Sunday, August 31, 2008

Beckett asks Where are you Going

In Samuel Beckett’s famous play Waiting for Godot, Vladimir asks, “Where are you going?”

Pozo answers: “ON.”

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Photo from a scene in Waiting for Godot.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Art of Looking at Art

“The average time museum visitors spend looking at a work of art is roughly two seconds,” reports Sister Wendy Beckett.

Beckett, the South African born British art expert talks further on the art of looking at art:

Art cannot be fully experienced without our cooperation, and this involves, above all, our sacrifice of time. Sociologists, lurking inconspicuously with stopwatches, have discovered the average time museum visitors spend looking at a work of art: it is roughly two seconds. We walk all too casually through museums, passing objects that will yield up their meaning and exert their power only if they are seriously contemplated in solitude. Since this is a weighty demand, many of us perhaps must compromise: we do what we can in the imperfect condition of even the most perfect museum, then we buy a reproduction and take it home for prolonged and (more or less) distractionless contemplation.

If we do not have access to a museum, we can still experience reproductions—books, postcards, posters, television, film—in solitude, though the work lacks immediacy.

We must, therefore, make an imaginative leap (visualizing texture and dimension) if reproduction is our only possible access to art. Whatever the way in which we come into contact with art, the crux, as in all serious matters, is how much we want the experience. The encounter with art is precious, and so it costs us in terms of time, effort, and focus.

Source: ‘The Art of Looking at Art, Britannica.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Sister Wendy Beckett, standing in front of The Colossus by Francisco de Goya. From a BBC documentary (unknown title) broadcast on US public television station WLIW on 18 January 2006.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Bigotry Shaping Our Voting

In a Newsweek essay on the influence of prejudice in deciding how Americans vote at the forthcoming election Rabbi Gellman asked:

"To what degree has bigotry shaped our vote?" This is not just a question about racism and Barack Obama. It's a question about sexism and Hillary Clinton. It's a question about ageism and John McCain.

Rabbi Gellman concluded with this story:

Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav was walking down the street one day trailed by many of his students. Suddenly he stopped, looked across the street and asked his students, "Who is that walking there across the street?" They looked and said to him, "Rebbe, it's no one. That's just Moshele, the water drawer, walking across the street. He's nobody." Reb Nachman shouted at them, "You are no longer my students until you can look across any street and see any person and say to me, 'O that is the image of God walking there'."

America will be healed and America will be whole when we can answer the question, "Who are you voting for?" with this answer: "O, I am voting for the image of God who happens to be running for the office of president of the United States."

Marc Gellman, Polling the Bigot Within us, Newsweek, 27 August 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Marc Gellman

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bill Clinton Speaks about Power

In his speech to the Democratic National Convention (27 August 2008), in which he endorsed Barack Obama as the Presidential nominee, Bill Clinton spoke about the most constructive way that America can help other countries of the world:

“People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than the example of our power.”

Source: Bill Clinton, Speech at Democratic National Convention-Video and Transcript, The New York Times, 27 August 2008

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: President Bill Clinton at the Convention.

I Think I may Need some Help

Rules for Old Men Waiting is a novel by Peter Pouncey, an English classicist who moved to the USA in the 1960’s and eventually became President of Amherst College. He is now retired and lives in New York. Here is an overview of the plot and the final story:

After the death of his wife, Robert MacIver, military historian, becomes something of a recluse in his holiday home in the woods. He makes rules to keep himself going as he and his house start crumbling away – when he must eat, what he must burn, how to maintain the habit of writing something every day. As he becomes involved in his story about soldiers in the trenches of the Great War he begins to reflect on his own experiences in WW2 and the loss of his son in Vietnam. What results is an attempt to make sense of his life and the turbulent era through which he has lived.

As a young man MacIver had played international rugby…he played at centre for Scotland. His story contains some beautiful descriptions of great moments in his rugby career, the most dramatic of which was the game in which he scored the winning try against England in a nail-biting finish at Twickenham. Also, while engaged in research in Paris, he had played for a brief time with the Paris University Club.

