Category Archives: Pomo

Special art work at South Sydney UC

Over the Easter season South Sydney Uniting Church is hosting two major works and a number of smaller studies from the Stations of the Cross series by artist Miriam Cabello.

Award-winning artist Miriam Cabello is developing her greatly anticipated The Passion: Stations of the Cross. The launch in July 08 was Stage I of a three year project that shall eventually consist of fourteen large scale oil paintings.

The work explores social, racial, historical and political issues while drawing parallels to Christ’s last days on earth. Using the contemporary metaphor of a black boxer, Cabello is raising timely questions about race and ethnicity and encouraging thought about marginalized groups in today’s society.

Miriam Cabello was an award winner at the Florence Biennale of Contemporary Art and studied the works of the Old Masters in Italy and Spain as well as the Abstract Expressionalists in New York. The fruits of that experience are evident in the compelling, robust figures and splatters that inhabit the Stations series.

The second Station in the series, ‘The Betrayal’, has already been exhibited as a finalist at the 2007 Blake Prize for Religious Art, chosen from over 600 entries and then short listed to tour Australia throughout 2008.

Distinguished curator and author Rosemary Crumlin (OAM) stated; "The planned series is quite controversial… she has used the boxer and boxing as allegory and symbol. Her treatment is intelligent, thoughtful and confronting."…

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The Betrayal

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Posted by on April 12, 2009 in Australia, Australia and Australian, Indigenous Australians, multicultural Australia, Pomo, religion, South Sydney Uniting Church



Top viewing last night: Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts (2007) *****

This is a wonderful documentary from Australian film maker Scott Hicks.

Not everyone agrees with me, to judge by some comments on the International Movie Database, but more do agree. I was struck by this one:

I am not a fan of documentaries and having no idea who Philip Glass was nor where to find the cinema I arrived unprejudiced and just on time at the theatre.

Scott Hicks’ ability to capture very emotional moments (“what is your computer password?…it’s FRANKIE”) and to bond film with music (“bababababababa”) combined with superb editing left a full house stunned with impressions at the end of the movie. The movie, like a mosaic, became more and more compelling with every act and piece of information added. Personally, the message that was most moving was the thought of a musical genius, flamboyant and eccentric at times, loving and caring at heart, unable to communicate deeper emotions to his loved ones, somewhat isolated through his talent in a 21st century environment…

Thank you Mr. Hicks for creating an outstanding movie that inspires people to think!

I did have some idea who he is, but after watching the documentary I will in future pay much more attention than I have.

Our own ABC cinema critics Margaret and David gave it **** and *** respectively. Once more I find myself with Margaret, but even more so, as you’ll have seen. I was enthralled.

On ABC commercial free, thank God. Long may Auntie reign!

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Posted by on January 27, 2009 in America, Australia and Australian, best viewing 2009, film and dvd, movies, music, Pomo, TV


Dark energy, God and humility

I’m afraid that for me theology really is a branch of poetry. When at Christmas we sing “He came down to Earth from Heaven” we know the preposition is objectively meaningless, that the whole expression reflects a long gone cosmology which saw the sky as a vault or “firmament” with God sitting above it. But I can sing it as a human and traditional way of asserting that the indefinable Ground of Being is close to us, in us, sustaining us. That is by no means a scientific proposition, and I have now lost the attention of just about everyone from more literal-minded Christians on the one hand to atheists on the other, who probably wonder why we bother. By “we” I mean those who share in the kind of theology I am alluding to, but which I do not pretend to expertise in. Explore it (and other theologies) on my links page, if you care to, bearing in mind those are just starting points.

A number of things bring all this forward here again. First, Christmas is coming. Second, I happened to catch Australia Talks on Dark Energy – fascinating, and well worth downloading while you can. You have about two weeks.

It’s called dark energy and it makes up about 73 per cent of the universe but the scientific community isn’t really sure what it is: is it matter, is it a vacuum, is it a constant?

