Saturday, April 25, 2015

Poldark: Unfurling in Perfect Form

Above: Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark in the BBC One television series Poldark, which premiered in the UK on Sunday, March 8, 2015.
(Photo: BBC/Mammoth Screen/Mike Hogan)

I'm happy to report that Poldark, BBC One's television series based on Winston Graham's series of historical novels, is both a critical and ratings success. Not only has a second season of Poldark already been commissioned, but Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has praised the program and called for its continuation for another eight years, presumably the time it will take to film all twelve Poldark novels.

The first series actually concludes this weekend in the United Kingdom, while in both Australia and New Zealand it's still underway. Folks in the U.S. won't see Poldark until it premieres on PBS on June 14. (Thanks to my friend Karen in the U.K., I've already viewed a number of episodes of the first series. But I'm going to hold off on sharing my thoughts – all positive, I should say – until a future post!)

Over the past month or so in the U.K., there has been a number of insightful comments and reflections shared about various aspects of Poldark. Following is a sampling.

It’s no surprise that Poldark’s appeal had endured. From 1945, when Winston Graham first published Ross Poldark, to the first TV dramatisation in the '70s, when apparently vicars had to change the times of evensong because the pews were empty of parishioners who needed their Poldark fix, he is a hero for any age. He’s imbued with a social conscience, sees the heroine as an equal rather than a commodity to be conquered and possessed, and manages to do all this in a pair of pleasingly tight breeches without banging on about his feelings all the time.

– Sarra Manning
Excerpted from "In Ross Poldark, We Have Reached Romantic Hero Nirvana"
The Guardian
March 25, 2015

Poldark fever is all about us. Red-headed and feral, Demelza Carne, the scamp [played by Elenor Tomilson (left)], is up against the impetuous yet generous temperament of Ross Poldark [Aidan Turner (above)], always championing the underdog. Cornwall beckoning, even though some of the film has been shot in the Cotswolds. The men could learn a thing or two about the finer arts of scything and some of the women ought to eat a few more pasties. But in Poldark, geology, coastline and landscape are as important as tides, weather and human emotions. Mining, like film directing, is an expensive and dark art. You never know until the end whether you have succeeded.

Much of the film script is drawn from smelting down ideas and refining the characters portrayed in the Poldark books written by Winston Graham, but let us not lose sight of the man, the novelist. This time dialogue and plot is more faithful to the original novels which would please Winston.

– James Pascoe Crowden
Excerpted from "The Solitude of Wartime Coastguard Duty That Led to Poldark’s Birth"
Western Morning News
April 24, 2015

The beauty of Poldark [is that] time after time it sets up splendidly melodramatic situations, and makes heroes of its characters by forcing them through hellfire.

– Gerard O'Donovan
Excerpted from "Poldark, Series 1, Episode 7 Review
The Telegraph
April 20, 2015

[The makers of Poldark start with] 1940s novels that mirror the dark times just after World War Two, and to give them credit, they are doing this far more authentically with the central characters than the progressive 1970s series. And as [Poldark author Winston] Graham did, they are given voice to the marginalized and powerless, the abject, the lowest of the low, in a wide ranging perspective which includes underlying economic realities.

– Ellen Moody
Excerpted from "This Year’s Consuming Costume Historical Film Adaptations: Poldark and Wolf Hall
Ellen And Jim Have A Blog, Two
April 13, 2015

One thing that Poldark is capturing quite nicely is the sweeping social change that was beginning to happen in the late 18th century. Revolution is in the air all over Europe and the old order is beginning to worry just a tad about their place in society. The miners are revolting, sons of labourers run the banks, and women (women!) are starting to get all uppity. . . . However, this is the 1780s and the social order is being rattled more violently by nouveau riche gents [such as George Warleggan, played by Jack Farthing (left)] rather than frustrated wives and sisters.