The P.U.C. public address system would introduce him as “L’Ecossais Sensationel”, which as people kept pointing out to him, sounded a whole lot better than “the sensational Scot.”

And it is a rugby allusion in the final sentence which gives the novel its brilliant ending.

McIver, ill and weak, is holed up in his secluded house, virtually imprisoned by heavy drifts of snow. One of his former star pupils, Katherine Corton, happens to be in Wellfleet and asks Bonnie, a girl from the supermarket check-out, if she knew a Mr. Robert MacIver. Bonnie says that she does know him, but that she hasn’t seen him for some months. Suddenly feeling concerned, Bonnie calls her boyfriend Matt, a fireman, who shortly arrives in his big Dodge truck, and the three of them drive out to the house. With difficulty they get through the heavily banked snow to the house, and when there is no response from within they open the door:

MacIver meanwhile was still there, but barely. He had fallen out of his rocking chair, and was now lying, slightly dazed, on his side, with one hand under his head – reclining, really. Suddenly, he thought, the door opened.

There were people there, and it seemed light and cold had come in with them. They were still by the door, uncertain what they had found. He summoned the last ounce of graciousness he had left to greet them: “Hello,” he said. “I think I may need some help.”

His words released them and they rushed towards him. But he had been quite quick in his day, and slipped away before they reached him.

Source: Peter Pouncey, Rules for Old Men Waiting (New York: Random House, 2005)

Thanks to Barrie Hibbert for this summary of the book and for sending this story.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Front Cover of Rules for Old Men Waiting.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hillary Clinton tells Democrats ‘Keep Going!’

In an electrifying speech to the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver, Hillary Clinton shared these words and told this story:

My mother was born before women could vote. But in this election my daughter got to vote for her mother for President.

This is the story of America. Of women and men who defy the odds and never give up.

How do we give this country back to them?

By following the example of a brave New Yorker, a woman who risked her life to shepherd slaves along the Underground Railroad.

And on that path to freedom, Harriett Tubman had one piece of advice.

If you hear the dogs, keep going.
If you see the torches in the woods, keep going.
If they're shouting after you, keep going.
Don't ever stop. Keep going.
If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.

Even in the darkest of moments, ordinary Americans have found the faith to keep going.

Source: Hillary Clinton Democratic Convention Speech, 26 August 2008.

To read the text and hear it by video follow this link:
Huffington Post, 26 August 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Learning to Tell Stories from Michelle Obama

Effective communication involves have good stories and being able to put them across well.

We often learn best to communicate by watching great models. We are yet to see how well the speechmakers perform but it can be instructive (positively and negatively) by tuning into the US political conventions.

Make your own assessment and then listen to the analysts do their post-mortems.

Two US presidential speechwriters present their analysis of Michelle Obama’s speech on the opening night of the Democratic National convention. They also have some thoughts on the rest of the night.

The article is at this link:

Listening In: Speechwriters on Michelle Obama’s Speech, Newsweek, 26 August 2008.

See Michelle Obama in action at this link:
Michelle Obama’s Democratic Convention Speech, Huffington Post, 26 August 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Michelle Obama and two up and coming speechmakers. (Courtesy of the Independent)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Step Out of the Frame

“You will not see the whole picture unless you step out of the frame.”

Source: Salman Rushdie in The Ground Beneath Her Feet.

The quote appears in Waris Dirie’s book, Desert Children (p210), a superb book that is reviewed at this link:

Reviewing Books and Movies.

Dr Geoff Pound

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Camus and I, I, I the Refrain of my Life

Albert Camus had a wonderful short story entitled, The Fall. In it, the main character is a man named Jean-Baptiste. Jean-Baptiste was a Paris lawyer, self-described defender of "noble causes...widows and orphans as the saying goes." One evening, he heard a laugh behind him. He turned around. No one was there. It wasn't much, but for Jean-Baptiste, it was the laughter of judgment.

