Sunday, 29 June 2008


I asked a friend recently whether she was still a Christian. Her reply?

"Sort of."

If you've rescinded your faith, at least have the decency to admit it. It annoys me how many Christians I knew — and, back in the day, nearly all my friends were Christian — who have just fallen away. I'm not talking about Sunday Christians; I'm talking about real Christians who knew what it meant and believed and prayed and sought God and all manner of things.

I never "fell away" or "backslid". I examined my beliefs, and found them unbelievable. I didn't lose my faith; I chose to leave it.

I have friends who decided they never really believed in the first place, which is fair enough. But I have friends who are "too busy" or "too tired" or "can't be bothered any more"; I have friends who still believe in Christianity, who believe that they're actually going to hell, but prefer the life of a non-Christian.

I hate that.

If you're going to believe in anything, stand up for it. Believe in it. Do it. If you're going to disbelieve it, have a reason. Only two of my friends have stopped believing because they've found it unbelievable .

Sunday Christians don't bug me; they've never thought about it, never wondered about what it really means to be Christian. But I can't understand intelligent, wondering, thinking people who once had a fiery, gut-wrenching faith and have left it by the wayside for no better reason than they're "too busy".

"If [I believed], it'd be in me like a fever. If I thought there was some god who really did care two hoots about people, who watched 'em like a father and cared for 'em like a mother... well, you wouldn't catch me sayin' things like 'There are two sides to every question,' and 'We must respect other people's beliefs.' You wouldn't find me just being gen'rally nice in the hope that it'd all turn out right in the end, not if that flame was burning in me...that's what true faith would mean, y'see? Sacrificin' your own life, one day at a time, to the flame, declarin' the truth of it, workin' for it, breathin' the soul of it. That's religion. Anything else is just... is just bein' nice....

I don't think that's fashionable right now, 'cos it seems that if you sees evil now you have to wring your hands and say, 'Oh deary me, we must debate this.'"

— Granny Weatherwax to Mightily Oats in Carpe Jugulum (Terry Pratchett), pp349-350.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Cultural Studies

OK, the guidelines seem to me to be extremely unclear, but: the Takahe Cultural Studies competition is now on till September. First prize $250; four runner-up prizes of a year's subscription to Takahe.

You can enter three different formats of entries, at a fee of $5 per entry: a (minimum) 2000-word written essay on any topic; a 1000-word "visual essay"; or a "portion of creative writing in progress".

This confuses me quite a lot. Firstly, it seems weird that three such different formats are all being judged in the same competition; and weird that there's no word limit given for the third format. What is a portion of creative writing in progress, anyway? Is it the first draft of a chapter of a book? Is it part of a half-finished poem? And why would any competition want a WIP at all?

Also, it's called a cultural studies competition. But it gives no further guidelines on the different formats (apart from for the visual essay); it doesn't even say if we're meant to be writing about a foreign culture or aspect of kiwiana, or anything: just that each entry should be a "critical reflection of our shared world".

I think I'll enter an essay for the competition. I would like to enter a creative writing piece, but I'm so confused by the criteria given (or not given) that I just have no idea what they want. Still, for anyone interested: cultural studies competition, now on!

Friday, 27 June 2008

#6: BNZ Awards

Tonight I finally edited, proofread and eventually submitted a short story for the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Awards — something I've been meaning to do for probably five or six years.

I had three stories I really liked, but one was just the most finished. I'd already thoroughly revised, second-opinioned, edited and proof-read it, and then re-read and re-edited it again in the last few days.

I have a lot of worries about it, though. It's based on true events, so the most interesting (true) parts may sound unrealistic; and it's a love story, which I know is really trite. But I thought it was sweet. Unfortunately, sweetness probably won't equal the zest and originality that the judges will be looking for.

But I entered it. I feel good. Next year I'll try to enter again; and maybe the year after, too. And once the awards presentations are over, I can submit the story to somewhere like Takahe, maybe.

I still intend to use another of the stories this month, probably trying my luck with Takahe if I can whip it into shape soon enough. It'll be a damn good feeling once I get that out of the way, too: I've been meaning to submit a story to Takahe since I was 14.

I've been trying to get a story good enough and my courage high enough to enter a competition for years, let alone be organised enough to revise and edit it in time. I think my creative writing courses are really helping me; my best stories this year are all so much better than the stories I loved last year, although I might revisit one of those as well.

It's good to have a few well-written stories on the go.

And it's good to have entered that competition.

Thursday, 26 June 2008


I just got another group email from Dad, who's working in Oman this year. He's so sweet to Mum, and so loving toward us — I just thought how lucky I am to have my family. I know so many people who have problems with family — dominating, overbearing parents or annoying siblings; and my family is just so great.

My brother is cute, sweet, kind and thoughtful. He's athletic and intelligent and gruff in a young-teenager kind of way, his voice just broken at the moment and really deep.

My sister is thoughtful, intelligent and so funny. She's grown up a lot since high school; no longer the geeky teenager, she's expanded her social group, and is now getting straight A's as well as having a large and varied group of supportive friends.

My mum is my mother, and everything a mother should be; I talk to her for hours on the phone, and she looks after me and helps me and respects my privacy and wants to come and visit me.

And my dad — I can't wait for him to get home from Oman. I know he's not taking good enough care of himself, but his every email has so much love in it that it hurts me to think of him over there, alone, without his family. He's coming home in two weeks — I'm so excited.

