Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Making marriage equal

I’ve been trying to reconcile competing commitments I’ve had for quite a while. Let me state up front that none of the positions I advocate in this post are positions of my church. This is all my personal opinion.

First, I’m in favour of marriage equality. I am strongly of the view that same-sex and different-sex relationships ought to be treated exactly the same under the law. It is a next stage to de-pathologising homosexuality in our society and removing legal discrimination against GLBT citizens. We are tantalisingly close to that reality in Australia, so close in fact it seems silly not to close this gap.

Second, I’m against legal marriage in general for several reasons. One is that marriage is an ancient, cultural and religious practice with various political and moral connotations some of which are quite lovely and some of which are simply awful. Most people who get married think they can pick and choose between those connotations, but their ability to really do that is circumscribed by the cultural embeddedness of the institution.

Another is that I think it’s reasonable to claim, reading the Constitution, that the founders of Australia intended it to be a secular society (which I understand to mean government and the state independent of religion, rather than the abolition of all religion). Regardless of their intent, I think religion and politics rise to their greatest social benefit when they occupy separate and distinct social realms. Marriage law is one of the few places under Australian law which muddles the two, which is why religious groups appear to have so much say in what is a legal and civil rights issue.

To illustrate that tension, consider that the Marriage Act defines what a marriage celebrant is. There are two kinds, civil and religious. Religious marriage celebrants are authorised by the religious denomination. The list of recognised denominations (PDF) is defined by a vice-regal proclamation. The Australian constitution prohibits the government from establishing a state religion and, as far as I know this is the only place under Australian law which comes close.

Marriage in a legal sense is a very special kind of corporate entity it’s a certain kind of legal partnership. The cultural/religious rite (let’s call it “matrimony”) is the sanctification of a human relationship by cultural and spiritual practices. Sometimes obscured by the legal and cultural veils is the actual human relationship between two human beings in love. Legal marriage doesn’t make that relationship, in fact sometimes it makes it a great deal harder than it needs to be.

What makes this all a bit odd is this concept we have called “de facto relationships“, which are almost identical to marriage except that the legal entity is formed by co-habiting for a couple of years, rather than by paying some money to a civil celebrant or convincing a priest you love each other. Ironically, at the federal level at least, same-sex de factos enjoy exactly the same rights and responsibilities as different-sex de factos. Which form of legal partnership more accurately follows the reality of a relationship, the one where you can get married at the registry office on a drunken whim or the one where you have to keep a household together for two years?

My third commitment, as a priest, is to an understanding that it’s valid to anoint the spiritual character that the bond of love between two people displays. The sacred encounter between two people which opens into love and devotion is one of the most effective modes human transformation ever devised. Matrimony is a blessing and acknowledgement of this encounter with the Divine in the face of the Other.

So, I’ve come to a position which allows me to maintain each of these commitments about which I’m passionate. It’s actually quite simple:

Repeal the Marriage Act.

Remove all references to marriage from all three layers of government, retain civil partnerships formed solely through the current de facto arrangements. If there situations like immigration which require a relationship to be registered before two years have elapsed then allow a couple to register themselves as “intended partners”, a fact which could grant them a temporary visa, which becomes permanent when they become actual de factos.

Make matrimony a cultural custom which religious and cultural organisations can define however they wish, with no legal force. Some couples may decide to undertake matrimony before they become de facto partners, some after – it’s up to them. Churches like mine and the Unitarians and the Buddhists will continue to marry gay and lesbian couples and the Sydney Anglicans and the Roman Catholics can continue to refuse and… well… who cares, really?

I’m far from the first person to suggest this, but I thought I’d add my voice to a growing chorus. I argue that this proposal “retains the sanctity of marriage” more effectively than religious groups trying to maintain control over an aspect of federal law, which pollutes both religion and politics in a manner which I find increasingly abhorrent. I’m not pretending there aren’t some wrinkles to iron out, but I think this is the right way to start.

It’s not too late to make this a reality. It actually serves the demands of all parties better than most of the current suggestions. It’s simple. It’s bold. Let’s do it.

