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Friday. Enjoy your weekend with the thought that we’ve got fewer days of Federal Election campaigning to go than we did last week.

On fashion history

William Kremner Why did men stop wearing high heals?

Persian style shoes were enthusiastically adopted by aristocrats, who sought to give their appearance a virile, masculine edge that, it suddenly seemed, only heeled shoes could supply.

Louis XIV painted in 1701 by Hyacinthe Rigaud (Getty Images)Louis XIV wearing his trademark heels in a 1701 portrait by Hyacinthe Rigaud

As the wearing of heels filtered into the lower ranks of society, the aristocracy responded by dramatically increasing the height of their shoes – and the high heel was born.

On music

The hottest 100 confirmed that I really am too old to be among Triple J listeners (Thrift Shop? Really?) so it’s over to ABC Classic for me. Nonetheless, here’s a Guide to telling your indie folk bands apart.

On the Order of Australia

Ah, privileged white men again. Hardly reflective of the diverse achievements and service throughout the nation.

Monica Attard “My dear…Have no fear”

Anne Summers New criteria for Australia Day awards are in order. I’m convinced we need some better criteria. Unfortunately Summers doesn’t actually suggest any. Perhaps the council need to be a bit more proactive in searching out recipients – look among the firefighters, lifesavers, kids sports coaches, guide and scout leaders, rotarians, volunteers. What would you suggest as criteria?

On disability

Henry Lebovic Disability is bad for your bank balance

On thinking and listening more carefully 

This isn’t always evangelicals’ strong points, especially with regards to complex moral issues like colonialism.

Morgan Guyton Sex-trafficking, colonialism and miscommunication

On the human rights bill

Anna Brown Big picture lost in debate over anti-discrimination laws

On good books

It was another case of ‘the book the Koorong clientele rejected…’ I found Reformed and always Reforming in the bargain bin at Koorong for $2 and devoured it over the long weekend. I loved it. I even discovered a box to put myself in – ‘postconservative evangelical’ (and I thought I belonged nowhere). You must read it.

Reformed and always Reforming

My husband devoured The Australian Moment and says the same thing. Read it.

The Australian Moment

On Sydney in the 1920s

These incredible photos are from the Historic Houses trust. See Femme Fatales and Vintage Mugshots for more.

Leslie Rees was convicted of bigamy at the Moree Quarter Sessions and was sentenced to four months light labour. Women from regional centres were transferred to Sydney to serve their time. Age unknown.

Mary Rubina Brownlee, 4 April 1923

Convicted of unlawfully using an instrument to procure a miscarriage. Mary Brownlee was a backyard abortionist who was caught during an extensive police investigation. She was sentenced to 12 months light labour, but her male accomplice was acquitted. Aged 64.

Matilda Devine, 27 May 1925

Matilda ‘Tilly’ Devine used a razor to slash a man’s face in a barber’s shop and was sentenced to two years gaol. She was Sydney’s best-known brothel madam and her public quarrels with sly-grog queen Kate Leigh provided the media with an abundance of material. Aged 25.

Mildred Kruss, 16 December 1919

Mildred Kruss married her first husband in 1914. After the marriage broke down she neglected to go through the difficult and expensive divorce process. Upon marrying her second husband in 1918 she was convicted of bigamy and sentenced to six months with light labour. DOB: 1892

Nellie Cameron, 29 July 1930

Nellie Cameron was one of Sydney’s best-known, and most desired, prostitutes. Lillian Armfield, Australia’s first policewoman, said Cameron had an ‘assured poise that set her apart from all the other women of the Australian underworld’. Aged 21.

Phyllis Carmier, 1 April 1921

British-born Carmier was known as ‘Yankee’ Phyllis because of her peculiar accent. She stabbed her ‘bludger’, or pimp, to death during a violent altercation in Crazy Cottage, a sly-grog shop in Surry Hills. Carmier attracted much sympathy in the media, who labelled her crime a justifiable homicide. Aged 32.

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Lo and behold, it’s the end of the first week of work and the blog remains unattended to. So how’s your week back been? Here are some highlights.

On climate change and mental health

Corey Watts Hot Australia takes a toll on mental health

On women giving sermons

If you haven’t seen it yet, Lionel Windsor has written a response to pot-stirrer-in-chief, John Dickson.

As has Peter Bolt (without actually engaging with John’s argument so I’m assuming this is just a warm up).

Also we have Luke Collings (who shows a curious fondness for Capital Letters).

