Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thinking

Having completely stuffed our stomachs, Vincent and I are now trying to feed our brains. We've both been a bit disappointed in ourselves and the limited reading we've done this year in favour of watching movies and television, and are both resolved to begin the new year differently. I have a pile of books I have bought or been given during the year, some of which have not even had their cover cracked (I definitely judge books by those), and Vincent has just downloaded about thirty e-books for the e-reader he got for Christmas two years ago. I've started on Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, which was a birthday present from my boss, and Vincent on Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, which I have read before and some of which he too has read, but still has us fascinated and talking about everything in it. We're huge fans of Malcolm Gladwell's; my favourite of his books is Outliers, which I consider life-changing and full of things everyone (particularly right-wing conservatives) needs to know, and I love how his writing is so interesting and accessible, and how practical and important his subject matter is. Vincent has been reading his blog, Gladwell dot com, which includes an archive of his New Yorker articles. They're excellent. And since he mentioned the part in Blink about implicit associations, I've done about five Implicit Association Tests (IATs) here, and I highly recommend doing a few. 

Some of my results have been unsurprising, some I feel are reflections of what I perceive to be the experience of a given group rather than my personal feelings towards the people within it, and all have made me question my associations, and what I might need to work on. My most interesting result? In the black American vs white American test, I showed a strong preference for black Americans, the options being a strong preference for white, moderate preference for white, slight preference for white, no preference, slight preference for black, moderate preference for black, and strong preference for black. About 70% of respondents are in the strong, moderate, or slight white preference groups, whereas the group I am in comprises only 2% of those who have taken the test. Why is my preference for black so strong? Vincent and I both frequently talk about positive discrimination. Black people have a history (and present) of oppression, and since I was a child, brought up on a heady mixture of Dickens, The Power Of One, and soul music, I have felt a lot of love and sympathy for those whom I consider to be in that group. Am I being racist? I don't believe so, but maybe I am wrong. As long as the world is so obviously biased towards white people, I feel as if positive discrimination is an important way of making a stand; of acknowledging the inequality, and doing something small to lessen it. For example, I truly believe that it is more important to give way to a person who is black than one who is white. Whether I like it or not (and for the record: I hate it), in my country (like many others) white is the default. So when I give way to a white person, I am perceived simply to have given way. On the other hand, if I give way to a black person, I am perceived to have given way to a black person. When I do this, I feel as if I am making a public statement that I respect black people, in direct contrast to the majority who, as the results of this test demonstrate, have (or at least show) less respect for a person who is black, and are less likely to, for example, give way to a black person.

I hope I'm making sense. I feel similarly about women. Obviously, I love men. But in relation to women, I have less love and less sympathy for men, and for the same political reasons, I favour women, and I won't stop until the world treats us equally. The same goes for poor people (though, as a group, I have little love for rich people).

I don't even know what I was planning to say about this now. But take the tests, and think about what your results say about you, and about the world. Not all of our associations are necessarily about our own beliefs, but they do reflect what we see, and if they're not pleasing, we have to do what we can to make a change. And if you're willing to share, put your results in the comments! I'd be very interested to know them.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Christmas!

To all of you. I hope you get to be with the people you love, and that the memory of the day keeps you warm for years afterward. I am sending lots of love out into the world tonight, and I hope it gets to the people who need it most. Hurray for Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Eve Eve

I think we're going to make it.

I had a glass of wine with lunch (rose, which I don't actually like that much, but seemed more festive than just red or white), in spite of having every intention of getting messy tonight with the girls from work (last year's Bowie impression and Vincent and me falling through one of our chairs being a tough act to follow), and it's made my head a bit fuzzy, but I wanted to show you this video that Vincent showed me yesterday. We've pretty much finished our shopping; all but one present is wrapped and under the tree, which I would like to show you but can't be bothered getting off the bed to take a picture. I've made my cards, although the Kama Sutra Christmas concept came off more creepy than funny... maybe time to buy a new book to tear up, and accept the fact that not everybody finds eighties sex against trees and kitchen benches hilarious.

Vincent and I have caught up with pretty much everyone, including each other. One of the stink things about the lead-up to Christmas is how busy we both get with work, and then all the catching up with everything else we have to do when we should be doing our usual things. There are so many inconsistencies and hypocrisies about the season that seem so wrong but are also so unavoidable. We were talking earlier about when I was a theist child and demanded to be taken to church on Christmas day. It seemed so peculiar - and still does, in spite of my atheism - that Christians wouldn't go to church/their "Father's House" on Christmas Day/"Jesus' birthday" to say Yo God, thanks for sending Jesus, and Yo Jesus, thanks for leaving heaven to come to our shitty place and then let us kill you. I remember being taken one year, by my long-suffering sister, because everyone else was cooking, and then fainting during a hymn at the beginning of the service and having to be taken home. She thought I was trying to look at something in the pew in front of us and tried to stop me by hissing my name, until it became clear that if she didn't catch me church was going to see some Christmas gymnastics and probably some festive injury.

Anyway, I have less than an hour to nap, hydrate, and pretty myself up, so off I go. Enjoy this, and please will someone else wear red over the next few days? Thanks.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Smell Of Freedom

Friday. FRIDAY!!! Yesterday I came off my antibiotics (second round to follow shortly, but that's not today), and took a chunk out of my shopping. There have been testing times; fuckwit customers, fuckwit customers, lots of sweating, and fuckwit customers. But today is Friday, four days until Christmas, and two days left of work for me (and one for pretty much everyone else who doesn't work in retail). Today, friends, we celebrate.


Keep your chin up, and if the fuckwits try to bring you down, bring out your big guns.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Ones I Used To Know

Christmas madness has officially set in. This morning at five-thirty I was rudely awakened by the Ghosts of Christmas Things I Haven't Done Yet, and in a stupor arose and proceeded to transfer money, pay people, open parcels, and wrap presents (this last one was unsuccessful as the paper was in the bedroom); all in the dark, as our delightful little sauna has tinted glass bedroom doors, so if one of us is a'sleepin' (usually me), the other is a'knockin' around with limited vision (I don't know how Vincent does this nearly every morning). I even read some news, before slinking back to bed. The lady has done gone crazy.

I've started thinking about after Christmas. Vincent and I are counting down to the release of Django Unchained, the latest Tarantino film which we've been waiting for since it was first announced Aslan was on the move. It comes out in NZ on our settlement date, January 24th, and I can't think of a much better way to mark the occasion (except perhaps moving in). I'm also waiting (with more patience) for Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby. I've been gritting my teeth seeing its influence in fashion (because, it seems, in the fashion world, history and literature are not enough inspiration for a collection; it has to be spelt out, and everybody primed, by a film), and I know it will irritate me even more hearing fools reference the story without having read the book... but I'm not going to cut my nose off over this one. I'm also looking forward to summer outside the shop. Yesterday I bought a my new one-piece which can only be described as adorable (even though the top doesn't fit as well as it could because my bottom half dictated the size), and I can't wait to wear it every day, and nap in it, and eat fruit, and drink beer, and sleep in, and not have to be nice to people who aren't being nice to me.

I will reclaim my marbles, and all will be well.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Home/Christmas

It's been a long but lovely pre-Christmas day. Vincent took my mother and me out to Junk & Disorderly, where she and I were pretty sure we would find presents for each other, and hopefully some others as well. We were half right. Minutes after arriving, I lost my heart to a fifties two-seater sofa, made from the most beautiful fabric, and priced so that I thought it couldn't be right. It was, and we pick it up tomorrow; my present from my parents that will accompany me to my new home, live in the room looking across the yard which I have decided will be where Jimmy's desk, my sewing machine, and all of my journals will go, and on which I will sit and drink tea, and probably, at first, do a bit of crying. (It's good to know what one is in for.)