– Chris Bennion
Excerpted from "Revolution is in the Air as Women Fling Mud in the Eyes of the Silly Chaps"
The Independent
April 20, 2015

Professor Steven Fielding – director of the Centre for British Politics at Nottingham University – points in a recent article to the radical context of [Winston Graham's Poldark novels]: "The first Poldark novel was published in 1945, the year Britain elected a Labour government intent on building a more egalitarian society. Graham's work was shaped by that context." Fielding even sees the maid-marrying hero as "a kind of 18th-century Robin Hood" whose "romantic life echoes his ambiguous place in the social order." . . . To Fleming, "Contemporary Britain resembles the world of Poldark, with elites of various sorts appearing to run roughshod over laws and morals in pursuit of advantage." He wonders whether there might be "a real political force out there, able to tap into their inner Poldark." Tops off, comrades, and let's whet those scythes.

– Boyd Tonkin
Excerpted from "Heroic and Tragic Truth Behind Poldark
The Independent
April 10, 2015

Friends of mine in both Britain and Australia have also weighed-in on Poldark. Here's what two of them, Karen and Andrew, have to say . . .

Watching this beloved story unfurl once more in such perfect form is a quite unbelievable and overwhelming experience. The years we have dreamed and schemed for this and deliberated over who could ever take on the precious roles. And now, to see the whole thing emerging so gloriously, thanks to Debbie Horsfield's inspired script and the phenomenal way in which Aidan and Eleanor are interpreting their roles, is exquisitely wonderful. I feel like I've come home somehow when I watch the slow budding of their relationship develop delicately from master and servant, to master and friend, and then the beauty of seeing affection softly awakening into sexual attraction and the dawning of love. It's blissfully in keeping with the tender romance of Winston Graham's original story and to see it played out against the captivating splendour of the magical Cornish landscape is breath-taking. Poldark has come home to our screens and back to its cherished home in our hearts forever.

– Karen Knight
West Wittering, West Sussex, United Kingdom

I enjoyed it and will definitely keep watching. Costuming, script and cinematography was excellent for a TV series (as was the makeup with lots of dirty faces and bad teeth for the peasantry), although the weather was just a bit too good (WT, blue skies in England?) – sombre weather would have set the tone better for his unwelcome and dispiriting homecoming (but is that just too much of a cliche?).

Haven’t read the books (or even seen the 1970s series), but perhaps also a bit more background to his suggested wayward/carefree life before the war would have helped as it seems to come across that he was a bit of a lad – sort of return of the prodigal son, but without the welcoming father (and his money).

My only real peeve is that surrounded by a number of good attempts at earthy 18th century Cornish/West Country dialects, Aidan Turner’s trans-Atlantic accent was just that bit bland for ancient landed (but impoverished) gentry. Oh, and that Demelza sorely needs a good feed!

– Andrew Worthington
Brisbane, Australia

Related Off-site Links and Updates:
Poldark Gets Second Series After Ratings Help BBC1 to 10-year High – Jasper Jackson (The Guardian, April 8, 2015).
BBC Plans to Make Poldark and Other Hit Shows 'Internet First' – Hugo Gye (Daily Mail, April 9, 2015).
Poldark's Return: Everything You Need to Know About the BBC Remake – Dominic Midgley (Express, February 26, 2015).
The First Reviews of Poldark Are In . . . – Rachel McGrath (The Huffington Post UK, March 9, 2015).
Author Winston Graham's Family Give Thumbs Up to BBC's Poldark – Simon Parker (Western Morning News, March 9, 2015).
Meet the Cast of Poldark – Ben Dowell (Radio Times, March 8, 2015).
BBC's Poldark Adapts to Our Times – Tara Conlan (The Guardian, March 9, 2015).

See also the previous Poldark-related Wild Reed posts:
Poldark Rides Again
Ross Poldark: Renegade of Principle
Return of the (Cornish) Native
"A Token of Wildness and Intractability"
Passion, Tide and Time
A "Useful Marriage" for Morwenna
Time and Remembrance in the Poldark Novels
"Hers Would Be the Perpetual Ache of Loss and Loneliness"
Demelza Takes a Chance (Part 1)
Demelza Takes a Chance (Part 2)
Captain Blamey Comes A-Calling
Rendezvous in Truro
A Fateful Reunion
Cornwall's – and Winston Graham's – Angry Tide
A Sea Dragon of an Emotion . . . "Causing Half the Trouble of the World, and Half the Joy"
Into the Greenwood
"I Want You to Become a Part of Me – Each to Become a Part of the Other"

Friday, April 24, 2015

Quote of the Day

Coming to a new understanding of women as full human beings is the sine qua non of church change. Moreover, the current pope’s recent reiteration of the virtues of gender complementarity showed that he is not tuned in to contemporary scholarship, both scientific and humanistic, on gender, its fluidity, and variety. No one can be certain how constructed our gender identities are, or what grounds them biologically. Being “created in the image of God” is a better bet.

