World Youth Day

I think World Youth Day sucks for all kinds of reasons.
I don't think that any of the tiers of government should be financially supporting any kind of private religious celebration, and the fact that NSW Labor is speaks to the corruption, the social conservatism and the dominance of the Catholic church in that party. It's just not healthy, no matter how you care to spin it.
I also resent the fact that WYD is really just presenting one face of Catholic spirituality, and its a pretty ugly face. It's a kind of Nuremberg Rally of right-wing Catholicism, and I resent being exepected to be excited about it. Don't tell me how much money it's going to contribute to the local economy (not half as much as the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, which gets zilch from the government), or how wonderful it will be to have the streets filled with wholesome, Christian young people intent on doing good. I would suggest that the central message of WYD does a lot of bad to, for example, young gay and lesbian people, or young people who might happen to be Hindu or Buddhist, or young people who might want to retain the freedom and integrity to formulate their own beliefs free from the dogma and dictates of an authoritarian institution.
That said, there are going to be some fabulous high-camp moments that I am just not going to miss. These include:

1. Viewing the body of the Blessed Pier Giorgio - we rarely get to see the fossilised remains of dead people in Australia, and I wouldn't miss this macabre spectacle for the world.

2. The live Stations of the Cross - high-camp, real-life drama in the tradition of Jesus Christ Superstar. And the guy playing Jesus is a fox!

3. The Religious Orders Fun-Fair in Hyde Park - that's right, just across from the Cathedral they're setting up a kind of garden fete to encourage kids to join religious orders. Will there be a Franciscan jumping castle? The Benedictine super-slide? Put the balls in St. Therese's mouth? The possibilities are endless, and the implications of a pilgrims' fair are way too Chaucerian for me to pass up. I'm secretly hoping they will be selling indulgences.

4. Mary Mackillop's Tomb as Disneyland - the good Josephite sisters are ramping up operations at their actually quite tasteful headquarters in North Sydney. They are installing porta-loos and hot dog stands and charging punters 10 bucks to get into the church and spend some quality time at Mother Mary's tomb. Or you can buy a $30 all-day ticket which includes a continental breakfast and a whirlwind tour through the bizarre museum out the back that no-one ever visits.

I'm sure that there are actually some good and worthwhile events happening too. I am aware, for example, that the wonderful people at the World Christian Meditation Community - genuine good guys - will be operating an alternative space all week at the Paddington Uniting Church, where people can go and meditate and spend some quiet, genuinely contemplative and spiritual time. But for the most part the whole WYD event is an exercise in bombast, chauvinism and tackiness, and on balance it has done enormous damage to the reputation of the Catholic Church in Australia.

St. Martin De Porres

I stopped in at St. Peter Julian's in Chinatown last week and went on a shopping spree in their fabulous little gift shop, hidden away at the side of the church. It must be one of Sydney's best-kept secrets. By far the best range of Holy Pictures in Australia - I came out with arm-loads. The church is meant to close for renovations soon, and I am terrified that they will close the shop, or it will become more expensive.
Anyway, here is my new favourite Holy Picture. It is of St. Martin de Porres, a mixed-race Dominican brother from Peru who was known to levitate. Isn't he wonderful?

The Beatitudes - Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

I love the Beatitudes.
They are deeply challenging moral pointers and quite counter-cultural.
I am also of the opinion that most Christian churches do their level best to ignore them in their entirety.
I have in the back of my mind an idea to write a book about the Beatitudes and how they are still important in the post-modern world. I will definitely do that one day.
But if you'll indulge me, I'd like to explore the Beatitudes one by one and tell you what they mean to me.
Let's start with #1 - Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Right from the start this is a radical statement.
Really, it's "wtf?" kinda material.
So many people struggle to explain this one, and yet here it is, the first thing Christ chose to tell everyone whilst delivering his biggest and most important sermon.
What's so great about being poor, in spirit or otherwise?
I think that this is an injunction to be humble, to never imagine that you possess the spiritual answers. The moment we think we are gifted in knowledge or spiritual advancement we become arrogant and we start pointing the finger and seeking to exclude others. Better we remain humble, and acknowledge our own spiritual failings, our own constant inability to measure up to even the most basic spiritual commandments, of whatever tradition.
Those who think they don't know are the ones who'll learn the most.

Out of the Ordinary

I've just completed an absolutely mammoth essay, so to relax a little I've been reading Jon Ronson's marvellous collection of articles Out of the Ordinary. I love Ronson - I read his wonderful book Them years ago, and have always admired his cleverness and humour. I'd love to be able to write like him. It's interesting to read in this book about his subtle rivalry with Louis Theroux - I must admit I've often thought that the young Mr. Theroux has been poaching on Ronson territory for some time. I like Louis Theroux's stuff, but he can be a little annoyingly "right on" in his political views at times. Ronson is more honest, and expresses a little more ambivalence about his subjects - sometimes agreeing with them, sometimes repulsed by them. This seems to me a much more realistic reaction.

Eating in Cabramatta #1 - Com Chien Ga Da Don

I live in Cabramatta, which is clearly Sydney's best suburb.
It is vibrant and fun, always something going on and something to buy, and the best food in Australia.
I know Cabramatta as well as anyone in the country, and eat there almost every day.
So, I will attempt to record some of my favourite meals so that you know what to look for next time you are out here.
So today for lunch I had Com Chien Ga Da Don, which is crispy chicken with fried rice. This is a classic Chinese/Viet dish, the kind of thing that most Vietnamese people would wanna eat for lunch, but the kind of thing that no Anglos would dream of ordering when they went out to a restaurant.
The chicken is crispy-fried to perfection, and the accompanying fried rice (a specialty of this particular restaurant) is particularly delicious. It comes with a standard Vietnamese dipping sauce based on fish sauce mixed with water, lemon juice, sugar and various other secret ingredients - every restaurant has its own mix, and I have been known to frequent an establishment based purely on the quality of its dipping sauce. But today I cheated because my partner had Hainam Chicken with fried rice, and the sauce they give for that is even yummier - it's filled with crushed-up ginger and is a lot sweeter. So I kept stealing his.


I've been quiet on my blog for a couple of weeks, for which I apologise.
There are a number of reasons. I have been working on (am still working on) an enormous essay on "Rejection of the Other" which is a huge percentage of my Honours Year marks. I'm almost there with that one, but it's still taking up a lot of my mind space.
But mostly I've been sad because I had to say goodbye to my beautiful little cat Donna.
She'd been our dearest companion for 17 years, and we loved her very much.
She was a gentle little soul, and spent every moment with us. Incredibly affectionate and loyal, towards the end of her life she became completely deaf, which meant that she relied on us even more for safety and protection.
She had developed cancer of the jaw, and had quickly deteriorated to the point where she could no longer eat or drink. We had to make the incredibly difficult decision to have her euthanased, and it was by far the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Just holding her in my arms as we drove her to the vet, knowing that these would be her last few moments, and her lying there purring, trusting me completely.
The vet was a wonderful woman, but it was all over so quickly, and before we knew it we had a small little bundle wrapped up in a checked cloth, and our beautiful little friend was no more.
We buried her in our back garden, and this morning when I looked out I saw that the sun was shining exactly on the spot where we'd buried her.
She was such a beautiful cat, petite and clever and inclined to take liberties.
And she was a great friend, through such an important part of my life.
I miss you, darling Donna, and pray for you, wherever you are now.
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