Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
I found myself in a large brightly-lit place surrounded by smocked and masked creatures speaking unintelligible languages. There were other captive humans in what I assumed to be the alien spaceship hovering over this planet, cloaked from view. The other abductees were lying, like I was, on high bare tables, with tubes and wires connecting us to machines draining and inserting various fluids. The white-clad aliens moved amongst us, standing over us, turning their heads to each other seemingly discussing our strange anatomies. We couldn't really see what they looked like, although some of them were wearing different coloured spacesuits - some were light blue, and some were green, most were white, and I think the ones wearing black were the high status ones who were rarely seen but gave the orders. I can confirm that much of what you've ever heard about being abducted by aliens is actually true: they do have a predilection for anal probes. They also take samples of body tissue, drain off vials of our blood, and experiment on us by injecting various compounds into our systems and observing the reactions. In some cases they remove whole organs or limbs. It seems they were shielded radioactive beings able to look deep inside human bodies to observe our workings. At times I was in very great pain and at other times I was in a dream-like drug-like state. Days passed, I think. It was hard to tell the day from the night.
At times when the aliens weren't around I was able to compare notes with the other captives and many of us had the same story: we were just carrying out our normal lives when suddenly we saw a bright flashing light, heard a loud high-pitched noise, and some sort of swift vehicle or mechanism teleported us to that shiny bright glowing place.
However although I was very afraid for a while, those aliens did turn out to be benevolent, evidently coming from a more highly evolved species than ours, and they quickly taught me an elementary version of their foreign tongue. They identified a medical problem I didn't know I had, and offered me some of their advanced treatments for it.
When they had finished their investigation and documentation, they delivered me back today to near the spot from whence they had suddenly spirited me away. Almost a week had passed. It seems unreal, and now I am wondering if it ever happened at all. But I do know that I missed out on Christmas Dinner!
Also: I feel battered, sore and hungry. I have lost weight. I have bruises and needle marks in strange corners of my body, and there is still what I assume to be an identification tag attached to my arm. I keep finding little sticky pieces of a gum-like compound on my skin.
Recovering at home now.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
This morning was breathtaking at the bay - not a breath of wind. I was up early to be amazed by the sight of a mirror-calm harbour. The water was more still and glassy than I've ever seen it there, and I do believe this is the first time there has been no wind at all, not even a tiny breeze, in the spot we've come to know as "the wind tunnel". And bonus - there was a flock of godwits just out the front stalking the shore in the gently advancing tide, their reflections shimmering around them. They're looking pretty tubby now, their rotund well-fed shapes contrasting markedly with their thin appearance when they first appeared back from their round-trip to Alaska.
I was inspired to sit out in the sunny calm morning after breakfast and read Janet Hunt's new book E3 Call Home: A true story of godwit migration and misadventure (Random House NZ 2009). What a treat! Ostensibly a children's book (with a charming space to write a name on the "This Book Belongs To" plate inside the front cover) this thin glossy book would also be a good gift for anyone else too. I know my Mum would have loved to leaf through it, in her last bedridden years of failing health. She liked to look at colourful easy books, and they had to be light because she was so weak. For the rest of us bird lovers, this picture book offers a lively and informative text and makes a nice companion to the substantial and authoritative recent publication by Keith Woodley, Godwits: Longhaul Champions (Penguin NZ 2009). I am lucky enough to have both books in the still-expanding bird library, and highly recommend them both.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Whites Aviation: Classic Photography of New Zealand From the Air
Alexander Turnbull Library - Godwit (Random House NZ) 2009
This is a very good book. It has clarity, and economy of words and pictures and design.
NZ is captured in a (mostly) 1950s freeze frame at a time of prosperity and blooming growth.
Whether one sees that growth as a cancer or as progress, this book is all about the photos and it provides a suitable conveyance for viewing them.
It's a treat to look at these pictures. All of them - the familiar and the new.
I can see my suburb before I was born, and then I can see a day I remember so well - the day everyone in Auckland except me walked over the new Harbour Bridge. I cried that day because I wasn't allowed to go because I was just out of hospital after major surgery. I watched the ant-size people crawling all over the bridge and here again is that sight!
Ah, nostalgia. On the whole the pictures are from not too close and not too far off. You can't see into back yards and you can't see that NZ was anything but a tidy and perfect society.
It's a middle class view, too, and it's only one part of New Zealand and its reality, but it's a steady, honest middle distance point of view.
The photos were sold to landowners, institutions, business and the government.
What farmer didn't have that proud shot of homestead and farm?
New Zealand was a rich country, on the pig's back.
And what a beautiful country this is.
I'm lucky to have got this for an early Xmas present...
