Teaser Tuesdays


TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!


  • "One day if you're very lucky you may have to introduce the Prime Minister of New Zealand to Miss Australia but in the meantime here are the simple rules. Introduce a man to a woman - a younger person to an older person. Say the lady's name first."
    ~p. 27 Christine Chaseling's, "The June Dally-Watkins Book of Manners for Moderns"


    Monday Blogcrawl


    I had a bizarre week last week. Battles with awful university bureaucracy (I lost), reading etiquette books by the dozen in university libraries and finally helping with the tour of a gay Catholic priest. I need to be attending to my thesis more, because I have promised my supervisor the next chapter by the end of this month, and it turns out that that's this week. Who knew? So, instead of writing, this is what I've been looking at:

    1. The centenary of Tolstoy’s death brings a nice little examination of the poor intellectual weaklings who laboured for him.
    2. Gawker confirms what I've long suspected: living in cities is better for you
    3. Our Lady of Walsingham is my very favourite version of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Confessions of a Ci-Devant celebrated her feast day.
    4. Naturally I think a personal blog is the way to go, and you can find out why over at Problogger.
    5. Finally, someone (like me) who won't be reading the new Jonathan Franzen!


    Monday Blogcrawl


    My research group is having its annual soiree tonight, and I'd better get there early, because the bar tab tends to dry up pretty quick. Authors are great drinkers, especially when cocktails are on offer. Have been battling a migraine for two days (should one battle with one's pains?), but I think I say that almost every week, and I don't want to bore people. Had a splendid weekend, with friends and family coming to visit me, and I just love showing off my own little peculiar piece of Sydney. Here's what I've been looking at:

    Teaser Tuesdays


    TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

  • "It's time to recapture some of that youthful curiosity by learning something new every day, every week, or just every once in a while. Learning new things isn't about getting smarter, it's about being interested (and more interesting)."
    ~ p. 11, Lia Steakley's "Dream It. List It. Do It."







    Monday Blogcrawl


    I'm always intending to do so many things, but I have to admit that frequently I fail to follow through. This last week was challenging because I had a couple of migraines that reduced my personal efficiency considerably. I have a pile right near my computer of reviews to do, articles to write etc. Who knows, maybe this week will be the week? In the meantime, here are a couple of diversions:

    Teaser Tuesdays


    TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!


  • "Each person is here to work out his or her own lessons, and if I fix it for them, then they will just go and do it again, because they have not worked out what they needed to do for themselves. All I can do is love them, allow them to be who they are, and know that the truth is always within them and that they can change at any moment they want."
    ~ page 43, "Inner Wisdom" by Louise L. Hay






    Channeling


    Photo: J. Z. Knight, the extraordinarily popular medium who channels the entity known as Ramtha.


    I've been re-reading Mick Brown's wonderful and thoroughly unique mystical travel-memoir The Spiritual Tourist, and coming across his beautiful descriptions of Benjamin Creme I began to reflect on the practice of channeling. Channeling, for those who might be unfamiliar with the term, is the act of serving as a channel for messages from disembodied beings. It is:
    n. The act or practice of serving as a medium through which a spirit guide purportedly communicates with living persons.

    As a spiritual activity it has quite a pedigree, and was, of course the principal practice behind spiritualism, the great religious trend of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. The aforementioned Mr. Creme practices a species of channeling, serving as the vessel for messages from Maitreya, the future Buddha. In Japan there are many sects and cults devoted to the practise of channeling, which has its roots in Shinto folk-religion. People like Ryuho Okawa, one of Japan's bestselling authors, are acclaimed religious leaders with large and wealthy congregations. Okawa's philosophy is based on his own channeling and spirit journeys, interacting on the spirit plane with people like Beethoven, Swedenborg and the Buddha.

    Though channeling might seem like a quaintly antique practice, it has never really gone away. Many of the spiritual "classics" of the 20th century have been channeled material,and these disembodied messages have always proved extremely popular among the reading public. It goes without saying that the process of channeling is viewed with singular horror by folks of a more conventional Christian outlook. But the academic study of channeling has been a fascinating area, and I am intrigued by the sheer bulk of material that is still being released, and that still obviously has great cultural currency. It is frequently presented as straightforward literature, its peculiar mystical origins understated, though celebrated by those in the know.

    Channeling appears in the Old Testament in the story of the Witch of Endor, and there is every reason to assume that the religions of the ancients were filled with mediums and channels. I think immediately of the Oracle at Delphi. Channeling also exists in other cultures, and is common in predominantly Buddhist countries. Spirit mediums do a roaring business in Thailand, and in Vietnam the traditional ceremonies of channeling, known as len dong, are wildly popular, though officially outlawed. It is worth remembering that Cao Dai, Vietnam's great indigenous religion, was founded through an act of channeling, and its holy books based on channeled writings.