Repeal the Marriage Act.

I’ll make the t-shirts if you’ll wear ’em.

UPDATE: Just wanted to add a shout-out to Julian and Tailsteak who got here way before me. If you know other people making the same argument, please link ’em up in the comments.

The Invisible Wedding

So, I didn’t watch the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. But since it was hard to avoid the epimedia, I ended up participating. For some reason the whole thing drew me back to the scenes in volume 3 of Grant Morrison‘s magisterial “The Invisibles” where the Archons begin to manifest in Westminster Abbey. Reality got a little soft, images began to bleed through from outside the frame and some of the creativity expressed itself on Twitter. I present a summary below along with a couple of visual puns that only folk who’ve read a little Crowley are liable to get.

The Royal Family gather in the Temple to make the traditional blood sacrifices to the Archons #royalwedding

Queen reportedly impressed that Kate only issued muffled shrieks as the Royal cranial symbiote was implanted#royalwedding

Some controversy over which former Prime Minister will be fed to Rex Mundi as it manifests in Westminster Abbey#royalwedding

Spectators urged to watch for nanoswarm outbreaks and wandering shoggoths while in Mall area. #royalwedding

The Archbishop of Canterbury makes his formal entry to the Abbey bearing the Hand of Glory #royalwedding

Spectators unsurprised at the complete invisibility of the Queen’s Ninjas who are reportedly dotted all over Mall and Abbey#royalwedding

RT @LondonPolice Please take care and avoid spatial rifts as ArchCant performs opening invocations #royalwedding

SBSNews: People stared into a nightmare and lived to tell the tale #royalwedding
(OK, Anton was talking about the tornadoes in the USA, but he did say it.)

Crowds cheer as the grenadiers begin to bait the great spirithooks with the corpses of the homeless #royalwedding

I hoped there might be less horror and darkness at this #royalwedding given Will’s rep #nosuchluck #alwaysawindsor

On a lighter note: as Princess Anne’s personal cyborg regiment assemble into a giant centaur the mob cheers#royalwedding #breadandcircuses

Warning: all spectators in Union Jack bowler hats are shoggoths in rubber human suits. Avoid!!! Please RT!#royalwedding

Clarence House insists the Duke of Cambridge is wearing his actual body not an android duplicate #royalwedding

Dogs reportedly howling as far away as Cambridge as the Royal Anathematicians begin to rend time #royalwedding

A gallery of accidental reveals of the Duke of Edinburgh’s dorsal tentacles over the years #royalwedding#hilarious
(in case anyone’s confused, that’s a fake URL. Philip has successfully concealed his dorsal tentacles all these years. Or at least, if anyone got a photo, they haven’t been permitted to live)

Very disappointed to see JG consent to that blue fungal cerebral parasite. Humiliating to see our PM enslaved as a drone #royalwedding
(Did you see that thing?)

OMG Royal Vampyres quantum tunneling into my spacetime! Help! #royalwedding

No! Argh! My eyes! My eyes! The pain! Speak well of me… When I’m… Gone…#royalwedding

Then my mate Ian and I ended up in an odd conversation via SMS that somehow wound up producing these:

(which I’ll own is a slight misquote. But don’t you think Harry looks like he’s plotting something devilish?)

At least one friend has condemned me to pun hell as a result. I’m personally quite proud of making a very sweet, romantic shot look sinister. Or Thelemic. Or something.

Oh well, you know what I say about mainstream epimedia – if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Get into Deleuze…

… boy you’ve got to prove your love to mee he hee heee

(If I ever teach philosophy, in their final assignment students will have to prove their grasp of their chosen philosopher by rewriting the lyrics of a popular song to reflect his or her key ideas. Marks will be given for concise expression, accurate exposition and maintaining the backbeat.)

I asked my social media friends (on Twitter and Facebook) for recommendations on where to start with the thought of Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995) – a name I first started encountering in the early 90s. The edgy kids were all talking about Deleuze and Guattari‘s Anti-Oedipus (which I tried and failed to read) at the time. In the intervening years, he’s become more and more influential to contemporary thought and I’ve started to feel that I’m missing out by not at least trying to grok him a little.

