Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The Wednesday Quiz II.V: Where in the World is...

With this post, the Leaflocker editorial team has achieved our goal of posting each and every weekday of blAugust. There will be punch and crackers all around. The chief editor has informed me that the board has determined that Leaflocker service will continue uninterrupted in Septemblag, so stay tuned, same bat time, same bat channel, for more batty fun.

Everyone's favourite quiz format "Pin the Tail on the Country" is back, bigger than ever. Put the world's most superlative places in their correct grid squares without looking them up to have your chance to win the fabulous prize that is my love and respect. I'm a fickle mistress.

1. Highest mountain
2. Smallest country
3. Lowest land area
4. Tallest building
5. Highest population city
6. Densest population city
7. Deepest part of ocean
8. Longest rail tunnel
9. Tallest waterfall
10. Hottest city

Leave your answers in the comments, and the results will be there this time next week.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Read: The Yiddish Policeman's Union (Part II)

So, I still haven't got around to reading Neuromancer. I meant to, but I fell asleep instead. I can give you all the solution to the chess puzzle from The Yiddish Policeman's Union that I know that you've all been losing sleep over. If you're the kinda guy that doesn't like his novel ruined by knowing the outcome of the central chess puzzle motif, then you should walk away now and go sit down somewhere and read this book.

The chess puzzle is set up on a cheap board in the room of a murdered Jew who went by the name of Emmanuel Lasker (a name you might be a little bit familiar with), who happens to live in the same apartment block as Detective Meyer Landsman, an over-the-hill homicide detective with a broken marriage with his boss, an on-again-off-again relationship with a cheap bottle of vodka and no sense for the middle game. The whole thing takes place in the District of Sitka, a Jewish enclave in Alaska about to revert to the US in this alternative history in which the state of Israel collapsed in 1948.

Back in this reality for a moment, the puzzle was composed by Victor Nabokov of Lolita fame (Lolita is in my shelf partly read at the moment, having given me the heebie-jeebies on the first attempt), and it had deep meaning for him, as it does for "Emmanuel Lasker". The way for white to move and mate in two is to move his bishop to c2, putting black into the inenviable chess position of "zugzwang", in which any possible move works out badly for him, and allowing white to mate next move no matter his decision. It is a very, very attractive puzzle in it's own right, and I think Nabokov would be gratified that someone else found it as useful a motif as he did.

This "zugzwang" is very appropriate, not just for the yid calling himself Emmanuel Lasker in room 208, and for all the displaced Jews of Sitka, but also for an anglo-saxon attempting a review. As you may have gathered by this point, this is the kind of book that in this sensitive age could only have been written by a Jew, as it portrays Jews not only as the good guys, but as the bad guys too, which is just not cricket for a non-Jew in the same way that it would be ill-advised for an anglo-saxon to call an African American a nigger, but appears to be ok if it comes from the horse's mouth. Thus, I'll refrain from too much comment except to say that the subject of race is not treated in the conventional manner.

For all that, though, it's a very attractive book. The dialogue is harsh and crisp and full of bitter resentment and double meanings, all the witty repartee of noir with all the mystery of the best SF, slowly releasing details about a world like, but unlike, our own. Everyone in the book is a smart-talking bad-ass, and all the conversations are full of things not said and things avoided, things the characters understand but the reader is left to wonder about. A quick sample from random from a book full of exciting little conversations, written in a frenetic, jumpy style, just like they would occur, not as if they're just dead words on a page:
"Never again I don't touch that stuff, Detectives, and even if I do, believe me, I don't go near Frank. I am crazy, but I am not lunatic."
Landsman feels the bump and the skid as the tires lock. They have just hit something.
"Why not?" Berko says, kindly and wise. "Why does selling smack to Frank make you not just a criminal but a lunatic, Mr. Shitnovitzer?"
There is a small, decisive click, a bit hollow, like false teeth clapping together. Velvel tips over his king.
"I resign" says Velvel. He takes off his glasses, slips them into his pocket and stands up. He forgot an appointment. He's late for work. His mother is calling him on the ultrasonic frequency reserved by the government for Jewish mothers in the event of lunch.
"Sit down," Berko says without turning around. The kid sits down.
The mystery unfolds, like mystery stories always do, with international plots that go right to the top, old crimes brought to the surface, heavies out to whack the good guys, painted cows and one rather unusual femme-fatale. All in all it's a rollicking good ride, and well worth the $8 I spent for it, and has put a bunch of other books on my reading list, namely the other works of this young up-and-comer Michael Chabon, with the possibility of extending the list to every book that's ever won the Hugo Award (as this one has) if the internet ever decides to pay me to give up my day job and read full-time.

Page 123:
Zimbalist struggled for the next hour to understand that move, and the strength to resist confiding to a ten-year-old whose universe was bounded by the study house, the shul, and the door to his mother's kitchen, the sorrow and dark rapture of Zimbalist's love for the dying widow, how some secret thirst of his own was quenched every time he dribbled cool water through her peelng lips.
Despite what these quotes might indicate, the book is not all about chess, chess is just regularly used as a metaphor because chess naturally lends itself to that sort of thing (probably a post for another time, that), and sometimes whole pages go by without a single mention of the game at all. It's a genuine blend of the different genres that it's trying to be a part of, and for money it's hit that difficult nail on the head. So if that sounds like your sort of thing, I have a nice hardcover copy I'm willing to lend you, as I need to rearrange my read bookshelves so that I can fit some more stuff on them anyway.

Reading List Progress:

Number of Books read: 6
Australian dividend: 1.045
Science Fiction dividend: 2.5
Fantasy dividend: 2
Biography dividend: 1
Mystery dividend: .5
Next Up: William Gibson, Neuromancer (Still), or something else that's partly read at the moment.

Monday, 29 August 2011

It's Getting Heretical in Here

What follows is my response to this, in keeping with my now long-established tradition of stealing his ideas and reusing them for my own gain. This week's number shows Pope Gregory the Great (who we met last week) slightly earlier in his life before he became pope, laying down the liturgical law for St. Eutychius.