Mum in turn found a silver gravy boat (she already has one, but neither she nor I lets that stop us), and a sixties hat which Vincent tactfully describes as avant garde. There were about sixty-eleven other things she could have left with, had she the funds and the space at home; we have the same gift for finding a million things we love at secondhand stores. Sometimes I wish she was a rich society woman who had a huge house she could fill with lamps and sideboards and uncomfortable chairs that Dad can't fit on, but, I could never change their house. It is the perfect size for everybody; it swells just big enough to fit everyone in, but is small enough that it doesn't feel lonely when it's just Mum and Dad, and that her things clutter it a bit. I love clutter; I am my Mama's granddaughter, and my mother's daughter. I like to see my things, and I like to have everything I love about me, and everything I own has sentimental value to me. Everything.

I spent most of the rest of the day outside on the deck, wilting in the greenhouse created by their new clear deck-blinds. I didn't think about not being there in a few months time, but I did think about how much I like being around everybody. I used to love Saturday mornings at home, when everyone was up and having breakfast and Dad had already been out and Mum was still in her pajamas and we would all come and go like a hive of bees. I've spoken to a friend before about the habit of sleeping on couches in rooms where people go in and out constantly. She also comes from a family that feels big, even if it isn't so big written down, and we laughed about how it's always preferable to be in a room where you will frequently wake to voices or crashes in the kitchen or the phone ringing and Dad yelling Get The Phone to a quiet secluded bedroom, where most people would choose to nap. When I first moved out into a house without any of my family, it took a lot of adjusting to get used to the quiet; no-one closing the bathroom door loudly, or coming in the gate every five minutes. I love the peace of our apartment, and I've grown to rely on time in it with only Vincent or myself, but I think I will always be a train station kind of person.

Next Christmas Vincent and I would love to have everybody come to our house. I've pictured it; with and without a baby, with us staying with his parents, someone else staying with his parents... But we both know it probably won't happen, and that's fine. Christmas is full of magic, and it would be special anywhere, but it wouldn't be Christmas without my family. I don't know how I'll define home come February, but Christmas is wherever my family is, and December 25, any year, that is where I'll be.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bad Mother.

I don't mean a bad mother like James Brown. I mean forget-your-kid's-in-the-car-while-you're-having-a-cup-of-tea-with-your-sister, bad mother. Yesterday my blog turned two. I had planned to celebrate here, with a special post and maybe some sparkling grape juice since I am off the turps for another five days (no Christmas happening here), but instead I came home and fell asleep. It's not quite the same the day after, but I do want to say thank you to all of you guys who come back week after week and read my blog. This thing has become really important to me, and I love doing it.

The other bad mother is mother nature, although her bad mothering might have something to do with our (we in developed countries) bad behaviour. Whatever the cause, she is wreaking havoc across the Pacific, and yesterday hit Samoa in the form of yet another cyclone. Places Vincent and I saw and loved only a few months ago are broken and flooded, and so, so sad. We don't know about the people we met: the staff at Aggie's who were so good to us, the little girls selling the seafood we couldn't make out, the kids near Scoops.  We don't know about the people we saw: the children walking home from school, men with containers slung over their shoulders on their way to the markets, the women sitting near the kitchen at the hotel talking about us when we sloshed back from the pool.


This is how the seawall looked then. Pictures I've seen today show the driveway to Aggie's covered in deep, brown water. The driveway slopes downwards to the hotel, which is lower than the street, and on that level is the fale restaurant that was was just redone last year, the pool, and the ground floor of rooms and guest fale. As long as guests are there, staff will be taking care of them, in spite of having their own families, and their own grief.

Samoa has survived cyclones, a tsunami, an influenza epidemic, the Germans, the English, and New Zealanders. Cyclone Evan will do its worst; Samoa will rise.

I think that's all I want to say today. If you've been to Samoa, you'll know why I've chosen this song.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

J + Y = 4eva

I try not to harp on about it because I don't want to a) be sickening, b) be a show off, or c) make it seem like I think a person has to be in a relationship because I absolutely don't, but I think I am the luckiest woman in the world to have Vincent, and a love that seems Austenian, and Salingerish, and Vonnegutian, a bit Harry Potter, sometimes science fiction, and occasionally even a little biblical.

Which is kind of how I view the love between John Lennon and Yoko Ono. They are my all-time favourite couple, and I love looking at pictures of them, and hearing songs they did together. I just saw the video for Stand By Me on tv (bad cover, wonderful video which doesn't seem to be on YouTube) and was reminded of the line Yoko put out last month through Opening Ceremony, which I had meant to share here. When they married in 1969, Yoko gave John a book of sketches of clothes she had designed to celebrate his "sexy bod", but the clothes were never made... until now. They include a jockstrap and a pair of open-toed knee-high lace-up boots. The bandeau pictured below features a flashing LED bra, and please note this pair of boots have incense holders on the toes. I hope you get as much enjoyment from them as I did.


























Like a lot of what she does, the line has been widely misunderstood, but I don't imagine she cares. She's a performance artist, and she and John clearly had so much fun together. I think the fact that Opening Ceremony did this with her would have made him happy and very diverted. Just look at them.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Wrong Star

Who knew those weren't rocks?! Today we hit rock-bottom, but after two litres of fluid pumped into me by IV (miracle stuff), and my first proper meal since Saturday (which my beloved did not have to feed me, as he has been doing), and antibiotics, I think we're on to greener pastures. You got it, pal.

Last night we watched A Charlie Brown Christmas (and The Snowman, but that's barely worth mentioning), and I loved it. I've been getting really angry seeing ads on tv for really expensive shit that is supposed to be reasonable Christmas expenditure; $300 headphones, and I don't even know how much for those hideous pandora bracelets. And it makes me feel sad knowing that some people will believe that these things are reasonable, and that what they can afford is inadequate. I've spent entire holiday pays on Christmas presents in the past, and when I look back, it just seems crazy. I just wanted to give, but I didn't realise I could tone it down, and that it would still be Christmas. It seemed worth it to me at the time - and maybe it was, but it wasn't right. "From each according to his/her ability" applies to so many things, and presents are one. And when you know someone isn't giving you more than they can, you don't feel wrong about accepting it, or giving them what you can.

I'm not really up to writing what I wanted to about what I think Christmas is about, so I'll do that another time, and let Billy say his bit.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Happy Christmas, Your Arse

Still sick. I woke up to pee in the middle of the night and then my thermostat went haywire and, in spite of being a particularly balmy night, I had chattering teeth and a shivering body under two duvets, two blankets, and a hot water bottle. Fever sucks.

I realised today that I haven't had a drink this December. That is both un-festive and depressing. Add to that the fact that we still don't have our tree, and I might be very upset... but I'm so relieved not to feel the way I did last night, and that Vincent hasn't said anything about me not being up to Freddy Kempf tonight (even though I'm not completely sure I am; but he won't see this until Monday!), that I'm not very upset, and am comforting myself with the knowledge we will get our tree tomorrow, and as soon as I feel better I will drink like Shane MacGowan. (Probably not quite.)

Anyway, I have to get up and shower soon, because as we learnt from the Billy Bragg gig, when the Town Hall says 8pm, they mean 8PM SHARP, BITCHES! and I fear it's going to take some time to transform this under-bridge-dwelling creature into something that looks like it should be in the same room as the NZSO. So I'm just going to leave you this short documentary we watched last night. It's not amazing, but it's very watchable, and it gets more and more exciting as it all comes together.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The weather outside is frightful...