So, thanks to @Eventmechanics, Dr Eimer and His Grace Dr Behun, His Grace Bishop Thomas Langley, Dr Ben Kraal, Trish Nowland and Orion Mitchell for their helpful suggestions. Here is a beginner’s introductory  list for CP302 – The Thought of Gilles Deleuze – my imaginary contemporary philosophy course.

To begin with, ABC Radio National’s “The Philosopher’s Zone” recently featured a two-part interview (part 1, part 2) between Alan Saunders and Robert Sinnerbrink from Macquarie Uni, so if you want to know what the fuss is about, that seems a good place to start.

When trying to understand a new philosopher, I almost always start with secondary sources, herewith…

Understanding Deleuze by Claire Colebrook (amzn – there’s a Kindle edition) got a couple of recommendations. Apparently, “Claire Colebrook has produced a truly accessible pathway into the labyrinthine enchantments offered for contemporary thought by Deleuzianism, making concepts clear, showing their political and theoretical complexity, elaborating their social and artistic relevance.” – according to one reviewer. She’s also written “Deleuze: A Guide for the Perplexed” – which is a little shorter.

Manuel DeLanda’s Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy (amzn), provides what sounds like a good approach for people coming from the sciences, rather than the humanities. Here’s some blog traffic: “DeLanda couches Deleuze’s realist ontology in terms understandable not only to philosophers, but also to scientists. No easy task. But thanks to his efforts, I am for the first time convinced that there is some light for a realist ontology in science . It is an area that, ever since Nietzsche said: “There are no facts, only interpretations”, has looked very shaky.”

My tweep @Eventmechanics, suggested Signature of the World by Eric Alliez (pub) and especially the preface by Alberto Toscano as essential reading for Deleuze and Guattari (the other D+G) beginners. He also pointed out this review of the book by John Protevi that expresses some of the difficulties in representing GD’s work.

In terms of Deleuze’s actual works, here are some recommendations:

Kafka: toward a minor literature“, U of Minnesota Press, 1986 – at least the first section as an intro to earlier work

What is Philosophy?“, Verso, 1994 – as an intro to later work

Postscript on the Societies of ControlOctober, Vol. 59. (Winter, 1992), pp. 3-7.

Proust and Signs“, Athlone, 2000

Myself, after the ABC interview, I’m going to start on Colebrook and then jump straight into “Postscript on the Societies of Control” and see how I do. I hope this little summary is some use to someone else.

… always remember: you can dance… for inspiration

Behaviour Change

So, I have the delightful privilege of working in a converted warehouse in Surry Hills amongst designers of various kinds, graphic designers, web developers, landscape designers even packaging designers. Lovely people, the place is gorgeous, great neighbourhood. Absolutely nothing to complain about…

… well maybe one small thing. Pretty much every day, when I go to use the boy’s loo, I find an empty toilet paper roll – someone has used the last of the paper and failed to replace the roll. I would have thought maybe they couldn’t find them (in the only cupboard in the room near the door), but then a few times I’ve seen a fresh roll balanced on the empty roll… At least once a day and sometimes twice a day.

Now, there are a few instructional signs around the place suggesting in fairly stern terms that residents do the washing up and mop the bathroom floor if they have a shower, so I considered making another sign… but… I’ve had some good results in the past by approaching issues like this assuming a skill gap rather malice and using humour rather than gravitas.

Enter “Bog Roll School”, an instructional comic on how to change the toilet paper. I put a copy up above the toilet roll holder a couple of days ago and so far… no empty toilet rolls. Let’s see how we go over the longer term.

Please enjoy. The original is in ComicLife, so if you could find a use for it around your office or home, drop me a note 🙂

Tony Windsor points to similar points

I was interested, though not surprised, to see Tony Windsor (an ex-National) make some similar points to my last blog post – basically that the Coalition (which is to say, in this context, the National party) has little to do with supporting the needs of country people. Here’s the last half of his speech from yesterday.