We are all learning together about this, some of us more willing to admit what we do not know than others. But we can certainly agree in the meantime that persons trump genitals, that competence and willingness to serve are far more relevant than gender identity when it comes to Christian life. This means ordination and decision making for women on a par with men, or a complete change in sacramental ministry and governance for all (my preferred future). But it does not mean that women can continue to be treated as second-class citizens in any way whatsoever.

– Mary E. Hunt
Excerpted from "Women’s Equality in the Church is No Longer Negotiable"
Religion Dispatches
April 23, 2015

For more of Mary Hunt's insights, see the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – April 17, 2013
Progressive Perspectives on the Papacy (Part 5)
Quote of the Day – February 11, 2013
Quote of the Day – June 10, 2012
Mary Hunt on the "Child Neglect" of the Washington, DC Archdiocese
The "Ratzinger Letter" of 1986 as "Theological Pornography"
Mary Hunt: "Catholicism is a Very Complex Reality"
Crisis? What Crisis?
Our Catholic "Stonewall Moment"
LGBT Catholics Respond to Synod 2014's Final Report

Recommended Off-site Links:
Pope Francis Has a Woman Problem – Jennifer Labbadia (The Huffington Post via The Progressive Catholic Voice, March 31, 2015).
I'm a Catholic Feminist, and My Church Needs Me More Than Ever – Kristina Keneally (The Guardian via The Progressive Catholic Voice, January 30, 2015).

Image: Kristen Solberg.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day 2015

In honor of Earth Day I share the poem "Becoming" by Rod Cameron, OSA. It's from his 1995 book Karingal: A Search for Australian Spirituality, which the McGowan family gifted to me in 2006.

Accompanying Cameron's poem, one which reflects the basic tenets of evolutionary spirituality, are images of the Australian landscape from various trips that I made to Australia from the U.S. between 1996 and 2003. These images have been scanned from print copies and have not been previously shared at The Wild Reed. Enjoy!


Becoming is the song of flowing tides
of bursting flowers, onward rushing streams
the ceaseless sunrise of our human powers
the long awakening of our deepest dreams.

Becoming is the cry of morning light
the smiling peace that comes when spring is blessed
the theme of every drama of the stars
a sigh that rises from the ocean's breast.

Creation is an act of long awakening.
The rocks and rivers whisper this one theme,
the course that the unfolding chart is taking
the hymn that rises from an early dream.

– Rod Cameron

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Photo of the Day – Earth Day 2013
Boorganna (Part I)
Boorganna (Part II)
Thomas Berry (1914-2009)
"Something Sacred Dwells There"
The End of the World As We Know It . . .
Quote of the Day – September 19, 2014

Related Off-site Links:
Earth Day: LGBTQ Theologians Join in Protecting the Environment – Kittredge Cherry (Jesus in Love Blog, April 22, 2015).
Reading I.F. Stone on Earth Day: Why We Still Won’t Get Anywhere Unless We Connect the Dots – Naomi Klein (Common Dreams, April 22, 2015).
The Stain of Big Oil is Smearing Earth . . . and Our Culture – Mel Evans (Common Dreams, April 22, 2015).
Love Is the Primary Energy to Amend Climate Change – Rev. G. Travis Norvell (Sojourners, April 23, 2015).
'Environmental Heroes' from Around World Honored with Prestigious Prize – Sarah Lazare (Common Dreams, April 21, 2015).
Colorado Teenager Rallies Youth Around the World to Protect the Planet – Cameron Keady (The Huffington Post, April 22, 2015).
Encyclical on Environment Stimulates Hope Among Academics and Activists – Thomas Reese (National Catholic Reporter, April 24, 2015).
Pope Francis' Radical Environmentalism – Tara Isabella Burton (The Atlantic, July 11, 2014).