Today I walked up High Street in the rain whistling Let It Snow, while I dodged awnings to ensure maximum exposure. As soon as the rain became torrential, I came alive (no mean feat after an interrupted night's sleep and hayfever that has developed into a sinus infection, plus an early visit from Aunt Flo because, in last week's distraction, I accidentally started on the sugar pills six days early), and went racing out into Freyberg Square to be one with the elements and bask (in both the rain and, subsequently, bewildered looks of the pedestrians huddled against shops on the other side of the street, waiting for a reprieve so they could carry on, and wondering where my minder was). There is something so festive about proper December rain; when the air is hot and humid, and the rain cool and fresh. It's like confetti, and I don't mind looking a few bottles short of a crate while enjoying it. However, I probably could have thought about the consequences of a rain-dance when one still has two hours of work to get through in sodden clothes and hair so wet it drips onto the counter while one wraps presents and tries to distract people by telling funny stories, except that sleep deprivation means the stories don't exactly make sense. The consequences are spending the evening on the couch with body-aches, blocked sinuses, and a slight fever. Although who is to say those things wouldn't have happened anyway; I did already have the sinus infection.

At work I have been gorging on Christmas cake, made by my loving boss and packed full of cranberries, and nuts, and candied orange, and ginger. Growing up, Mum always made what looked like about ten Christmas cakes every year, both for us and to give away as presents. I can remember the square tins - always square, or rectangular, with butter-paper sticking up the sides, and the spicy smell, and how stiff and ivory the mixture looked. It was always late at night; my mother does everything late at night. I was never particularly interested in Christmas cake - maraschino cherries are one of childhood's disappointments, except for one Christmas as my aunt's house when no-one had noticed how full of port the cake was, nor how much brandy (or sherry?) had been put in the custard, nor how much my cousin and I were putting away in the little basement apartment. It was Diana and the raspberry cordial all over again... I doubt we got drunk, but I do know neither Christmas cake nor custard have ever tasted that good.

My first memory of drinking alcohol was Christmas day, when I was about six or seven. I don't remember where everybody had gone, but the dining table was set - I don't remember whether or not we had eaten, and nobody was in the room. The plates were white, and so was the tablecloth. The adults' places had little glasses of port which I had been eyeing up; they looked like the wine version of a child's tea-set, and when everyone was gone, I went around the table knocking back what was in the glasses. I don't remember if they were full, or half-full, or barely full at all, but I do remember the indescribable, sweet taste, and how wonderful it was. From such innocent beginnings...

I don't think anyone marries Let It Snow to drinking better than Dean Martin. So listen here, while you marvel at these socks...

Workers' Christmas

This is just a short note that I wanted to be separate from the rest of today's post.

Today it was announced that the government is taking legal advice on introducing corporate manslaughter. Theoretically, this criminal charge would protect workers' safety by holding organisations accountable when their negligence results in death. That makes me really happy, even though it is too late for many workers, like the Pike River miners, and the people in the CTV building.

Today two men died as a result of the tornado in Auckland. They were construction workers, building a new secondary school, and were both only in their twenties.

Death is inevitable, and never easy. But when people die when they are doing their jobs... it just makes me feel so sad, and so mad. Every/any day will be heart-breaking for their families, but I still really wish it wasn't Christmas in a few weeks.

This song is my tribute to those men.



update: yesterday's news confirmed it was three men working on the school, one of whom was twenty-two, and the others forty-two, and sixty.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Flowery


I wasn't sure what to write about tonight as my default thoughts are CHRISTMAS!!! and I don't want to wear that topic out for you (for me that would be nigh impossible), and Vincent suggested I say it with flowers. So I will. These are from Saipua, a lovely blog I follow by a very talented floral artist with one of the sweetest dogs on the internet.

Sometimes I forget I like flowers. Then my Dad will make me go out into the garden with him to see his roses, and he'll look so pleased and they'll smell so delicious and look so remarkable, these delicate things on long green stilts, and he'll send some home with me, and they'll make my natureless little apartment look transformed, and I'll still enjoy them as they wilt and brown... and realise I like flowers very, very much. In fact, I am going to ask my Dad to bring me some cuttings when he comes to visit me at my new house (if he comes to visit; we've lived here going on three years and in spite of dropping me off and picking me up numerous times, he is yet to cross the threshold), and I am going to plant them, and tend to them, and become a sort of gardener, even though I really have no interest in gardening. Maybe that makes it more of a utilitarian pursuit; like someone growing veges solely to eat, not for the pleasure of gardening. Although I'm not sure flowers are very utilitarian... I know Mao didn't think so.

I hope owning some land changes me. I used to think it was wrong for people to have individual ownership of land; maybe I still do. I'll have to think about it. In any case, I hope I become more personally connected with the land, and that my love for it becomes less of a feeling, or something theoretical, and more practical; like I water you, and you flourish. I think, after killing many pot-plants including the beautiful little bonsai my sister gave me one Christmas, I may be ready to let live.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

Closer and closer it comes!!!


Last night we watched our first Christmas movie, Die Hard. It was hilarious, and an excellent start to the celebrations of the season, which I'm afraid is going to get away from me because it's ALREADY THE THIRD!!!! What happened?! I was putting off a rep on the phone today when I realised; it's three weeks until Christmas Eve. Three weeks!!! It looks as if I am going to have to seriously take time by the fetlock, and life by the ping-pongs. THERE IS SO MUCH TO DO!!!

This year there will be a few new additions to the list. These are:
1. Icing superwines in red and green (hoping this is more likely than the non-shortbread making of the last three years which has seen much custard powder find its way to landfill).
2. Get drunk at home with only Vincent. (This was actually a fail from last year; I managed to do it on my own, but we never got around to doing it just us too because we were too busy. Too busy! To get drunk with your beloved! At Christmas! I ask you.)
3. New movies. Not to replace the old ones; Christmas would not be Christmas without Meet Me In St Louis, While You Were Sleeping, Home Alone, Little Women, or It's A Wonderful Life (although actually, last year Christmas had to be Christmas without It's A Wonderful Life, because we were too busy. Too busy! To watch It's A Wonderful Life!). But Christmas is ever-evolving. New traditions must be begun. So I have added Die Hard, Scrooged, A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Snowman, and Miracle On 34th Street. (There are also several back-ups, but we'll see what we have time for/Vincent can bear.)

Lots of blogs have been doing very pretty gift guides. I thought about doing one too, but my design skills leave too much to be desired, besides which I could never suggest things that cost hundreds of dollars, because I think that's totally excessive unless you are buying for your beloved, your parents, or a very, very broke person, (in which case you probably know what you want to buy them) or you are very rich, or very stupid. Which I assume you are not. So here are my gift suggestions:
1. Trade Aid. Apart from the fact that they sell beautiful, unique things, buying from Trade Aid never feels excessive or wasteful because everything you spend goes to people who need it. It's foolproof. And you don't have to feel shitty about child labour, or wasteful materials, because at Trade Aid there isn't any. Look at this rug!!! If anyone is stuck on my present...