But that night, with the strange, from-out-of-nowhere, mocking laugh at his back, self-awareness began to dawn for Jean-Baptiste. He saw that what he really wanted was not to help others but to strut the stage in front of others. He saw, in the echo of the laugh, that he was a hypocrite, a lousy actor, a fake, a fraud. In his own words:

"...shortly after...[the laughter], I discovered something. When I would leave a blind man on the sidewalk to which I had conveyed him, I used to tip my hat to him. Obviously the hat tipping wasn't intended for him, since he couldn't see it. To whom was it addressed? To the public. After playing my part, I would take the bow."

The haunting laugh led Jean-Baptiste to a self-examination. He concluded, "I was always bursting with vanity. I, I, I is the refrain of my whole life, which could be heard in everything I said."

Source: Albert Camus, The Fall, New York, Vintage Books, 1957.

Story told by William Willimon, 12/04/94 [I wish I had noted the link!]

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Last year I came across Camus’s grave in Lourmarin, France.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Achieving Life of Balance

In a John Hersey novel entitled The Call, the main character is an American living in China.

His ongoing lifelong struggle, says Hersey, was the struggle “to subdue the greater but sicker saint in himself and give himself to a more modest state of being: one of balance, sanity, serenity, and realized human love.”

Source: John Hersey, The Call (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985), p. 17.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: John Hersey, a Chinese-born American writer.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Maya Angelou’s Test of Character

The American poet, Maya Angelou, offers this pearl of wisdom:

“You can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”

Source: Malz Werld, 11 August 2008

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Doing What We Can Do

Steve Goodier tells this story on his web site:

This world seems to be full of talent. I've never felt as if much of it has come my way, so I appreciate this story.

It is about a wholesaler in New York who sent a letter to the postmaster of a small Midwestern town. He asked for the name of an honest lawyer who would take a collection case against a local debtor who had refused to pay for a shipment of the wholesaler's goods. He got this reply:

Dear Sir:
I am the postmaster of this village and received your letter. I am also an honest lawyer and ordinarily would be pleased to accept a case against a local debtor. In this case, however, I also happen to be the person you sold those crummy goods to. I received your demand to pay and refused to honor it. I am also the banker you sent the draft to draw on the merchant, and I sent that back with a note stating that the merchant had refused to pay. And if I were not, for the time being, substituting for the pastor of our local church, I would tell you just where to stick your claim.

Not many of us are multi-talented. I cannot do all that many things well and most things I cannot do at all. But we all have our gifts.

Continue reading the rest of the post by Steve—a wonderful story about Albert Einstein.

Link: Steve Goodier, ‘Doing What We Can Do’, Life Support System, 13 August 2008.

I have just ‘met’ Steve this week through an email or two. He is a prolific storyteller.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Steve Goodier

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sport More Powerful than Politics says Princess Haya

Princess Haya of Jordan, the wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has revealed that she still considers herself an ‘athlete’ and would like to compete in the 2012 London Olympics, twelve years after she participated in the show jumping event at the Sydney 2000 Games.

In an interview with CNN she said of sport:

“It’s absolutely fantastic, and I think it’s a lot more powerful than politics, than talking, than rhetoric. I think sports really delivers.”

Source: John Vause, ‘Saddling up for the Olympics’, CNN Video, 4 August 2008

Check out this short interview to hear Princess Haya speak about the Beijing Games, the welcome from the Chinese, her father who ‘opened the door’ for her to become an athlete and the challenges that Muslim women face in participating in sports.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Princess Haya and one of her horses.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Influence of Mark Spitz on Michael Phelps

In a Washington Post article that asks, “After eight gold medals, what’s next for Phelps,” one catches a glimpse into the influence of champions (in any sphere) that go before us.

The reporters say of Michael Phelps:

He'll have plenty of stories to tell along the way, about how a 23-year-old product of divorced parents who grew up with his mother in Baltimore County, controlled himself physically and mentally in executing the seemingly impossible.

It brought a reflection on Spitz, whose record Phelps surpassed on Sunday, when he finished a perfect meet here with a victory in the 4x100-meter medley relay.