I haven’t found a response from a woman as yet (Claire Smith where are you?). Perhaps it’s too personal for us.

Dickson has promised a response to Windsor sometime this week.

On capitalism and church

Tim Gombis Values of capitalism and the Church

On the history of marriage

Radio National Marriage Australian style

On equal pay for equal work

Wendy Harmer This is totally unacceptable

Tracey Spicer Hey blokes! See you and raise you

and on ‘boys vs girl’ marketing, Corinne Grant Boys vs Girls marketing? Not buying it!

On the Arab Spring

Rupert Shortt In the Middle East, the Arab Spring has given way to a Christian Winter

On putting things into practice

Tim’s Blog We need a lot less Bible study and a lot more Bible action

On les Miserables

Chris Berg A revolution for our times

and on disability and being able to actually watch the movie

Gary Kerridge CaptiView: A raw deal for cinema goers

On the beach

From Dave Macca

The sea was sparkling,
the water was cool,
the surf was a good size.

I took off on a wave,
felt it pushing me forward,
and rode it to the beach.

My lungs were working hard,
sucking in every breath,
it was exhilarating!

Ride after ride,
heaving hard,
gasping for every breath.

Two years since I’d caught a wave,
last year I barely got wet,
and now I’m body surfing!

Simple things,
swimming and surfing,
smiling with joy.

I felt like I’d been given my life back.

Thank you God!

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Welcome to 2013. I’m still trying to forget that work starts again on Monday. Hope you’re adjusting ok.

What a legend!

Elizabeth Coleman, an 82 year old lady, has started a farm to take in ex-prisoners. It’s to give them a base, a safe environment, love, support and respect while they re-establish themselves. She believes in second chances, no matter what you’ve done. She wants to expand the work too. She knows Jesus.

Radio National Freedom. It’s worth listening to the podcast just to hear her gentle 82-year old voice speak with such passion.

On violence against women

Swati Parashar Where are the feminists to defend Indian women?

The lack of self-reflection among feminists is profound these days. The inability to empathise is astounding and the mimicry of the mainstream is becoming the norm rather than the exception.

We are obsessed as feminist academics and activists about where we publish, how we are seen, what we speak and where we stand, who notices us and who we speak for. We are concerned about whether what we say looks good on our CVs or in our public persona, whether we are on the side of the ‘progressives’, whether our politics is popular.

Saying unpopular things or taking radical positions is no longer fashionable or desirable. The comfort of the’ ivory tower’ from where we preach is good enough. Our job is done as soon as we have made the judgement of where we want to be seen/to belong…

John Piper has clarified his previous statements on domestic violence and abuse, explaining that women should also submit to civil authorities (which may mean calling the police).

On welcoming

Jon Acuff I wish every church said what this church says in their bulletin

We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo no habla Ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds…

On guns

Jeffrey Bishop The Massacre of the Holy Innocents; who is responsible for Newtown?

Garry Mills Our Moloch

James Martin More parables for our times: not your grandma’s prince of peace

1. When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: 2. “Blessed are those who know how to defend themselves, for they will be secure. Blessed are those who arm themselves, for they will not be sorry. Blessed are those with one club, for they will be safe. 3. How much more blessed are those with two clubs, for they will be able to win a fight with those with one club. 4. Let the one who has two clubs buy four, and the one who has four buy ten. Let them increase clubs a hundredfold and a thousandfold.”

On language

Francois Grosjean Change of language change of personality?

On monotony and yearning

Michael Spencer Just beyond the 100th time

Today’s secret thought was uttered by a commenter in a recent discussion thread, but it’s the kind of terrible thought that lurks in the minds of many of you reading this post. What terrible, shameful, embarrassing secret thought am I referring to?

‘Frankly, I’m to the point where there isn’t that much a pastor/teacher is going to be able to say that I haven’t heard 100 times already’…

On masculinity and faith

Radio National Men and Faith – ‘how Christian and Jewish men define masculinity today, and how it affects their relationship to power, women and other men.’ I tend to see masculinity as a false god and a harsh master. Though perhaps it’s better to ask the men how they feel about it:

As men, though we desire to be powerful—and I think as all of us perhaps, we desire to have everything under control—I think there are moments in our life when we realise, I am utterly powerless. I mean, at any moment now, I could die. I’m just a puny little thing and we, we recognise that when we go into nature or if we find ourselves amidst a booming thunderstorm. We realise just how small and insignificant we are, and that’s a terrifying thing.