The mystery emerged back in 1998, when astronomers discovered that the expansion of the universe was accelerating; according to theories of gravity and general relativity, it should actually be slowing down. So what’s happening? Enter the idea of dark energy. Could it be a previously unknown fifth force and what does its existence mean for ideas about the big bang and, what’s more, the theory of everything? If you’re a science buff, a star gazer or just interested in new ideas, this is your chance to join the discussion with three of our leading astronomers. We’ll look at Einstein’s theories, glance back to the work of Edwin Hubble, and look forward to what the unravelling of the dark energy mystery might mean.

It was revealed that what we can actually detect with our senses of the universe is just part of 4%, in fact 90% of that 4% is invisible…  That we now exist in such a state of uncertainty is, as one of the guests on the program said, humbling.

Theology and religion need to be humbled too, but the stumbling block, I’m afraid, is the outdated – now so far past its use by date as to be toxic, indeed lethal – view that God has actually spoken or written infallible things which we can now read and follow. This particular teaching is unfortunately at the centre of all the Abrahamic religions, though the way it is manifested or understood varies.

I can believe God “speaks” – but I see that as a metaphor at best. I do not believe God has uttered contracts or documents untouched by human hands. Yet in those various scriptures, and not only on those of the Abrahamic faiths, one may be said to hear the spirit of God, just as long before Abraham was even born, if indeed he was an historic personage, my Aboriginal ancestors heard that spirit by other means, long before the putative era of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, which, it is interesting (as John Dominic Crossan does in God & Empire) to note, is very near the time agriculture and settled town life emerged in the Ancient Middle East. At that time, it could be argued, their world was created.

It is a big issue, this one of sacred scriptures. Even moderate Muslims, for example, are locked in the main into such a belief: “It is a tenet of the Islamic faith that the Qur’an is considered to be the literal, authentic, and unadulterated word of God. It is a tenet of the Islamic faith that the Qur’an is completely authentic; it has not been redacted, altered, revised or corrupted in any way.” – Khaled Abou El Fadl, The Great Threat: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists (Harper San Francisco 2005). That book does go on to say that there are other traditions as well within Islam that need to be considered, and that the way in which the Qur’an’s teaching has been understood or mediated has been rich and various, and this is true. He also sets out to show that there is no necessary contradiction between adhering to Muslim belief, including the tenet under discussion at the moment, and living in a pluralistic or democratic society such as his own USA. Needless to say he does not accept the arguments of the terrorists.

Nonetheless, there is a problem, isn’t there, even if it is not necessarily a problem of being able to get on with one another whatever our beliefs. All that takes, naive as it seems, is the will on both sides to do so. However, see also What Is the Koran? from The Atlantic Monthly January 1999 for, I think, a fair assessment of what the shape of the problem might be.

In mainstream Christianity and in Judaism there are a range of views about their Scriptures, but the recognition they are human documents, albeit “inspired” in some way however that may be defined, has been gaining ground for the last 200 years. Some see this as a degeneration, of course. Unfortunately, the Jewish and Christian scriptures just are fallible human documents, and to pretend otherwise is (I believe) both pointless and dishonest. Also once they are seen for what they are and seen increasingly in their real contexts, the more interesting and relevant they often become. Or so I find.

And yes, there are big issues here about just who Jesus in fact was/is, and what he is for us today. Not to mention that we no longer believe that either Jerusalem, Rome, or the Mediterranean is the centre of the world, but rather that God’s “speech” has been rather more scattered and diverse than we suspected. But that’s enough theology for now.

My point of course is that theology is a very uncertain art, and should be seen by all to be such, whatever the religious tradition it inhabits. (And no, in case you are wondering, Popes are not infallible; even Popes only claim that some of the time, but I don’t believe it is so at all… That is not to say that they are never worth listening to.)

Back to the Science.

I was struck by the fact that the scientific view of the universe has made such a leap since just 1998! It is hard on us oldies, eh!  Now take something as muddled and unscientific as education. Theory there, some would say, oscillates rather than progresses! I know my 1998 essay on literacy is as up to date now as it was then, especially with some web links to places where other more recent discussions might be found.

Ah me, I am a back number, you know. Let’s face it… 😉

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Posted by on November 28, 2008 in Bible, challenge, Christianity, faith, faith and philosophy, fundamentalism and extremism, inspiration, interfaith, Islam, pluralism, Pomo, religion


The unexamined religion…

… is not worth believing?

