Sunday, July 29, 2012

Eventide

I write this with a stomach full of food. I can't recall any works by writers who ate a lot the way I can immediately think of books written by hungry people... So maybe I will keep the text to a minimum, and say what I want to say with songs and pictures.


Tomorrow is my twenty-ninth birthday, and the third anniversary of my marriage. One of those is luck, and the other is extreme luck, and a bit of seduction. Actually, I suppose they both involve a bit of seduction, but we probably don't want to dwell too much on that.

I don't know what the next year is going to bring. I've never really had any real ambition, which I used to think was a good thing, but now think perhaps a little bit might have been valuable in the world I was born into. When I was little and I would catch fairies and blow up dandelions, I never wished for things, or events; I always wished to be happy - it seemed like the most important thing. And I got my wish! But happiness is apt to make one rest on their laurels a bit...

No more. What I do know about this year is that a change is gonna come. Most of the people I love are fast getting older, and as all of the chicken soupy books said would happen, I've only just started to realise how much I want to know from them. My comfortable life is undermining all of the militant things I say. And I really want to reproduce, but I know that things have to be ready.


When I got my first tattoo, four years ago tomorrow, I thought about getting a line from this song. I am still very much the kind of person who wants to convey what she thinks and feels; I suppose that's part of the purpose of this blog. So on the eve of my birthday, this is how I feel and what I think. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world, and I am trying very hard to deserve it. But even apart from feeling lucky, I want to be better; if I had a mission in life, other than to leave the world a better place than I found it, it would be to keep trying to improve, which can be discouraging when I think I've come a long way and then fuck up, and feel like a kid again, but also makes me feel as if I'm a kid again in the nice sense where things are always new and I'm always changing.

Anyway. I've eaten far too much at my and my sister's birthday "lunch" (there wasn't an actual theme but we seemed to implicitly agree it should be Roman) after drinking far too much at our birthday drinks on Friday (again with an unspoken Roman theme; excess being our current watchword), and now I need to go and sleep. Bona nox! 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Feet on The Ground/Head In The Sky


There are a few reasons why I like this cover. One is that it sounds like the cover of kids who grew up in the nineties; it lacks that nauseating quality that I love about eighties music, that sounds like even when you're in love or having fun you know it can't last and that the outside world is hurtful. This sounds like the version of those yet untouched by grief, and I like how that sounds, and that the song is so great that it still resonates. It's also good to have some variation (especially for Vincent) as I am playing this song about ten times a day (conservative estimate).

We ordered a book about grief for my little niece's birthday. I had read about it in a magazine article about helping children to deal with loss, and I wondered how loss would be if it didn't come as such a shock; if you had some inkling of what it might be like, if it might help, even just a little bit. It arrived last week and I read it before I wrapped it, and it made me cry so much and kind of broke my heart, but in a way that made me feel really grateful to have a heart to break. Both the words and pictures are so pure that they make me feel as if the writer and illustrator have been in Plato's cave and seen the forms; how else could they have distilled the essence of loss?

If I believed in heaven, I think I would expect it to be like that cave, where everything appears as it is, and we could all understand.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Home, Part II

In the mornings, Samoa smells faintly smoky. Closer than the birds is the sound of salus, as the women sweep the leaves and squashed insects from the paths. At the hotel, there is also the clinking of cutlery, as the waiters get ready for breakfast. The air is thick, and the inevitable heat makes the relative cool heavy with expectation.













I've spent so many years feeling like I don't really belong anywhere; that I'm between places, a bit like my father, and that belonging will come to my children, or theirs. For the first time, I feel like maybe I belong in both places, and both less and more because of it. I've finally been able to see and hear what's inside me, independent of what other people see and hear, and what their relationships to either place are, and it's this.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Home

Every day I walk to work, more or less along the same route. I cross Queen Street, and see the man from the kebab shop having his morning cigarette out on the footpath. Further on, at Vulcan Lane, are the security man for the jewellers and the guy selling the Herald. Sometimes they're talking to each other, which I like to see. I walk up Vulcan Lane, and sometimes the little council man in his orange vest will be there sweeping up rubbish, or having his morning cigarette in the corner beside the Occidental. There might be people having breakfast at the pubs, and there's usually someone drinking coffee at the cafe on the other side. Vulcan Lane is colder than Queen Street, and I usually have to put my hands in my pockets and pull my jacket tighter.