Just speaking from personal experience, I don’t like being out of control. But I think this is the Christian message—you know, if you want to find life, you must lose it, our Lord says. And all we need to do is—I think Catholic men, Christian men—is to look to the symbol of our faith, look to the crucifix. I mean, there we see utter powerlessness. But at the same time we believe that that was the greatest victory, that at that moment, God conquered death itself…

On Les Miserables

Peter Enns Jesus himself would have bought a ticket and waited in a half hour line to see Les Miserables

Morgan Guyton Javert vs Valjean and the two Christianities of Les Miserables

Nathan Newman The enduring radicalism of Les Miserables

On beer and history

Koen Deconinck How beer created the state of Belgium

On women giving sermons and women in ministry

Michael Bird Women in Ministry Blitz begins

Luke Collings Gender and Ministry: Why John Dickson is wrong about women and preaching – make sure you read Dickson’s comments too.

I’m sure there’ll be more to come soon on this one.

On homelessness

Toby Hall Safe in their big houses, Australians are blind to the plight of street people

and for the single parents now on newstart

Thank you firstdogonthemoon

Newstart

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the post postmodern bond or ‘finally a bond movie that I didn’t have to check my brain at the door to enjoy’

James Bond, as we once knew him, is dead.

I’d always had my issues with James Bond. Bond, the sum of men’s fantasies? How disturbing. The violence, gambling, arrogance and womanising were one thing, but the racist stereotypes, the imperial attitudes, the objectification of so many women made it too much. I could only enjoy Bond if I checked my brain at the door. It’s better not to think.

But Bond’s been resurrected, it seems.

skyfall

The movie begins; a chase through an exotic marketplace, Bond has his beautiful female assistant by his side. Table tops overturning, non-Western dress, crowds screaming, motorbikes roaring through bazaars, stuff getting smashed up, world music playing. The whole thing. Romanticism, orientalism, sexism, imperialism. The old Bond.

Then he loses the chase and falls – presumed dead.

Skyfall’s Bond dies and is resurrected as a post-postmodern Bond attempting to re-establish himself in a new world.

This new Bond is painfully aware of the flaws of the old Bond. The movie exposes the his past arrogance and brings him down a peg. In the new world, things are not so certain, so clear-cut. The sky has fallen.

But the new Bond is not content to abandon everything from the past and settle for a world of relativity. He resists postmodernism. He wrestles to work out what might be worth redeeming and restoring from his old days, albeit without the misplaced confidence or naiveté of the past. He’s not postmodern, he’s post-postmodern.

Bond

Bond

At one stage they wander through an abandoned city. A giant statue has toppled. Rubbish flies around. The people had ‘left so quickly they didn’t know what to take with them and what to leave behind.’

Skyfall has left some things behind. Gone are some of the old racial and gender stereotypes. We go to Shanghai and instead of pointy hats, strange food and ‘chinese’ music, we see an ultra-modern city. There’s as many sexualised bondage scenes of Bond as there are of beautiful women (a kind of equal objectification?). While the old Bond was hyper-hetrosexual, the new Bond is comfortable with homosexuality. Gone are the sex scenes too. Instead we get the old-school suggestive ‘firework’ display (do kids these days even know that’s what those fireworks mean?).

But the new Bond is uncomfortable with the postmodern world. Q is now a nerdy computer hacker who doubts the need for agents in the field. Bond, instead, insists that the virtual world can’t replace the real world. Bond also wrestles with authority. At one stage the enemy hides among the police. M, Bond’s boss, lies to him. The film critiques our culture where everyone’s opinion is equally valid and everyone is answerable to everyone no matter their expertise. M is dragged before a parliamentary enquiry, answering to people who don’t understand what’s really going on. There’s a sense that we need authorities, but in our world of suspicion, we don’t know how do do authority anymore. Bond tries to believe in it again.

So there are some things the post postmodern Bond refuses to leave behind. Take the car. Bond drives the classic Aston Martin DB5. But M comments, ‘it’s not very comfortable is it?’ The sky has fallen a little bit, the glamour is faded. It’s not the perfect car. But this isn’t just pomo hipster ‘nostalgia’; the car is still actually useful for something. Bond’s special gadgets? This time he gets only a gun and a radio from Q. There’s a sense valuing the tried and true.

The final scene (the baddie did take too long to die, but we got there in the end) is in a church. The church is crumbling in disrepair. People stopped meeting there decades ago. But the characters still find some sort of meaning in the church, even if they can’t articulate it fully. ‘It had to be here,’ one says.

