Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Five "news" items on the new look SMH

I see the smh online has a completely new look today. I got quite a surprise when seeing it for the first time this morning. I think I quite like the new layout.

But one thing sure hasn't changed. Here's five items deemed to be "newsworthy" by the smh online editors at the time I looked at the front page this evening:

1. Scud makes his pick: Philippoussis goes public with his dating show winning candidate. This was the top headline story I must point out with the most prominent accompanying picture.

2. Star treatment for Michelle: She may play the villain but Pfeiffer was all smiles on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

3. What the gossip mags say: Poor Kirstie Alley can't indulge in a Mars Bar or 10 without them finding out. OK, so I know this column is a bit of a toungue-in-cheek-holier-than-thou send up of the gossip mags, but don't go telling me the Herald isn't using its weekly "What the gossip mags say" spot simply to disguise it's own indulgence in celebrity gossip behind a thinly veiled veneer of broadsheet "quality" city newspaper snobbery.

4. Trash Talk: Jude and Cam? Reese and Ryan? Trouble with Brangelina? It's Trash Talk time again. See point 3 above.

5. Box office poison: Crowe not worth the money - Australian actor gives the worst box office return on his salary, according to Forbes. OK, that's vaguely news. But it's still really just indulging in discussing celebrity salaries isn't it?

Is there really much difference between the SMH online and New Idea? Hhhmmm ... not sure ...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Five interesting things about Dubai

Dubai: 1990

Dubai: 2005

1. There are more cranes in Dubai than any other city in the world. Estimates range from 15% to 24% of the world's construction cranes are currently located in Dubai. It is the world's fastest growing city.

2. The expatriate population of Dubai is about 85%.

3. The median age in Dubai is 27 years.

4. The ratio of males to females in Dubai is 3:1.

5. Although the average temperature in Dubai in the coming week will range from a minimum of 31 to a maximum of 42, you can still go snow skiing in any day of the year in downtown Dubai.

A mysterious God? Salvation is tangible ...

Dan is posting some excellent stuff on music lately.  This post is gold.  All about how humans love mystery, but ultimately knowing God is not mysterious at all.
Dan starts out stating that we humans are into a bit of mystery:
Humans love mystery. Particularly in worship we are generally drawn to the mysterious. There is a sense in our post modern society that if it is mysterious it has meaning or value.
He then goes on to talk about examples of Christians craving mystery and an "ethereal experience" of God.  Then he gets to this bit which is the highlight of the piece, and beautifully expressed:
However there can be a problem when we prefer a good mystery to a revealed truth. Jesus is God in flesh. He is a tangible reality. He ate. He died. He walked around. He was not a spirit being who was beyond us but rather was God with us. No doubt this is a earth-shattering concept but salvation itself is tangible.

Good stuff.  A fleshly Jesus.  A tangible salvation.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Name dropping

Went to a Sydney Theatre Company function last night and it was a case of spot the celebrity/VIP. I'm going to engage in some unashamed name dropping, but given the "five" theme of my blog I'll limit myself to just that number!

1. Andrew Upton (unfortunately his more famous wife, none other than Cate Blanchett, failed to turn up!).

2. Nick Greiner and Kathryn Greiner - I'm sneaking two names in under the one family!

3. Bob Carr (and yes, Bob did speak with Nick Greiner!).

4. Andrew Hansen of The Chaser.

5. Barry Otto.

There were a few more, but to go any further would be bragging ...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

More from Mars Hill on hymns

Seems like my Baz Lurhman theory of modernizing hymns was not entirely misplaced. From what Mars Hill have published on their own site looks like they have a similar theory when it comes to singing songs that connect with the past but are in tune with modern culture.

Here's what Joe Day has to say on Why We Don't Use Mainstream Songs:

At Mars Hill we chose to not use mainstream contemporary Christian music for three main reasons. The first reason is their theological content is often pretty minimal. Of course, there are exceptions, but generally this is true. For the ones that do contain good theology, there’s a second obstacle – we have to pay to use them (due to publishing laws). Since we live in a place where songwriters and creative people abound, we’ve simply not considered paying for worship music a viable option. Instead, we opt to write our own music and rearrange old hymns. We rearrange the old-school hymns because their content is rich, the imagery is vivid, and the theology elevates Christ magnificently. Plus, they are in the public domain, which means we don’t have to pay to use them. The original arrangements are artifacts of the era in which they were written–often times very difficult to sing–but because the content is so rich, they beg to be rearranged in a way that makes sense in Seattle. And so we rearrange.
And here's what Pastor Tim Smith says about Christmas carols, which are also in the style of old hymns:

When it comes to Christmas music standards you have to leave the melody in tact—and rest assured we have. However, in keeping with Mars Hill’s philosophy of hymn arrangement we have done our best to frame these beautiful old melodies into a modern, musical context.

Historically speaking, many of the old hymns we sing have a separate author for the tune and the text. Over the years these texts have been put to a number of different tunes to fit with a particular people in a particular place and time. We see ourselves as a part of that continuum of people seeking to bring glory to Jesus in a way that resonates with the people of our culture.

In many ways this is how we are to live as Christians: we share an ancient message (the truth of Jesus) and we articulate that message in the current language and culture of our time.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Five thoughts on kids and food

I've been meaning to blog on this topic for a while, but the small debate over at Craig's blog yesterday on kids and food has prompted me to do it now.