2. Books. I know it probably seems like my gift guide is all just things I would like myself, but that's just a coincidence. Who has enough books? Who could not be improved by reading something? (I should qualify that; I don't believe there is any improvement to be had from reading Fifty Shades Of Grey or the like, but I could be wrong.) And if people don't read, and they won't read, who doesn't like having people think they read? Books make beautiful ornaments, they are ideal for levelling uneven tables, and they can even be fashioned into tables. The only things I can think of right now that rival books are dogs.
3. Things that can be used up. Most people have a lot of stuff, and unless they are hoarders like me, they don't necessarily appreciate having more foisted upon them. You can give them useful things, which are good. Or you can give them things that don't last. Baking. Fancy tea. Bath products (which I usually consider to be a dud, but am becoming a woman so quickly that who knows? Maybe this year I'll start using the ones given to me since I was supposed to be a woman, as long as they haven't gone off). 
4. Something you made. Unless you are really, really shit at making stuff, no-one is ever unhappy with a self-made gift. It says I Thought Of You The Whole Time I Made This. It also says I Am Talented And Creative And Resourceful. Having said that, I made my Mum a fimo brooch two years ago, and not only did it not say those things, I have never seen her wear it. Maybe I am the person who shouldn't be making things. Hmm.
5. Time. Last year, having learnt from the brooch incident (which wasn't all I gave her that year, but I vaguely remember the hat I gave her being appropriated by one of my sisters), I asked my mother what she would like, and she said a plant. So one Saturday before Christmas, Vincent and I picked her up and took her out to her favourite garden centre, Rogers in Mangere (which, by the way, is the loveliest garden centre in Auckland). We spent the morning humming and hahing over the subtle differences between shrubs, and breathing in the lovely air, and when we gave her the plant, we also all gave each other a memory. (Trademark! I am selling that line to Hallmark. You can keep your vomit.) This year we're going to a big junk shop I just found out about.

Here is an early gift for all of us, which was on Campbell Live tonight. I've said it before, but it's like a theist professing their love for god; it can't be said enough. I love dogs. I LOVE DOGS.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Delayed News

I know I promised to come back on Friday to tell you what I was so stressed about, but then life got in the way, and I had to take myself off the grid yesterday to focus Missy's 8th birthday (and not throwing up at it) (success, although arriving early to help was a shameful fail. However, one does not often buy their first house).

Yes, friends. Vincent and I have bought ourselves a house. Furthermore, said house in not in my beloved Auckland. We are "taking time by the fetlock", and moving my teacups, records, coats (most necessary), and books to Port Chalmers.

I hear the Where? Port Chalmers is a small community about ten minutes from Dunedin's city centre, but although it is so close, it is its own distinct place, and if you wrote to me and put Dunedin on the envelope, I wouldn't get the letter.

My little house has views from three sides, and a lovely big yard where I can grow vegetables if gardening should suddenly become an appealing way to spend my time, but where I'm really more likely to lie on the grass when it's sunny and have naps with my dog. When I wake up in the morning and open the curtains, I will see Back Beach. When I go to the kitchen to make tea, I will see Dunedin Harbour. It's going to be very strange seeing things that are green, and blue, and grey, and not the off-white walls of my apartment building, and the windows of the apartments across the light-well.

Right now, I feel very odd about the move. I feel lovely about my house; having a house, and such a perfect little one that I can paint, and have space to put up pictures, and enough distance from my neighbours that I can play music without closing the windows. But I feel sad, and scared, and strange about leaving my home, and transplanting myself to a place where I know four people.

However, I have a house. And I don't know why, but when I think about it, this song comes to mind. It could be simply because it's a work of genius. Or it could be because I am about to branch out, and I hope it turns out as well as it did for Jack and Meg. (Professionally, of course.)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

St-RESS

I've always been very smug about stress. For better or worse, I hardly ever felt it (or recognised it); better in that I could sleep and eat and not have extra reasons for pimples, but worse because I didn't have the incentive of feeling better to make me sort things out when they needed sorting. As I've gotten older, however, my immunity has waned. At bedtime, worries grow like shadows, and stand tall and wide between me and sleep. By day, I can distract myself, but during quiet times, it feels as if someone is watching me, or something following me.

I don't want to go into detail because I don't want to jinx it, but there is something I want to happen very, very much, that I can only do so much to make happen, and it is stressing me the fuck out. I wake up in the middle of the night, and am besieged by worry. I want it to be over, but not if the outcome I want isn't how it will end. Stress is hellish.


I promise to let you know what happens tomorrow. Fuuuuuck!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I smell Christmas...

It's a bit like Lorelai and snow.


It's not when malls put up their decorations, or when the advertising starts. That's too early. It's not even when I start thinking about it; that's too early, too. But today, it happened. Independent of the shoppers and the shops, children and their parents, bosses and their employees, Christmas crept up. I feel it, waiting like the sun about to burst upon the world. I smell it, and it smells delicious.

People at the shop are getting ruder. They forget that however many people they have to buy things for, they have people they can buy things for, and they have money to buy things for those people. They also forget that however difficult it might feel, it's bloody shopping, and it's a damn sight more difficult on my side of the counter. But anyway. (And excuse the italics; I'm reading Catcher In The Rye for the umpteenth time, and every sentence I think has an emphasis in it.)

Next Christmas, we will probably have a house. If we have a house, we will certainly have a dog. And maybe maybe we will have a baby, or at least one in the oven. It all feels so close I can almost touch it, but it's just out of reach, and all depends on things that I can't control. I feel excited, and worried, and tired, and wide-awake, but most of all, I feel impatient.

But then, there are so many changes on the horizon, I want this time to feel as long as it is. I want to remember every Friday, and what we looked like, and who was there. I want to remember exactly how I felt the day I put my decorations up. It's funny how when you know change is around the corner, everything becomes significant because it's now The Way It Was. And even though I'm ready for How It's Going To Be, I love The Way It Was/Is. I wonder if I really want How It's Going To Be. Or at least, how much.

I sat on the couch this morning listening to Clair De Lune, and it sounded like the end of something; not mournful, exactly, but like the end of something that had to come to an end eventually, that feels sad, but only because it is an ending. I always find endings sad. I know that where something ends, something begins, but it's knowing you can't go back that makes me sad, and scared, even if I want to go forward. I get so excited when my friends do things like buy houses, or have babies, or get married, or any of the other things we used to think were reserved for adults, but occasionally I'll remember when we were all young with all of that ahead of us, and it makes me want to cry, and desperately turn back time just to be able to do it again. Watching your own children grow up must be heart-breaking. It makes me think of the part in Mirror when she says "In me she has drowned a young girl"; you must just look at whatever they are at a given time and wonder where the last version went. I think I've always spent a lot of time looking backward. Maybe I need to learn to spend more time looking forward. I just don't want to miss anything, and I suppose I'm afraid of letting go of what I know.

Now I feel like a bit about my life as I do about Christmas. I love the day, but it's the build-up I love most; because there's so much to enjoy, and the day still to come. I try to tell myself that there will always be something in the future to replace it, but I know I can never go back.

I'm afraid I will have completely confused you now, and that for myself, that way madness lies. So here is a Christmas song, sung in the soothing tones of Aretha.


Growing up is so painful.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cheers

Today we celebrated Thanksgiving. There was no turkey or pumpkin pie this year, no decorations even, and we had all left the table to follow other pursuits (tiggy/gin and tonic/naps) before Mum could get everyone to say what we're thankful for this year. I thought mine might be Oscar; during the week I dreamt that he had killed someone (on waking I couldn't remember if it was a person or a cat) and was going to have to go to jail, and I woke up very upset. That seems a bit too easy though; I know all the time how much he brightens my life, and how lucky we were to adopt a dog so perfect for us. So here are some other, slightly less obvious things for which I am thankful.

1. Tampons. I have long thought these are one of the best inventions in history (only recently equalled by the internet). Even light, crampless periods are a pain in the arse, and just another disadvantage to the sisterhood. Tampons take a significant inch off the unevenness of the playing field, and when I'm inserting one on one of those uncomfortable occasions when you don't actually need it at that particular moment, I sometimes think of the Bennett sisters, or Natalia in The Poetry Girl, or Janet Frame, and I think I Am A Fortunate Woman. I bought a mooncup several months ago, and would like to be thankful for it except that I haven't mustered enough bravery to try it yet. So today, I am thankful for the humble tampon, and Dr. Judith Esser-Mittag, the gynecologist who developed it.