“What he did is an amazing feat,” Phelps said. “Being able to have something to shoot for, it made those days when you were tired and didn't want to work out, it made those days easier, to look at him and say, 'I want to do this.' I'm thankful for having him do what he did.”

Source: Barry Svrluga and Liz Clarke, Washington Post, 18 August 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “To look at him and say, 'I want to do this.' I'm thankful for having him do what he did.”

Monday, August 18, 2008

Distilling the Mash to Get Whiskey for The Daily Show

Stephen Colbert used some wonderful images to describe the process that he and Jon Stewart go through several times a week in preparation for The Daily Show and The Colbert Report:

“We often discuss satire — the sort of thing he does and to a certain extent I do — as distillery,” Mr. Colbert continued. “You have an enormous amount of material, and you have to distill it to a syrup by the end of the day. So much of it is a hewing process, chipping away at things that aren’t the point or aren’t the story or aren’t the intention. Really it’s that last couple of drops you’re distilling that makes all the difference. It isn’t that hard to get a ton of corn into a gallon of sour mash, but to get that gallon of sour mash down to that one shot of pure whiskey takes patience” as well as “discipline and focus.”

This is a good insight into the art of storytelling which focuses on the slow slog of synthesizing one’s material and distilling it before serving the pure shot.

Source: Michiko Kakutani, ‘Is Jon Stewart the Most Trusted Man in America?’ New York Times, 15 August 2008 (the most emailed article on the NY Times at the time of posting). Click on the link and read Kakutani’s entire article.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Jon Stewart (photo courtesy of Michael Nagle of the NY Times)

Julian Barnes on the Value of Literature

When explaining his return to the study of literature at Oxford after a brief foray into philosophy Julian Barnes writes:

“I returned to literature, which did, and still does, tell us best what the world consists of. It can also tell us how best to live in that world, though it does so most effectively when appearing not to do so.”

Source: Julian Barnes, Nothing to be Frightened of (London: Jonathan Cape, 2008), 151.

A review of this book can be found at Reviewing Books and Movies.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “literature …tells us how best to live in the world”.

Julian Barnes on Missing God
Cricket for Eternity, Stories for Speakers and Writers.
Making People See Differently, SFSW
Review of Arthur and George, by Julian Barnes RBM

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Why We Love a Good Yarn

Storytellers and communicators will find stimulating insights in an article in the September 2008 edition of the Scientific American entitled:

‘The Secrets of Storytelling: Why We Love a Good Yarn’.

The author is Jeremy Hsu and here is the link: Scientific American.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Enjoying a Good Story.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ivo Andrić: The Significance of Bridges

The Yugoslavian writer, Ivo Andrić, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, wrote these perceptive words about bridges:

In everything that man pushes by his vital instinct, builds and raises, nothing is more beautiful or more precious than bridges. Bridges are more important than houses, more sacred because they are more useful than temples.

They belong to everybody and they are the same for everybody, always built in the right place in which the major part of human necessity crosses, more durable than all other constructions and they do not serve for anything secret or bad.

In the end, everything through which this life of ours is expressed—thoughts, efforts, glances, smiles, words, sighs—is all reaching out to another shore, as towards its aim, and only there will it be granted its true meaning.

Everywhere there is something to overcome or to bridge: disorder, death, meaninglessness. Everything is a transition, a bridge whose ends are lost in infinity, beside which all the bridges of this earth are only children’s toys, pale symbols. And all our hope lies on the other side.

Source: Ivo Andrić, The Bridges (Short Story), 1963.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: The Stari Most (Old Bridge) is the most distinctive image of Mostar (Bosnia & Herzegovina) and it gives its name to the town. Built in the Ottoman period, it stood for 427 years until it was bombed in 1993, striking the heart of the town’s unity and beauty. The bridge was reconstructed it using the ancient building techniques. In July 2005, this Old Bridge and the old city came under the Cultural Heritage recognition of UNESCO.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Henry James: Three Important Things

When the American novelist, Henry James, was saying goodbye once to his young nephew Billy, his brother William’s son, he said something that the boy never forgot.