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
And they deserve extra support at a time when people who have disabilities are openly mocked by TV announcers who think it is too Politically Correct to believe that all people have equal rights to respect.
Shame on you Paul Henry and TV New Zealand for enabling your poison!
Somebody got an easy ride for some reason or other - be it nepotism, or doing their time on the casting couch, marrying into fortune, or just generally sucking up or sucking off, as required.
Never mind the rest of us who could do a better job if we just had the right contacts.
I don't think the mediocre do triumph, though, in the long run. Inflated reputations may not pop like a pricked balloon, but they will gradually deflate and become saggy, if they have not been earned for any more than hail-fellow-well-met qualities.
We might hear certain tedious names praised interminably but eventually, if the expert schmoozers, the relatives of the famous, and the best friends of the high and mighty don't have some contribution of their own to make, we won't remember why their name is attached to this or that monument, plaque on the side of a building, or arts fellowship. Good connections can only take you so far. You have to come up with the goods , or it'll all come out in the wash...
Who you know helps, but what you know is more important.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
I've done it myself. Sigh. Mea culpa. Had an important meeting in a cafe. Things got heated, or enthusiastic, voices raised, important issues just had to be spelled out... several people spoke at once or vied for the floor. Time was short, somebody had a plane to catch. The fact that there are other patrons in the cafe, and that they might be of the opinion that you're all being over-loud blow-hards, just doesn't enter your head.
But what are the odds - the particular meeting I recently overheard was on a topic dear to my heart, one that I've been making private and public representations about, and devoting considerable time and effort on. (Not here, darlings!) How very useful...
Starfish Cafe & Bar St Clair Beach Dunedin
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
I know that many other people have done so - gone through the formal complaint process - with no sign of any apology let alone any contrition. So I'll register an informal complaint here, and also I resolve to boycott any advertiser that supports TV One, until they demand that Henry apologises and attends some form of remedial education.
(It has just been brought to my attention that there is an actual campaign to this effect going on over at the HAND MIRROR - Bravo!)
The other point that I'd like to make is that the Human Rights Commission has politely explained they cannot action the many complaints they have received, because "the complaints raise issues about the rights of disabled people, but do not fall within the discrimination provisions of the Human Rights Act".
Why not? Don't people with intellectual disabilities have Human Rights?
It seems that there is a convention on those rights, but NZ has not yet implemented it: the UN Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
MOTHER OF A PERSON WITH AN INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY
Monday, December 7, 2009
There was no question of replacing her. Not at first, anyway. And the blog? Meanwhile, it has become a bird blog!
And now the cat grief is not so keen and the kittens are starting to bloom all around in time for Christmas, and the cat thoughts come back - what fine friends they make, how elegant they are, what lessons they have for us.
And then there's the thought of the damage one cat can do, in a lifetime, in the kind of area where we now live, near where so many exquisitely beautiful birds breed and feed.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Only 21 days to go!
Here's the classic shot of the Tabby in her seasonal finery.
This is the price our cats have to pay for their otherwise cushy lifestyle. Occasionally the humans will want to dress them up.
There is something to be said in favour of the never forgotten and dearly loved stillborn baby:
they never judge you or reject you,
they don't ever do things like take up glue sniffing
Having once broken your heart
But really - how does the hypothetical conversation go, when the right wing reflect on how they might make good on their promise to raise our wages in NZ so they are as high as those in Aussie?
Right-Wing Mover & Shaker: So what is the situation over in Australia?
Right-Wing Flunkie: Well they have strong unions and a Labour Government sir.
Right-Wing Mover & Shaker: (Splutters) That'll never do! What else have they got over us?
Right-Wing Flunkie: Well they have uranium and a host of other valuable minerals.
Right-Wing Mover & Shaker: That's more like it. Have the relevant agencies run around and do the testing for that stuff immediately. We need an audit before we can sell off the family silver!
Right-Wing Flunkie: Unfortunately sir, any significant unexploited mineral wealth is likely to be located in our scenic and nature reserves. It might interfere with our tourism, not to mention the hit to the "clean green" bullshit that goes over so well for our agricultural sector.
Right-Wing Mover & Shaker: Nonsense! Get on to it straight away. Seize the moment while we're still high in the polls! Make sure we get a new pic of John Key grinning his head off plastered over all the news bulletins. Oh and get Tariana on the phone, better square it all up with the Maori Party elite. Give the ruling class bros a bloody mountain back somewhere and shut them up. You can spin this one, surely! Can't believe how well this lark is working so far! What morons New Zealanders are, basically! Hehe! God I love my job!
Right Wing Flunkie: Bob's your uncle! (Exits to carry out his other job as a TV journalist.)
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
I wouldn't have known this, except that at lunchtime in South Dunedin I stumbled upon a fervent St Andrew's Day celebration, complete with kilts and bagpipes.
