beautiful monsters: April 2006 Archives

April 25, 2006

dream monsters

I didn’t go to the dawn service. I’ve never been to a dawn service, despite having a great-grandfather who died at Gallipoli. I always feel a bit unfomfortable about some of the sentimentality and glorification of war that sometimes creeps out.

Anzac Day, which not so long ago some predicted would fade away as the old servicemen and women faded away, has – as commentators have suggested – become our de facto national day. A day free of the controversies that surround Waitangi Day, it is a day for remembering and honouring our war dead and those who served and came home and carved out a new life for themselves and their descendants, and it is a day for affirming ourselves as a nation and the core values of our nation.

Those core values include, I believe, honouring the right to dissent, and the right not to be penalised for dissenting. In the early twenty-first century, Anzac honours the spirit of those who went to the wars on their nation’s behalf, and especially those who never came back; can it also, I wonder, honour those who dissented, the conscientious objectors on religious or other moral or political grounds who refused to go. Some of these Pacifists, in the Second World War anyway, gave service in the YMCA or in Ambulance Units. One of them was an elder in my parish in Christchurch. His experiences serving in medical units in Asia, especially in China, were as every bit as dangerous and required every bit as much courage and sheer bloody-mindedness as was required of those in direct combat with the enemy.

At memorials up and down the country tomorrow, people like us will gather. Wreaths will be laid, prayers said, tears shed honouring our war dead and the combatants who came home and who worked to build New Zealand as the free land our national anthem speaks about. There are no memorials to the conscientious objectors. Perhaps their memorial is that described by Archibald Baxter in 1968 as the "confused majority who have begun to see that, whatever the national issue may be, all wars are deeply atrocious and no war can be called just."

(from a sermon at St Luke's Auckland)

Archibald Baxter, James K's father, was a conscientious objector in WWI. He wrote a book about it, We Shall Not Cease, Caxton Press, Christchurch. 1968.


My friend has gone blind from a tumor. You’d think going blind would be like a slow dimming of the lights, or a darkness creeping in from the edges. But it was sudden, he says, like blinking, and then it was gone. Scary.


My psychiatrist suggested that I write down my dreams. I don’t see the point, they are usually just my brain sifting through random bits of information and trying to make sense of it all. I don’t think they contain any deeper meanings. Still, I’ve been reading Dinah Hawken’s latest book, One Shapely Thing. It’s a mixture of poetry and journal entries, some of which describe her dreams. They’re interesting to read, so I thought I’d give it a go after all. Most mornings I forget, but I wrote down this one:

I’m kayaking around a series of bays with ? We are pulling out pine seedlings, some are so perfectlyformed, I wanted to pot them up for Christmas trees. N was there, on a bike, I drove straight past her, fast, cut another car off, then got out, onto a bike. The bike kept on swerving left, the handlebars had a life of their own. Couldn’t quite work out the mechanical reason for this. Got a text from JC, he sent me an animation of a waterfall, “the best place to swim after a ride”.

Then we were in a hut, H was there, I was teaching people about using the phone. Everyone was impressed by what I could do with it. I was apologetic about using Telecom who are evil.

Then I had to go through the bush to bring back a body. There was this beast, I had to take the body from him. He could suck out hearts and turn people to stone. He was sucking up the water of the ocean, and time, he was sucking up time, he was the cause of all death and the world slowly ending.

Back in the hut, there was a thumping from under the floorboards. I wanted to leave, H said sure, I could go and tell the beast I was going, but I was too scared to go out there. Then at some point the beast was on our side, turning another big threatening man to stone.

Then we were potting up aloe vera plants on the window ledge. I filled up a pot with soil, and then couldn’t make a hole big enough for the root ball.

See? Random.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 11:22 PM | TrackBack

April 21, 2006



1989 - 2006

I wanted to call her Tiger, but I didn’t think that a girl cat could be called Tiger. Hey, I was 7, ok?!


