Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Feeling Ranty

I'll get straight to it. Today I saw a kid sketching on Queen Street with his portfolio open, a hat on the ground, and a sign saying Help Me Get To Art School, and I just about lost it; for the first time in my life I wanted to yell Get A Fucking Job. Why? Well you might ask. I live on Queen Street. We have buskers, who add to the atmosphere, and have to have a permit from the council to allow them to perform. We also have homeless people, who sit with hats in front (signs are not allowed - we've seen, to our horror, a police officer tear one up before), and are occasionally moved along (to our chagrin) by council workers or police. Then we have this little arsehole. What infuriates me about his presence is not that I think he will take away from the little that the homeless along the street will receive in a day (I saw a woman give him money and I can guarantee she wouldn't have given that to our friend Simon - she seemed to love the "romance" of the "struggling artist" as much as he did). It's the brazen exploitation of his privilege. This kid, lousy with opportunity, will sit on the same footpath where people sleep - a few metres up from where these people are asking for money to survive, and ask us to help send him to art school. The audacity makes me livid. What do you think? Vincent thought I was going a bit over the top but agreed with most of my points, and I worry that may just have been to shut me up.

I've also been thinking/ranting about what differentiates a good person doing bad things and a bad person doing good things. Where do you draw the line? I like to think that I don't see people as good or bad; we're all human and thus flawed. But if I'm honest, I do essentialise people. And I've been trying to figure out out exactly where the point lies for someone to tip over into being bad, and how people are allowed to be called good when they are racist or homophobic or they have knowingly hurt someone else for things that weren't very important to them.

In a similar vein, I've also been wondering lately how many misogynistic jokes Family Guy can make under the guise of satire before it simply becomes misogyny. I really enjoy family guy. But I'm fucking sick to death of hearing joke after joke about women, the last being the one about the women in Sex & The City. Someone who claims not to be racist who makes racist jokes ironically or satirically may not be a racist, but what they say might be interpreted as condoning racism by racists, stupids, or members of the ethnic group that is the punchline. I am sick of being the punchline. I love that being openly racist on tv is unacceptable (I long for the day that institutionalised racism in/on tv is also unacceptable). I don't  understand why it's still okay to be openly misogynistic. It's not funny, and maybe it's just that I'm grumpy, but I think once you've made the joke once or twice, supposedly making fun of people who actually speak that way, you're done; carry on, and you're just being a cunt. Am I wrong? Seth McFarlane, you're on notice.

Let's calm down and listen to this excellent song, which has been on high rotation this weekend. As Vincent pointed out, I'm no Buddhist; I'd like to be, but I just get so mad...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Zombie Body



I'd already forgiven Ryan Gosling for The Notebook. Watching it was not entirely unenjoyable; Mum and I bonded over our smirks, snorts and oh my goshes - I don't think Vincent (who saw it at the MOVIES!) can have rolled his eyes more than we did during the "climactic" love scene. I tried to re-watch it when it was on tv last year but it just wasn't the same without Mum... also, after bagging it so hard to Vincent, I couldn't let it show that I wanted to see it again. Anyway, I still thought Ryan and Rachel McAdams were okay, and then Lars And The Real Girl came out and I thought Ryan, you're better than okay, you're a stand-up actor. Last year I saw a youtube video where he broke up a fight and I thought, pacifist. Interesting. But then, last week, I discovered this, his band Dead Man's Bones, and it is ACE (by the way, thanks a lot anyone who knew about them for telling me; their first song came out in 2008!), and as far as I'm concerned, The Notebook was just an unfortunate but necessary stepping stone (and not nearly as unfortunate as Mickey Mouse Club - do not watch the videos, you will want to hurt yourself, they are so awful). Ryan and this guy Zach are the core members, and they collaborated with the Silverlake Conservatory Children's Choir (which was, incidentally, started by Flea). When they toured their album, they had a local children's choir from each town sing with them (to rave reviews, wikipedia says). Sometimes kid's choirs can sound a bit contrived, but kids singing about zombies and ghosts and other other-worldly things is so appropriate (plus the songs are great in their own right) that they sound fantastic. Here's another one:



And to finish, a song from Drive. I loved the soundtrack immediately, and I like this song in particular, especially its 80s sound (like the movie, most of the music has an 80s feel) and the sentiment - when I first met Vincent, I lost my appetite (for the only time in my life) (I should also say I found it as soon as he left Auckland, and I put on 15kgs), and could think of nothing else besides him and when I'd next see him. I realised recently that I really, really enjoy gratuitous violence when it's vengeful, as in the elevator scene. I had thought it was just because I'm a savage type with the warrior gene, but I think it's more a vicarious thing; there is so much in the world that I hate, so much injustice (and just annoying little stuff) that I would love to deal with by beating the shit out of the perpetrators. When I saw Kill Bill Vol. 1 I was going through the worst time in my life and it was so cathartic; seeing The Bride take on The Crazy 88s, and watch the blood spurting from their arms - I loved it. I loved how merciless she was; how she took back control (I know some people will say that's debatable), and how she stuck it to every one of those motherfuckers who took away her baby and put holes in her head. When I think about it, as a kid I used to act out the Hello, My Name Is Inigo Montoya bit over and over, and with great enthusiasm. I'm completely opposed to capital punishment, and if I see a fight it makes me want to be sick... but sometimes I really wish I could punch someone in the face. "Sometimes" like "frequently", and "someone" like "lots of people". And I also wish that I wouldn't be arrested afterward. The Princess Bride really wasn't the right movie for a kid like me.



Oh, go on. Here's one more. And if you haven't seen Drive, I recommend it; it's been described as "high trash" and a million other things but I really, really enjoyed it (not least because Christina Hendricks is in it). Dear Joanie. When is Mad Men back? I need the wardrobe inspiration; I have stopped doing my hair, and I'm only wearing heels once a week. How will I ever keep Vincent interested?! (If I'm  a zombie do I need to tell Simone and Helene that I'm joking so they don't bother me or am I untouchable now?)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Certain Kind Of Light



Turn this up as loud as you can, and bask in the feeling of being alive and able to hear things like it. Vincent and I have agreed it's our song of the month, and have been listening to it five times for every other song since discovering it on I Love You, Phillip Morris - another reason that movie is ace.

I am back, and although I agree with Sallie in my holiday book Dear Enemy by Jean Webster,

The awful thing about a vacation is that the moment it begins 
your happiness is already clouded by its approaching end.

I am getting better and better at re-living my memories so that the end of things doesn't sting quite so much. (Having said that, the memory of the girls singing So Long, Farewell as Vincent and I backed out of the driveway still makes me want to cry, freeze time, and build a compound on which we all could live.) As much as I love my hometown, Ahipara is like a rest for my soul; there's something reviving about it, even though I seem to spend as much time napping as awake, and peace-keeping between seven-year-olds is as far from restful as a holiday can get. It was a holiday I'll remember and refer to as long as I have a memory: Price saying "This is the life" while we sat around the bonfire, the auto-biographical song I overheard Lizy singing on the beach at dusk after the abandoned scavenger hunt, the babies wandering around the yard bare-bottomed, and having lots and lots of family around me all the time. When I was little, I loved having people to stay; I thought the ideal number sleeping in a house was one to each room (making couples and children top & tailing necessary, since I counted non-bedrooms). It made me feel safe, and it just made me happy. Now that I'm old enough to be driven crazy by them, that feeling hasn't changed. 




