I have a quick look in the windows of the shoe shop and the sunglasses store, and then I turn on to High Street. Even on a sunny day, High Street gives an impression of grey, and I love it. The first window I pass is the lingerie shop, the last window of which always has some crazy, high-class call-girl kind of bodysuit in it. I always wonder which of the suit-wearing office women going in there is planning to buy it; there's no doubt in my mind that it's they who buy those things. Then I pass the book shop and scan their window - they're already open. Further up I might pass the big yellow recycling bins from one of the bars along the street, which always smell like vinegar, and I breathe in, in spite of myself. When I'm almost there, I'll look across at the coffee kiosk, and whoever is on will wave and say good morning. Then, when I arrive and unlock the door, I'll look in to the shop next door, and if Meg's at the computer we'll say hello and how are you before I go in.

Throughout the day, the lady I refer to as "my friend" or "my friend with the piercings" (she has one in each nostril and three in each eyebrow) might drop in. She puts on some of our hand-cream, and checks her hair or hat in the mirror, and we talk to each other, although I don't always know what she's saying because she doesn't have any front teeth. Sometimes when she talks to me, I can feel my heart throbbing; I love her. Later on in the day, she might be heard singing loudly in the square. Meg will drop in a few times. Richie and Opeti, our couriers, will come by. The guy from upstairs will come down and cross over to the square for his afternoon sesh, and the girl will go down to the ledge outside Snake Pit for her cigarette breaks. If it's hot, the old lady who takes her shoes off and puts her legs up and drops her head so it almost touches her knees will set up near the fountain, and people passing her will stare at her wondering if she's alright (but hardly anyone will actually ask her). 

Next week, the bar upstairs turns twenty-one. Today my boss brought in one of our enormous kiwi, and tomorrow I am going to stitch it with RAKS on the front and love from us on the bottom. I've been going there since I was seventeen, and I often seem to end up there. One night I got mad at an article in the magazine I was reading, and threw it out the window. The next time I went, I leaned out and saw it on the awning of a shop below, surrounded by cigarette butts, and I felt equal parts embarrassed and satisfied. I learnt to moonwalk there, I rescued my vomiting cousin from the toilet and supported her claims to the staff that it wasn't she who had puked on the floor there, and it was there where I first told Vincent how much I liked him.

Today I was walking up to the emporium on Victoria Street and I saw my friend's husband on the other side of the street, and we smiled and waved, and I felt unusually happy. My friend and I used to work together, and now she lives on Waiheke with her husband and two ridiculously cute babies, but she occasionally drops in to the shop to say hello.

Sometimes I take community for granted, and forget how important it is to me, until days like today. My little community, including the people whose names I don't even know, is so important to me. I don't like change; I like being able to rely on things, like old stone buildings, and familiar faces. I like being part of something that doesn't need me, exactly - if I disappeared from it, it wouldn't change, and if I was missed, it wouldn't be for long - but that I give to, and that gives to me. I enjoy weak ties; I like waving but not feeling like I have to stop and talk. But I like stopping and talking too; and I'm more likely to see someone I want to do this with in my little district than anywhere else. Lots of people want their worlds to get bigger, and I understand that. But for me, a small world is just fine.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Brown Like The Bark

I hate not having much to say here, but the truth is, I've been struggling a bit the last two weeks. I don't work 9-5 hours, but the hours I do work are socially demanding, and I need a good dose of alone time (being with Vincent counts as alone, occasionally even for nose-picking if it's dark or we're watching something) to get myself together again. In the past I've been hard on myself for feeling this way, but since realising that doesn't change a thing, plus I'm me and this is how I come, I've tried harder to leave my free time free so I can [get ready for sickening term] regroup. I've accepted that I need more sleep and more empty time to be me, and if I don't get it, I start to feel strange; a bit mad, a bit grumpy, a bit like I want to cry, and a bit frustrated. My work requires me to be personable and accommodating at all times, so when things get a bit much, the first place I feel it is at home; sometimes when I'm at work I don't even know I'm on the edge. Right now, I'm on the edge, and I need to get off it because we go to Samoa in six days. Six days!