You will find relevant tags and categories in the side bar, and I also refer you to On the awkwardness (and fatuity?) of discussing religion, a post from January 2007, and to the relevant part of the Links Page here. All that is hedging around what may be a can of worms, if you will forgive the mixed metaphor.

I was drawn to this topic by Why I don’t envy Mormon apologists, a thoughtful post from a few days back on Runtu’s Rincón. This is a newish blog from “the heart of Zion in Provo, Utah.”

When I was an “apologist” (read: rationalizer) for Mormonism, I used to talk about the “shelf.” You know, there were things that we couldn’t quite explain, so we put them on a shelf, figuring that eventually God would sort it all out, and we’d see how everything fit together.

Somewhere along the line, the shelf collapsed, and I’m happy to say I don’t have a shelf anymore. Once you acknowledge that Mormonism is not what it claims to be, there is nothing about the religion and its claims that is so difficult to explain that it must go on the shelf until God explains it. But for the apologists, holy crap, what a shelf…

I don’t see this as a bitter post, and you really should read it. Mormons, for whom as people I have respect, do have a problem compared with other fundamentalists in the Abrahamic tradition. It is impossible for a Mormon to engage in any kind of real scholarship on their additional holy book, as there is no trail to follow. All they have is a translation, allegedly, of texts which can no longer be examined. I don’t envy Mormon apologists either. My own feeling, I’m afraid, is that The Book of Mormon belongs to the canon of 19th century American fiction, or pastiche. At least the many texts which make up the Bible, not to mention the ticklish question of the Quran, have a provenance in some cases even firmer than that of some of the Greek and Roman classics. Critical study of that provenance does not deliver what fundamentalists desire, however, as it shows an evolving set of human texts rather than the much desired infallible word of God. While there are many questions of detail to be settled — room for scholarship of the best kind — there is, it seems to me, no doubting that conclusion. Those who resist this scholarship, it seems to me, delude themselves and others.

All of this is in my view consistent — and do note this insistent qualification — with a humble theism. It’s terribly undramatic, I’m afraid, but there you go, and there I am.

As I said, explore what I have said before, and check the links. This is a work in progress, and certainty is not the goal. In fact, I rather see certainty as something of a problem, indeed as a very great danger. Some people are so certain they are willing to kill others who are less certain, or whose certainty does not match that of the homicidal zealot.

We could all do with being more rather than less postmodern in such matters.

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Posted by on September 20, 2008 in Bible, challenge, Christianity, faith, faith and philosophy, humanity, interfaith, Islam, pluralism, Pomo, religion


Here was I playing with templates and not wanting to be serious…

… and then Jim posted Mark Steyn, demography and the pattern of global change, a thoughtful follow-up to his previous post on blogging and legal matters, but focussing on a divide (not just in the blogging world) which was manifest also, I feel, in the long and sometimes, admittedly, rather funny conversation I had with my “frenemy” (his word) Kevin from Louisiana in my post Christianity’s coats of many colours — which led to Kevin stalking off, for now, shocked at my linking him to women in hijabs on Salam Cafe.

My reading of the situation is that we are all living in fact in a world where ancient certainties are irrecoverable, because very often their foundations were uncertain indeed, except through conscientious self-delusion, where what some call loss of moral confidence may actually be a rather more sophisticated and realistic moral sense, one rooted more in actuality than in dogmatism. Our questioning  our own histories may have arisen because we have realised that the histories we thought we knew were not History after all, but rather were stories designed in large part to give us comfort and bolster a sense of identity — which no longer works because we are no longer immune to others and their voices. In the end this need not put such stories beyond recovery, or even utterly negate their value, but it does reconfigure their significance or weight, as they find a place amid previously suppressed parts of the past we share.

Islam is one such repressed voice — or rather voices — in that mix. Until quite recently most of us in places like Australia could live without hearing those voices, or needing to attend to what they say.

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Posted by on June 9, 2008 in faith and philosophy, pluralism, Pomo


The Light of Day – Graham Swift

This week’s featured archive post.