2. The absence of War/Freedom obsession in this country. The fact that we take (and can take) most of our freedoms for granted, and that we don't pretend to be protecting our freedom when we do shitty things to other countries; our mercenary/please-be-our-friend-and-buy-our-milk motivations don't make me proud, but at least they are openly wrong and pitiful, and not insidious lies. And I am thankful that national pride isn't expressed in ways that make me want to throw up, or hide.

3. Literacy. Reading has always been one of greatest pleasures (although I have been doing a little too much watching of things, which has made it rarer a pleasure than I would like), and the ability and propensity to read are things I don't take for granted. Reading is fun, it makes you clever, it helps develop empathy, and it means you nearly always have something to do... and there are so many people who don't know the joy of a great book, because they were never taught to read. I am thankful that someone taught me, and that I grew up in a house where books were valued, and library visits were frequent.

This makes me realise I owe people who can't read yet, or who don't know if they love reading because they don't have books. I don't know if I would be good at teaching, but there is an awesome organisation set up by Alan Duff called Duffy Books In Homes, which enables kids across the country to own their own books. When I was little, we were poor, so all of our books were from fairs or borrowed from the library, and I remember how I felt when I was allowed to get a Lucky book; a brand new book, where mine was the first and only name poorly written on the first page. If you love books, or even if you don't, you can donate to Duffy books here. Do it, do it!!!

(PS I hope it's kosher to be thankful for this. I read Samantha's list which includes living in a first world country, and I thought that was both legit and hilarious.) 

To end, there are two very, very obvious ones that I have to add, or this list wouldn't be complete. They might be a bit vomit-inducing, so feel free to skip to the video.

4. My family. Who are always happy to see me. Who drive me crazy with their crazy politics. Who salt my food for me, even if I don't want it salted. Who want to be part of everything. Who send me texts all in capitals. Who all come to the airport when someone is going somewhere. Who pee in the yard even when the toilet is free. Who want to be sprayed with the hose while they jump on the trampoline. Who overeat, so we can all complain to each other about how we overate, and then all go back to the kitchen half an hour later to eat a bit more. Who make me feel ensconced, like a child, when I am around them, even though I am twenty-nine and married. I wouldn't swap my big, motley family for anyone's.

5. Vincent. With whom I feel that I can do anything, and that the future is a huge, open adventure, and that there is nothing and no-one to be afraid of, and that the world really can be changed, and that I'm not crazy, and that my life is the greatest. I don't know what could be better than feeling like this, or being married to the person who makes you feel like this, so that without your signature, or a very complicated fake death, or murder, they can't get away. I am thankful for Aphrodite, and pheromones, and Father Time, and maybe even being poor but going to rich schools.

I hope you didn't lose your breakfast; I toned those down a lot, and they really weren't supposed to be on this list but I wouldn't have been real if I hadn't added them. I'm sorry.

Here is a song that came on the radio on our way home, to which I did a lot of sitting-down twisting, a bit of mashed potato, and a bit of Danger Danger Will Robinson. I know it was a few days ago now, but Happy Thanksgiving, Comrades! And... One Month Till Christmas!!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Neither A Borrower...

I'm not sure if you've been following what's happened since Karli Kloss wore a Native American head-dress in the recent Victoria's Secret show (ick). If you haven't, you can catch up here on Jezebel.

It's not very surprising that the response from some people to this backlash has been, as one commenter I just read put it, "get over it". The world that knows about Victoria's Secret, and No Doubt videos is one where there is a dominant culture. I wish Victoria's Secret, and No Doubt, and everyone else could learn that these things are hurtful and offensive without having to do them or read about them, but I'm really glad there has since been discussion and explanation of why cultural appropriation isn't okay.

It isn't always easy to know what "counts" as cutural appropriation, and in spite of being really annoyed by tourists asking if we sell "Maori costumes" (one particularly ignorant woman explaining it was for halloween), I remember seeing the picture of Charlotte Kemp Muhl a few years ago in a Native American head-dress and thinking she looked cool (and probably thinking at the time that viewing it as 'art' made it okay). So I thought this conversation on Rookie, Something Borrowed, was a really good read, and a good way to think about what is acceptable, and what is cultural appropriation, particularly in terms of fashion.

I've since been thinking, uncomfortably, about some of the things sold at my work. I've long been uncomfortable with selling pounamu; a taonga, which has gone up in price so much that it's only really accessible to people with the money to buy it, which includes well-meaning but confused visitors who call the pieces Healing Stones, and kids who have lived here their whole lives without showing any interest in Maori culture but need a piece to wear on the national embarrassment that is the Waitangi Day pub crawl when they get to London (and mispronounce pounamu, Waitangi, and pretty much every other Maori word. Including Maori). But there are motifs that have been "borrowed" from Maori art, and I feel a bit funny about some of these too...

Sunbeam, I wish we could do a shift together to talk this out!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Through The Cracks

I read on stuff tonight about a young guy in Wellington who died (two years ago) from alcohol poisoning. He was at a movie, and when he was found he had an empty 1L bottle of whisky beside him. Police records showed he was transient, and that he had drinking issues. He was only twenty-three years old.

The coroner, Ian Smith, said the following: "It would appear that the deceased has, to some degree, fallen through the cracks and that he appears to only have received limited support, partly brought about by his itinerant nature of his life...".

My heart feels so sad. I'm reminded of Holden Caulfield's ambition to be the Catcher. It's funny, being one of my favourite books, I've churned over so many parts of it in my mind, but I don't think I ever really thought what it really means for him to want to be the one who stops the kids from falling off the edge. I think all the time about authenticity... and now I realise I missed something more important than that.

We all know that the cracks are getting bigger. When we last voted, most people decided they wanted things other than what might help stop up cracks that seem unavoidable in a world that isn't perfect. That means that the rest of us, who value people, have to step up. We have to be the Catchers.

We can Catch by doing little things. We might not have cash every time we pass someone on the street who is asking for it, but we can acknowledge them, and make them know we recognise their value. We can Catch by respecting the people who cross our paths throughout the day. These are small beginnings, but they can quickly spread to other bigger things. Habits become a way of living, which then informs our beliefs and our politics, which should then go on to shape our society.

One of the things that defines my politics is a belief that we are all responsible for and to each other. I feel that we failed this man. Please, let's pledge to each other that we will go all out to stop people from "falling through the cracks". Life isn't always the best - sometimes it's downright shit. But while we have it, we should feel valued, and able to live well.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lately

I seem to have been born with a gift for shopping; inherited, I suspect, from my mother. I'm already close to a third of the way through our Christmas shopping, for which I would be patting the hell out of my back except that there's been a little bit too much one for me-ing... I'm working on it, but it's not easy when everything I'm buying is awesome. After trying (and failing) to make presents last year and the year before, this year we're focussing on being organised, and trying to buy books, fair trade, or secondhand... Which include most of my favourite things. What am I supposed to do?

Today, in an attempt to get me up to child-bearing health, Vincent and I went walking. He would like to walk up all of Auckland's volcanoes (I'd like to have been up all of them; subtle but key difference), and today we crossed Mangere mountain off the list. We found out when watching the news tonight that Auckland was the windiest place in the country today; our experience said no shit. The ascent was beautiful and interesting but also a bit too perilous for a Sunday afternoon, and the wind hurt my ears so much I growled like a child and wanted to kick things. Afterward, we went to the Otuataua Stonefields, where I didn't really want to get out of the car but also didn't want to seem lazy or churlish, so I did, and after spotting some cows, decided I wouldn't mind a little stroll to the foreshore (one of the walk attractions listed at the entrance). When we reached the water, I got so carried away fantasising about one day throwing a hand-grenade that I kept walking, and when we came across a sign that said 'Stonefields 5 mins' it seemed silly to stop, even when the path ended and we had to fight our way through long soft grass that seemed like it had to be hiding dead bodies and live rats. I probably don't need to tell you we got lost, and ended up visiting all Otuataua has to offer (historic Maori gardens, the Stonefields, the foreshore, and the Avocado orchard) in an attempt to find our way out. I remember a card my grandmother sent me once that had a sticker on it with a picture of a girl trying to lift weights and a caption reading "I'm going to get fit if it kills me". I don't relate.