From http://www.scotland.org/: "In Bulgaria, St Andrew’s Day is known as Edrei (Bear’s Day). The story goes that St Andrew complained to God that he had no feast day, so God told him that any man who did not celebrate St Andrew’s Day would have to carry his own horse! In olden times housewives would throw boiled corn onto the fire to stop the bears ruining their crops. One legend records that an evil stepmother was punished by having her daughter turned into a bear."
Friday, November 27, 2009
The dove descending breaks the air
Who then devised the torment? Love.
~ TS Eliot
The first thing I do here every morning is throw open the curtains and look out to see what the weather is like, where is the tide at, and are there any birds?
This morning we had godwits again, lined up quite close to the house, looking for all the world as though they were staring back at me. Perhaps some of them are as interested in the monkeys as we are in them.
Recently I bought a new pair of binoculars and so had a great squiz at this small group preening themselves with their fine long bills.
But I really need a camera with a telephoto lens!
Christmas wish list!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
The Kiwi blogosphere's own Rachael King and Vanda Symon both have brand new genre novels out in time for Christmas.
No need to go offshore for your summer reading, with such good stuff so close at hand.
Personally I'd love to see both these remarkably talented, intelligent, fluent and well-read women applying their considerable writing ability to literary fiction rather than popular fiction, but that doesn't stop me enjoying their work as it is!
The waiting was over last night for devotees of Dunedin crime writer Vanda Symon. She launched her latest Sam Shephard novel Containment at the University Book Shop (or UBS as we all lovingly refer to it). There was a good gathering and the usual yummy catering the UBS is known for, with the addition of an extra-special treat - Toffee Pops! The bowl of toffee pops pictured above was replenished a few times but totally empty by the end of the evening.
There were quite a few blogs and web sites among the crowd, metonymically speaking, and it's always fun and strangely amusing to meet up in the flesh - there's something almost trangressional about the pleasure of fellow bloggers having materialised in the same location in space and time. And it's always exciting to meet someone whose blog you read and enjoy. When I introduced one fellow blogger to another one, using their real names not their blog names, the first exclaimed "Oh - but aren't you Art and My Life?!" Teehee, yes.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Former NZ Poet Laureate Michele Leggott made a flying visit to Dunedin to 'officiate' at the launch of the latest set of Phantom Poetry Posters
Poems were performed and posters were pasted up.
Escaping out of the howling gale, the poets and friends repair to Circadian Rhythm for more impromptu poetry
Poem by Sandra Bell on a Phantom Poster, Door of Circadian Rhythm Cafe, Dunedin, November 2009
There was some good coverage in the media for this street poetry campaign - the Otago Daily Times gave the event space on their front page, and local rag D-Scene ran some photos of the performers and crowd in their social pages.
Monday, November 23, 2009
When I moved to this bay about six weeks ago, my neighbour told me "the spoonbills will arrive in a couple of weeks". And so they did. They've been here for a while, but one morning last week when I was out at the mail box by the water, a large impossibly bright white bird flew down from somewhere, and finding the tide still too high, made a lazy circle around me, just above the front lawn, and then came to rest nearby on a pile of rocks on the small beach below the sea wall. It was the closest encounter I'd ever had with a spoonbill and it was just the beginning of a superb day in birdland. That was the day the godwits arrived. I hadn't even been promised godwits, I didn't know they fed here sometimes. They've achieved the status of mythical being for me and to have a whole flock of them just out in the bay made everything OK, along the lines of "yet see the red-gold cirrus" (James K. Baxter) or "Not every man has bavarian gentians in his house" (D.H. Lawrence).
Yet see the royal spoonbills...
Not every one has bar-tailed godwits out their kitchen window...
And all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Some of the discussions on bulletin boards etc have got a bit feral actually, and all I can say is, may the saints preserve all of us from falling foul of the feeding frenzy when the masses get their knickers in a twist...
If you will kindly forgive my mixed metaphor, which I freely admit is a crime all too common.
Friday, November 20, 2009
It was wonderful to see that smile again. It was wonderful to see an American smile going out towards everything, accepting everything in the world, instead of shutting everything out.
('Another ending' ~ Anna Kavan)
There are several reasons to read this book - first of all for the interesting essay(s) by Sturm concerning Kavan's life and work and her visit to NZ, and then of course, for the Kavan prose itself, with its quite lovely meditations on life and travel. The book also includes the text of the controversial 'critique' Kavan later published about NZ society. And what a ripping yarn that is!
"The fact is, that I can't do anything but look at things, which of course is another name for dreaming. It's the looking that matters more than what's looked at."
