Category Archives: News & Current Affairs

A prayer for New Zealand

The Collect for New Zealand from A New Zealand Prayer Book (He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa)

E te Atua o te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa,
me enei motu, o te iwi Maori, te iwi Pakeha,
me ratou katoa e noho nei i tenei wahi.
Ka whakamoemiti,
ka whakawhetai ki a koe mo tenei whenua o matou;
mo nga mea pai katoa kua whiwhi tahi nei matou.
Whakanuia to matou aroha tetahi ki tetahi,
whakakahangia to matou whai i te tika
kia kotahi ai matou i runga i te whakaaro kotahi.
Kua hanga matou e koe hei toto kotahi;
i raro i tenei whakaaro kotahi.
Amine.

Seeing the devastation in Christchurch today on the news was heartbreaking.

The photos of ChristChurch Cathedral (and its devastated spire), a beautiful Gothic-designed cathedral, spoke volumes about how devastating this earthquake was. Other coverage I saw on Channel Ten’s evening news coverage while I was having dinner made the impact on individuals, families, communities and the economy even more shocking and clear to me.

Apart from my prayers for Bp. Victoria Matthews and the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Christchurch (her cathedra is in ChristChurch Cathedral) my prayers are with Prime Minister John Key and his government as they go through rescue, recovery and rebuilding operations yet again in Christchurch after the earthquake that hit the city just only last year, in 2010. And last but not least, with the people of Christchurch and the surrounding regions. You Kiwis are made of strong stuff and you will get through this. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you and those in the emergency and disaster relief services.

E te Ariki, kia aroha mai.
E te Karaiti, kia aroha mai.
E te Ariki, kia aroha mai.
Amine.

+ 1949hrs

It’s sale time again…

DJs, you continue to have my vote for best mid-to-high income department store. Then again, you really only have one other department store for competition… and in the CBD, DJs wins hands-down.

The customer service remains impeccable (even if I am walking through the store not buying anything but just browsing), the store fitout at DJs Queens Plaza is also impeccable and your product range is… well, it’s as close as you can get to impeccable.

Found some right bargains today. Relatively speaking of course. Some ties for work and a fairly simple tie bar and set of cufflinks that should work with nearly all of the ties and business shirts I wear.

Also managed to pick up a couple of casual tees by Filippa K to wear to work on Fridays or on weekends. And while looking at the tags on the shirts that say “Designed in Sweden, Produced in Portugal”, those tags reminded me of an article I read at the New York Times early last week about the clothing industry, especially that which is based in Prato, Italy. And a leader article on Ethical Fashion in the October 2010 issue of Monocle titled “Moral Fibres”, beginning on page 63 of Issue 37, Volume 4.

About how there is a large illegal immigrant workforce, Chinese in origin, in Prato working in close to PRC conditions making clothes that technically are “Made in Italy” even though pretty much everything used in the manufacture of the garments is actually “Made in China” (or as I like to call them, MIC garments).

Lest this sound that I’m bagging Chinese (how can I bag my own race?), I do have concerns over garments manufactured in this manner. The workers in those factories would be earning wages far less than what they would and should be entitled to under Italian law. The fabric for those shirts isn’t anything local in origin but is instead imported in from China (Prato is home to a significant textiles industry). And while Italy is known now for high-quality garments the stuff that is coming out of these particular factories is aimed at the low-to-medium end of the market.

Which may explain why my parents might have been able to find “Made in Italy” clothes in Singapore and Malaysia at rock bottom prices. Sadly those Made in Italy items have since fallen apart on me. The profit margins on these Chinese-made “Made in Italy” garments must be quite high given that labour standards are being followed properly.

After raids conducted on these factories, some get shut and these workers are out of a job and are likely to be deported back to the PRC.

Why, oh why are we Chinese so good at screwing our own people just so those on top make most of the profit when a lot of the hard work, day-in/day-out is done by those who are desperate to make a living for themselves? Whether it be in China or if we import a whole bunch of them over from China into a developed country and screw them over there.