Of all the things he might have said, what the old novelist did say was this, “There are three things that are important in human life — the first, is to be kind; the second, is to be kind; the third, is to be kind.”

Source: Frederick Buechner, "What It Means to Grow Up", Program #2901, 30 Good Minutes, First air date September 29, 1985

Dr Geoff Pound

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Old Cricket Tragics Never Die…

Frank Devine is a veteran journalist and a regular columnist for The Australian. In his column for Friday August 1st, he comments on the issues surrounding Cricket Australia’s decision not to send a team to the Champions Trophy tournament in Pakistan. Here are his opening words:

Aware that Australia’s cricket selectors might have to dig deep for volunteers to play in the Champions Trophy in Pakistan, I decided to take my off-spinners out of long storage and give them a whirl on the back lawn. Not a total success.

My wife’s leaden-footed performance behind the stumps made it pointless to attempt my subtler variations. Anyway, after two overs the telltale twinges announced that my knee was about to go. Finally, attempting a doosra, I painfully dislocated my thumb.

So much for my dream of becoming history’s oldest one-day international cricketer (by thirty years over – you can look it up – Nolan Clarke, of the Netherlands).

Knowing another tragic likely to be tempted by the possible openings in the Australian Xl, I called John Howard’s house to see how he was going. Janette answered. “He’s lying down,” she said. “I’ll try his cell phone,” I suggested. “He won’t be able to pick it up,” she said. “”He’s lying down on the gerberas. He’s breathing fairly often but mainly groaning. It’s his back. I warned him against trying the doosra.”

Even if the former PM and I had managed to iron out the kinks that inevitably come with lack of practice, I guess we would have been prevented from touring Pakistan by Cricket Australia deciding not to send a team to the Champions Trophy tournament scheduled to begin at Lahore on September 11. Anyway, I hope that would have been and will be the case.

Source: ‘If Howard and I Can’t Play in Pakistan, No one Should’, The Australian, 1 August 2008.

Thanks to Barrie Hibbert for alerting me to this witty piece which contains some good lessons about retirement.

Old Cricket Tragics Never Die…
They Simply go for a Spin

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: The off-spinner himself.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Frederick Buechner on Gandhi’s Riches

I remember going to see the movie “Ghandhi” when it first came out.

We were the usual kind of noisy, restless Saturday night crowd as we sat there waiting for the lights to dim, with our popcorn and soda pop. Girl friends and boy friends — their legs draped over the backs of the empty seats.

But by the time the movie came to a close with the flames of Ghandhi’s funeral pyre filling the entire screen, there wasn’t a sound or a movement in that whole enormous theater.

We filed out of there, teenagers and senior citizens, blacks and whites, swingers and squares, in as deep and telling a silence as I’ve ever been part of or has ever been part of me.

[The apostle] Peter in his [biblical] letter wrote, “You have tasted of the kindness of the Lord.” And we tasted it in some fashion in that theater.

The life of that little bandy-legged, bespectacled man with his spinning wheel and his bare feet, and whatever he had in the way of selfless passion for peace and passionate opposition to every form of violence, we, all of us, tasted something that at least for a few moments that Saturday night made every other kind of life seem empty. Something that at least for the moment I think every last one of us longed for in a way that in a far country, you long for home.

That’s why everybody left that crowded shopping mall’s movie theater in such unearthly silence, I think. That’s why it’s hard not to be haunted by that famous photograph (which I hope you have seen) of the only things Ghandi owned at his death: his glasses, his watch, his sandals, a bowl and spoon, a book of songs. What does any of us own to match such riches as that?

Frederick Buechner, "What It Means to Grow Up", Program #2901, 30 Good Minutes, First air date September 29, 1985.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Gandhi’s riches.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Frederick Buechner on the Stewardship of Pain

One of my favorite authors, Frederick Buechner, shared these perceptive and personal thoughts on a radio programme several years ago:

One of the troubles with being a man who spends most of his life writing books is that I don't have many adventures. Other people go off into their workplace. They come back and have stories to tell about the people they have seen and the things they have done. The adventures I have are mainly the ones that I have inside my head, except every once in a while.