My latest fiction read from Surry Hills Library. I found it hard going at first, even annoying — “exasperating flatness” as one reviewer notes, but in time I warmed to it. There are plenty of viewpoints in the reviews linked here. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on April 5, 2006 in book reviews, British, Fiction, Pomo, Surry Hills, Top read, writers


Experimental history won’t change the Battle of Hastings – Opinion –

This is pretty much what I was trying to say yesterday about history, except that Stephen Muecke, being smarter than I am, says it better.

THE smouldering embers of the culture wars have been stirred again, this time by the Prime Minister, John Howard, talking about the teaching of history in schools. He called for the learning of significant dates, like that of the Battle of Hastings, and decried the influence of postmodern relativism…

What of relativism? The way Howard is using the term is to imply there are people who think there is a different truth for everyone and anything. He means to assert that the date of the Battle of Hastings is 1066; that is reality and don’t mess with it.

While Albert Einstein, the physicist who messed with reality with the theory of relativity, cannot be held accountable for the rise of relativistic thought in philosophy and the arts, both relativity and relativism grew in the same atmosphere of 20th-century modernism. This was a great era of experimental thought.

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Posted by on January 31, 2006 in Australia and Australian, culture wars, education, History, Indigenous Australians, John Howard, Multicultural, Political, Pomo, right wing politics


Iran again questions Holocaust – World –

Every now and again people in Iran read this blog. I feel so sorry for them; they have been through a lot since the late and generally unlamented Shah departed the scene. And now they have a “hawkish” and “hardline” leader, in other words a raving nutter. Unfortunately we also have a regime in the USA whose rational credentials are to say the least suspect.

Look, there are rational arguments that can be, and have been, mounted which question that the State of Israel in its expanded form is a good idea. There are arguments that Iranian nuclear research is at least as acceptable (or unacceptable) as Pakistan’s or India’s or China’s, or indeed Israel’s. The critique of “double standards” in the West really is rather unanswerable.

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Posted by on January 17, 2006 in Australia and Australian, book reviews, Chinese and China, culture wars, current affairs, fundamentalism and extremism, History, human rights, Indigenous Australians, Iran, Islam, Israel, Pomo, racism, right wing politics


Waging Peace: Paul Rasor

Go here for clarity on our post September 11 world.

Paul Rasor must be a brilliant teacher if one is to judge from Faith without Certainty, which is a model of clear exposition. His chapter on postmodernism is one of the best things I have read on the subject. I wish the book had been around back in 2002 when I had to teach a unit on pomo to a Year 12 class. I now offer a sample, a long extract from Rasor’s chapter on Liberation Theology.

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Reds weren’t the only Cold War criminals: Eric Aarons

The article above is a defence of himself and his family by former Australian communist Eric Aarons. Yesterday, in response to the screening on ABC-TV of an episode of Dynasties (full transcript there) about the Aarons family, Gerard Henderson went on the attack in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Grand mythology still blinds disciples to the crimes of communism

…What was missing from the program was a proper analysis of what the Aarons dynasty stood for up until the time when Laurie and Eric broke with Moscow, following the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. The fact is that Sam, Laurie and Eric supported every communist totalitarian dictator around – including Lenin, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh and their ilk.

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Posted by on January 11, 2006 in Australia and Australian, book reviews, Christianity, culture wars, faith and philosophy, History, interfaith, Pomo, TV


Bookslut | Zadie Smith: Where Did It All Go Wrong?

Bookslut | Zadie Smith: Where Did It All Go Wrong?

Zadie Smith is 28. The Autograph Man, her second novel, ranks 3,669 on Amazon. White Teeth , her debut, at 4,323. She clocked a fair advance on the books — £250,000, people say. She’s smart, thin, and — bar her boyfriend, poet Nick Laird — the best-looking person in the room. Oh Zadie, Zadie: where did it all go wrong?