Now Eutychius was, by this point, one of the most prominent members of the Eastern Church; he'd led what would later come to be considered as the Fifth Ecumenical Council, and was Patriarch of Constantinople, an important enough man to mess with the Emperor and escape with his head. However, Eutychius did not subscribe to the doctrine of bodily resurrection, believing instead that the soul after resurrection would become "less than air", which caused him some problems with Gregory, whom as we have already discovered took all this religion stuff pretty seriously.

Now bodily resurrection, unfortunate similarities to zombieism and all, is a central tenet of the church, mentioned regularly in the earliest surviving Christian writings, like those of St. Ignatius of Antioch, writing at the turn of the first century AD (and in whose work we see the first mention of the words 'catholic church', incidentally). The reason that it was mentioned so often in these texts is that it was the bone of contention for so many of the early heresies, and the surviving writings of the period are mostly epistles from the church fathers to leaders, expounding the understanding of the church and written directly in opposition to heresy. Many views on the nature of the resurrection arose, some of which would reappear again and again in the history of the early church, so much so that bodily resurrection became a part of the Apostles Creed, the statement of faith that churches around the world still use today. As such, I've been familiar with the words for a long time, but bodily resurrection for the masses really gets to me, and one of the reasons that I put off my confirmation for so long was that I, like Eutychius, have some problems with it.

The concept of universal bodily resurrection is based primarily on the biblical resurrection of Jesus, who the gospels tell us physically rose, such that his feet could be touched from a venerating prostrate position, he could break bread and eat with the disciples, and even have his physical wounds poked and prodded by my ever-doubtful namesake (with whom I have always felt a strange kinship). Resurrection was taught by the Jews, many of the prophets talked about the dead rising from the Earth, Jesus supports this himself, and early church leaders like Ignatius and Paul held this to mean actual physical bodily resurrection like that demonstrated by Jesus, but that interpretation just doesn't sit nicely for me (I'm a fan of metaphor and Jesus seems to have been as well, what with all the parables). The primary gospel support for the position that there are actual physical bodies in heaven comes from Matthew 22 (and its equivalents in Mark and Luke), when Jesus is arguing with the Sadduccees, in which he states that risen humans will be like the angels. Now as far as my memory serves me, there is no mention in the bible of an angel physically interacting with the material world, they appear to be purely spiritual beings, as fearsome as they may be (correct me if I'm wrong, out there, the comments thread is open).

EDIT: I've never pretended to a good biblical knowledge. A reader has reminded me of the angels that ate with Lot and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Enquiries are ongoing.

Thus, I'm with Eutychius, not Gregory, in thinking that a non-physical resurrection seems more in keeping with the teachings of Jesus that a physical one. Which at least means it'll all be a little less confusing since we won't have to go around sorting out all the bits and pieces which have decayed, or cremated, or scattered, and a non-physical existence is still "life", if Doctor Who has taught me anything. In the sixth century I may have been a heretic, but the advice I was given when I brought this up as a reason for my unconfirmed status could be approximated as "well, if that's all that's stopping you...". To my mind, the nature of resurrection is an unknowable mystery. I'm ok with that, and don't need to worry about whether I'll be buried with my feet to the East or feel bad about donating my organs to science or medicine, because I don't think that having my body in one piece is required for redemption.

Either way, Gregory knew where he stood (or sat, anyway, because of the gout), and he sure was convincing in his argument, as he managed to convince the Emperor to gather together and destroy all the works of Eutychius; who is reputed to have recanted of his heretical beliefs on his deathbed with the quote from the ever-poetic Job "I confess that in this flesh we shall rise again" , which at least allowed his disciples a chance to save face and assured him a place in the echelon of recognised saints.

And leaves me in a bit of a pickle without a Church father to trot out in support of my little heresy. Poop. Then again, being protestant I'm part of a great big heresy anyway, so what's one more?

Friday, 26 August 2011

Tie of the Week

It's that time of the week again. Funny how that happens, isn't it?

Here's me, cold-sores and all, in this week's tie with the shirt I wore on Thursday (having been too lazy to wash my Thursday shirt, breaking an 8-week run). It reminds most people of bubbles or Christmas baubles, but makes me think of a series of explosions. I like my explanation better anyway.

Tie Number:004
Designation: The One With the Powerpuffs
Provenance: Christmas Present, 2010
Manufacture: Moulin Rouge Paris, China
No. of Comments: 4 (Moderate)
Most Favourable Comment: "Oooh, I love your tie!"
Least Favourable Comment: "That's a terrible tie, far too light."
Observations: Surprisingly, the khaki green, atomic pink and mellow orange work well on this tie with a range of different shirts. I guess those Chinese Frenchmen sure can pick 'em.

Until next time.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Ave Imperator, morituri te salutant mori

This is Tiberius, who has finally given up the ghost after ten years of faithful service. He has been my constant companion since I received him second hand from my primary school on Christmas 2002, and I will miss him sorely.

Once I have a more permanent solution for replacing him, the miscaellania of the Leaflocker will be backing full force, but until then the service may be somewhat limited. And no, I have no idea how to write Latin, how could you tell?

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Wednesday Quiz II.IV: Name That Monkey!

In honour of Ace reporter Barb and her fellows at the ABC in this difficult time, this week's quiz will be: Name That Monkey! The quality will be low because this is in a bit of a rush because my computer has finally actually died, and an iPad is not ideal for blog editing. Please put your answers in the comments and refrain from the most henious crime of googling.

3. (on the right)
5. (on the left)
7. (under the hat)

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Read: The Yiddish Policeman's Union (Part I)

24 hours remain to complete last week's quiz.

I'm afraid that my Saturday sickness cut severely into my reading time for this week. One of the books that I have read earlier in the year that I'd hoped to review here was Michael Chambon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union. But my Monday night movie education has left me with little time, so I'll leave you instead with the central motif of the book, a cunning little chess problem set by the victim of the murder (by way of Victor Nabokov), and come back later in the week to do the rest of the review, hopefully giving me enough time to finish up Neuromancer before next week.

