m Serge. I’m here for a good time.” His smooth, measured voice showed confidence in himself and his new environment. Given the circumstances, that was a very valuable gift to have
It was day one of acting school in New York City. There were fifteen of us sitting in a circle in a small, blank, white room, introducing ourselves and talking about our backgrounds. Usually an exercise like this would be met with hesitation by those asked to participate, but not in acting school. There it’s the opposite. The circle is everyone’s time to shine, time to show you’re funny, quirky, flirty; a chance to prove you’re different from the person sitting next to you.
“Hi, I’m Clara. I’m in America with my boyfriend and following my lifelong dream of acting.”
“I’m Lucia. I’m from Brazil and I sort of have a boyfriend back home but not really.” Serge smirks and looked across the room at her . . .
The guy on my left spoke, “Hi, I’m Muriz. I’m from Germany, I’m here to pursue acting. Oh and maybe meet some nice American girls, but don’t tell my girlfriend at home I said that.” Everyone laughed, and the acting teacher gave him a wink of respect.
It was my turn. How was I going to get on side with the teacher if I wasn’t funny or loose like the others? Luckily I didn’t have time to think, fourteen pairs of eyes were trained on me, waiting for me to speak, so I did just that.
“Hi, I’m Tristan. I’m twenty-one, I’m from Australia and I got engaged the day before I flew here.” There was silence in the room, a stunned, unnerving pause. I resigned myself to the fact I was going to be the odd one out — that weird engaged guy. A few more anxious moments passed, and then something happened that was so unexpected that I sat there as stunned as they had been by my introduction. Everyone started clapping. They clapped and cheered and individually congratulated me. I don’t think anyone there had heard of someone in their generation getting engaged so young — and, come to think of it, nor had I.
With an intro like that, you want to read it all right? Here’s the link.
Then you can read Veronika’s story too.
(Incidentally, if you follow both links, you can make a “before” and “after” comparison of MercatorNet‘s website renovation, which is currently underway. The new look is great, and worthy of such a fine news and opinion source.)