Yesterday I learnt that reindeer can swim - like really swim, for an hour (saw it with my own eyes! on tv...), and I'm now convinced that is how Santa gets around. Also I've started to wonder if maybe he just does countries around the North Pole. I also saw incredible Northern Greenland Inuits do scary and amazing stuff like go under ice while the tide was out to harvest mussels and break up the monotony of their winter diets of fish and sealmeat, and catch a narwhale using only a couple of spears. If I get so drunk I can't do anything the next day except watch tv every friday for the rest of my life, and tv keeps playing documentaries about animals and cultures, I might end up knowing as much as I would have if I hadn't gotten so drunk I couldn't do any study the next two days every Friday during my last years of school and all of university.

Lastly, it seems as if it would be wrong not to include a song I've been listening to every day this week. A few weeks ago, Vincent and I spent a drunken half hour making up the best dance ever to it, and since then I've been perfecting my step/click and left-right-left ready for next time. I've never been content being anything but the star, but apart from the fact that when Michael is playing, Vincent is Michael, I really don't mind being Vincent's back-up dancer. Yes, friends. I found him.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mind Clouds

Things that have been floating around in my head:

1. My friend told me today about the difficulty her peers had accepting her relationship with her last boyfriend because of their disparate heights and different cultural backgrounds, many of them considering him a much better match to a mutual friend who looked more like him. Really. More recently there was a widespread assumption that she was seeing a friend (with whom she had spent less time than other guys, whom she actually had been seeing at different times) because they are of the same ethnicity, and similar height. I started to What The Fuck, and then remembered times it's happened to me; the most notable occasion being the first time I met a friend of Vincent's, when a friend of mine was with me, and he assumed she was his wife. The most notable physical difference between us? She's white, like Vincent, and I'm not.

I'm sure people who haven't had a similar experience would agree these assumptions need to be challenged, but I don't know if many can understand how upsetting it is to have the person you love assigned to somebody that isn't you. It's easy to say what people think doesn't matter, but that really isn't how it feels. When you love someone, you want people to know that you belong to each other, and to recognise the fit you feel. This feeling is even more acute when you're married; part of choosing to marry is wanting to make the public declaration that you are a unit. So when someone assumes you are with someone else, or your person is with someone else, it feels like they're saying you don't look like you should be together; that there is someone else who looks like they would be better for you/them than they/you. I used to get really hurt when I was little and people didn't know my mum belonged to me when she would come to collect me, because she doesn't look very Samoan. I was so proud of her, and I wanted people to know she was mine, and I was hers. It's the same feeling now, but it makes me angry as well as hurt, because there is no reason why a couple should look anything alike, whereas it's understandable to expect a child might look like their parent. Why would I want to be with someone who looks like me? I don't know; that just seems gross and narcissistic, as well as potentially incestuous. Why would anyone assume someone was with someone else simply because they look like them? Apart from latent racism, I don't know that either.

2. Things Emma Thompson answered in a recent Harper's Bazaar q&a:

Beauty is... dependent entirely on what's going on underneath it.
Style is... not always necessary.
Success is... often useless.
Genius is... mostly hard work.

I would love to hear what she has to say about everything. Lady is awesome.

3. Boobs. We watched Melancholia last night and Martha Marcy May Marlene on Tuesday, and while they both gave me lots of other things to think about, what's really been on my mind today is/are the women's girls. I don't know how to elaborate... it's just quite interesting seeing other people's when you're used to seeing your own.

4. A group of men in suits stood outside my work laughing at that volume usually reserved for teenage girls or people at arthouse movies who want you to know they got that obtuse joke. What could any of them possibly have come up with that was that funny?

5. Since the eclipse yesterday, I've had the original of this song on my mind. The proper video has been taken down so now we have to have the cat, but it's still excellent.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday

I'm on to the best bit of Monday now; finished work, and not long until Vincent gets home from dj-ing, but I still feel a little bit blue. It might be my period. It might be that I just need to buck up. Whatever it is, Monday can be a bit of a downer. Here is an upper.


Four hours till Tuesday, Comrades.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Round Up




1. Bit jealous that Americans get Obama as president and the chance to buy these posters... thought I'd found part of Vincent's Christmas present (without even trying!), but it wasn't to be. Oh well. The first two are by Matt Drury, and the last by Cathryn Lavery, and if you happen to live in the US or Canada, you can buy them here. And if you'd like to then send them on to li'l ol' Aotearoa, we would gratefully accept, and transfer the money to you?! At the very least, it gives me an idea for creative exercises; at the moment I feel as if the only things I am getting creative with are my outfits and my insults. And even then, I reuse both. 

Actually, I just remembered that I did recently make a poster for Pulp Fiction, for a short interview I did for High Street (the lovely little street where I work). I chose to use ink (a pen) and the back of a letter (let's call that a found object, shall we?), and funnily enough, I also chose a single, evocative icon from the film too, although I did that because I can't draw for shit. However, I am very proud of my milkshake; except for the straws being the thickness of straw (like hay), it looks like a milkshake! Not one I've ever had, admittedly, but who would win at pictionary if they drew how things actually look. As someone who used to try to do that, I can tell you. No-one.


2. This morning I read this account of the storm in New York on Lost, and thought it was interesting and beautiful. I particularly like the bit about the halloween candy, and the break up. It's one of the greatest joys and tragedies of life that, whatever happens, it just carries on.

Lost is a blog I really enjoy; the writer, Vic, has a perspective on things that is really unique, and kind of makes you want to separate yourself a bit so you can see things more as they are, and less as they seem in relation to you. She often says just a little, and in that manages to say a lot, and provoke you into thinking even more.

3. I met my lovely friend Rach for a drink on Friday, and found out she too wants to have a baby next year. That makes four people I love planning to breed at the same time as Vincent and me, and makes me so happy (although it might have been nice to have someone pop one out during the baby drought that only just ended with Stella's arrival?). We're pretty prepared for ours to be the weird hippy one, but I'm trying to prepare myself a bit more for the possibility of problems making her. It's a strange thing to try to do, and I don't know how successful one could ever be at preparing for something like that. I used to ask for ridiculous things for Christmas that I knew I wouldn't get, and yet I couldn't help but believe that it might just be possible, and then be disappointed when it didn't happen. In spite of being a bit of a cynic, I'm pretty positive; I'm hopeful, and I believe... so I feel like it's really important for me to really know that having a baby might not be as straightforward as going off the pill and then having a bun in the oven. My mother had more miscarriages than most women, and most of the important women in my life have had a really difficult time getting to the point of actually laying a baby; some not getting to that point at all. It's long been a reality that wanting and having a baby are far apart, yet for me, at least, I've always expected them to be almost the same. And I really, really want to have one.

4. Christmas planning in full swing. Well, in my mind anyway; I haven't actually thought of or bought any more presents, but at night when I'm about to go to sleep, I feel it. And, most joyous of joys, on Friday Vincent bought tickets for us to go and see Freddy Kempf play with the NZSO, two Saturdays before Christmas. I can't think of anything more festive, and am very, very excited about it. He'll be playing a lot of Gershwin, and if you want to be jealous, have a look here and then here.