I'm so lucky. None of my immediate family, no one I really love, has died; I have no health problems at all, despite the fact that everyone else around me seems to; I feel I'm living the perfect life. Sure, sometimes things get me down, but only temporarily. I almost feel guilty when I look at my friends, for having such a good life myself. But I don't feel guilty — not really. Right now, I just feel grateful.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008


So I've decided to donate about 10% of my net income to charity, and now all I need to do is to find a good charity. I don't want to sponsor another child, in case at the end of Massey I don't immediately find a job and can't afford the sponsorship — that would just make me feel too bad (unless anyone wants to co-sponsor a child with me and be aware that they may end up wholly sponsoring the child for a time).

Otherwise, I'm looking at sponsoring Children in Crisis, a project I supported before I started sponsoring Francis. (The funny thing is that I started sponsoring Francis about the same time that I quit my full-time job and started studying again — before, while earning full-time, I didn't think I earned enough to sponsor a child. I guess that says more about my money management skills than anything else....)

On the other hand, I think it would be nice to support a charity domestically as well as overseas. My only problem is, which charity? So far, apart from Children in Crisis, I'm considering St John's, UNICEF or Greenpeace.

But there are so many more deserving charities out there, and I feel I should consider more of them before deciding whom to support. So, anyone: ideas?

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Prince Caspian

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was an OK movie, if somewhat vanilla. Prince Caspian was much, much better, although I don't really understand its M rating — there was no sex, no swearing and far less violence than you get in most kids' movies.

Technically, yes, this is a kids' movie, but it's much more adult than its predecessor. The actors have matured, their performances are better, and Edmund — who was always my favourite Pevensie kid in Prince Caspian — is easily the coolest Pevensie in the movie, too.

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe I very much disliked the casting of Georgie Henley as Lucy, as she was all pouty and big-lipped and snub-nosed and generally just oozed smarminess; in Prince Caspian, she seems to have grown into her role, and I didn't mind her at all — although that could be partly because she has a smaller role.

The highlight of the characters for me, though, was (not Ben Barnes, although I guess if I were 14 I'd probably be drooling all over him) Peter Dinklage as Trumpkin. Trumpkin was one of the best characters in the book, and in the movie he's retained all his saltiness with a little cute-sad expression as well in those big ol' eyes. Reepicheep, too, was pretty cool, although not portrayed the way I'd envisioned him.

There are huge plot changes, and the original story is completely altered. Most of the changes aren't too bad, although I preferred how the Pevensies met Caspian in the book, and disliked one of the battles the movie inserted. But the ending was better; for some reason the ending in the book always confused and bored me a little bit. Having said that, it's probably ten years since I've even read any of the books, so I guess I should really go back and re-read the series before I make any more book-movie comparisons!

Saturday, 21 June 2008

June goals

Whoa! Exams finally over. That was quite hectic, with both exams right together, especially considering I hadn't prepared much for either. The first one was OK, though, and I hope I passed the second! Next semester will be so much worse — I've signed up for six papers. Six! I doubt I'll deal with the workload. But isn't life fun?

Anyway, I now have some time to start blogging again and admit that, yes, I wholly failed in my May goals. Having said that, I like the idea, so: June goals! I'm aware June's almost over, but that's not the point.

Tasks to complete
#6: Enter the BNZ short story competition.
#30: Change a tyre.

#31: Mow a lawn.
#50: Bake biscuits.

Reading goals
The Well of Shades by Juliet Marillier; The great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald; Eragon by Christopher Paolini; The lovely bones by Alice Sebold; Good omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Tasks to progress towards
#1: Complete a crossword each week.

#8: Submit a story to Takahe.
#17: Complete 6 chapters of my Russian textbook.
#25: Start sorting through "Unsorted" folder.

#33: Sort through a box of crap.
#34: Tidy desk, floor, cabinet and scotch chest.

#62: Play Dan at chess.
#75: Use the stepper.
#81: Eat raw fruit each day.
#92: Write to Francis.

Saturday, 14 June 2008


It's irritating to see people with intelligence and potential wasting it, living dead-end lives in dead-end jobs, not caring.

But, y'know what, that's their choice, and they know what they're doing — not my problem. What I did realise today is that the opposite can also be true, and is possibly even worse: intelligent, outgoing, motivated people who do get going, follow their dreams, and yet feel they're not getting anywhere. People who do have definite goals; who strive towards these, and yet feel they haven't accomplished anything.

I was talking to Kylie today, a friend with the degree she wants; the perfect job for her; who keeps in touch with all her good friends from high school and around the world; and even had the motivation to go to Africa as a volunteer social worker for several months last year. And on Monday she's taking a 7-week holiday from work with her hard-earned savings to go tripping around Asia.

It's great, and yet she feels she's not getting things accomplished. If she feels that way, how much worse am I! How much do I wish I could just take a month off and go tripping around Europe or Asia!

Yet I don't feel I'm doing so badly either. I have my long-term plans, one of which does include living in Europe for a year; I'm nearly at the end of my degree; I have a dream, and a potential dream job that I may be able to get next year.

Who knows what will happen in the end, of course. But I think Kylie deserves a lot more credit than she gives herself — she knows where she wants to be, and she knows how she's going to get there. And, importantly, she's not living her life waiting for her dream; she's taking opportunities now, and living life.