White to mate in two. I do think it's a beautiful little thing.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Leaflocker Exclusive: Pope Eats Babies

So it's not a bible study or a devotion, but I sure did a lot of reading on the Church fathers, so I feel a lot more holy, or at least a lot more confused. That must count for something. Probably do a devotion on Thursday.

In response to Connell's comic on Proairesis, and in keeping with the old adage that everything is funnier with a pope, we continue our series which began last week with the following:

This one depicts (rather terribly, I'll admit, but you can't win every time) Pope Gregory the Great getting surpised (and slightly embarrassed) by a rabbit that has stolen his papal mitre. It was going to be a carrot, but Gregory lived in the 6th century AD and Europeans hadn't yet heard of carrots; and I was going to replace it with the mediaeval vegtable of choice, the turnip, but decided it was going to be easier to draw a papal mitre of the type used in the hagiographic iconography of Gregory I (alongside the dove). When drawing popes, it's often easier to use the associated icons, because there's very little to distinguish one little old Italian man from the next, especially since we have no idea what they really looked like, and more importantly I have no idea how to draw. The mitre and the dove are mediaeval shorthand for saying "Gregory the Great", which is beyond me, but apparently it worked.

The story goes that rabbits were domesticated in the 6th or 7th century when Gregory declared that foetal rabbits (or laurices) were fish, and were thus acceptable for devout Catholics to eat on fasting days, of which there were considerably more than there are today (both the Catholics and the fast days). I like to imagine that a scene like this is why. Poor Gregory can't chase after the rabbit and get his mitre back because after a long life of monastic austerity he has crippling gout, and is rarely able to bestir himself from his bed (what he's doing here out in the snow is a little beyond me, I'll admit), but he can set his armies of monks to lagomorph genocide, ripping unborn rabbits from their mothers wombs and devouring them, which seems like a pretty nice little act of retribution against rabbit-kind. Pity that it ended up spreading them worldwide, the best laid plans of men and rodents...

Unfortunately, the story is probably apochryphal, I've spent my free time in the last week going through the writings of St. Gregory (who left behind quite a few writings, many of which survive to today thanks to Gregory's status as a Doctor of the Church), and can find no record of his granting an indult to eat laurices, which were known to be a great delicacy in Roman times, in fasting periods. In fact, the only surviving reference to the consumption of laurices of the time is in the works of fellow churchman Gregory of Tours (however shaky his theology), and when he describes a nobleman as eating Laurices he seems to be mocking him as a glutton rather than praising him for eating the correct foods in Lent.

Whether Gregory actually proclaimed an idult or not is probably beside the point, as there are plenty of other examples of animals that are considered in various parts of the world to be acceptable for consumption during fasts. Beavers and otters in Canada and Scandinavia, and the capybara in South America are the most prominent examples. It's not that the Church considers them to be fish, per se, but that...heck, let's let Thomas Aquinas show us how it's done:
Wherefore the Church forbade those who fast to partake of those foods which both afford most pleasure to the palate, and besides are a very great incentive to lust. Such are the flesh of animals that take their rest on the earth, and of those that breathe the air and their products, such as milk from those that walk on the earth, and eggs from birds. For, since such like animals are more like man in body, they afford greater pleasure as food, and greater nourishment to the human body, so that from their consumption there results a greater surplus available for seminal matter, which when abundant becomes a great incentive to lust.
In other words, those animals which are considered most like humans are to be avoided in times of fasting, the animals which breathe the air and live on the land. Aquatic creatures, be they 'fish' in the modern sense or not, are kosher because it was understood at the time that they don't 'result... [in] seminal matter'. Catholic law still hold to this today, on the assumption that Aquinas knew what he was talking about.

In the sixth century, the understanding of rabbits was what we would refer to in this educated age as "not understanding". Pliny the Elder, still a respected source at the time, tells us that rabbits have both male and female parts, so they can reproduce all by themselves (have a little sympathy for the guy, this was a long time before Linnaeus, and being a trusting guy in the tradition of philosophers he was just repeating what Anaxagoras told him). Thus, by the common understanding of the time, rabbit were another class of creature from humans altogether, and could have been eaten during fasts with impunity. Not that there's any evidence that I can find that says they were, but it's not out of the realms of possibility.

This brings up the whole purpose of fasting. Today we commonly understand fasting to be a penance or sharing in the suffering of others, be it Jesus in the desert or starving children in Somalia, oras a means of focusing ourselves on prayer by forsaking world distractions, but for a long time the early church understood fasting more as a type of bodily subjugation, essential starving oneself as a cure for lust. I can't help mentioning that perhaps our modern world could do with a little bit more fasting, and not just in Lent... those rabbits won't know what hit 'em.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Tie of the Week

Oh dear, we almost missed the tie of the week! We couldn't have that now, could we?

Here's this week's tie as worn on Thursday (this is a recreation, I'm afraid), a rather fetching little trellis-and-peacock-feathers number that reminds me of classical gaudy painted sculptuary. If I look a little pasty this is because it was taken on Sunday, the day after the Great Food Poisoning Incident.

And here it is in the French style as aided by my new tie ring. I feel that it is neccesary to point out that a white-gold tie ring is an expediture of ludircous extravagance, and I may need to find some other use for it one of these days.

Tie Number:003
Designation: Fibulae Jugulum
Provenance: Christmas Present, 2010
Manufacture: Gino Rossi, Australia
No. of Comments: 2 (Low)
Most Favourable Comment: "Looking good as always"
Least Favourable Comment: "Ugh. Just Ugh."
Observations: It's hard to make this tie go with shirts that aren't plain. Not that that bothers me. Just sayin'

See you next week.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Two Disturbing Pictures

There's probably a taboo against posting this sort of thing in a public place but...