The final thing that I’d say … and you’ll all go and look at my maiden speech after this because, and I hadn’t looked at it for quite some time, it’s not really worth reading. But I’ll go to part of it that I think was because I think it’s very pertinent to today’s decision.

Obviously many people would have thought the electorate of New England, given its history, the member would possibly vote for the coalition.

When I first came into this place and when I was in the State parliament, one of the fascinating parts about the political process was how country people never took advantage of their vote. Their vote was always sidelined and in a sense the National Party, until recently the Country Liberal party was seen as the representative of country people.

What has happened through the amalgamation, or the coalition of the Nationals and the Liberal Party, is that the country vote and the same applies to country Labor and the Labor Party, the country vote has been subsumed into the two major parties which are dominated by the city based majority.

And the elections have been fought in the Western suburbs of our major cities, so that country issues haven’t really come to the foore in relation to the policy debate because they’ve been assumed by one side and taken for granted by the other.

And the fact that there are country independents in this building indicates that country people have had enough of that … particularly over the last 15 years, where the two major parties are actually virtually the same in terms of policy, a few minor changes on the side and we saw that at the election where Tony Abbott went to the polls with the union movement’s industrial relations legislation. And Julia Gillard went to the polls with the Liberal Party’s boat people policy.

So we’ve seen this merging of philosophies in a sense, and in that there is an enormous opportunity for country people through their representatives to deal with either side of the parliament and actually take political advantage of that moment.

And that’s exactly what we’re doing here, exactly what we’re doing here, is actually taking advantage of that moment and sending a signal to country people that if you wanted to be taken for granted in the future, go back to the old ways because that’s exactly what will happen to you.

The admission by both parties through their various documents … the admission is that they have neglected country Australians and they are attempting through this process because of the way the numbers have been crunched to try and rectify that particular situation.

So I make this plea to country people, some of whom who don’t agree with the Labor Party, this isn’t about philosophy. Philosophy, in terms of both these parties, died about a decade ago or probably longer. This is about using the political system to advantage the people we represent and those people in regional Australia.

I do conclude, my vote will be going to the Gillard government. I won’t support trivial no-confidence motions, I will support supply and I will reserve the right to represent my constituency on any vote in parliament, I also reserve the right to move a no-confidence motion in the government as I see fit.

Thank you.


For the last 3 years, I’ve been saying that, as every farmer in this country slowly becomes a sustainability nut in the face of erosion, salinity, drought, climate change and other environmental issues, the National Party and the Greens will start to notice how many things they agree on….

A more cautious approach to globalisation, commitment to addressing climate change, addressing indigenous (especially rural and remote indigenous) disadvantage, repairing the river systems, environmental decay etc. In short, giving some kind of a toss about the issues that vex people living more than 60 minutes outside the CBD of a capital city.

You look at the list of demands that former National Party independent Bob Katter’s making of the Labor Party and you see why he’s an independent. But how many of those items would look out of place for a Greens candidate?

I’m on the record as saying that one day soon the Nationals will realise that they’ve got more in common with the Greens than with the Liberals and they’ll start asking themselves who they really ought to be in coalition with. After all the colours of the logo match much better.

Two years ago, this sounded like one of my crazy rants that I do when I’ve had too much coffee just to get people annoyed, but how crazy does it sound this week?

Bad news and good news

A little health update:

  • in a check-up with Gerard, my nutritionist, two months ago my bodyfat had crept back up to nearly 19% :no:
  • I’ve been travelling a bit in the last few weeks, including a trip to the USA, but I worked on my diet and went back to eating Ful for breakfast instead of porridge, tried to keep starches out of most meals, upped my vegetable intake :yes:
  • I haven’t been exercising much over that time :no:
  • I had a check-up last week and my bodyfat was a bit over 18% :yes:
  • Gerard let me know he’s leaving the practice to become a schoolteacher – apparently that’s fun! :-(( :no:
  • this morning I got my own Tanita bodyfat scale so I can monitor my bodyfat daily or weekly if I want to :yes:
  • Niche and I are kicking up our workout consistency this week and I’m planning to fit in more high intensity cardio. :yes:

So, on balance, things are good :-))


Dad, me and Mum around 1968 or 1969

Dad, me and Mum around 1968 or 1969

Ten years ago today, John Arthur Mansfield, my Dad, died.