It's said that a change is as good as a holiday, but I hate change (blame it on being a fixed fire-sign). Holidays are all I have. I look forward to them, so much that I get nervous about them, and I have to struggle not to panic about how fast they're going by. I never want to be someone who misses the moment because they're trying to capture it, but photos are essential to me. In fact, I think they help me to get the moment because I don't have to worry about remembering the visual; I can concentrate on how I feel. Anyway, my hands are back to the wheel. I'm determined not to sink into post-holiday depression; I have several more to look forward to before summer's end, I'm back in my beloved bed, and the trip home yesterday yielded some very good finds (including some $4.50 Yves Saint Laurent men's trousers from the Kaitaia dump; please ask me where I got them when you see me so I get to say it aloud). And, even while I get sniffly at the memory of the munchkins being von Trapps, it is very nice not to have to share Vincent with them; he is mine, all mine! again. One child is quite enough for him to entertain.

Before you go, you have to listen to this live version of the song. It's long, but it's worth it; unlike the upbeat, immediately life-affirming sound of the former, this is a journey. I talked to Vincent about it, and I really don't know if anyone could sing this better than a woman (and especially a woman of colour). So much of her life is restricted - there's so much out of reach - that she conveys something like this in a way no-one else can; she knows what it's like to not have what she wants - what it feels like to love someone, really love someone, whether or not they need her.

And doing the last verse again, just for herself? I love her. I LOVE her.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Gone Fishing



It's just occurred to me, the night before we return home, that I might have left a goodbye note. I'm in the far north, spending my days swimming, sunbathing, napping, and having little girls jump on me, and my nights over-eating, drinking wine and hearing more stories from my favourite Uncle Price. I'll be back in Auckland tomorrow, and back here on Tuesday, and although I'm looking forward to sleeping in my bed, and not having to put on clothes and shoes to use the bathroom, and not having to mediate arguments about hide and seek, I'm sad that this holiday will be over. I'll have photos, and a tan, and probably more tongue ulcers from all of the drinking, but I won't have three little girls come and jump on me in the mornings, or try (and fail) to talk quietly to their Uncle Vincent while someone's sleeping, and I won't be at my favourite retreat in the universe anymore.

Holidays are always bittersweet. Which reminds me, on the way to pick up Mum yesterday, we passed a cemetery where two people were tending a grave, and I thought how it's both so sad and so cheering. Anyway, I'm fishing. See you soon.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Beirut



Oh man. There's not much to say except that I was the weirdo who beamed the entire time (except for the one bit when I cried), but I did refrain from hugging everybody, which I really wanted to. Live, Zach's voice doesn't even get close to annoying (sometimes, when I'm grumpy, I want to slap him through the speakers); it's just perfect, and the array of instruments is exciting and emotive and just awesome. It was one of the best gigs I can remember, they are definitely my favourite currently-performing band, and I am going to learn the trumpet (as soon as I've got the drum lessons going).

Brilliant.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Gigs and Shittles



So we went to Fleet Foxes on Saturday night, and they were incredible. It's not often that you get to see a band live and the vocals are as good (or, as in this case, even better) than they are recorded; at the risk of sounding a hundred years old, it was a treat. Maybe I am closer to a hundred than I think though; Vincent and I complained all the way home (until we realised how we sounded, and shut ourselves up with pies) about the passengers who talked all through the gig (if you've been to anything at the Town Hall, renowned for its acoustics, you'll know why this was so maddening) and were obviously there because it was something they'd heard advertised on b, and were really just waiting for it to be over so they could start saying they went. Philistines. I wanted to yell that at them but didn't want to ruin the atmosphere any more, or further add to the drink fumes (to which Vincent and I had already contributed more than our share, which was also why we missed Tiny Ruins). We didn't hear a Beach Boys cover, which Vincent was rooting for, but everything we heard was so beautiful it really didn't matter. All of them have wonderful voices (and Joshua Tillman's drumming was totally brilliant), but what really sticks with me is the beauty and purity of Robin Pecknold's voice. My favourite parts of the show were when he sang alone with his guitar under a cloudy spotlight; it was like being able to see Plato's forms for myself. I still don't know if I completely agree with what Schopenhauer said about music and art, but hearing Robin sing made a pretty convincing argument. Mojo made Fleet Foxes first album an instant classic, and on the strength of that alone, I bought it. I wasn't sure at first; I liked it, but I wasn't head over heels as I was when I bought Bon Iver the month before. But Mojo. They know what they're doing. Fleet Foxes are completely original; both albums and their LP are frequent plays on our iPod, and live, they really couldn't have been better. If they come to your city, you have to go.