Recommended Resources:
Dreaming a New Earth: Raimon Panikkar and Indigenous Spiritualities – Gerald Hall (Wipf and Stock, 2013).
Holy Ground: A Gathering of Voices on Caring for Creation – Lyndsay Moseley (Sierra Club Books, 2009).
Restoring the Soul of the World: Our Living Bond with Nature's Intelligence – David Fideler (Inner Traditions, 2014).
Enough Is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources – Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill (Berrett-Koehler, 2013).
Field of Compassion: How the New Cosmology Is Transforming Spiritual Life – Judy Cannato (Sorin Books, 2010).
Prayers to An Evolutionary God – William Cleary (Skylight Paths, 2004).

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Quote of the Day

I’ve been here almost four years, and there might be a handful of people who are uncomfortable. But [gay couple Greg Bourke and Michael DeLeon (pictured at left)] are loved and respected. . . . They’re involved, and you see how they fit in. They’re just good people. And that’s kind of what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Fr. Scott Wimsett,
Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes
Quoted in Francis DeBernardo's article,
"Supreme Court Marriage Equality Case Will Be Led by Catholic Gay Couple"
Bondings 2.0
April 21, 2015

Related Off-site Links:
"They're Just Good People. And That's Kind of What It's All About, Isn't It?" – Amanda Terkel and Christine Conetta (The Huffington Post, April 20, 2015).
Meet The Couples Fighting To Make Marriage Equality The Law Of The Land – Amanda Terkel, Kate Abbey-Lambertz and Christine Conetta (The Huffington Post, April 20, 2015).
Poll: No Turning Back on Gay Marriage – Susan Page (USA Today, April 19, 2015).
Religious Leaders On Same-Sex Marriage: “No One View Speaks For ‘Religion’” – Jack Jenkins (Think Progress, April 21, 2015).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Marriage: "Part of What is Best in Human Nature"
Quote of the Day – December 30, 2014
Rediscovering What Has Been Written on Our Hearts from the Very Beginning
Responding to Bishop Tobin's Remarks on Gay Marriage
Quote of the Day – January 18, 2015
Quote of the Day – May 31, 2014

Happy Birthday, Dad!

In Australia today my Dad celebrates his 78th birthday. Happy Birthday, Dad!

I've said it before but it's worth saying again: My brothers and I are very fortunate to have Gordon James Bayly as our father. He is a man of integrity, compassion, and selfless service to others. We experienced and witnessed such qualities growing up in Gunnedah, and they are qualities that are still very much part of our father today.

I love you, Dad, and can’t thank you enough for all you continue to be and give to me, my brothers, our family, and so many others whose lives are touched by yours.

Above: A picture of Dad and Mum that I took during
my recent Australia sojourn of March 2015.

For some great photos of Dad through the years, click here and here.

Here are a few more pics from the Bayly family archives . . .

Above: Dad as a young boy. He's pictured riding his tricycle at “Flodden,” his mother’s family farm in the Purlewaugh district of northwestern New South Wales, Australia.

Left: Mum and Dad, early in their courtship, in Gunnedah in the mid-1950s. Dad is in his band uniform.

Above: Dad with Aunty Phyllis in Sydney in the late 1950s. For more about Phyllis, click here and here.

Above: Dad holding me as an infant. This photo was taken during a family holiday at The Entrance in the Australian summer of 1966/67.

Above: Dad and Aunty Phyllis with my brothers and I in the late 1960s. From left: Phyllis, Chris, me, and Dad, holding Tim.

Above: My brothers (from left, Chris and Tim) and I with Dad. This photo was taken at Christmas 1970 at the home of our family friends Ray and Gwen Riordan and their three daughters, Denise, Wendy, and Diane. The Riordans owned a property called “Fairview” in the Kelvin district, about 20 kilometres northeast of Gunnedah. While growing up, my brothers and I spent some very happy times out at Fairview – playing tennis, riding our mini-bikes, and hiking through the nearby Kelvin Hills.