On one hand, if I don’t buy MIC garments, I’m potentially helping to screw up Chinese manufacturing and put a fellow Chinese person out of a job. But when these workers aren’t being paid decent wages or have horrible working conditions, why should I support their employers by buying their goods instead of buying goods from another company who is working towards ensuring fair and equitable working conditions and pay for garment workers? Even if it means that I pay a heck of a lot more for the garment compared with the MIC garment. OK, paying just “a lot” more relatively speaking, even after the non-MIC garment is discounted at the place of purchase.

Others who may not have the funds to spare will probably have no choice but to end up purchasing the MIC garment due to its low cost. Others who do have funds to spare may still choose to purchase a MIC garment (or heck, Made in Bangladesh/Dominican Republic/Honduras/Philippines/Vietnam/”insert-developing-country-name-here” at a price that one knows that most of the profit on it is going back to the brand that has outsources its garment manufacturing at the lowest cost possible. And yes, I will admit that a fair number of MIC garments are high quality and have low issues in terms of toxicity. Others don’t. Think of some of the fairly recent issues with MIC products courtesy of cost-cutting by greedy, dumb, stupid employers and you get my drift.

But when one does have the funds, supporting businesses who are trying to meet fair work and pay standards and who employ workers in countries that shouldn’t be exploiting their textile workers is a better option in my books. And I’m certainly hoping that the two Filippa K tees I picked up today truly were “Produced in Portugal”. Going by what other European textile manufacturers, like Inditex of Spain do, there should still be a healthy textile industry in Europe that competes and stands head-and-shoulders above most of what is produced in the developing world and values quality over the cheapest cost possible.

2200hrs

INDECISION 2010

So I guess this year’s Federal Election really is Indecision 2010. No party won a clear mandate and there’s sure to be some horse-trading over the coming week for Labor or the Lib-Nat Coalition to form a government. Though given the background of the independents who appear to have won 4 seats in the lower house, they seem to lean towards the right in my view, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Coalition end up forming a minority government.

This is interesting given that the Australian electorate seems to have swung decidedly left with the Greens finally picking up a House of Reps seat in the historic electorate of Melbourne and 11.5% of the vote across the country. And I think they will be the dealmakers or breakers in the Senate given that it appears that they provisionally have gained 6 Senate seats to now have a total of 9 senators on the floor against Labor’s 31 senators, the Lib-Nat’s 34 senators and with 2 independents.

Labor has seen a massive swing against it in virtually the entire country (though the Apple Isle, Tasmania has given us some weird results with a 1.2% swing to Labor and a 3.5% swing to the Greens and the Coalition having a 4.9% swing against them).

I did dance a little jig and started to sing “Ding, dong, the witch is dead…” when I heard last night that the Victorian Family First senator Steve Fielding had failed to be re-elected as a senator for Victoria on the 23rd count of the night for Victoria. Any party that seems to clamor for my vote just because it runs on a “Christian” platform better have some serious policy on the table for discussion rather than a blithe platform of working to put “families first”.

Being a Christian voter does not mean that I automatically vote Family First, nor does it mean that I vote Labor, Liberal, National, LNP, Greens, Australian Democrats, DLP or any other party automatically. It does mean that I should try to inform myself as best as possible about all options there and vote for one that is the best for the nation as a whole rather than for one sub-segment, i.e. conservative Christians. And that means, as it was in this election, that sometimes it ends up being a vote for a lesser evil over a greater one. Better the devil you know than the one you don’t (of sorts).

For those of you outside of Australia (or even those of you in the country), we have a strange little electoral system here. Which in its own quaint way is a sensible one (or terribly confusing in its own quaint way). See if you can make sense of the Victorian results for yourselves at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s VIC Senate results page.

So yes, there was INDECISION 2010 at this year’s election. The next three years of government here in Australia are sure gonna be interesting.

=========================================

In far more interesting news, I ❤ Diane Birch. I also ❤ Lissie.

I seem to be coming across female singer-songwriters far more often than I do male singer-songwriters. I guess this means that I have more sirens to sing me to sleep at night then.

Now time for the ironing.