She used to steal muffins off plates if you didn’t keep an eye on them. I remember my nana growling me because she thought I’d eaten her muffin, but it was the cat, really truly.

She used to miaow “helloo” so convincingly she could spook visitors.

She had a good life. Lots of sunshine, comfy laps, open fires in winter, and the wide open countryside to explore. I don’t think a cat could ask for much more.


She has been a part of life for almost as long as I can remember. It's going to be strange.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 11:28 PM | TrackBack

Fighting over the scraps

I bought a painting! “Land Rights” It’s by Jason Hicks, a Wellington artist, but I actually bought it from a gallery in Rotorua. They had a few of his works, and I really liked them all. His paintings have a very strong NZ feel, without being too gloomy. He seems to be another being exploring Maoritanga/biculturalism from a Pakeha perspective, so I can relate to his work on that level. I think, if you’re buying art, it has to be something you won’t get sick of looking at, year after year. I think this piece has enough to keep me going.


Posted by Fionnaigh at 11:17 PM | TrackBack

April 19, 2006

Intelligent Designs

At a party recently someone told me that an alarming number of people in Aotearoa think that it would be a good idea to teach intelligent design in our schools. We were all really hoping it was a poorly worded survey. I mean, if I didn’t know anything about it and someone asked me if I was for Intelligent Design, I’d say “yes, of course”, with visions of beautifully ergonomic leather chairs, or perhaps one of those milk jugs with a floating sugar bowl.

Apparently the Ministry of Education's guidelines "don't place any restrictions on its teaching. Nor do they specifically restrict the teaching of young Earth creation or theistic evolution.” And indeed Creationism is taught in some schools in Aotearoa.

I do agree with them on one point. I don’t like the way that science is taught as though it is infallible. I think we should teach theories as though they are the best we can describe things at this point… and they may be proved wrong in the future.

But that’s about where my sympathy with Intelligent Design ends.

It’s just crazy logic! For example: There are some gaps, some things that can’t [yet] be explained or proven by science. Therefore there must be an intelligent being [who we will never be able to explain or prove] behind it all. Do I really need to point out the flaws in this argument?

I definitely think if we are going to teach an alternative to evolution, it should be the Flying Spaghetti Monster (now there’s an intelligent design).

"One of the hardest things to do as a scientist is to put my personal beliefs aside when discussing matters of science. So as a professional, I have to say that both forms of Intelligent Design - ID and ID-FSM are equally valid and if intelligent design is taught in schools, equal time should be given to the FSM theory and the non-FSM theory. But, speaking personally now, it seems to me the FSM theory is MUCH more plausable than the non-FSM ID theory, because it is the only one of the two that takes into account all the discrepancies between ID and measureable objective reality."
-- Professor Douglas Shaw, Ph.D

But seriously, the FSM theory would teach students valuable skills, such as skepticism and humour, which, once learned, could be applied to Intelligent Design AND evolution.

I remember when I was newly Christian, and struggling with some of the fundamental teachings, and also struggling with the fact that my parents thought it was all hogwash... I was talking to a friend about some of my doubts, and she said she knew that there had to be a God, because he thought of little details, like the little rim around our nostrils, which catches the drips. So of course I went home and repeated this comment to my mother, who said “then why would a God make have terrible hayfever?”


Tonight I went to a Living the Questions session at St Andrew’s, and the topic was “Creation.” I have an allergic reaction to the word, because of the connotations it carries, of, well, Creationism. But it was a really interesting discussion. One of the people on the DVD said that myths are never true or false, they’re just living or dead. The creationist story, the young earth myth, if taken literally, certainly deserves to die. Whether or not the Christian creation myths, taken as metaphors, or whatever, can still teach us something relevant today, is another question. I dunno.

At St Andrew’s we have introduced the Season of Creation into our church year. This is not a time when we talk about how God made the world in 6 days. It’s a time when we focus on “nature” and ecology, and our relationship with the rest of the planet.