There's definitely a taboo against posting this kind of photo in a public place, it's a strange and unusual punishment of the worst kind and liable to cause public panic, but a guy can't help the face he's born with.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Maybe I will...

While I was racking my brain trying to think of something for my post for today that didn't involve me , I got a little distracted (as I am somewhat wont to do) by a book of Australian verse (I will behave myself and refrain from calling it poetry). An hour or so later, I decided that I'd just write up a little something for today, just as soon as I'd read one more...

, Henry Lawson

There's a class of men (and women) who are always on their guard—
Cunning, treacherous, suspicious—feeling softly—grasping hard—
Brainy, yet without the courage to forsake the beaten track—
Cautiously they feel their way behind a bolder spirit’s back.

If you save a bit of money, and you start a little store—
Say, an oyster-shop, for instance, where there wasn’t one before—
When the shop begins to pay you, and the rent is off your mind,
You will see another started by a chap that comes behind.

So it is, and so it might have been, my friend, with me and you—
When a friend of both and neither interferes between the two;
They will fight like fiends, forgetting in their passion mad and blind,
That the row is mostly started by the folk who come behind.

They will stick to you like sin will, while your money comes and goes,
But they’ll leave you when you haven’t got a shilling in your clothes.
You may get some help above you, but you’ll nearly always find
That you cannot get assistance from the men who come behind.

There are many, far too many, in the world of prose and rhyme,
Always looking for another’s ‘footsteps on the sands of time.’
Journalistic imitators are the meanest of mankind;
And the grandest themes are hackneyed by the pens that come behind.

If you strike a novel subject, write it up, and do not fail,
They will rhyme and prose about it till your very own is stale,
As they raved about the region that the wattle-boughs perfume
Till the reader cursed the bushman and the stink of wattle-bloom.

They will follow in your footsteps while you’re groping for the light ;
But they’ll run to get before you when they see you’re going right;
And they’ll trip you up and baulk you in their blind and greedy heat,
Like a stupid pup that hasn’t learned to trail behind your feet.

Take your loads of sin and sorrow on more energetic backs!
Go and strike across the country where there are not any tracks!
And—we fancy that the subject could be further treated here,
But we’ll leave it to be hackneyed by the fellows in the rear.

I think, maybe, that I'll leave the verse to the professionals for now. Even if Mr. Lawson is unlikely to take offence these days.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Wednesday Quiz II.III: Autobiographical

Featured below are the aurobiographies of some prominent persons. Your task this week is simply to give the titles of the works without resorting to looking them up. It's a bit different from the last few weeks because Leaflocker management has received complaints on the lack of variety. That's the way to get things done around here, complain. It works on other blogs too.
Without further ado, let's get on with it.











Last week's results should be up around abouts now as well.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Read: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

You have until 10AM ACST to post your answers for the current quiz, and a new one will be along tomorrow, if all goes according to plan.

Let's get this off our chests right away. I don't understand Japan at all. This is a bit of a problem for my street cred, and around AVCon circles I'm beginning to be vaguely known as 'the odd one who doesn't like anime'. For a guy who tries to be involved in helping to run an anime convention it's a serious black mark, so I do my best to expand my horizons. The latest opportunity came when Jimmy (of the infrequent updates) lent me the first in what is apparently regarded as quite a good series of Light Novels (a light novel is a novella, as I understand it, but not all pretentious like novellas normally are), Nagaru Tanigawa's The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiha, on a sadistic whim.

I actually enjoyed reading this a lot more than any manga or anime that I've read or watched respectively for quite some time. It's easier to understand something that's put down in words (and in a superior translation, I must add) than it is to try to get a bunch of seemingly unconnected images that would apparently transfer instant understanding to a Japanese or sufficeient advanced otaku audience, and the style is pretty fun, for what I guess would be categorised as a Young Adult novel here.

Kyon, the (ok, one of the) hapless victim(s) of the title character, is the first person narrator with a friendly, rambly tone and a very enjoyable habit of phrasing his narration as if it's part of the current conversation. Every now and then the other characters will respond to what he "thought", which is a clever little technique which adds I nice little element of brain-bending to an already complicated plot, what with the pocket universes, time-travel, and reality-editing killers and all. And I have a more-than-sneaking suspicion that things are likely to get considerably more complicated in the following books (of which I hear there are at least ten).

The story follows the formation of the SOS Brigade, a school club in the mysterious style of Japanese school clubs that I can't begin to understand, whose purpose is to serve the whims of the domineering title character and generally look for crazy people. This process is made easier by most of the crazy people being members of the club. I don't really want to go any further in case I spoil the whole thing, but there is the potential for some crazy, crazy junk later in the series, which I am interested in reading out of a sense of cat-killing curiosity if Jimmy is up for me ragging on his favourite reading matter yet again.

Page 123:
[Is one of a few picture pages of the book. This one features a schoolgirl in the traditional ludicrously short skirt, with a dreamy look on her face, and a knife! Oh no...]
...which brings me along to the reason that I generally don't like the anime/manga genres in general, they're just creepy. This book, for example, features a character whose main purpose is to be sexually harrassed, and though the narrator is a decent enough bloke and keeps pointing out that this is perhaps not all that appropriate, it doesn't stop him from staring at and fantising about such scenes.

Now you might be tempted to say "but isn't the narrator a teenaged boy? Isn't that just good characterisation?", but to me the awkwardness about it just makes it worse. It seems to reinforce the all-too-common idea that somehow guys can't help but be pervents, and that this sort of thing is acceptable, because a human being with feelings just can't help themselves sometimes. I don't know about you guys out there on the internet, but I've never thought that sort of thing was funny, and scenes like this and the gratuitous fanservice that's so common in these forms just detracts from the experience for me.

Maybe the authors know their demographic, maybe I'm just the odd one out here (sales figures and con attendance would seem to support this view, not just for anime and manga but across young adult fiction in general), but it seems to me that it just cheapens the art-form, and cheapens those of us that read it, too. How do we expect people reading this sort of stuff to grow into functioning human beings, or more important, to graduate to reading big boy's books?

