Not-cross-buns, 2014

As has become traditional in our house, I have made not-cross-buns for Easter. This year I’ve changed recipes. I used a recipe from Anne Else’s blog, Something Else to Eat, which Anne says comes to her from her friend Ali, who has used an Alison Holst recipe, but modified it a little. I modified the recipe a little too – I added a teaspoon of coffee powder and a teaspoon of cocoa to the spice mix, to give the buns a darker colour, and instead of using mixed dried fruit, I used a mix of raisins, currants and glace peel.

I made the designs on top using a paste of flour, icing sugar and water (about 2 tablespoons of flour, 1 tablespoon of icing sugar, and enough water to get a firmish paste). And I made a caster sugar and water glaze rather than using a brown sugar or golden syrup glaze. Because recipes are just a suggestion, after all…

As for this year’s designs:

By request from the younger busy bees, Harry Potter scar buns. These buns are fruitless, to cater for the people in my house who don’t care for dried fruit.

Harry Potter not-cross-buns

Harry Potter not-cross-buns

Fruity Starfleet insignia buns.

Fruity Starfleet insignia not-cross-buns

Fruity Starfleet insignia not-cross-buns

Served with lashings of butter and coffee.

Coffee and buns

Coffee and buns

These are the best not-cross-buns I have made so far. The recipe from Anne-Ali-Alison is excellent. The buns had a lovely texture, not too dense, not too fluffy, and the flavour was great. They were also quite easy to make – a lot less time consuming than some other bun recipes I have used.

I hope that you’re having a restful Easter.

The not-cross-buns I’ve made in previous years:
2013 – Deathly Hallows
2012 – Darwin Fish
2010 – the Eye of Sauron
2009 – Flying Spaghetti Monster buns
2008 – Atheist “A” buns

That Air NZ safety video

Air New Zealand has a new safety video.  It’s part of their on-going series of alternative safety videos, which have become a core part of their image. This time, they’ve taken Sports Illustrated swimsuit models to the Cook Islands.

You can watch the video here, but do be aware that it’s classic objectification of women, with a side serve of using people from a minority ethnic group as props adding local colour.

I’ve been in the media talking about it, and it turns out that I’m not the only person raising issues with it. Pam Corkery thinks that Air NZ has gotten it all wrong, and Hilary Barry is absolutely incensed by it.

“I’m incensed. I’m absolutely incensed by the safety video.

“I think it’s highly inappropriate, sexualised, objectifies women, demeaning, it’s just appalling.

It *is* sexualised. The women are wearing the usual skimpy bikinis, and they sit and stand in sexually provocative poses. To watch the video and claim that it has no sexual content would be at best disingenuous.

And therein lies the problem.

When it comes to sexual expression, one of the key criteria is consent. If I don’t want to see the models in the swimwear edition of Sports Illustrated, then I can choose not to buy the magazine. I don’t have to participate in the objectification of women, nor in the sexual content of the magazine.

But no such choice is available to me if I have bought a flight on Air New Zealand, because I am trying to get from one place to another in the most efficient way possible. I am trapped on board the plane, wearing a seatbelt, and I can’t move anywhere else, while Air New Zealand staff urge me to watch the video. They are forcing sexual content on me without my consent.

On top of that, the Cook Islands people in the video are not exactly front and centre. They’re off to the side, a back drop for the models. Does Air New Zealand think that people from the Cook Islands are just not beautiful enough to feature in the video?

Air New Zealand, please don’t force me to watch this video on your flights. All I want to do is get from one place to another. I don’t want to have to watch sexual material, least of all sexual material that uses people from a minority ethnic group as props. I do not consent.

Suffragist’s campaign seasoning

A friend sent me this, for my campaign.

Suffragist Salt

Suffragist Salt

Suffragists’ Campaign Seasoning
Italian Herbed Salt
A flavoursome addition to any meal after a long day of signature-collecting

The selection meeting for the Labour candidate for the Rangitikei electorate will be this coming Saturday (14 December). All going well, I shall start using the salt that evening.

And thank you, Ema, for sending me the salt!

Taking a Stand against rape and rape culture: newspaper opinion piece

I wrote an article about rape and rape culture, and what we can do about it, for my local paper. It’s not on-line, but I’ve made a PDF of it. It’s oriented towards an audience that may not have read much about rape culture before.

Stopping rape culture – pdf – 406kb

And I spoke at the rally against rape culture in my town on Saturday. You can read about the demonstration here, and incidentally, get a nice view of the back of my head.

Square protest against rape culture

The demonstration in Palmerston North was organised by a young man, Mark Byford. Mark spoke very effectively at the rally, and he did a great job organising it. Thank you, Mark!

Today would have been my uncle’s birthday

My uncle would have turned 68 today. But a few weeks ago, he died.

And I miss him, terribly.

He was a very special person, not just to me, but to many people. He was a priest in the Roman Catholic church, and Dean of Theology at Otago University, but eventually, he left the church and moved beyond christianity altogether. He had studied and worked in liberation theology, but he finished his doctoral work just as John Paul II was starting to entrench his hold on the church. In addition to that, he was gay, and at times, it must have seemed that the church in which he had been reared hated him.