For Zadie is disgruntled…

…Flat-footed, grudging, pompous etc. catches the tenor of her answers rather well. Asked why people like lists such as the Granta one, she is scathing. “Lists are less trouble,” she tells us. “I think it’s a slightly depressing English habit. We’d much rather have somebody else’s taste to follow rather than having to take any time finding something new; discovering new writers or going to a bookshop without instruction. It is depressing.”…

“This culture is so in overdrive about any kind of youthful fiction,” she fulminates. “Monica doesn’t think hers is the greatest book ever written, but you find yourself defending something you never believed. The hype is an enormous psychological pressure on a writer. Not that anyone should weep for a writer who has earned loads of money. But the bottom line is, this is not a healthy thing to have in your head at eight in the morning when you’re trying to write something. It’s just very messy. Even in America you have a better chance of having a basically healthy literary career, at least in the beginning, than you do in England. We’re driven by the celebrity mania that this whole country is sunk in.”…

Sounds to me that Zadie Smith could be right, and “Book Slut” a tad bitchy… But that’s just my opinion.

All I know is I am really enjoying The Autograph Man, which is hilarious, even if it is really about death — in a rather serious way. Mr Rabbit is right about Zadie Smith!

Here are my select quotes so far: Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on October 27, 2005 in book reviews, British, Fiction, Multicultural, Pomo, satire, Top read


The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith


“Alex-Li Tandem survives a bad name day, a bad trip and a raft of unlikely coincidences to discover celebrity has its price.” That sounds like a send-up to me… Nonetheless, despite my obvious cringe when Thin Potations gets into PC-kickback mode — I mean, what do you expect me to do? — I still follow his literary recommendations with respect, and you might recall his recommendation of White Teeth, Smith’s first novel, earlier this month. So I borrowed The Autograph Man (2002) just now from Surry Hills Library, along with:

  • Alan Spence, Its Colours They Are Fine (1977, pb 1997)
  • Ian Rankin, Let It Bleed (1995)
  • K M Soehnlein, The World of Normal Boys (2000)
  • Giles Milton, White Gold (2004) — “a treasure” according to that review
  • Stephen Bates, A Church at War: Anglicans and Homosexuality, to put John Shelby Spong in context. Spong’s autobiography, which I have just finished reading, certainly impressed me and much he says resonates strongly with me. I particularly note how Spong’s views did not drop from the sky but evolved as the result of particular encounters and experiences.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted by on October 25, 2005 in book reviews, British, Christianity, Fiction, fundamentalism and extremism, Gay and Lesbian, History, Islam, local, Multicultural, Pomo, Surry Hills, terrorism, Top read


    Postmodernism and Holocaust Denial :: Robert Eaglestone


    pmhols.jpgA pamphlet rather than a book, this is well worth reading in order to clarify thinking, to avoid being trapped in some false dichotomy between “pomo” (bad) and “objectivity” (illusory). I cannot but agree with his summary definition of multiculturalism:

    Part of being postmodern is being aware that, as a result of the colonial and post-colonial history of the world, the cultures we inhabit are multicultures. Multicultural societies are not those where different cultures are assimilated into a single culture (although wonderful things come from creative mixing of cultures). Rather, it is a culture of respect and negotiation between different traditions. As I have argued, Holocaust deniers hate this multiculture. [David] Irving certainly does… Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted by on October 22, 2005 in book reviews, British, culture wars, Europe, History, Holocaust, Israel, literary theory/criticism, Multicultural, Pomo, racism, right wing politics, Top read, writers


    ATSIC website in exam ‘an insult’ — Bernard Lane (The Australian)


    THE Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission’s website took its place yesterday alongside Shakespeare’s King Lear and W.B.Yeats’s poetry as an examination topic for the NSW Higher School Certificate. Students taking their final Advanced English exam were offered a choice of “texts” to analyse, including the ATSIC site, drawing criticism that its inclusion was an insult to the classics.

    A spokeswoman for the NSW Board of Studies said ATSIC’s abolition in March was no reason to remove the website from the curriculum and examiners had checked to make sure the site would remain up long enough for students taking yesterday’s paper. “Geoffrey Chaucer is dead – should we automatically drop him from the prescribed text list?” she said. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted by on October 21, 2005 in Australia and Australian, culture wars, education, linguistics and language, literacy, literary theory/criticism, Pomo, Postcolonial, right wing politics, Shakespeare, web stuff