The villain, Silva, is a bit of a two dimensional character to me. The ex-agent who gets bitter and turns evil. We’ve seen that one before. But it didn’t bother me. Normally Bond is the two dimensional character paired with a (somewhat) complex villain. Here, for the first time, we see Bond as a real person.

Twice Bond plunges into deep water and left for dead. A baptism of sorts, where a new Bond emerges. We never actually see his coming up out of the water (his resurrection). We don’t exactly know how it happens. But it does.

In the same way there’s a sense that we’re not sure how the new Bond is going to work himself out. How can a character like Bond, such a product of its time, survive postmodernity? But post postmodern Bond seems to work. Of course there’s also the beautiful cinematography and the awesome gothic ending. This is a great film. I’ll see the next one.

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sex, bodies and disability – the sessions

The sessions

This is the body God gave you. This is the body God gave you…

The Sessions is based on the true story of Mark O’Brien and his relationship with a sex surrogate. It’s 1988. Mark, a writer, is paralysed from the neck down by polio and uses an iron lung to keep breathing.

Margaret and David gave it 4 and 4.5 stars, so I was surprised to find it was showing in Darwin. It’s about an issue close to my heart, so I went out and saw it immediately.

John Hawkes

The director, Ben Lewin, had the good sense to cast a disabled actor John Hawkes (a polio survivor himself) as Mark, rather than some able-bodied guy (who’d go on to get an Oscar for such a ‘moving performance’). Hawkes is brillant.

After O’Brien declares his feelings for one of his carers and is rejected, he contacts a sex therapist, Cheryl. Cheryl makes it clear, she’s not a prostitue, she’s ‘a sex surrogate’. ‘Prostitutes want to keep your business’, she says, whereas she limits her therapy to six sessions. Her aim is to help him overcome his feelings that his body is  no good and that he does not deserve sex, so that he can choose to pursue an intimate relationship in the future.

Of course, I had some concerns about the wisdom and ethics of sex surrogacy. I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps she merely helps him replace one set of emotional and psychological issues by replacing them with others. But I could also see the impossibility of convincing him that his body really was good without actually having sex. I say suspend your judgement on this issue until the end of the movie and think about the ethics afterwards (then I’d love to hear your thoughts).

The sessions

Do not see this movie with your parents or on a first date.

There is a lot of nudity and a lot of sex (so much that I was scared to make eye-contact with the other cinema-goers after it finished).

But it’s not gratuitous. The sex is about as realistic (sometimes awkward and uncomfortable) as you’ll ever see, rather than a vehicle for the audience’s lustful fantasies. The sex and nudity is important. If the camera had been shy of showing the naked, sexual, disabled body, it would play into the myths that disabled bodies are repulsive and other, bodies that we should be uncomfortable viewing or even thinking about. No, the film forces us to see disability and to see real people.

Mark comments at one stage that he’s so used to being the only naked person in the room whenever he is washed or examined. It’s a terrible power imbalance and you see it as one of his less-thoughtful carers bathes him with disgust. It’s actually very moving to see both him and Cheryl naked and feeling no shame. They’re equals.

sessions

I feared that the film would push the myth that meaning and identity is found in our sexual histories or sexual preferences (and thus people with disabilities need sex to be ‘whole’ people). But it didn’t. The priest character, Mark’s best friend, is fabulous. He’s also celibate – reminding us that sex is not necessary for a meaningful life. It’s clear, however, that celibacy is an avenue he’s chosen to pursue; no one assumes he is asexual. I think this is the difference; the priest has chosen how to use his sexuality, whereas the man with a disability has had his sexuality denied (by himself and those around him), until now.

Although the movie is primarily about sex and disability, it also asks a deeper question. What does it mean to be ‘made in God’s image?’ How can we say ‘this is the body God gave me?’ when our bodies don’t work like we wish, when we’re considered ugly, unlovable, untouchable? Mark is a practicing Catholic and even jokes at one stage, ‘I’m religious because I couldn’t stand not having someone to blame for all this.’

Like all good movies, it only hints at an answer; the priest explains that Mark ‘loves and is loved, both emotionally and physically.’ Perhaps love has something to do with it.

I laughed, I cried etc. etc. Go see it (not with your mum though).

Then I’d love to hear your thoughts. What do you think of sex surrogacy? What do you think this movie says about being ‘made in God’s image’, beauty and intimacy?

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