    In the English speaking world there is, and has been for generations, a vast literature of channeled material. The most pre-eminent practitioners in the present day are Esther and Jerry Hicks. Esther Hicks channels a "group of non-physical entities" who operate under the singular name Abraham. These teachings are vaunted by Louise Hay (who publishes their books) and Wayne Dyer. Hay has a history of championing channeled teachings - previously she has been an enthusiast of the 1980s channeled classic Emmanuel's Book, as well as A Course in Miracles, whose scribe claimed to be channeling none other than Jesus Christ himself.

    When I worked in a New Age bookstore the channeled teachings section was by far the most popular, its books most consistently bestsellers. Luminaries of the genre include Sanaya Roman, Ramtha, Elizabeth Clare Prophet and Jane Roberts.

    I'm not sure what I think about channeled writing from an academic perspective. Obviously there is some kind of deep - and probably ancient - need to cast folk-philosophy as somehow suernatural. The act of channeling seems to be hardwired into the human mystical consciousness, and it is probably just the newest name for the older activities of prophecy and shamanic trance. From a literary angle, I have to say that channeled writings tend to veer toward the confused and prolix. Without being snobbish, I really do find most of the material presented as channeled to be very difficult to read. I think this may have more to do with an unwillingness to properly edit material viewed somehow as sacred.

    I think, too, that people have a great need to connect with supernatural spirit guides, be they angels, saints or other mystical beings. The phenomenon of channeling, and the extraordinary popularity of channeled writings, points to a victory of a really old set of folk religious beliefs which doesn't like like fading away anytime soon.



    Monday Blogcrawl


    Feeling overwhelmed? You're not the only one. I've been spending much time plotting my future, trying to work out how to pay for all the things I want to do, etc. etc. To distract me, I read blogs. Here's what just managed to keep me happy this week:

    Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters


    I've been a fan of John Waters ever since I was a kid and saw something on daytime TV about his movie Polyester. Of course, it was famously presented in Odorama, and my childish imagination was captured by the idea. I really wanted to see that movie. While in high school his great muse Divine became something of a pop-star, and I followed her career with great interest. A 200 kilo drag queen was always going to grab my interest, especially one singing Hi N-R-G disco tunes.

    By the time I got anywhere that actually played his movies he had just released the original Hairspray, and I was an instant fan. In those days there was a revival-house cinema in Sydney (does anyone remember it?), and they regularly played his back catalogue. So I saw in quick succession Female Trouble, Desperate Living and the infamous Pink Flamingos.

    This book, Crackpot, was released in 1983, and it is a fine collection of Waters' essays cataloguing his unlikely obsessions and distasteful enthusiasms. It should come as no surprise that his trashy facade obscures a distinctly literary soul, and he writes beautifully, and very, very funnily. As well as being a wonderful exploration of Waters' interior world, Crackpot also serves as something of a primer of 1980s popular culture, and if I ever ran a University course on that subject (hello academic world - are you listening?) this would definitely be my textbook.

    It's a wonderfully nostalgic read as he details an interview with Pia Zadora, or mentions in passing Boy George's birthday party. Indeed, the whole book is something of a self-conscius exercise in nostalgia, a commodity that Waters trades in extensively and which, I think, characterises his work. Anyone familiar with his film work will recognise in these essays the germ of many of his plots (the whole scenario of Hairspray, for example, is presented in a reflection on TV in Baltimore in the 60s, and many of the characters that turn up in Pecker, and Cecil B. Demented, among many others, are described here as real people Waters knew in his youth).

    Along with nostalgia and a kabuki-esque dedication to tastelessness (and he says a lot of things in this book that he'd never get away with in teh infinitely more politically correct 21st century), Waters writes well on the subject of celebrity. Of course, queerness and celebrity have always gone hand in hand, and Waters would seem to have been the textbook little homely gay kid who develops an encyclopedic knowledge of the lesser celebrities of his childhood.His essay on 'How to Become Famous' could actually be read as a self-help manual, and contains much salient advice on how to become a celebrity, no matter what. Some of the tips include: "Exaggerate Yourself...if you're overweight, go eat ten pies..." and "Die...Drastic? Well, I thought you were serious."

    Unsurprisingly, he turns out to be a real film buff, and rights just as insightfully on the films of Jean-Luc Godard as he does on the oeuvre of Jayne Mansfield. I wanted to read this book again before I started on his new book Role Models, which is an examination of his literary (and other) influences. John Waters is a genius, there is no doubt about it, and his books prove that he is a polymath to boot.
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