He was at home. Jenny, Tess and I had seen him that day and Mum was with him at the moment he breathed out for the last time.

Here’s something I wrote about him and me. Here’s the eulogy I said at his funeral.

He loved Stravinsky and Jazz music, Peter Sellers and Stan Freberg. He used to shout at the television when the football was on.

I still miss his bald head and his kind hands. I miss his constant support. I miss his sense of humour. I miss both his courage and his weakness.

We miss you, Dad.

Rest eternal grant to him, O Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon him.

Seriously, get a Flash blocker

That's the way we like it.

That's the way we like it.

I have nothing against Adobe’s Flash as a technology. We wouldn’t have YouTube without it and look how much good that’s done for civilization!

The thing is, I’m in a slightly annoying computing situation – entirely of my own making, I stress. I work on a MacBook Air that I insisted my job buy for me (Noo, I don’t want a MacBook Pro! It’s far too heavy!).

Indeed the Air is light and thin and gives me a lot of gadget kudos at airport security. It also has a common, completely disastrous bug. When the machine gets hot, as the processor temperature passes some critical threshold and for reasons I don’t understand, the kernel task goes nutso and starts eating the twin CPUs, using 150% all on its own (more typically it sits at around 1.5%) and all work grinds to a halt.

Not every Air does this, only the lucky ones. In hot weather, mine does it several times a day and all I can really do it put it to sleep and go catch up on reading while it cools down.

I tried using a very geeky application called CoolBook which helps you undervolt the CPU to manage the CPU temperature, but I’ll confess I don’t understand what I’m doing well enough to make that work.

Then I read a tip about installing a Safari plugin called ClickToFlash (there are similar programs for Firefox) which doesn’t load Flash programs embedded in web pages until you click on them. In the meantime they get replaced with a handsome gray rectangle. I was pretty skeptical this would make any difference to my CPU problems.

But three days later, and my processor load is so low the load graph on Activity Monitor barely shows a blip (see illustration above). Turns out most web pages have some Flash on them, often just to make small animated ads, but I guess a lot of it is fairly inefficient code and eats up a lot of processor. Many pages are littered with Flash ads, all running at the same time.

So, my advice? Seriously, get a Flash blocker for your browser. Also I guess I should recommend that you seriously consider if you really need a MacBook Air.

Fatty Liver update III

Over the last two weeks, I’ve had a second round of blood tests and a follow-up ultrasound exam of my upper abdominal cavity.

The visible progress has all been good. Gerard (my naturopath-nutritionist) has been watching my bodyfat measure on his scale drop from my original 22% three months ago down to 15% and my waistline shows the difference, so he and Nick (my psychotherapist-GP) agreed that it was time to get a second round of tests.

Last week, Nick and I sat down to review the results. The liver numbers on the blood report were all in the middle of the normal range, way down from their elevated levels that sparked this whole project off. The golden moment, though, was the ultrasound report. Nick had request that the sonographer compare this exam with the film from the previous exam. Here’s the conclusion:

The findings previously of fatty infiltration of the liver have resolved.

So, in a very technical sense, I’m well.

Gerard and I spoke last week about adapting my diet out of “crisis mode”. We all understand that if I go back to the way I was living for the last few years I will wind up in the same spot or worse in a few years, so we talked about how to keep the current plan sustainable: another serve of wholegrains a day, lots of variety , sticking with regular exercise and finding fun ways to get it. The usual.

I think one of the many things I’ve got out of this is that to frame my former way of eating and exercising (or not) as “abuse”, now that I’ve adopted a new set of behaviours I’ve got all the indicators to show that I’m “normal”, but my aim is to weave them into a sustainable lifestyle that is recognisably “healthy”.

Wish me luck!