I am going to tell you about one small adventure I had last summer that meant a lot to me and has left its mark. My wife and I went to Texas for the first time. I spoke at a number of different places, one of which is a marvelous retreat center called Laity Lodge in Kerrville, Texas. If you have never been there, give it a try. It is a magic place, located in the Frio River Valley. To get to it, you have to drive in the river for about a mile and a half, actually in the water with it sloshing around your hub caps. It is magic also in terms of the magic that is generated by the people there. A lot of them have been coming back for a long time. I found that within a very short time of our arrival -- we were there for about a week -- I felt extraordinarily safe in the way you would normally think of feeling safe only in the bosom of your own family; safe to be whoever I was, to say whatever came into my mind, not worried about making a good show or anything like that.

I was wondering what I would talk to them about. They said, "Wing it." I thought, "I don't mind doing that because I feel so comfortable here." I said, "How would you like me to wing it? Wing it about what?"

They said, "How about telling your own story?" I volunteered to do that and did. In place of telling them about my childhood, I read them a small section from a recent book of mine, actually written for children, though published as a regular adult book, called The Wizard's Tide. I described an episode of my childhood which I said could stand for the shadow side of it and what made it tough.

I'll quickly tell you about that episode. It took place in the 1930's during the Depression when there wasn't much money; an awful lot of drinking was going on in the world and in my family; an unsettled and unsettling time even for a child of ten, which I was.

The episode I described concerned a time when my father had come back from somewhere. He had obviously had too much to drink. My mother did not want him to take the car. She got the keys from him somehow and gave them to me and said, "Don't let your father have these." I had already gone to bed. I took the car keys and I had them in my fist under the pillow. My father came and somehow knew I had the keys and said, "Give them to me. I have got to have them. I have got to go some place."

I didn't know what to say, what to be or how to react. I was frightened, sad and all the rest of it. I lay there and listened to him, pleading really, "Give me the keys."

I pulled the covers over my head to escape the situation and then finally, went to sleep with his voice in my ears. A sad story which stood for a lot of other sadness of those early years.

When I finished reading it, Howard Butt, who is head of the Butt Foundation which finances Laity Lodge, came up to me and said something for which I was utterly unprepared. He said, "You have had a fair amount of pain in your life, like everybody else. You have been a good steward of it."

That phrase caught me absolutely off guard -- to be a steward of your pain. I didn't hear it as a compliment particularly. It is not as if I had set out to be a steward of my pain, but rather something that happened.

I thought a lot about what the stewardship of pain means; the ways in which we deal with pain. Beside being a steward of it, there are alternatives. The most tempting is to forget it, to hide it, to cover it over, to pretend it never happened, because it is too hard to deal with. It is too unsettling to remember.

Source: Frederick Buechner, "The Stewardship of Pain", Program #3416, 30 Good Minutes, First air date January 27, 1990.

Image: Frederick Buechner

Related Buechner Stories and References to FB:
A Blessed Silence
The Final Takeoff
When in Doubt…
New Book on Decision Making and Discernment

Monday, August 11, 2008

Straight Talk

People should never ask someone a question if they aren't prepared for the answer.

In an American trial, a Southern small-town prosecuting attorney called his first witness, a grandmotherly, elderly woman to the stand. He approached her and asked, 'Mrs. Jones, do you know me?'

She responded, 'Why, yes, I do know you, Mr. Williams. I've known you since you were a boy, and frankly, you've been a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat on your wife, and you manipulate people and talk about them behind their backs. You think you're a big shot when you haven't the brains to realize you'll never amount to anything more than a two-bit paper pusher. Yes, I know you.'

The lawyer was stunned. Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across the room and asked, 'Mrs. Jones, do you know the defense attorney?'