Well, that got a bit more serious than I intended. That's two days in a row I've finished writing the post and felt all preachy. Maybe I need a holiday or something.

Since I was supposed to be reviewing a book, and feel like I haven't done it justice, let me just say that the energy and enthusiasm for pure silliness that you find in Japanese media is a wonderful thing that we could do with more of in our Western literature, and this book is a pretty good example of what we're missing, despite some of my gripes.

If you were hoping for a review of the Buru Quartet's This Earth of Mankind, I'm afraid it will have to wait until I get my hands on another copy, because the one that I was reading has gone home to its owner.

Reading List Progress:

Number of Books read: 5
Australian quotient: 1.045
Fantasy quotient: 2
Science Fiction quotient: 2 (this can count as SF, because it mentions aliens)
Biography quotient: 1
Next Up: William Gibson, Neuromancer (By popular demand)

Monday, 15 August 2011

Reinventing Comics

Bonus post because I am feeling oh-so-generous.

If you're following Ale's blAugust adventure you'll know that she's been getting some outside help to make her art blog more interesting than mine.

Following the old adage that everything is funnier with a Pope, this evening I sat me down and drew this utter plagirism of the most inferior sort.

There was quite a few production problems, like my scanner being out of action and my using a handheld camera, my general lack of artfulness and my completely forgetting to actually label the books, but overall I'm actually pretty pleased with it. It depicts Benedict XV (the pope I currently have it in for), reading some useful encyclicals and still failing at roller-skating, which is even harder in choir dress (if such a thing is even possible). In case you're wondering, the books he's reading are intended to be Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum, Humani Generis Redemptionem and Quod Iam Diu (he's reading his own encyclicals because no-one else was likely to, poor guy).

I've got something lined up for this week's effort, too, but I'll wait to post it in the hope that I can work out what's wrong with my scanner (and maybe touch up the picture a little). I would be impressed if someone managed to guess what it might be.

Get a Job (Nananananananana)

I promised some Canadian chick that the next time I sat myself down to do a devotion I'd post it for her delectation, if delecatation is a word that can be applied to devotions. To be perfectly honest I'm a little bit uncomfortable about being so openly religious on this here blog, given that I'm not normally much of a bible-basher and in public I tend to enjoy laughing at aspects of my religion rather than defending it, but I'm going to give it a try anyway, since it's at least as much a part of me as wearing silly ties.

If me getting all Christian on your ass is disturbing, feel free to leave now and come back tomorrow, when I'll be talking about Japanese girls in short skirts. If you need something else to read right now, here's something a friend of mine recommended to the other day, which is kind of cute (it's a pity that the cute is ruined by the last two panels a little bit, but at least it's better than much of the rest of the archive, which is distinctly nsfw).

Anyway, my random flipping through the bible (I seem chronically unable to keep to any kind of reading plan or schedule) landed me in the Book of Job, in which Job despairs at the unfairness of his life and the cruelty of God; about the most cheery place a guy can end up when he's feeling down, except perhaps Lamentations or Jeremiah. The good thing about Job is that it's full of beautiful flowing poetic language like this little excerpt from 10:10-12:
Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese,
clothe me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews?
You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit.
It's very, very readable, and before long I found myself swept away in the language and the drama and distracted from the purpose of the reading, which is to gain something of an understanding of God as he applies to my life. Too often with bible readings, I have either this problem, or the problem of feeling like I know it all already, like I'm not learning anything new despite other people sharing their experiences and insights. Job has the same problem in 12:2-3, but he's much snarkier and ruder than I am, and responds to his friends thus:
Doubtless you are the people, and wisdom will die with you!
But I have a mind as well as you; I am not inferior to you.
Who does not know all of these things?
The difference between Job and me is that it's right down there in the text that Job is a godly man, and Job does actually understand all the arguments that his friends are making in defence of God, whereas I just think I do. The fact remains, though, that too often I feel like I'm being taught something or am trying to teach myself something that I already know; and my university experience lets me know that nothing is as fun the second time around, be it Mathematics 1A or Theology 101.

However, since I know it's what I'm meant to do and somewhere deep down I really do think that it's good for me (probably more so than finishing up Pokemon Tower), I settled down and gave it a go, and blow me down if I didn't find something worth mentioning to a Canadian chick (and apparently the internet at large). At least, it seems to me where I'm at at quarter past twelve at night like it's worth saying (I'm writing this Sunday night for posting on Monday), I'm not saying anything new, to me or to anyone else, but right now it's encouraging. Hopefully the religious types amongst you might find it kind of interesting, and the irreligious ones might find it interesting from a scientific viewpoint, or something, and all of your will get some kind of idea of where I'm at just at this second, which is a nice little point of fellowship, I suppose. The text in question is Job 5:17-27:
Blessed is the man whom God corrects;
so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
For he wounds, but he also binds up;
he injures, but his hands also heal.
From six calamities he will rescue you;
in seven no harm will befall you.
In famine he will ransom you from death,
and in battle from the stroke of the sword.
You will be protected from the lash of the tongue,
and need not fear when destruction comes.
You will laugh at destruction and famine,
and need not fear the beasts of the earth.
For you will have a covenant with the stones of the field,
and the wild animals will be at peace with you.
You will know that your tent is secure;
you will take stock of your property and find nothing missing.
You will know that your children will be many,
and your descendants like the grass of the earth.
You will come to the grave in full vigour,
like sheaves gathered in season.
We have examined this and it is true.
So hear it and apply it to yourself.
That's some good advice there, thanks Eliphaz the Temanite! Contained here is the centre of apology, that God breaks down so that he can build, that the good of his actions in the world is greater than the evil, that he is at work for the ultimate blessing of his people; and we're called to submit to his discipline with joy. Now any concordance or preacher will tell you that Eliphaz and Job's other friends are off base because their advice is all based on the assuption that Job is a sinner when in fact Job is the apple of god's eye. In sermons time after time, I hear that we're supposed to hear the words of Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar and Elihu, but disregard them because Job has a better understanding of the Almighty.