5. Vincent gifted me this most amazing of videos last week. It could be the best thing ever. (PS Ignore the title. It's a little bit creepy at first, but then it's simply incredible.)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Paean To Cher

I know this video is kind of after the fact now, but I still have to share it in case you haven't watched it yet. It might even be more enjoyable now that we know how things turned out, and we don't have to worry that these people might actually get into power (team rape lost big last night). I forget sometimes how awesome Cher is. Aside from her ability to sing and act (her acting - so underrated!), she has so this humanity about her that's almost tangible (which is actually probably part of why her acting is so good). She is kind, and intelligent, and has so much poise... I kind of want to be her. Anyway, the video. Long live Cher.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Obama/Bananarama

Very, very tired, after The Black Keys and being very, very drunk on Saturday night, and then Radiohead and being fairly disappointed on Tuesday night. Plus some nocturnal percussion from my dearest.

We're so happy (and relieved) that Obama pulled it off last night, and that every person in America has a chance for their life to be better in the next four years. I hope so much that he's able to do the things he wasn't able to during this term, and that conditions are more favourable (even if the outlook isn't so right now). I also really, really hope that the GOP's rebranding includes getting their men (and women, for that mater) to shut the fuck up about rape, pregnancy, and abortion. I mean, it's helpful having a fuckwit let you know they're a fuckwit, but I'd prefer to hear it straight.

Anyway, since Vincent texted me the result, I've intermittently had "USA! USA!" in my mind, and... Bananarama (the only way I can explain this is my love of puns, wordplay, and cheesiness).

Bananarama is doubly appropriate, because on Saturday we have a family bbq where Vincent will finally get to meet the aunty and uncle who were like grandparents to me when I was growing up. We were allowed to almost anything at their house (in stark contrast to our own house, where we were allowed to do almost nothing), and one of the things I liked to do was put on music (if my memory is correct, they had a cd player long before anyone else) and their huge brown headphones, and sit on the couch, swinging my legs and singing loudly to Bananarama and Kylie Minogue. I was young, and didn't know any better. It was a happy time.




Forward! Thank goodness.

Monday, November 5, 2012

It's A Long Way To The Top

I suppose it's to be expected that when the Prime Minister tries to impress university students by insulting people who are actually good at what they do, other people in the country become confused about what is appropriate speech, and what is acceptable behaviour. In the same way people protest sensitivity to difference as "PC gone mad!" (perhaps my most-hated phrase in the history of the universe), these confused individuals present their prejudices as jokes, so that when normal people object, they can accuse them of being over-sensitive, or "easy to wind up".

For a lot of my life, I've been too afraid of saying anything when the confused individuals have been my friends. I've was afraid of not being liked, and I was afraid of offending them (sometimes justifying it to myself as being because they didn't know what they were saying). I'm not sure if it's having grown up enough not to care so much for the opinions of idiots, or just having grown more confident, or knowing that I have someone who is always on my side, that I'm not afraid anymore. It's still scary to confront people sometimes; it can make my heart beat fast, or make me want to cry, or become obsessed with it. But we have to do it. We have to let people know it's not normal or okay to say things that are racist, or sexist, or any of the other -ists that are put by the wayside when the government of a country is right-wing and so all that matters is the economy. Fuck the economy. Tolerance and a good economy are not mutually exclusive, but if they were, I know what is more important to me.

I'm afraid this is getting preachy, which is isn't supposed to be at all. It's meant to be encouraging. Sometimes it feels like you're alone when no-one else has said they're not okay with a joke, or a remark. But you're not. People are chicken, and they are followers. We, comrades, are not. And anytime we speak out, we have each other behind us. And even if the morons disagree, at least they've had the truth presented to them; and while they can do their best to dismiss us, there's something about the truth that just sticks.


Who am I kidding, well-presented lies stick too. But anyway.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Lady Manes

Unsupervised this evening. We had an early dinner at what I like to call the club (it makes me feel as if we're old and don't carry cash), and when we were killing time before Vincent had to go next-door (where he's dj-ing tonight), Dave brought us a huge jug of iced tea, full of fruit. I didn't think I could/should ingest anything more after the cheesecake I'd just put away, but I managed some anyway (and am almost through my bag of peanut butter m&ms; hopeless).

It really feels like summer. I believe we've skipped spring, and that's okay; it's my least favourite season anyway. Yesterday I walked to Victoria Park to buy bananas and ecostore bits and pieces, and I even got a little bit sunburnt. I walked across the park on my way home, and saw a guy shadow-boxing under the bridge. The park was full of office people - women sitting awkwardly in their skirts, and men in strange exercise clothes doing funny poses.

It's funny how unifying weather can be. I like catching someone's eye when everyone is running from awning to awning. It makes me forget I'm getting wet, and think about how alike we all are, and how amusing it must look; all of us scuttling to escape falling water. I think sun induces more introspection, or maybe it was just that I was doing something very different to everyone I was passing. I came home so pleased with all of my cleaning products nestled in the paper bag that I didn't really want to unpack it... but Vincent is so patient with all of my other little piles around the place, I did.

The change in weather has me getting really exited about what's ahead. Apartment living means we don't get any trick-or-treaters so we had to make do with photos of nieces and nephews, but I started planning thanksgiving, and that led to Christmas thinking, and then I had to stop before it all led to excitement insomnia. We've got two gigs in the next five days that we booked back in autumn, and they felt so far away...

Anyway, what I really wanted to share was this amazing self-portrait by Rhiannon Schneiderman from her collection of lady manes on The Ardorous. Today is the first day of Movember so I've had hair on my mind - I'm of half a mind to grow a moustache, and now that I've seen these pictures, I'm inspired to do things with my pubes. I'd like to know more about the project, but I viewed these as a really funny celebration of pubic hair - long overdue, in my mind, as it seems to become less and less desirable. I showed a friend of mine a pair of crotchless undies bought as a joke present for another friend, and she said that if she wore them it would be like wearing a visor with an afro, and not only did it kill me, it really made me think about how I feel about pubic hair, and so do these pictures. 


Pubes. Awesome.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Changes


The revolution has begun, comrades. Well, a revolution has begun, and I am very, very excited. Details to come, but when you see the smoke, know that things are changing; definitions, representations, inclusions and exclusions...

The game is afoot!

Monday, October 29, 2012

An Unhappy Marriage

Before I started my year of communications, my sister (who had helped me with/done for me my application) gave me a bunch of scholarships she thought I should apply for. A few of them were specifically for Pasifika students, and I thought I had an okay chance at winning one... until I read through the applications in their entirety, and discovered they all required a letter from my pastor or youth leader. Because if you're Pasifika, and you're on the right track (which is going to university - preferably to study law, not communications), you must belong to a church.

I didn't. I had left my mother's church when I was sixteen (and hers is a born-again church of mostly Pakeha anyway), and had since owned my atheism. I didn't apply for any of those scholarships, and I'm pretty certain that if I had, I wouldn't have won one, because if you are not religious, you are not really Pasifika.

On our trip there are few months ago, Vincent and I came across painted signs and bronze plaques that read "Jesus is the foundation of Samoa". We mused to each other what the foundation was before the missionaries arrived, but it didn't change the feeling of belonging I felt.