The Kavan pieces can be read as useful social documentary, but also for their literary merit (even though the editing choices sometimes make reading for pleasure a bit of a challenge). At her best, she's scintillating.
My only problem with this edition is that the design is as bitsy and various as the content. It may have seemed like a good idea to have different fonts - one for the Kavan stories, and another (sans serif) font for the accompanying explanatory material and appendices - but I found it quite irritating. Also the decision to use italic font for deleted passages, probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but is I think unkind to the reader. Just my personal taste and opinion of course. But the TINY font size for Kavan's offending Horizon article in the Appendix! Aaaargh! Surely this piece deserved to be treated as more than a footnote, given its notoriety, and its readability. I also noticed a few eyebrow-raising proofreading errors including the misspelling of the name of Random House editor Harriet Allan!
This is a work that would have benefited from a larger format and more generously sized photographs, and a more pleasing design. These are minor quibbles though, in this time of recession and cost-saving. This is a refreshing, fascinating book. The packaging seems to indicate it will have curiosity value only for a niche market, but I feel it deserves a wider audience than that.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
There is much excitement among the retailers of Dunedin at the prospect of each brief influx of thousands of (assumedly) rich tourists.
If the weather conditions are right, we can hear the officious shipboard loudspeaker broadcasting the day's instructions, from our front yard. We could certainly hear the farewell blasts of the ship's horn yesterday, as the Sun Princess steamed out of port.
Photo: The Sun Princess chugs past Aramoana Spit on the way towards the narrow entrance to Otago Harbour. 18.11.2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
When I was younger - as a teenager, a pipe-smoking overcoat-wearing rebel - I would of course deliberately walk under ladders. But the truth is, you have to kind of believe in it to laugh in the face of it, don't you? It would have been best to just not care about the huge weight of trivial caution and counsel that one inherits as part of being a human social being. Of course it takes one a while to be able to tell the difference between sage advice and irrational nonsense, or to make your choice anyway, about which of the advice and nonsense to carry round as your own personal baggage.
I seem to be able to pick up new superstitions or cultural habits quite easily. After living in Korea, I won't blow my nose in public anymore and I get a bit creeped by the number 4 (tall buildings there often don't have a fourth floor). Ever since I lived in Whanganui, I haven't washed teatowels with the rest of the laundry and I won't allow combs or brushes to be put on tables. From my Scottish forebears I've inherited a particular horror of "new shoes on the table".
Superstition and culture are quite closely intertwined aren't they. My parents celebrated every 13th as though it was their own personal anniversary of the day they met, and later chose to marry. So naturally I was raised to like the number 13. Still do, even though today hasn't been crash-hot so far, given there's a blocked drain, a close to overflowing septic tank and an absentee landlord. Grrr.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
It certainly wasn't on Google, or anywhere else on the net for that matter, as far as I could tell.
But Google are on to it. Last week I saw the Google Camera Car driving around a small settlement perilously close to my own previously relatively unmapped vicinity.
Today I saw the car again, parked in the city, and managed to catch a snap. Gotcha!
UPDATE: Google are well on their way to their goal of World Domination. My house is on the Google satellite map now, the roof shining in the sun (I swear I couldn't find it on Google maps six weeks ago when I first moved there), and as we know, street view can't be far away!
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
According to my new cloud book, the phenomenon is called "crepuscular rays"; also "Jacob's ladder".
Earlier I had experienced the vivid sense of living in a McCahon painting, with the green hilly landscape of the peninsula cut up by the rectangular shapes of my window frames.
Next time I looked out it was a Turner painting inviting me to walk out into a squally stormy evening.
I keep telling people how windy and wild it almost always is here, with a storm factory churning out almost constant extremes of weather.
They say things like, Ooh how lucky you are, and, It sounds amazing!
I'm not sure, though, that this place is really fit for human habitation.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Here's a pavlova just the way I like it. Home made. Crisp - even hard - shell, that rings when you bang your spoon against it! Under the crust, are pockets of air, a bit of squishy delicate fluff, and the merest touch of sugary stickiness. Perfection. Just like mother used to make, and unless you make your own, it's a very rare example of the genre these days in this era of the mass-produced cowardly marshmallow pav you can buy in the supermarket.
This one is to be had at Tony's Wellesley Street Restaurant in Auckland. I had it after the carpetbagger steak (stuffed with oysters). It's no wonder I'm losing the battle with my waistband!
I like the fact that the cream is served only on one side, and so can be scraped off easily. I don't care for whipped cream as it gives me a headache.
"The Original Tony's" claims to be Auckland's oldest surviving restaurant and it certainly has been there for as long as I can remember. It's great to get a table by the window and watch the world go by. And the world does indeed go by - just off Queen Street, it's one of those places in the world when eventually you will happen upon almost anybody you can think of...