With the way I've been feeling at the moment, though, my repeated refusal to acknowledge my own errors, the powerlessness to change the weaknesses that I do notice, it seems to me that Eliphaz is on the money (Often when I read Job I feel this way, that the theological statements of the 'wrong' friends are more useful than God's tirade of rhetorical questions come the end of the book). Instead of despairing that I am lost and confused, I should be watching out for my every mistake and actively trying to atone and correct for them, in my relationships, in my working life, and in all the other places too. This isn't anything groundbreaking, but at this moment I feel like it's a reminder that I needed, expressed in a way that I can get behind. Best of all, there is a promise that if I can reconcile myself to God's teaching in these ways that I will be rewarded, I'd like to pretend that I don't need a reward to want to do those things that I know are right, but I'd be a sucker to pass up a chance at things getting better instead of piling up getting worse.

So, it's time for a little more introspection (is that a word?). A little less time playing chess and a little more being helpful around home. A little less time spent sending silly personal emails and a little more getting down to business. Perhaps most of all, a little more time for devotion and prayer and a little less training up my Sandslash (which, I feel compelled to tell you, is kick ass).

Of course, this isn't something new for me, these are problems I constantly notice in myself and constantly fail to fix, mostly because I keep on thinking that I can do it alone. Chances are that if I continue making Monday a devotion post (which seems like a cool idea right now) it'll come up again and again, until you and I are bored to death of it. Anyway, until then, let me leave you with a little something from the Man himself, via Job 38:1-3, that I'll be using as the core of my focus tonight as a call to thoughtful prayer, expectant silence, introspection and acceptance...
Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer me.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Tie of the Week

Week two in my tie-wearing project, and this week was going to have to be a less interesting tie than last week's, as how can a humble patterned tie ever hope to measure up to Tintin?

This is me as I was dressed on Wedneday night when I was at the theatre, complementary Ken Clarke eyeglasses and all, and wearing this week's snazzy tie, which is not only attractive with a range of plain shirts of any colour, but is also Teflon coated. That's right, I could fry an egg on this baby on a hot day and it'd wipe right off. You just know that's gonna come in handy some day

Tie Number:002
Designation: Polytetrafluoroethtielene
Provenance: Op-shop, 2009
Manufacture: Unknown
No. of Comments: 1 (Low)
Most Favourable Comment: "Looking Swell!"
Least Favourable Comment: "Looking Swell!"
Observations: I didn't know that Teflon ties were a thing, but I don't have the courage to spill stuff on it just in case it won't come clean, I like this tie.

Tune in next week for yet another tie-related post.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Leaflocker Theatre Review

This was going to be another photoblog about destroying my books, but since I haven't actually done any destruction since last week and since I spent this evening out at the theatre, this is now a theatre review piece. Not reviewing the theatre itself, which was pretty standard suburban theatre fare, masks of comedy and tragedy, pretentious latin mottoes and all, but the production, you understand.

The production was Man of Steel and it was being performed by Emmaus College, which a couple of years ago was Tabor College and when I went to school was Bethesda College, a Christian school with a chronic alias problem that just happens to have a number of kids that I know and like in it. Thus I went along, pondering the dual questions of exactly why every school seems to do an annual musical these days instead of actual artistic theatre (thanks, John), and how I (as a twenty-something going to watch a 13 year old girl be in a musical) was going to look a little less suss, always a concern for a young man who tends to go to shows alone. As it turned out, my second problem was solved by a number of friends turning up, which made it all ok, I could tag along with them, make snide little comments in their ears, and feel like I fitted in. The first question is bigger one, which I will deal with at another time.

It seems to me that the cast did an excellent job without having much to work with, altogether. The set, costumes, choreography and the acting were all above average for a school musical, I found out later that this was because the whole school worked on various parts. However, the play itself (apparently the most regularly-produced play in Australia) is just bad. To my mind, there's two reasons why the script might have been just so bad, the first is that it's just bad and people have no taste when it comes to musicals, and the second is that as any conscientious Christian school would do, it's possible that the script was heavily censored to make it suitable for the majority of the audience. I don't think this second one is the case, but I would like to present it as a possibility before I launch into a undeserved diatribe at the writers.

Man of Steel is a musical about a superhero and a non-sensical plot by the evil "Big Boss" (who gets a pretty good villain song, at least)to bring him down and rule the Veldt (the "big boss" has a bad accent that kept making me think of the South African cricket team, then again so many things do). There's a love triangle, a sinister plot, all-singing, all-dancing gangsters, some colourful but ultimately superfluous side-characters, and therefore it should have all the constituent parts of a successful musical, but somehow the parts just don't come together in an entertaining way.

The songs, while well sung by the cast in general and the leading lady in particular, and backed by an excellent band (I'm a sucker for a theatre band), were repetitive and boring, and while that is par for the course for musicals, it felt like someone had deliberately set out to write repetitive and boring songs. There was also a dearth of them in the second act, which seemed mostly dedicated to "plot".

The plot was shallow and uninteresting, which again is par for the course for superhero fiction, but with a love triangle (that was nothing but an excuse for an extra song in the first act, and had no further mention in the plot), hidden identities (no time for the hero/alter-ego love angst thing, I guess), employment concerns, and much more, there was potential for a considerably more interesting story than what ended up occuring. Perhaps I've been spoilt since the last few plays I've been to see were by the state theatre company.

On the plus side, though, the puns were excellently groanworthy, the cast and crew did a great job despite a number of technical hitches, requiring some ad-libbing and improvisation, and the piece had been well regionalised and brought up to date for a modern audience, so that it worked well and got a lot of laughs from the audience. Though for my part, seeing girls in 50's dresses talking about Taylor Swift is a little bit jarring.

