A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Public Policy

Next week the people in my state get to vote for a new government. If the blogs I read are to be believed, there's an almost gleeful feeling in the air that change is coming.

I suppose I'm one of those who hate election campaigns because more often than not we see some of the worst of human nature on display. And the past few weeks, we certainly have... from people who are supposed to govern us.

At church today, a more senior member of our congregation remarked to me that "we don't have the leaders we need" to which I agreed heartily. However, the more I thought about that, the more I came to the conclusion that although that is true on some level (and the quality of our politicans have deterioriated over the years), I think the problem lies with us, the voting public. We let things slide, we let the pollies put one over us and we accept the decline in the quality of news reporting.
More and more I see that the politicans we get is in very large part a reflection of the community's values and general indifference to public policy.

It's a hard thing to say because I am part of the community. These days we tolerate all manner of sin far too readily.

My whole thought process dovetailed nicely with the sermon I heard this morning. Isaiah, when confronted with the glory of God, saw himself as he was. A man of unclean lips. A man belonging to a people of unclean lips.
Until we return to the fundamentals, I don't think it really matters who we vote for.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

John Carter (2012)

I am such a sucker for old-fashioned science fiction, adventure romps that a film would have to be quite dreadful (in the tradition of Clash of the Titans) for me to pan it. The first trailer that I saw for John Carter didn't give one much reason to hope  (the lead actor looked at first glance to be a weedy, pasty Conan the Barbarian) but subsequent trailers convinced me that there was a decent flick in there amidst all the CGI spectacle. Moreover, finding out that this was a science fiction classic penned a hundred years ago by the author of Tarzan of the Apes, sealed the deal for me.

John Carter hasn't seen much love from the critics which probably shouldn't surprise me these days. The divide between critical reception and mass popularity seems to be widening ever more. In this case, I expect it will be much the same.

OK, so I liked John Carter and probably enjoyed it more than War Horse -- the last thing I saw at the cinema. It probably helps a lot that I'm a big science fiction movie buff but honestly, I thought the film had more in common with Indiana Jones 1 and 2 than The Matrix or Star Trek. There's more than a passing resemblance to Star Wars but since the John Carter series was written way before Lucas was even thought of, it begs the question of who really is paying homage to whom.

John Carter, the titular character, is a former Confederate turned gold prospector and in this film version he's world weary and deeply embittered about the human loss he sustained during the war. On one occasion, while taking refuge from a group of hostile Apache, he stumbles onto a cave covered with extraordinary markings. His curiosity is quickly aroused so he investigates further. This incident leads him to a transportation device which immediately whisks him to the Red Planet, which the local inhabitants know better as "Barsoom".
Thus begins his adventures on Mars leading to different encounters which would change his life forever.

One of my favourite bits in this is the use of flashbacks as a way into Carter's history and personality. It's not overdone and manages efficiently to explains the fuel that stokes his anger.  The flying machines, looking like something out of Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks, were also very nice to look at.

Although the lead actor fulfilled the role of the action hero more than adequately, he was scarcely an acting heavyweight. It's not that he played Carter badly but his unshaven boy-next-door looks with his modern American accent often seemed at odds with the general scenery. Perhaps that was deliberate? I couldn't say but that was something that didn't sit right with me. He definitely looked a bit too young to be Burroughs' uncle anyhow. On the upside, he did have believably good chemistry with Princess Dejah Thoris.

To its credit, this film had a great deal more gravitas than I expected. Usually I expect these things to be silly and loads of fun, which it was. But there were also some heart moments too which surprised me a little. It caused me think that the people who put this together did have real respect for the source material whatever the end result.

Friday, March 16, 2012

So this is parenting...

One of the hardest and most heart-breaking things about parenting is trying to explain to your children the darker side of "having friends".
Generally, I try not to interfere/intervene unless the kerfuffle encroaches on prized family rules. I do, however, offer advice. Afterall, it is important that they have friends and learn how to deal with all aspects of human nature as is manifested in people they call "friends".
Undoubtedly it frustrates the 10 year old (and her mother) that other people parent from a different playbook. And in a free society, that's inevitable.
It isn't that I claim to have all the answers about parenting which seems to get harder as our community becomes more diverse but there are some basic things I do believe strongly in like:
  • Boundaries
  • Consequences
  • Taking responsibility for one's actions/possessions
  • Respect for one's elders
Once upon a time these were commonsensical things notions but apparently they have fallen out of favour with large sections of the populace to varying degrees. I shouldn't be but I'm surprised that not everything thinks the same way.
It's hard... to keep at it... I know, I struggle through the process too. And I feel like such a snob prattling on like this. Still, if I'm honest... I find that my greatest parenting challenge, as the children get older, has become other people's children. There are days when I am in sympatico with increasing numbers of people choosing to homeschool their children.

On the postive side, I find it instructive to ask myself semi-regularly... what sort of children am I unleashing on the world?
Sometimes I like the answer, often I don't.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Update: This post is really over a week old. Was going to get back to it but didn't.

I was going to post something about Mary Poppins on the weekend but the sleep zombies had got to me Thursday night and I felt really horrible on Friday. For a while there with my sinuses banging around inside... I thought some wicked bug was coming my way. Hence it was bed all weekend for moi, just to be on the safe side.

So... yes... 10 year old and I went to a live show of Mary Poppins -- late birthday present for me and early birthday present for her. Because I uhmed and ahed for too long... I didn't have too many choices left to me by the time I decided to go for it. So I went for the cheap seats in the balcony because I was feeling cheap and the choices were largely limited to opposite ends of the cost spectrum.

When the show started I found plenty of reasons to regret my decision. Most importantly, the actors looked tiny. Hard to see the expressions on their faces when one is that far back. 10 year old and I spent a lot of time sitting up and peering over. Other than that, we had a really good time.

The show was spectacular. The performances were really good (singing, dancing) and I should make special mention of the talented lad who played Bert. Not only is his cockney accent better than Dick van Dyke's but he is quite the tap dancer. Apparently he has been a regular on a reality talent show called "Dancing with the Stars".
I did miss the dancing penguins and the race horses but all in all it was a colourful, clever show.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Fenced Around

Someone crashed into our front fence today trying to avoid hitting another car because well... they ran a red light. I was at the back of the house and rushed to the front when I heard a loud bang. Opening the front door and peering out at the scene in front of me was a strange moment -- like being a witness to the culmination of a high speed car chase on one of those high octane B action thrillers except that it happened on my front lawn.

But that's not the moral of the story.

The moral of the story is that we've been living where we've been living for over a decade and yet incidents like that have been rare. I only recall one other occasion where someone caused a bit of minor damage.
The investigating officer rattled off a couple of examples of places prone to fence crashings and see their fences replaced at least once a year. We were, in his words, "lucky"

I suppose we are... in a manner of speaking... blessed. I don't think "luck" has very much to do with it.

I'd never thought about it that way before. Not that there has never been an accident at that junction. There's been a few but our fence has had more trouble from termites than absent-minded drivers.
Interesting thing though, we had only replaced it a few months ago.

Undoubtedly, it's going to be a little inconvenient. But I am thankful. Thankful that no one was hurt, thankful that things can always be much worse.