Now you're all going to think I'm a food snob or a food nazi or a party pooper, and I'm sure I'll get shot down in flames because hardly anyone I knows shares these views, but here goes. I think that, on the whole, our society has a Bad Attitude when it comes to how we feed kids. It's no wonder there's an increasing obesity epidemic. But it's not just about health, it's also about simple taste! This attitude is exhibited in a number of ways. Here's five of them:

1. As I said over at Craig's blog, it troubles me that junk food is equated with fun. This comes through in what we hand out to kids at their parties (and then give them another bag full of the junk to take home!!!), through to the face of McDonalds being a fun loving clown. Indeed, McDonalds can wear a lot of the blame in my opinion. I have no time for that institution at all. It serves up crap disguised as food, and clothes it in a sugar coating (literally) of fun - kids playgrounds, kids parties, free toys with meals. The one time I took my daughter (then aged only 1) to McDonalds (only because of lack of choice on the highway!), she started kicking her legs with excitement at the sight of the bright vibrant colours - it immediately appeals to kids.

2. The other similar thing that troubles me is that so many restaurants have a "kids menu" which invariably consists of chicken nuggets, chips, hamburgers or anything else battered - once again, crap. I'm not saying I never eat those things (though chicken nuggets I will draw the line at), but when meals such as these are the only things on a so-called "kids menu" what on earth is the message that we are conveying?? What's wrong with sharing some of your risotto with the child? Or serving child sized portions of risotto? This happens also in homes. We have one meal for the adults, and another for the kids, and often the kids meal is stuff warmed up from the frozen food section of Coles.

3. We also use junk food as the reward for "eating your greens". It pits the "nice food" against the "necessary evil food". Again, what's the message this is sending? Why not encourage kids to enjoy avocado, or brocolli, or peas. Cook them in interesting ways. Eat foods raw (my girls love snapping open snow peas and gobbling them up). Give them flavoursome sauces. Get them to help you cook them to increase their interest.

4. Apart from the health issues, there's a broader issue of letting our kids develop a wide taste for interesting and varied foods. Frankly, whether McDonalds is nutritious or not (and we know the answer to that), the simple fact is it tastes like vomit. Why limit them to such garbage when there is a world of interesting and delicious foods out there. In multicultural Sydney there is no excuse - there is such variety to try. Take them out for Vietnamese or Lebanese or Indian. Let them try olives and grilled eggplants and Pad Thai and hommous and curries.

5. Finally, I feel that we often treat our kids like second class citizens. We eat the expensive good stuff ourselves, and give them the cheap stuff. We justify it by saying they're too young to appreciate it. Garbage. My own hypocrisy on this was exposed when we had a family over for a meal and served a cheese platter - a block of blue vein cheese (more expensive) for the adults and block of cheddar cheese for the kids (surely that's all their unsophisticated palates can handle?). Guess which one the kids got stuck into? The blue vein!! And why not - let them enjoy the good stuff too! Why should the adults have all the nice food?

Anyway, there's my thoughts? What are yours?


Just clicked over to 1,500 hits. It took me till 21 June (nearly 6 months) to reach 1,000, and has now taken less than 3 weeks to increase that amount by 50%. Just goes to show posting more often really does work ...

Friday, July 06, 2007

Five thoughts while on a lunch time jog

1.  The USS Kitty Hawk is a very big ship.  And attracted a very great number of spectators, more people to duck and weave while jogging.
2.  The Bold and the Beautiful cliches aside, Sydney is a very beautiful city, especially on a blue sky day like today and especially when running harbourside.
3.  Mat is a very good mate, who I haven't seen anywhere near often enough in recent years.  Was very good to bump into him on said harbourside run. 
4.  Inviting American sailors to come to church at the Cathedral while the USS Kitty Hawk is docked in the harbour is a very good idea (well done Mat).
5.  In case I haven't mentioned it before , Mars Hill music is very excellent and on a iPod makes a great jogging soundtrack.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Baz Luhrman and hymns

What has Baz Luhrman got to do with hymns, you might ask? Good question.

I've been doing a lot of posting lately about modernizing old hymns - same lyrics and tunes, just modernized arrangements. I was listening to one of the Mars Hill recordings of All Creatures of Our God and King, and noticed the lyrics "Thou rushing wind that art so strong". What an old fashioned way to speak. Many of the hymns are like this - with smatterings of King James English and plenty of "thees" and "thous".

What do we do with these when trying to modernize the hymn?

This is where the old Baz comes in. Have you seen his version of Romeo + Juliet? Brilliant movie. The whole thing is spoken in Elizabethan English, just as per Shakespeare's original script. Baz has taken the raw product, and given it a thoroughly modern facelift but without changing the underlying story or words. The result is a work of pure artistic genius. There's no doubting this is a modern film, but there's also no doubting it's Shakespeare's original words. The viewer barely flinches when the characters speak in language from 400 years ago.

Same thing with hymns. Keep the tune, keep the lyrics, but give it a modern facelift. If you can carry it off like Baz did, then you'll have a distinctly modern feel, but with language that reminds you that the writers of these hymns lived in another era, but still worshipped the same God and Saviour we worship today, the same God and Saviour that has been worshipped down the ages.

There's something enriching about listening to Shakespeare and his other worldly language. And I think there's also something enriching about singing these old hymns with their language from another time. Change the words too much, and you risk changing the rich poetry of those hymns. And remember, it is only the odd word here and there - it's not like we're trying to sing in Latin!

Perhaps sometimes there's a bit of a cultural gap that results, but that's where the modern arrangement comes in - to bridge that gap and give a modern edge that is relevant to today's times, while retaining the rich heritage left by our forebears.