Tonight we have Beirut. There's less at stake, as they're not a favourite, but I really hope they become one. My favourite of their songs is one I've posted before, but Vincent found this very good cover by Florence & The Machine, so I'm posting it again. I might have a dent on my forehead where the dentist leaned on the plastic glasses I had to wear while she gave me two more fillings this morning, but with Beirut tonight and Ahipara on Wednesday, I feel very lucky indeed. Happy Monday, mi amigos!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Love, Actually... But, Actually



The first time I heard this song was on a Sunday. I had just finished work, and the bfm jazz show was on; it must have been someone else's car, maybe my sister's, because mine didn't have a working stereo in it. We were driving along, probably talking, and listening. Then the song came on, and I felt the world stop. When it ended, I sat there with tears all over my face, feeling as if something had just happened to me. Which it had, really; I had experienced Otis Redding, not as I'd ever known him before, but in a way that would change how I listened to music forever.

It seems lame to compare Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, but to explain why I love this song, and why, when it comes down to it, I am an Otis' girl, I have to. I grew up listening to Sam Cooke, and I loved him. He sounded beautiful, he looked beautiful, and the songs I knew were happy songs about being in love. When I was grown up, I found out more about him; about how he sang with the Soul Stirrers before crossing over, and what that cost him. I read about the humiliation he went through when touring America; stories about him being stripped naked and forced to sing in front of firemen in the south, and about the places that wouldn't serve him. I learned how strongly he felt about The Times They Are A'Changin'; strongly enough to write A Change Is Gonna Come, and how he became involved in the Civil Rights Movement. But in spite of all of this, when I listened to his music, all I ever really heard was promise. Maybe it was his looks - or maybe his reputation - that made me feel like when he sang about love, it was a light and happy thing for him (I know that probably wasn't always the case, but that was how he sounded to me), and that was what I liked about him. But I am a Radiohead fan. I wrote angsty poetry in the middle of the night for years. I cry in the shower. I like my peanut butter crunchy. So when I heard this song, about twenty years old and without a care, I felt I understood it. I felt like I knew Otis. With every note he groaned, I knew he felt it; that I could believe him, and trust what I was hearing, so much that I felt it all too, for him. In the past, songs had always to relate to me, or else I could only really enjoy them on a superficial level (I think that's true). Anyway, as I remember it, it was a breakthrough.

I think I've always been inclined to throw myself into my emotions, and to happily borrow a feeling (dear Milhouse's dad) from a song or book or movie. Having given/lost my heart to Vincent, that's it; I would gladly undergo hours - weeks - a lifetime! - of torture to save him, and I like to know that everyone who knows me, knows it. Shakespeare knew it: 'Tis an ever fixed mark. There's love, that people laugh about, because they're happy all the time. And then there's love, that people cry about, because they live in fear of something parting them from their beloved. And that's why I love this song. Because, while I can laugh with the former, I am the latter. This song is for the latter.



Yes, Sonnet 116 again.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Pocketful Of Mumbles




I don't know why it is that I think of Bacall whenever I've been a bit bad, but I do. Maybe it's because I think I look like she does when I do my smarty-pants face; like she's up to something, but you don't quite know what. Then I think about the time in J1 when the teacher told us to pack up so I was crawling around the floor collecting things to put away, saw Paul had kept building things with blocks, and crawled past and knocked it with my foot so he would have to stop. I thought it looked completely accidental, but either it didn't or his crying upset the teacher, so I had to sit behind the blackboard (needless to say, I was humiliated; in my mind, I was carrying out orders. This is when I learnt vigilantes are not welcome in government institutions, and that obeying orders would not protect me. It was a sad day, but a necessary one). Anyway, I don't think I manage to be quite as mysterious as Bacall; it doesn't help my cause that I don't smoke and therefore lack the requisite cloud about my person, also my brow doesn't come out quite enough for me to do a really good mysterious/haughty look up through my eyebrows. Nevertheless, as my block-knocking seemed the perfect vigilante crime, so does my badness seem Bacallesque. It makes me feel better about it.