The word ‘erudite’ was coined for him. He was fluent in Latin, and he gloried in the intricacies of it. He thought about the nature of a language and a society that held all nouns and descriptions in tension, until a final formative verb. (Latin places the active verb at the end of a sentence, after all else has been conjured into thought already.) Part way through his life, he went to live and study in Rome, where he completed his PhD in moral theology at the Lateran. So he became fluent in Italian too. In later years, living in Paris, he added French to the suite of languages that he spoke.

He read and thought about great literature. I have his copy of War and Peace, given to him as the prize for coming top of 6th form English. We talked about literature often, rejoicing in great books and great authors. He introduced me to A. N. Wilson as a biographer, and we formed our own very exclusive A. N. Wilson Appreciation Society. He loved word play, and clever constructions, and he would save them and share them with me, and with my husband. He had a quick and dry wit. When my husband and I muttered that our university’s list of distinguished alumni was perhaps not all that distinguished, he paused for a moment, and quirked his eyebrow. “My university,” he said, “has a list of distinguished alumni. It’s divided into two categories: Saints, and Popes.”

He was someone whose approval I sought, someone I admired. He was the first person to suggest that perhaps I should carry on to doctoral work, the first person to think that I had the capacity of mind to study at that level. He encouraged me and inspired me. In recent years, I think that I delighted him when I started to argue with him, to make him think new thoughts.

I loved seeing him. One of my earliest memories of him dates back to a Christmas when I was about four. My brothers and I had been given popguns, so we lined up at the gate on Christmas afternoon, ready to pop him when he arrived. We were so pleased to see him. And all through my life, whenever I knew I was to see him, my heart would skip a little for joy. “I’m going to see Tony!” it would sing. That sense of joy never wore off. The last time I saw him, really saw him, to talk to him properly, as I was leaving I reminded him of that wonderful scene in War and Peace, where young Rostov is coming home through the streets of Moscow, and the carriage seems to go so slowly, and he will never get there and he can’t wait, and then he reaches home and the greetings are wonderful. It was always like that, seeing Tony. In War and Peace, somehow it doesn’t seem quite right or full enough to Rostov – he always looks for more. But for me, seeing Tony, it was never like that. It was always enough.

He was a micro manager, making sure that everything was just so. A few years ago, I came back from Australia for a family party, and stayed with him a night, before running some errands in the morning. He had my morning carefully mapped out, leaving me a note about what time I should leave the house, and which way I should drive to my first appointment, and how I should get from there to his workplace where we were meeting for lunch. He left for work, but then an hour or so later, rang me up to make sure that I was following his instructions. I chose to see this as a manifestation of his love for me.

I loved and admired him so much, and I know that he loved me, and was so very proud of me. He was a twin, and he and his twin brother always thought that someone in my generation ought to have twins. He was so delighted when my twins were born, and then two weeks later, I got word that my doctoral thesis had been passed. He had no children of his own, so he rejoiced in his nieces and nephews, and I know that he thought of me as the daughter of his soul. He was for me, my third parent.

I saw him a few times in those last weeks. The third last time I saw him, it was just him and me, sitting in his home, drinking coffee, and talking – politics, life, literature, children, family, ideas, love. Soul food for both of us. The second last time I saw him, we were down in Wellington for a school event, so afterwards, we all went to his place. My daughters sparkled at him, telling him stories, performing, making him laugh. It warmed us all, him and me and my husband, to see them being so wonderful. And the last time was on the afternoon of the day he died, when I left the girls at home, and raced down the road, just to be there, to hold his hand and talk to him, even though he was unconscious by then. I could not be there when he died because I had to return home to my children (my husband was overseas at the time).

I saw his body one last time, when we closed the coffin that his twin had made for him. By then he had gone.

He had his funeral organised, down to who was speaking, and what they should speak about, and how long they should speak for. No religion, but a great deal of reflection, and beautiful music.

I have some tokens of him: a book he gave me for my 5th birthday, books he gave me just a few months ago, some beautiful needlepoint he made, music we listened to together. And the ache in my heart, for a beloved friend taken too soon. My family’s hearts are aching today, on his birthday. Tony always used to call me or send me a message a few days before his birthday. “Remember that it’s Terry’s birthday on the 15th.” Terry will be grieving today, for this first birthday alone. My parents are grieving too: Tony was their great friend. As he was to all his family, a brother and friend of the mind and soul, and the spiritual centre of our family.

Some thoughts have comforted me in this time: Anne Else’s beautiful image of a boat moving slowly away, Philip Pullman’s account of a spirit dissolving into the atoms of the universe, a self-constructed imagining of Tony’s soul journeying up Te Ika a Maui, to the last pohutakawa tree, and there disappearing into the winds and sea and sky. Not that I believe in souls. But somehow, the image comforts me.

He is gone. He wrote a last testament, which I read at his funeral. I have added it to this post, and if you feel so inclined, having read this far, you might care to download it and read it. It contains the wisdom of a life lived in love and mind and reflection, and his final thoughts about what this life is all about.

Tony Russell’s Testament – pdf – 74kb

Alas, without me for thousands of years
The Rose will blossom and the Spring will bloom,
But those who have secretly understood my heart -
They will approach and see the grave where I lie.
(Deccan tomb inscription)

Anthony (Tony) James Russell
15 November 1945 – 28 September 2013

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