Whoa, that really wasn't meant to be that long. It was meant to be an intro to this, the speech of a Mt Roskill Grammar student that John Campbell had on his show last night, called Brown Brother. It made me think about the experiences of the kids of immigrants, and how the schools we go to, and where we grow up makes our experiences seem different, when they're not really; something it's taken me a while to learn. Going to a primary school where I was the only Polynesian kid in my class was hard, but it did mean I got used to being different early, and had to figure out how I fit. For kids who get to go to school with other kids like them, this comes later; and although I had always thought that meant things were easier for them, I realise now that it just defers everything, and to a time of life when figuring that out might be even more difficult. I'll think about it some more, but in the meantime, watch the video(es - I like this one done for Campbell Live best). I think it's awesome, and I hope it starts discussion, even if it's just one person in their own head. Happy weekend, my feleni.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Things I've Been...

Reading:
1. Good. Every time I read this magazine, I end up with a page full of websites to look up and facts/insights to share. Like this: Did you know, when you buy something that says "biodegradable" that that might not mean squat? For example, nuclear waste is biodegradable over half a million years. Also, we have these biodegradable plastic bags at my work that we were all very excited about until we found out they need air to break down, and if people put them in the bin and they end up condensed in landfill, they won't have any air. Hmm. Anyway, over the past six months, Vincent and I have become increasingly aware of the products we use, and what is their impact on the environment (and on us), and Good is a huge help...
2. Bitches Gotta Eat. This woman is so refreshingly frank, and hilarious.

Watching:
1. Season six of 30 Rock. Sometimes you don't realise how much you've missed something until it's back in your life. I'm using so many 30 Rock references to explain what I mean that pretty soon I'll be incomprehensible to anyone who doesn't watch it. 

Doing:
1. On my sister's advice, I've switched to natural skincare, including rosehip oil, the smell of which brought back a rose-hued memory of my Mum reclining in her black shiny lycra togs on a sun lounger in our old backyard, with my sister and me squashing capsules of what she says was Vitamin E oil but smelled exactly like rosehip. I haven't noticed my skin glowing (my desired effect), but I do feel like a real, grown-up lady when I put it on, and that's not nought.
2. Birthday planning. We are three days away from the first of the seven birthdays our family celebrates in July, and at the risk of jinxing everything, we are organised and on track - even with three of the birthday people being in different cities to us and needing their presents sent. Now we feel like it's okay to start getting excited about our own birthday, and trying to plan the finer details without building it up so that it can only end in disappointment...

Listening to:
1. This song, which Vincent brought home a few days ago. At first I found it a bit depressing; it's musical genius, and when you love music and would like to make it, that can be hard to listen to. But once you get over yourself, and realise that people who make great music might wish they'd come up with this, you can just enjoy it for what it is. Genius. Bastards.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

What Is, And What Could Be

Obviously, Vincent and I are huge Tarantino fans. Pulp Fiction was one of the first things we discovered we had in common; on our first date we danced to Cest La Vie (although it was in a disused sailors' home rather than a diner, and there was a third person dancing with us). We watch Pulp Fiction several times a year, the Kill Bills at least once a year, and his others once in a while. We're also huge fans of Wes Anderson. We've seen everything he's directed, most of them several times, and quote Rushmore probably more than any other film (except, in my case, While You Were Sleeping; criminally underrated script). 