Before our trip, we had both taken part in the Advance Pasifika March. The march was intended to unite Pasifika people, and to demand a voice, independent of political parties, for all Pacific people. At the time I thought I would like to extend that to a voice independent of religion, but it seemed a good start, and I was happy and proud to be part of it. I joined the facebook page, and felt connected to other Pasifika people, in spite of our differences. One of the organisers had said the march was about supporting each other, though our experiences may be different, and I believed that meant accepting one another. Until I read a post praising those who had taken part in a march against the proposed gay marriage bill. The march had taken place in South Auckland, and was attended by mostly Pasifika Christians. They held awful, offensive signs, and MPs from National, Labour, and Mana spoke(/lied; the National MP claiming most other MPs in his party had voted against the bill - wrong. He later told the truth to another journalist. It seems his party leader has set a precedent). Some of us who objected to the movement's support of a protest advocating hatred and disrespect (as well as the protest itself) voiced our objections, and were responded to in a rude, self-contradicting, patronising manner. My statement, that I was no longer happy to be a part of the movement and was leaving the page, was replied to with "good riddance". It was glaringly clear to me that to be part of Advance Pasifika, you must be conservative and religious, not to mention bigoted. (I want to make it clear that there are religious people who are not bigoted, even if I know few of them). Some others who disagreed with the post; who support gay marriage, and equality, remain a part of the movement, and I admire them for that. They make me feel like there is hope for a Pasifika identity that is not defined by religion.

But right now, it is. "Jesus is the foundation of Samoa" really means Samoan culture is so entwined with religion - mainly Christianity and Mormonism, that religion defines it. Religion is part of every funeral, every wedding, everything, and if you are not religious, you accept that; you have to, if you don't want to go mad. You also have to know that you are not going to be fully accepted as belonging to Samoan culture, because if you reject religion, it seems you are rejecting Samoa.

And that hurts. I have tried so hard to belong as Samoan, and felt so happy since I began to feel like I do. I feel as if I have been knocked down, and all because of the unholy union between religion and culture. The two are related, no question. But they must be able to be separated - they must, if people are to be united, and able to move forward.

On Neighbourhood on Sunday, Siliga David Setonga, creator of Popo Hardware, talked about his experience as a Samoan living in New Zealand, and the implications of the distance. One of those was his ability to see, and to question, and to reject aspects of Samoan culture, such as sending money for funerals of people he doesn't know. It was almost shocking to hear someone so Samoan talking freely about choosing parts of Samoan culture in which to engage, and which to reject. It gave me hope that this might become possible for everyone, and that without losing our Samoan-ness (or other Pasifika identity), we will be able to reject "god" and his associated laws and prejudices. Some people believe in god, and that's fine. Some people don't believe in god, and we need to be allowed to do this.

On a related note, I want to say this. I absolutely, unequivocally advocate gay marriage. No couple who love each other and want to be married should be prevented from being so; no-one has the right to tell them that their love is worth less than that of any other couple. And civil union is not marriage; it's barely a poor cousin. Apart from the fact it doesn't include the same rights as marriage, it just doesn't feel the same; and I think I know, because I had always planned to have a civil union because civil unions are available to all couples, but when it came to it, it wasn't enough. If there has to be a separation between the religion notion of marriage and the legal notion, then maybe that's a good thing, because marriage does not belong to any religion. My marriage, which is full of love and happiness and every other good thing, has no "god" in it. It is a legal and symbolic joining together of my life and my husband's, and certainly not anything to do with anyone's notion of a higher power.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Buena Sera


I'm discovering the joy that is Louis Prima. The name has always been vaguely familiar, and so has the voice... but the sound, which hit both Vincent and me like a brick when we watched the first episode of Treme a few weeks ago, is completely new to me, and I love it.

The sound of this song suits my idea of New Orleans, and also life the way I know and like it, perfectly. It's chaotic. It seems nonsensical sometimes, but as often as it is, it's actually making perfect sense, in a way that's hard to comprehend unless you're looking at it from the right angle. It's so, so joyous, and the kind of joy that doesn't deny the murkier realities of life; one that acknowledges them, and says you have to get your kicks where you can. Amor fati.

To life!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fear

I read an interview with the excellent Alain de Botton recently where he talked about doing things at the last minute as being a result of the fear of doing something badly finally being outweighed by the fear of not doing anything at all.

It wasn't at all the focus of the interview, but it was the part that most struck a chord with me. I've suffered from a similar fear for most of my life; that of trying but not being the best. I'm not sure when it began, but I do remember feeling pressure to get the best mark from a very young age, partly from my parents and partly from kids in my class who would give me a hard time if I didn't. It wasn't their fault; I nearly always got it, so we all expected I would, and they couldn't know how that was affecting me - I certainly didn't. In form one, I faked being sick on the day of the school athletics finals because I was in the 100m sprint finals, and I knew I was going to come third. Once I knew I wouldn't be in the top ten, I started walking the school cross country. I had always left things until the last minute (I distinctly remember informing my mother at bedtime that I had a school project due the next day... many times), but it wasn't until secondary school that it became a protective kind of thing; if I got a good mark, I knew I hadn't spent more time on it than I needed to, and if I got an average mark, I would tell myself that if I had tried harder it would have been a good one. Even through university I would ignore the late penalty I incurred on nearly every assignment and just take note of the mark my work had actually been graded, not thinking about the fact that getting it in on time was part of the point. I was never one of those dicks who would tell everyone they hadn't studied, but I privately felt like I was in control, and that I knew my potential. I felt like I didn't have to worry about being the best as long as I wasn't really trying.

It wasn't until fairly recently that I realised I wasn't in control at all. Years earlier I'd started to put it together during a discussion with my sister and her over-achieving friend about the trap of being smart. The friend had topped almost every subject all through school and university, and been head-hunted by an engineering firm. She worked there for a year or so before she realised how unhappy she was, and why she was doing what she was doing; not because she loved engineering, but because she was extremely good at it. I think I was in my first year of university, studying communications to become a journalist because I was good at English, and thought there's no way I'm going to do that. At the end of the year I said I was taking a year off, and after that year off I began my BA elsewhere. I felt as if the  lack of direction would free me from the constraints and expectations of being good at something, and that the time lapse would free me from the competitive side of studying at the same time as my school friends. But I was still afraid of trying. I noticed it with basic things; if a bus was at my stop and I wasn't quite there, I'd never run for it. Why? Because what if I missed it? Then I'd have run for nothing. But I still didn't recognise it in my coursework. Nobody knew me, so no-one knew what I might be capable of and hold me to it, which was important, having been motivated solely by that for so long. I might have begun to feel okay about failing, and doing badly - things I needed to learn - except that I was lying or being evasive about my marks to my parents, so that doing badly was always tinged with guilt. My transcript is an embarrassment, but I'm glad I can look at it and not feel measured by it, which was how I felt by all of the good marks I ever got in my life.

I haven't stopped being afraid. Since I entered a writing competition in fourth form and didn't place, I hadn't entered one again until this month, when I entered the most low-risk competition possible (in my mind), under a pseudonym, and with a piece I deliberately wrote in an hour and didn't redraft. I've been so afraid of trying and not being the best, it's crippled me, and I didn't even know it. I learnt how to do things just for me, and that was good, but it meant I became afraid to share them, unless I had absolutely no investment in them, which is crazy; I feel more comfortable sharing things I have done that I don't think are particularly good, or that I don't feel I have put much into, than the things I have. Most people do the opposite of that!

I don't really know where to go from here, but I think, without always being aware of it, I'm trying to change. I've learnt to be confident enough in what I think of myself that I don't need other people to value it. I realised that being able to share things I'm not good at isn't a bad thing at all. But I still have to learn to try without being afraid, and to feel confident enough to share things I think I've done well. I'm sure there was a time when I wasn't afraid. When I was about six or seven, I used to perform all the time, including this dance, which I discovered again on YouTube last night. That kid was cringe-worthy in many ways, but she was her own person. (And didn't mind at all that the photo she did the I Love You bit to was a school portrait of her own cousin, complete with cardboard frame.)


Oh, Alain. You're so insightful, even when you're merely leading into an insight. Self-improvement is a lifelong commitment.