On Thursday's news, one of the stupid fillers was a "story" about Meryl Streep's Oscar "hopes" for her "portrayal" of Bitchface Thatcher in The Iron Lady. Streep was interviewed, and said (in her drawn-out, everybody look at moui, look at moui! tones) she admired Thatcher's "lioness's steadfastness", and a few other nonsensical couplets (what the fuck is a lioness's steadfastness? Does she mean tenacity? Because anyone who has read Roald Dahl knows it's the vixen who will fight to the death to protect her young, not the lioness. Philistine.). I'm hoping Streep's next role is portraying Hitler, and that she says she admires his unfailing organisational skills, and then actors will be told once and for all that they are not to open their mouths unless reading from a script (notable exceptions will include Christian Bale).

In more important news, the upcoming Food Bill. I've been meaning to talk about it for a little while but my gripes about actors and period pain kept getting in the way; maybe that was for the best, because instead you can read about it HERE! and get to enjoy pretty illustrations, on my lovely and very talented friend's blog The Bulwark And The Sunbeam. I've also been meaning to share her blog for a while, but as I was following it in secret, I thought I'd better keep my tracks concealed... I just feel a bit like when you know people are reading your blog, sometimes you can't help censoring yourself in funny ways. Anyway, the Food Bill is madness, and will affect all of us; those with least, the most (as always). I'm reading Breakfast Of Champions at the moment (my first foray into Kurt Vonnegut, and one I'm enjoying very much), and just read this:

"Don't matter if you care", the old miner said, "if you don't own what you care about."

Caring is, in many ways, a luxury, and it's one that comes with responsibility. We have time, voices, internet access, and social consciences, and the clock is ticking on our ownership of something as basic as selling homemade fudge to fundraise for a primary school.

I'm going to go and do some reading now, so I'll leave you with this, just the thing for a wet, hungover Saturday afternoon. Nil bastardo etc etc.



Image from wunderbuzz (still from 'To Have And Have Not', 1944) 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Big Picture



I saw this photo on The Big Picture yesterday, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. Since I wrote about what I had thought makes us human, I've been thinking about things that all humans are and do; all of us. They were things like eating, and sleeping; just simple things that everyone does, that tie us together. This photo made me want to cry; this man, sitting outside a hospital in Guatemala City.

The album is called Homelessness Around The World. I'm not sure why, but homelessness has always been an issue that really hits me. Living in the city, with homeless neighbours, is confronting, and I think really important for someone like me who lives a pretty charmed life. I can't remember when it started - maybe when I heard about a culture (I forget which) who believe that there are spirits who wait for babies to be born, and then they enter their bodies and become them - but for a long time I've felt like me being me and you being you is just chance, and we could just as easily have been someone else. I sometimes feel so far removed from other people (I like to call them capitalist assholes), but really, I do believe that, in spite of our differences, we're all the same. Which is why it breaks my heart when I see people on the street - these are people, with the same needs as anybody, and yet they're so often treated as if they're not people. They're treated as if they're invisible, or at fault, or simply unimportant. I wish everyone could see these photos, and keep looking at them until they really see these people.







This was taken on Fifth Avenue in New York, during the Black Friday sales. It made me feel sick. I tried to think that maybe some of these people had stopped to give her some money when they went past before, but I don't believe it. It makes me think of all the times people have said You Can't Save Them All to me. If all of us helped one person, then no-one would need to try to save everyone. Besides which, it's not about saving anyone; Jesus has been and gone, yo. I wish to Nietzsche that someone smiled at this lady on this day.