The leading man was excellent as the Man of Steel himself (not Superman, though, for copyright reasons, I imagine), pulling off that classic smug Superman image with great aplomb and making me want to jump up on the stage and slap him for being so damn smug (and I might just do so at church this weekend). My other friend in the musical, despite being in the chorus, was pretty good too, and seemed to be enjoying herself immensely. So altogether I was glad that I'd gone instead of sitting at home planning some other boring blog post.

So, Man of Steel is more fun than sitting at home by yourself, and it's on again tonight and tomorrow night at 7 P.M. on Goodwood Road next to Eggless, the dessert cafe that is apparently where all the cool kids hang out these days.

For me, though, the man problem is that I'm not singing any of the songs today, something that has never happened before after seeing a musical. I am disappoint. It makes me want to try and write something better. Maybe I'll have to pull out my old Binary: The Musical script, and see where the mood takes me...

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Wednesday Quiz II.II: Mappage

That's right, ladies and gentlemen of the internet. It is once again Wednesday, and that means it's time for another quiz, this week based around the world map. This weeks quiz is brought to you by the wonders of the internet, the gentlemanly rules of single quiz combat and the number ten.
Each of the maps below represents some aspect of the modern world, in diplomatic, sporting and demographic spheres of all colours, but it's up to you to work out what. Seriously, only you can save mankind.
Please put you answers to what each of the following maps represents in the comments to this post. Creativity earns points too, in case you're stuck, but not as many points as the correct answers.


Don't be afraid, logical thinking, process of elimination and educated guessing will get you most of the way.

Last week's quiz answers are now up!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Read: Dune

If you came here this week looking for a post about The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiha then I'm very sorry, but an emergency reading project has arisen and delayed it for a week, instead you get this thing about one of the books I read during The Big Sleep, as I am now officially referring to the six months of my life more or less completely lost at the beginning of this year.

I don't know how exactly it was that I managed to get this far into life without reading such a staple of science-fiction as Frank Herbert's classic Dune, but however it occured, I have now rectified this grevious, grevious error, and the contents of my unread bookshelf mean that I'll soon be devouring other classics of the genre, too.

I'm more than a little bit daunted at the idea of reviewing Dune, not only because it's condsidered one of the absolute masterworks of SF, and not only because Frank Herbert was one bad-ass dude, but because of both of those combined with the knowledge that the cruel readership of this here blog will rip me apart if I dare to suggest that there's anything wrong with it.

Thus, I think it's very important to mention right off the bat that I really this book, it was a fun little story. But, I don't think that I missed anything by not reading it until now. The fact is that living in the world that I do, and the society of nerds (to put it generously) with whom I normally associate, I've had enough knowledge of Dune to get this joke, be able to enter into superficial conversations as if I'd read it. This is the problem with books that are so much part of society's psyche that you feel like you've already read them, you feel no need to actually read them. And the fans are kinda off-putting sometimes, too.

Page 123:
The Duke glanced down to the left at the broken landscape of the Shield Wall -- chasms of tortured rock, patches of yellow-brown crossed by black lines of fault shattering. It was as though someone had dropped this ground from space and left it where it smashed.
They crossed a shallow basin with the clear outline of gray sand spreading across it from a canyon opening to the south. The sand fingers ran out into the basin -- a dry delta outlined against darker rock.

Well, now I've read Dune, and even enjoyed it, it was everything that it cracked up to be. No longer being twelve years old like I was when I did a lot of my sci-fi reading (ok, let's admit it, it was mostly Star Wars books), I was able to appreciate the book for more than just its adventure story. The world and characters of Dune are as well-realised as any in fiction, the story is tight enough to maintain the tension but slow enough to allow some philosophising, which is a tough path to steer. The whole all-knowing protagonist with convenient blank spots thing seems like a bit of a cop-out, but it was a nice idea presented as well as I could imagine it being done, so A+ for effort.

If you haven't read it, I'd recommend picking it up. If you're in Adelaide (or frankly even if you're not, I've been looking for an excuse to use these snazzy new $2 stamps) I've got a copy you can borrow. Please give it back some time.

You didn't read this looking for an actual review, did you? Because if you did, that's not what we do here. I'm more into reviewing things that hardly anyone has hear of, thereby saving myself from the inevitable storm of abuse.

As for my penance for not getting around to Dune for so long, I'm going to read the rest of the series. All of it. No matter who wrote it. I will do the world and my pocket a favour by not buying those written by others, but borrowing them from the library instead. You'll know when my brain leaks out of my ears when I stop posting.

Reading List Progress:
Number of Books read: 4
Australian quotient: 1.045
Fantasy quotient: 2
Science Fiction quotient: 1
Biography quotient: 1
Next Up: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and This Earth of Mankind

Monday, 8 August 2011

The Leaflocker Week in Review

Well, we are currently a week into the August blagofest, and enthusiasm for the project is high here in the leaflocker editorial offices. The new projects seem to be relatively well-received, and the action of actually posting once a days is proving to be an enjoyable process for the time being. It's time to go over the current projects and make recommendations, and the readership is encouraged to let us know what they like and would like to see more of, or more likely what projects could do with dismemberment and storage in a suitable disused bank vault, in the comments area below.

Current goal of 5 posts a day has been adhered to, although Wednesday did run a few hours late due to technical issues. The other participants also all managed some output, which is an encouraging start to the month, however the amount of output has been greatly hampered by sickness and new employment. We here at the Leaflocker have chosen to remain silent on this point, and will begin the heckling next week if matters do not improve, acknowledging that it is slightly easier to post a few random thoughts or photos than it is to produce a new computer program or masterpiece of literature. Neither rain nor sleet nor gloom of night shall stay mine ridicule next week, however.

Reading Project: Going well, although some space will need to be cleared on the floor of the editorial offices to allow more easy access to the shelves, which are proving difficult to get at. This week's book reading has been interrupted by an emergency reading project which is proving very interesting, but may interfere with Tuesday's intended review. I guess we'll find out tomorrow.