+ 1510hrs

Sleep

3rd Tuesday in Eastertide

I’m a big fan of public broadcasting. Heck, if we had PBS here in Australia, I’d be watching that more often than I’d be watching NBC, CBS and ABC combined.

We however have the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) and SBS (Special Broadcasting Service).

I’m a big fan of SBS. Huge fan. One, because they show Top Gear UK and Top Gear Australia (can’t wait for series 2 of TGA beginning May 11!) Secondly, they show possibly the best current affairs/news discussion program in Australia, Insight (well, next to Dateline, Foreign Correspondent, The 7:30 Report and Four Corners). Last week was all about work and the reinvention of ourselves during this economic downturn.

This week, Jenny Brockie and the team were talking about the issue of sleep. And why we all get less of it than we should. It’s a pertinent issue for myself of late given that I have been having disrupted sleep at nights (i.e. waking up and then not going back to sleep for a few hours) or my sleep is of a low quality (I’m more fitful than restful). And I know that if I keep this up, I will get sick more often this year (influenza vaccination notwithstanding). Plus be more grumpy than I usually am and lose my temper far too often.

I’m guilty of not setting myself more of a routine for my sleep. Given the lay Benedictine commitment I have made, the concept of balancing work, rest and prayer should feature more prominently. A lay Benedictine commitment comes with a responsibility of adapting the monastic work day to my life in the secular world. But it comes with a great deal of difficulty, though it is not such an impossible task.

I find that I go to sleep with far too much on my mind (like I will tonight as I have some work documents to read and edit before I hit the sack tonight). I can lay in bed for an hour waiting to drift off into slumberland, but I am restless. Why on earth I don’t actually get up and pray compline or vigils during that time for some contemplation and rest bewilders even myself.

All it does show is that I am not living out that lay monastic commitment as fully as I should be. And that if I am ever to be a priest, my work will suffer for it as my own self-discipline and askesis in these matters is lacking. Not for a lack of full commitment (be the half-assed commitment it is currently), but ultimately for a lack of love for God.

My lack of sleep always keeps bringing up in the back of my mind that little saying by St. Paul that our bodies are the temple of God and how we should not destroy God’s temple unless we want God to destroy us (1 Cor 3:16-18). Although primarily directed at the Corinthian church at the time (the “you” in the verse is plural after all), there is a great deal of application in these verses if we take the you to mean the individual person too (even though it is only a secondary meaning and interpretation).

The entire point of the Benedictine approach to life and faith is one of balance and harmony. Finding balance and harmony between the works of God and the works of man. In Chinese terms, to balance yin and yang. God help me.

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It was rather good to catch up yesterday with my old high school principal, Fr. Paul for lunch in the city. Caught up on each other’s work, hobbies and my questioning him about life as an Anglican priest. I had forgotten that he likes reading Japanese literature, so his recommendations for some books are in the back of my mind as I head overseas in a few weeks time. KLCC Kinokuniya, here I come.

I will be hunting down a copy of Shūsaku Endō’s (遠藤 周作) Silence. And some stuff by Graham Greene too – like The End of the Affair and The Power and the Glory. And maybe to see if I can find somewhere online those brief sermons of Kierkegaard he mentioned were good too (unless he is talking about Kierkegaard’s parables, of which I have a copy of in my library). This was after I mentioned to Fr. Paul that the Christian existentialist view on despair and sorrow that finds its expression in Kierkegaard’s The Sickness Unto Death has been a formative influence on how I view and handle the despair, sorrow and sadness that resides within me.

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In other things, please pray for the priest on duty today at St. John’s (Fr. John) as we had to stop the lunchtime Mass just before the prayers because he wasn’t feeling too well. I’m hoping that he didn’t suffer a mini heart attack or mini stroke there. In the end Fr. Rupert finished Mass for the small congregation present, but we all were hoping and praying for Fr. John to be well soon.

+ bf 2112hrs

Reinvention

Easter 2 – Tuesday
Feast day of St. Anselm of Canterbury, archbishop & teacher of the faith

[ now playing? ] John Coltrane – A Love Supreme (Deluxe Edition) (Impulse 589 945-2)

SBS’s Insight tonight was a great show.