Above: With Dad in Sydney, circa 1980.

Above: With Dad in 1990.

Left: Dad in 1991 with his 1974 Ford XB Falcon (Fairmont Sedan model).

Above: With Dad in the business he owned and operated for 30+ years in our hometown of Gunnedah. I'm thinking this photo was taken in the summer of 1998-1999, when I was visiting from the U.S. Dad retired in 2001 and he and Mum relocated to Port Macquaire the next year.

Dad's business was (and continues to be) called Gordon Barry and Company, after its founder, grain merchant and stock and station agent Gordon Barry. It sells a range of rural merchandise such as crop seed (wheat, barley, sorghum, millet, and sunflower), fertilizers, farm animal feed . . . and dog kennels! Dad also oversaw the cartage of grain during the harvest season. For many years, one of Dad's two business partners in the company, Pat Smith, dealt with the sale of livestock and real estate.

Above: Dad and Mum with Dad's business partner Pat Smith and his wife. Judging by the clothes and hairstyles, this photo was probably taken in the late-1970s.

Above: Dad and Mum with their good friends John and Heather Sills – Gunnedah, 1990.

Above: Dad in 1991 with his mother, Belle Smith (left), and his mother-in-law, Olive Sparkes.

Above: Dad with his first grandchild, Ryan (1990).

Above: Dad and Ryan in 2000.

Above: Dad and Mum at the March 15, 2015 wedding of Ryan and his wife Farah. For more images of this special day, click here.

Above: Dad with his granddaughter Layne – Katoomba, 1996.

Dad with his grandchildren Layne and Brendan (above) in 2000, and Ryan and Liam (below) in 1998.

Above: Mum and Dad in Melbourne – March 2015. For more images of our family's time together in Melbourne, click here.

Above: Dad playing pool with his grandson Liam – Melbourne, March 14, 2015.

Above: Dad at a rest stop in the mountains between Port Macquarie and our family's hometown of Gunnedah – Wednesday, March 24, 2015.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Happy Birthday, Dad (2014)
Happy Birthday, Dad (2013)
Happy Birthday, Dad (2011)
Happy Birthday, Dad (2010)
Happy Birthday, Dad (2009)
Congratulations, Mum and Dad
Catholic Rainbow (Australian) Parents
Commemorating My Grandfather, Aub Bayly, and the Loss of the AHS Centaur

Related Off-site Link:
"He Wasn't a Superhero But He Was a Hero"A Prince Named Valiant (February 21, 2011).

Monday, April 20, 2015

Redemption in the Sensuousness of the Moment

Sex is slimy from a certain point of view, but only a spirit delighting in disembodiment would not appreciate the mushy, wet, sensuous body we are and the muddy, naturally decaying world we inhabit.

. . . The bodiless spirituality that many find comforting I don't trust. I don't trust its preference for white light and its assumption that the spirit resides in the sky or in the brilliant stars.

. . . D. H. Lawrence frequently spoke strongly for a sensual way of life, which he distinguishes from thinking about and merely esteeming sensuality. He was also, in his paganism, one of the most religious of modern poets. We seem not to have learned this lesson that the slimy body close at hand is holier than the dry, distant mind, because we still pray to abstract gods and look beyond the sensuousness of the moment for redemption. Perhaps we don't grasp the mystery found in many religious teachings, according to which the spiritual life begins when God becomes incarnate.