Sometimes I wish we called these four Sundays by a different name, so as not to put off other rational beings. But then I have to acknowledge the fact that I am, in a way, a creationist. It’s just that I don’t believe God was up in heaven, pulling the strings, arranging the players. I believe that God was in the empty timelessness in the beginning, that God was in the big bang, in the cooling of stardust, in the swirling of primordial sludge, in the first glimmers of life, and in the evolutionary process that continues in us today. I don’t believe God created these things in the same way that a potter creates a vase from a lump of clay. I just think that this amazing process happened, and something divine was in all of the parts, and in the process… something eternal and dynamic and beyond our ability to explain or understand. And that is what I call God.

And right now I’m feeling really excited about being part of a church like St Andrew’s. I love the discussions we have, about life, about love, and peace and respect for “creation.” I love that we know that we don’t really know anything, that we’re just clutching at strands, trying to make some sense. I love being part of a community that’s trying... trying to grow, trying to change, trying to live well.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 12:16 PM | TrackBack

April 12, 2006

Yay! Comments!

For those of you who have been accused of questionable commenting, fear not! The comments are go again! Hurray for Carla, our glorious new web-mistress, She-who-is-worthy-of-all-praise!

And, I feel a moment’s pause is in order, to acknowledge Iona, our outgoing blog-mistress. It has been an eye-opener, to realise that the internet doesn’t just grow, magically, like one of those weird crystal tree thingies, but actually there are real people pouring hours and dollars into making it all go. So thank you Iona, for the past three-and-a-bit years. It’s been splendid.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 12:06 AM | TrackBack

April 11, 2006

this is what happens when there's no TV to amuse me

I tried to turn on the TV, but it made fizzing noises and smelled like fireworks. So, in desperation, to distract myself from the pain of missing House I turned to the internet.

Did you know if you do a Google search for Jesus, the first site that comes up is Jesus Dress Up.

And did you know that, as well as being the beginning of Passover, today is National Liquorice Day (presumably US) and Walk On Your Wild Side Day, according to

If you haven’t read this report, you should:
Millions of eyewitnesses watched in stunned horror Tuesday as light emptied from the sky, plunging the U.S. and neighbouring countries into darkness. As the hours progressed, conditions only worsened.
Scary stuff.

The Onion also has great t-shirts to be wearing if the world ends, or even if it doesn’t. I want “I Wish Somebody Would Do Something About How Fat I Am” and “I'm a Fucked-Up-Chick Magnet”.

Today’s person of the day is Joycelyn Elders, M.D. The first black US Surgeon General, she was once asked whether it would be appropriate to promote masturbation as a means of preventing young people from engaging in riskier forms of sexual activity, and she replied, "I think that is part of human sexuality, and perhaps it should be taught." Clinton fired her.

A friend, a senior citizen, stopped me after church one Sunday and said, “Please tell the children that masturbation won't hurt them. I spent my entire youth in agony waiting to go blind, because my parents told me that's what would happen if I masturbated. I guess I could have stopped, but going blind seemed the better option.” - JE

In other news Space debris disrupting global prayer services, Girls Gone Wild Released Back Into Civilization and Bewildered Meek inherit Earth

Posted by Fionnaigh at 11:57 PM | TrackBack

April 08, 2006

Old friends

Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?

I’ve been back in Rotorua for a few days… My bestest bud from high school has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Skin cancer, they cut it out a few years ago (and I’m still recovering from the gruesome photos of the whole in his back). Evidently they missed some, and now it’s everywhere, including in several of his vertebrae. Apparently that’s when they stop trying to do anything about it, and start giving you all the morphine you want.

Actually he’s doing pretty well. He doesn’t seem like he’s dying at all. Especially given that he was only supposed to have about three months, and that was a couple of months ago. It’s weird.

Part of me keeps expecting him to turn around and say "Ha! Fooled ya... you really thought I was dying, didn't you..."