Anyway, last night we watched True Romance, written by Tarantino, and while I mostly enjoyed it, I couldn't get past the completely pointless racism in the film. The worst of it came in a monologue delivered by Dennis Hopper (which didn't help), in a scene where he's being beaten to make him give up his son's location. What we already know of his character is limited; he was a cop, an alcoholic, and a largely absent father, but he's turned things around (and not too late, as far as his son is concerned), and is more or less a normal, pretty decent guy. His refusal to give up his son, and his bravery in the face of a bad bastard (Christopher Walken) with a totally impressive collection of henchmen (Spiros from The Wire, James Gandolfini) makes it seem as if we're meant to be on his side, and that he's a smart guy. And then his moment of glory comes in the form of a horrible, racist rant. Vincent and I were baffled. Tarantino frequently uses racism in his films (Reservoir Dogs was a bit too much for me), and it bothers us; we've talked before about why he does it - if it's part of characterisation (Captain Koons, Jimmy) and to provide background. (I'm not saying this makes it worthwhile.) But this rant had absolutely no bearing on any character, and seemed particularly insidious because it came from someone with whom we felt we were supposed to sympathise. And if not, then were we supposed to sympathise with his tormenter? Who was offended by the racist story, not because he objected to the racism, but because the story made him the descendant of an ethnicity he too was prejudiced against, and he felt insulted. Maybe we were being simplistic thinking we were supposed to sympathise with someone, but I honestly think we were meant to be on Hopper's side. Tarantino doesn't usually write his characters as straight bad or good, and while he isn't averse to violence simply to entertain, this didn't feel like one of those instances (that scene came later, and was pretty impressive).

We watched on, but that scene left a really sour taste in both our mouths. I was thinking about it today, and when I put on another Moonrise Kingdom playlist, I thought Wes Anderson would never have something like that in one of his films, and it made me mad at Tarantino and happy with Anderson (I do tend to write my characters as good or bad). Then it struck me that the only non-white central characters I could think of in any of his films are Pagoda and Henry in The Royal Tenenbaums, and then Margaret and Mr Littlejeans in Rushmore (although the latter two aren't central characters, and the former two barely are). Wes Anderson's stories take place in a certain sphere; the characters are privileged, and their problems usually internal, and pretty middle class. 

This has made me wonder if Tarantino's films really are more racist. His central characters are always a mix of black, white, and more recently, Asian and Hispanic. Is it worse to use the racial slurs but to write for a range of ethnicities, than to exclude those ethnicities completely? I'm not sure. Maybe I'm being over the top about this, but exclusion is racism; perhaps not in intent, but certainly in practice. I'm not suggesting every film has a character named Token, but there's no evenness, no equity in the stories being told, and as long as there isn't, there has to be some diversity in the casting of these stories. The debate over The Help now comes to mind, and the criticism Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis received  for taking their roles (remembering Mammy in Gone With The Wind), and later whether the Academy Award Octavia Spencer received was really worth anything when it is a mere symbol that won't change her acting options, or those of any other woman of colour in Hollywood. At the time I agreed with the criticism, but later I wasn't sure. Was it better that they had gotten work? I'm not sure about this either. Maybe it's not something to compare. Tarantino's films include racism that annoys me, and that I don't always believe enhances my understanding of the films. I wish Wes Anderson's casts would be more diverse, and I don't believe it would change his stories at all to cast people of different ethnicities.

I guess, whether or not it's something to compare, that racism and discrimination come in many forms, not only in explicit rants. I'd like to know what anyone else thinks. Tarantino's style is infinitely more in-your-face than Anderson's, but both deal with serious subject matter in their own ways, and both have responsibilities as artists. Art is not merely entertainment, and it's purpose is not only to reflect what is.

Now, being mindful that it is Sunday and therefore a day of rest, I'll leave you with a part of True Romance I did enjoy, and that was Alabama's wardrobe. My own wardrobe has a serious lack of animal prints that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.




Screenshots taken by me, hence the... quality.