This is Beverly. She is 63, and has been homeless since her husband died in August. I am 28, and if anything happened to Vincent, I would want to die. If I lost him and had nowhere to live, I don't know what I would do.







I really love this man's face. He's waiting for food, in Las Vegas, a place where rich people go and throw away millions and millions and millions, all the time. When I worked at World Vision, people would often ask why Child Sponsorship was called so when the money went to a collective fund for the entire community. It was because people need a face or they can't make a connection. Having contact with one child, receiving photos and school and health reports, gives a sponsor something tangible, in a way they can follow development. Reading about homelessness is one thing, but really looking at someone's face, like this man's, with his humour and wryness and everything else, is another thing entirely. It becomes personal. You don't just see someone who needs your change. You see someone.

I remember a bit in Gillian Anderson's Little Women when Meg says something about child slavery, and Belle says "the poor are always with us". Yes, they fucking are, and as long as they are, we had better not forget it, or we're not worth shit.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012



I'm a firm believer in not having to do all living yourself. I think it comes from having been a reader since I was five, but it may have been my oppressed adolescence, when vicarious living was crucial to figuring out what anything to do with boys was. If you can learn from what you see, you get to do several lives' worth of living in the lifetime you get.

I've been putting together some resolutions for myself since yesterday morning. My lovely friend and I were discussing autism while we packed up food and folded inflatable mattresses, and I realised, with a shock, that I don't have a lot of empathy for people with autism or Aspergers; in fact, I have a hard time with anyone who doesn't show emotion in a way I can relate to. I remembered what I said to Vincent last week after Max's meltdown on Parenthood, about our kid doing that if the Jenga Queen was in hospital, and I felt embarrassed, and horrified. I always excuse my feelings towards people I meet who are reserved, or people who are emotionally closed, by telling myself it's our feelings that make us human. On the drive back from the beach yesterday, I admitted to myself how full of shit that is. Being human is what makes us human. I thought I was empathetic, but I'm not; not when I've excluded an entire group, including people with conditions that make it impossible for them to be emotionally open or socially sophisticated. It's hard to realise something like this, that everyone who knows you probably already knows, but at least when you know something, you can do something about it. I picked the above clip, instead of just the song on its own, because it reassures me that fucking up is normal (although we with the egos seem to manage the biggest fuck-ups); regrettable, but normal. It's what we do after the fucking up - it can't undo what has happened, but it makes all the difference.

My Resolutions for 2012 (and beyond):
1. Develop empathy that doesn't rely on my own experience or imagination (I think the way to do this will be reading, watching stuff, and talking to people who know about things like autism).
2. Make exercise part of my life (vomit, vomit, cry and vomit, but if I get bronchitis and crack my ribs again this year, I may strangle myself).
3. Start doing the things I've been planning (these are specific, and related to work, politics, and charity).
4. Go on a holiday with my Mum and Dad, and another with my soon-to-be-Dunedin parents.
5. Visit someone I love, but don't often see, every second Sunday.

On Christmas Eve, a friend of Vincent's was killed in a car accident. We told our friends about it when we saw them on New Year's Eve, exactly a week later, and I remembered all of the things I realised and became so afraid of when my baby nephew died eight years ago. I would wake up in the night, terrified, because I couldn't hear my dog breathing, and I would think the difference between life and death is breathing; that one tiny thing is everything. When Vincent and I told our friends that day, and earlier that day when he and I debated which super-powers we would give up years for, and how many years the ability to freeze time would be worth, I thought about how the difference between life and death is also time; a second, or a few days, or a week. I don't think every minute can be spent on a specific mission; not for me, anyway - for me, that wouldn't be living. But when time is the difference between life and death, it has to mean something; it has to. I want all of my time to mean something.