When I was in third form, and he was in sixth, I used to phone him at night and we’d talk until we had to get up the next morning. We were in love with the same girl. He got me in to poetry; basically my first poems were trying to be like him. When we were old and doddery we were going to have a house together, with a porch and a stream to play pooh-sticks.

I’ve been overwhelmed by an urge to get back in touch with all the friends I’ve drifted away from. I feel slightly desperate about all the people I used to be so close to, who have slipped out of my life. I’ve been going through old letters, photos, mementos. There are so many events and relationships that seemed so significant and enduring at the time, and now... some of them I’d forgotten about completely until I uncovered a diary entry or a ticket stub. Others I do think about from time to time, I just never get around to emailing or looking them up in the phone book.

Some people… I know we will always be able to pick up the threads again, no matter how long we go without talking, no matter where our lives take us.

Some people… I am realising why we drifted apart. Because now, when we do catch up, we have absolutely nothing to say.

Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They're all that's left you

Posted by Fionnaigh at 01:14 AM | TrackBack

April 04, 2006

I want to tell you

that X has left me…


You don’t even know who X is.

You don’t know when it started, or who made the first move, whether it was sudden, or a gradual seeping realisation. You don’t how long it went on for… if it was love, lust, affection, or something else entirely. You don’t know if we talked until dawn, or just fucked like it was going out of fashion. Whether we ever fought, and made up, or if we ever used the word love.

I haven’t told you anything, but now, I want to tell you that X has left me, as gone back to her, or, rather, never entirely left her. It’s not a surprise. Their relationship hung over us like the dead rose, a gift from her, still pinned to the wall above the bed.

X told me over lunch in a café, and outside the window these bright leaves danced in the wake of passing cars. Like hope, growing out of the rubbish. False hope, bright leaves still holding all the zest for life, cut off from life, tossed away. I am not meaning for this to be a metaphor for what was going on in my life. I just looked out the window and saw these leaves.

I’m not sad about this ending. It wasn’t all roses. Really, it’s for the best.

I’m sad because I realise now that it has altered so much.

There’s no “before” left to go back to. Only pages that still carry the imprint of the marks we made.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 10:45 PM | TrackBack

sensitive claims

I don’t know why they call it a “sensitive claim”.

Before you can get counseling covered by ACC you have to tell them, explicitly, what happened. You have to do this in the first three sessions. You need counseling with this ghastly traumatic experience that you have never talked to anyone about, ever, and the first thing you have to do is put it in writing. You have to find words for the horror, clinical words, to describe what he did, where he put his hands, what he did with his penis. Your deepest, most painful secret, burned into the paper. Somehow seeing it in words makes it even more horrific, even more unbearable.

And then you have to wait.

ACC does not pay for any counseling in the interim, while they process your claim, so you have to wait for several weeks, without a counselor, to find out if your experience of abuse is acceptably traumatic.

So what is the sensitive part?


Tonight the Wellington Palestine Group were leafleting outside the Jerusalem Quartet concert. The fliers equated going to the concert with supporting racism. They also said that the members of the quartet were “trained killers” because they’d all served in the Israeli Military. Given that it’s conscription, ie, compulsory, this statement isn’t particularly meaningful. One could say that a large percentage of the world’s population, are trained killers, from those who choose to join the police or army, to all those who are called up for involuntarily in dozens of countries, everywhere from Taiwan to Sweden.

I am utterly opposed to Israel’s violent military occupation of Palestine, but while I can see the reasoning behind calls for trade sanctions, I cannot bring myself to extend that to chamber music concerts. I think it’s a powerful thing that people with different political viewpoints can come together and be moved by the same music.

The inflammatory language of the flier didn’t endear me to the Wellington Palestine Group at all. But maybe I was just grumpy because my season pass was already paid for, and I didn’t want to be made to feel guilty for something I’d been looking forward to.

It was an amazing concert, Shostakovich’s 8th Quartet was incredibly moving. And they played Barber’s Adagio as an encore. Beautiful.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 10:44 PM | TrackBack