Enjoyable to create, but the lack of response suggests that the quiz last week was either too difficult or just badly timed for the majority of the audience. We will refrain from posting results for a little longer to allow more entrants, and attempt to scale down the diffficulty a little bit for this week.

Wreck This Journal:
Was fun to post, although a little unstructured. Need to get a bit more of a plan for the overall structure of the project and then get some more wrecking done by this Thursday Wednesday's dinner is shaping up to be a splattery one...

Ties: The tie project now involves watching episodes of Tintin as well as simply looking dashing and handsome. We'll have to see if we can find the time to pull this off.

Crosswords: There's a nice little number in the works at the moment, but it's currently stalled looking for a few more difficult entries, it could be a while until it's posted, particularly if I have to re-work the bottom left corner. The theme should be a little less absurdly obscure than the last, since it is themeless.

Real life: The premier distraction has departed safely for Canada, and due to what we at the leaflocker are happy to chalk up to devine intervention (the other option would seem to be the compassion of immigration officials, we think we're choosing the more likely of the two) has even managed to gain a working visa for entry into the country.

Blog changes: We've tried to make a few little changes around the blog, with the addition of the blogroll and revision of the projects links, but it was done a little haphazardly and most of it seems to be malfunctioning. I'm sure we'll fix it sometime.

With the readership all up to date, so begins the second week of August. The Leaflocker would like you wish you all joy in your exploits, be they digital or analogue, and looks forward to hearing all about them in your blog. You should get a blog, we hear everyone was doing it ten years ago, so it must be more or less ready to come back in again. You know you want to be cool just like the editorial staff of the leaflocker, don't you? Everyone does.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Tie of the Week

At my work, Friday is casual day, but the rest of the time I abide by the unofficial but strongly encouraged part of the company dress-code that suggests that a gentleman should wear a necktie at all times. Sadly, me wearing a necktie doesn't make me look any more professional, it just makes me look like I'm a goof wearing a necktie.

Thankfully, though, somewhere along the way I discovered that I liked wearing neckties, and have amassed a somewhat larger-than-required selection. They have thus become a regular gift for birthdays and Christmasses and the like, which only serves to amplify the problem.

This most recent birthday, I received the little gem of a necktie above (pictured here with my purple Thursday shirt on the basis that I get the most comments on my ties when they are paired with my purple Thursday shirt. You can't really see it all that well due to the erratic photography style that I practice, but it portrays Tintin, investigative reporter extraordinaire, expressing his mild suprise at the rather novel experience of being shot at with arrows. He is one bad-ass dude.

It is my new favourite tie, and so I wore it every day this week. I plan to do the same with all the other ties in my collection, good, bad and oh-so-ugly, in the coming year or so, therefore lauching yet another of the vain and pointless exercises that are becoming a staple of the leaflocker. So:

Tie Number:001
Designation: Oh Tintin, my Tintin
Provenance: Birthday present 2011
Manufacture: Citime, Italy
No. of Comments: 12 (New personal best)
Most Favourable Comment: "Ooh, I love Tintin, let me lend you my boxed set!" (I sense another little project coming on)
Least Favourable Comment: "That tie clashes that horrible shirt of yours. Doesn't your mother dress you properly in the morning?"
Observations: Most people don't find this tie as funny as I do. Weird.

Tune in next week for another, less interesting, tie-related post.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Wreck This Journal - Part One

In news unrelated to this post, myself and some friends are looking for a seventh for a "friendly" little game of diplomacy online. If you're keen, drop me a line in the comments.

Like most bibliophiles, I am fiercely protective of my books. I snap at those who carelessly open them to an angle of more than forty degrees, I keep them vertically as much as possible to reduce the stress on the spines, and I am meticulous about book repairs (at least as much as possible for a lazy guy with little free time).
Thus you might find it suprising that when I first saw a copy of Keri Smith's Wreck This Journal you might think that I would cringe at the very thought, but the reality is quite the opposite. Here was a book that I could destroy, let go of my neanderthal instincts and just run wild with, and have a lot of fun along the way. It wanted me to obliterate it, crush it beneath my heel (literally), devour it piece by piece. Unfortunately, though, the owner of it was reluctant to let me mutilate part of her library, no matter how manic the grin on my face became.

So you can imagine my joy, when for my most recent birthday I received a copy of my very own, to destroy however I saw fit, and I have since taken great joy in various modes of distruction, taking care not to do too much at any one time, so that I can keep the journal for a little while and not end up spending all my money on new versions just so that I could destroy it a little more.

First, I vicously cracked the spine in as many ways as I could think of, stamping, folding, karate chopping. Damage was being done, I was harm that most precious of God's creations, a book, and it should have felt glorious, but instead it but strangely unsatisfying. There wasn't even any good little popping noises like one comes to expect from handling library hardcovers.

Next I tried pure destruction, ripping and tearing, but it was too neat, too sensible.

The washing machine was next, and this at least produced a satisfying result (and a bit of a mess in the machine...), obviously water was a good thing for this poor little journal, which left the next step painfully obvious...

Shower time. Get the journal good and soapy, make sure it gets a nice shampoo and everything too, so that it comes out fresh and clean and smelling of chemicals.

Then, of course, I had a wet journal to deal with, so I left it on the wood heater to dry out over the course of several days, changing the page it was open to regularly. Then various family members found it, and following the instructions they opened to a random page and performed the function for me, hence the red wine stain through some of the central pages.

A curious red mould is growing on some of the pages, I guess I left it damp for too long...unexpected natural destruction, nice!

Time to contribute a little of my own with a few little notes...

I was beginning to feel a little bit like a sheep, just following along doing everything the book tells me, but hey, the world needs a few sheep, anyway.

Go, you brave little spine!

Hrmm, starting to look a little tatty, for some reason.

Well, that's the beginning of what I hope will be an interesting little series. Of course, other people have done this so so much better than me that it seems hardly worth trying, but I'm having fun with it for now. Other people scare me, anyway.

Wanna know what else I got for my birthday? You'll just have to wait until tomorrow.