Thomas Moore
Excerpted from "Our Spiritual Fire Needs a Base in the Muddy Earth"
in Original Self: Living with Paradox and Originality
pp. 81-83

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Human Sex: Weird and Silly, Messy and Sublime
Real Holiness
No Altar More Sacred
Joan Timmerman on the “Wisdom of the Body”
Daniel Helminiak on the “Non-Negotiables of Human Sex”
A "Truly Queer Theory" on Sex
The Inherent Sensuality of Roman Catholicism
Sons of the Church: The Witnessing of Gay Catholic Men: A Discussion Guide
“Make Us Lovers, God of Love”
Sometimes I Wonder . . .
In the Garden of Spirituality – Diarmuid Ó Murchú
In the Garden of Spirituality – Toby Johnson
Daniel Helminiak on the Vatican's Natural Law Mistake
Beyond the Hierarchy: The Blossoming of Liberating Catholic Insights on Sexuality
Sex as Mystery, Sex as Light (Part 1)
Sex as Mystery, Sex as Light (Part 2)

Image: "True Love" by Thomas Synnamon.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Australian Sojourn – March 2015

Part 11: A Journey to Northern Rivers Country

NOTE: To start at the beginning of this series, click here.

On the morning of Friday, March 20, my friend Joan returned to the U.S. from Australia. Joan had traveled with me from Minnesota to the "Great South Land" at the beginning of the month, and had shared some wonderful times with me and my family – in the Hunter Valley, in Port Macquarie, in Melbourne and its surrounding area, and in Sydney and the Blue Mountains.

That same morning I boarded a train at Sydney's Central Station and traveled north to Grafton and that area of New South Wales known as "Northern Rivers."

Here I visited my friends Mike and Bernie McGowan and two of their daughters (Mim and Collette) and their respective partners (Sam and Jeremy). I first got to know the McGowan family in Goulburn, where Mike had been the principal of the primary school at which I taught from 1988-1993. Before relocating to the U.S. in 1994, I taught two of the McGowan children – Jeremiah (in 1989) and Tess (in 1992).

I’ve stayed friends with all the members of the family ever since our shared time in Goulburn, and I always try to catch up with as many of them as I can each time I visit Australia from the U.S. Mike and Bernie's second eldest son Raph visited and lived with me in the Twin Cities for a good part of 2004. He visited me again in the U.S. in 2011. Back in Australia in 2014, he cycled over 1900 kilometers in memory of his sister Tess and to raise awareness and funds for melanoma research and prevention. (For more about this inspiring achievement, click here, here, and here.)

Mike and Bernie (pictured with me at left) live just outside of the town of Maclean. You may recall that last time I visited Maclean, I and several members of the McGowan family were flooded-in by the Australian floods of 2011.

Although my recent visit was shorter and considerably less dramatic, it was nevertheless a very enjoyable and meaningful time. Indeed joy and meaningfulness are the distinguishing hallmarks of any amount of time spent with the McGowans!

About the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales, Wikipedia notes:

The region is bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the east, the New England region to the west where the Great Dividing Range forms a mountainous boundary. To the north is the border between New South Wales and Queensland, where the Darling Downs are located to the north–west and South East Queensland directly to the north.

The defining characteristic of the region are the fertile valleys of the Clarence, Richmond and Tweed rivers and their sources, hence the region's name; and the region's white sandy beaches.

Above: A view of the beach at Yamba, with the Clarence Head Lighthouse in the background – Saturday, March 21, 2015.

Right: Sam and Mim.

Above: Jeremy and Collette.

Above: Bernie and Mike.

Above: Sam and Jeremy at work in the kitchen.

Above: Mike, tending the memorial garden for Tess.

Above and below: At Yamba – Saturday, March 21, 2015.

Above: An evening sky full of fruit bats (also known as flying foxes).

Above: Sitting at right with (from left) Mim, Sam, Bernie, and Jeremy – March 21, 2015.

Coming Soon: Gunnedah

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Australian Sojourn, March 2015: Part 1 – Brooklyn and Morpeth
Part 2 – Port Macquarie, Wingham, and Ellenborough Falls
Part 3 – Roving Sydney's Eastern Beaches with Raph
Part 4 – The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
Part 5 – Watsons Bay, Camp Cove and the Sydney Heads
Part 6 – Family Time in Melbourne
Part 7 – The Great Ocean Road
Part 8 – A Wedding in Melbourne
Part 9 – A Reunion in Goulburn
Part 10 – Sydney and the Blue Mountains
The Australian Floods of 2011
Rising Waters
"Flooded-In But Loving Life"
In Maclean, an End to the "Siege"
Yaegl Country (2011)
Angourie (2011)