Alain de Botton was a special guest along with others on the topic of “Reinvention” given the current economic and employment situation. It is something that has been on my mind since high school finished given that I knew that I was going into an accountancy and legal field. Now while I do gain quite a large deal of satisfaction from my current job (even though it’s mentally taxing, pardon the pun), there has always been a part of me that has wanted to try something else.

Now one of those things is probably well known to you readers: theology and maybe ministry (or maybe teaching theology). So the priesthood might be up my alleyway sometime in the future.

But there are others. Music, philosophy, coffee. If I could combine those three…

On another note, I have been acquainted with de Botton’s work over the last year or so and there is something to be said for someone trying to bring philosophy out of the realms of university lectures and into the mundanity of life us regular plebs experience daily.

Now that Essays in Love has been finished, looking forward to getting stuck into Status Anxiety and then de Botton’s new one, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work. The additional pics in the TPASOW subsite are quite good. These will make superb desktop wallpapers on my laptop and desktop…

+ bf 2116hrs

Music and intelligence

Feast of the Annunciation

I stumbled across this today. The link in there to the real website is even better. It’s great. Hilarious even. Until I see the artists in question. It’s even better given that correlation does not necessarily equate to causation.

But given my wide ranging musical listening interests, does that mean that because I span virtually the entire SAT scoreline (if I was in the US-of-A) from 946 (Jazz) to 1371 (Beethoven) – my “average” SAT score (a badly calculated one that probably wouldn’t be valid statistically, if I tot up the two SAT scores of the artists/genres that I do listen to at the lowest and highest ends and divide by two) is 1158 (Beck, who happens to be a favorite artist of mine)?

Given that I’m also a big reader, this is right up my alley too. But again, that means that I would have an SAT score somewhere between 909 (The Holy Bible) and 1317 (Lolita) – an “average” SAT (calculated in the same way above) of 1113 (Anna Karenina, which is a bloody good book).

Hilarious stuff. Virgil rocks.

+ bf 2317hrs

The devastation is shocking

Ordinary Time 5/Epiphany 5/3rd week before Lent – Monday
First Vespers of the Feast of  St. Scholastica, abbess

Those of you overseas might have heard and seen the devastation that is happening currently here in Australia.

Over 60% of the state that I live in, Queensland, is submerged below water that has been dumped on our state by cyclonic and torrential rainfall. Here in Brisbane, we have just had to put up with hot and humid weather conditions in comparison with the folks up north. While that is bad enough, seeing the images on TV tonight from Victoria have been gut wrenching.

I’m choking up as I write this entry. The countryside that I would have flown over in late December and mid-January to get to and from Melbourne is now rapidly turning into a vast stretch of smouldering ebony-colored land. The flames respect no-one and they have taken out swathes of land. The sadder part of it is that a couple of the bushfires appear to have been deliberately lit too by arsonists.

Quite frankly, all the talk of the global financial crisis is nothing compared with the lives that have been lost in the fires (including veteran newsreader Brian Naylor of Channel Seven and Nine fame and his wife at their Kingslake property). My office has implemented some welcome measures to affect not only our own staff who are affected by the floods and bushfires, but also to taxpayers in those areas as they have waaay more pressing issues to deal with compared with their tax matters.

For all around the world who stumble across this post, please pray for the hundreds of folks who have been displaced after their homes have been destroyed. And also for all who have been injured or passed away during these tragic circumstances (including their family members and friends).

All things look to you, O Lord;
to give them their food in due season:
look with mercy on your people, made in your image,
and hear our prayer for those whose lives and possessions
are threatened or have been destroyed
by these terrible floods in northern Queensland and bushfires in rural Victoria.
In your mercy restore your creation and heal our land.
For those in the emergency services,
give them physical and moral strength in their tasks that lie ahead.
And guide and bless your people and this land,
in these dark days ahead,
that we may look forward to the future
where we may once again enjoy the fruits of this earth
and give you thanks with grateful hearts,
through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

+ bf 1858hrs