She again replied, ' Why yes, I do. I've known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster, too. He's lazy, bigoted, and he has a drinking problem. He can't build a normal relationship with anyone, and his law practice is one of the worst in the entire state. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three different women. One of them was your wife. Yes, I know him.'

The defense attorney nearly died.

The judge asked both counselors to approach the bench and, in a very quiet voice, said, 'If either of you idiots asks her if she knows me, I'll send you both to the electric chair.'

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Straight talking Mrs. Jones of Mississippi.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Georgian and Russian Olympians Put Guns Down and Embrace

Despite the meticulous choreography, the Olympics Games is always certain to throw up some spontaneous moments that are impossible to manufacture.

One of those moments occurred today (10 August) at the Beijing Games during the women’s 10-meter air pistol competition and medal presentation.

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect as the shooting event, with key competitors from Russia and Georgia, took place against a backdrop of violence and war between these two countries. The conflict had reached such a level that yesterday Georgian athletes considered leaving the Games and going home.

In this shooting event Russia’s Natalia Paderina took the silver and Nino Salukvadze won the bronze–Georgia’s first medal of the Beijing Olympics.

After the medal presentation Salukvadze (the Georgian) put her arm around Paderina (the Russian) and the two posed together for photographs. Paderina than gave Salukvadze a kiss on the cheek.

Hopefully the leaders of their countries view the replay of this spectacle and become inspired to put their guns down and embrace.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Russia's Natalia Paderina (left) and Georgia's Nino Salukvadze shared a hug and a kiss after the medal ceremony for the 10 metre air pistol final today. (Photo courtesy of AP)

An Uplifting Story

Adelaide-based New Zealander, Barrie Hibbert, shares this story:

One of my tasks this week has been to edit the Catholic newspaper “Southern Cross” for reading over the radio next Sunday (10th August).

One small news item caught my eye. It’s a report on a project based an inspired idea which came to a group of Catholic schoolgirls. Here it is, just as it appeared in the paper, heading and all:

Students at an Adelaide Catholic Girls school plan to donate more than 100 pre-loved bras to women from the Pacific islands of Fiji. Kildare College, Holden Hill, has been taking part in the Up Lift Fiji campaign this year and had collected 70 bras at the last count. All those who donated have been thanked for their support.

Barrie adds:
The girls of Kildare are to be commended for pioneering this innovative and creative approach to “evangelism” … or “evangelisation”, as our Catholic friends prefer to say.

No doubt there will be critics who will object to this project as yet another attempt to “suppress the masses”. But I am sure it arises out of a sincere desire to “uplift the fallen.”

When the time comes, I hope that Archbishop Philip Wilson will hold a service of blessing and commissioning for the hundred pre-loved bras before they are dispatched to the eagerly waiting women of Fiji. If he is looking for a text for the occasion, I have a suggestion:
“Greater love hath no woman than this: that she should give up her pre-loved support for her friend.” John 15:13 (slightly modified)

[Perhaps this Old Testament reading could also be suggested: “My cup runneth over.” (Psalm 23)]

Related Stories:
100 Years of Support
One Man’s Trash-Collecting Bras for Fiji to Fill the Void

Liz Baker collecting bras for the Up Lift Fiji campaign (courtesy The Age).

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Tom Long: “That Was Uncalled For!”

Tom Long, Professor at Emory University, shares this personal story:

When I was a boy and did something that I shouldn’t have done, something that displeased my parents very much, my mother would often use a phrase that I suppose other parents have used as well. She would look me in the eye and say, “Son, that was uncalled for!”

It’s an interesting phrase, isn’t it? “Uncalled for.” As if there’s someone out there calling for you. As if what it means to be good is not something that wells up automatically inside of you but is something that has to be summoned and called for from the outside, as if being the person you ought to be needs to be called for from the outside.

The older I get, the more I know that’s true, that one of the deepest human hungers that we have is to be called for. And one of the deepest human fears that we have is that there is no one out there who cares enough about us to call for us.

Thomas Long, "Where You Never Expected to Be", Program #5004, First air date October 22, 2006, 30 Good Minutes