Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Beery Merry Xmas

A secular green tree at the local pub.
Not much "holy" about this holiday spirit,
but plenty of good will.

Cosmic event

The summer solstice total lunar eclipse shadow slowly ebbs away, revealing the full moon once again. Dunedin 21st Decmber 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

From the Archives

Longsuffering Tabby must repay the humans for all the Fancy Feast and once a year dress up in Santa Costume. Sigh.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Flotsam & Jetsam

I am getting a little tired of all the "10 best" and "100 best" end of the year lists, and I am NOT going to do one myself. I think they are spurious, and I have learnt enough now to know how bogus and commercially-controlled some of them are. Or how fear and love and mutual obligation control the choices. But I thought I would photograph a pile or two of the books that are being processed here at the tabby ranch right now. Many of the books I have read have been filed away already or are at the office if they were work-related.

I liked lots of books and I hated a few (there were some distasteful revenge fantasies I had to read for work, and they've been filed under "d" for "demented old has-beens"), but because it is Xmas I will point out some highlights.

I am totally happy to recommend any of the following:

FREEDOM ~ Jonathan Franzen (HarperCollins)
Anyone dissing this, even with the typos, needs their head read.

QUININE ~ Kelly Ana Morey (Huia NZ) Brilliant, energetic, and irreverent. A romp, a bricolage. Spoof of a historical novel, set in Europe and New Guinea. Flawed and funny, the best novel by a New Zealander so far this year. (I haven't read Lloyd Jones yet, but I'm not hopeful: it sounds like a calculated piece of journalism, but, he's so good, he probably pulls it off anyway.)

STEAL AWAY BOY ~ poems by David Mitchell (Auckland University Press) Divine.

BLOOD MEN ~ Paul Cleave (Random House NZ) crime. Chilling and well written. And puts most of the bland literary fiction coming out of the universities, in the shade.

NO FRETFUL SLEEPER ~ Paul Millar (AUP) Literary biography, a fascinating portrait of someone who chose the easier path.

THE COLLECTOR'S DREAM ~ Pierre Furlan (translated from the French by Jean Anderson) The best novel about New Zealand has been written by a non-Kiwi. The story is based on a real family but the author has the integrity, in fictionalising them, to give them fictional names. Bravo.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

So this is Christmas

Waiting for Santa.

And here he is, but no free chocolate this year.

Some of the floats seem a little dated but I guess any spare money has to go into the stadium from now on.

We're lucky to even have a parade.

There was a huge crowd. One of the floats broke down and Santa had to take a detour.

But it all worked out OK in the end.

I especially enjoyed the planes and the boats and the trains.

And the bagpipes.

You won't find any grinching or bah humbugs on the Tabby blog this year.

I hope you all enjoy a very happy and safe holiday season.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Cry me a Pike River

How can we make sense of tragedy? We can't. We can weep, we can get angry, we can turn to prayer or to poetry or to music. We can hug, we can hope, we can scream, we can get stone blind drunk. And that's just those of us who are not personally undergoing the torments of uncertainty and loss. Our hearts go out to all those personally touched by the mining disaster that took place one week ago today, and that has been unfolding over the agonising days since then. We are a nation in mourning.

For myself it's poetry that speaks to me.

Jeffrey Paparoa Holman "In the house of my body I carry that river"

TS Eliot "Who then devised the torment? Love."

Philip Larkin "The Explosion"

Friday, November 19, 2010

Road Trip

Recently I was in dire need of a holiday. This parlous state tends to creep up on me, workaholic that I am, and usually by the time I realise I need a break, I just can't wait the three months for the specials on the tropical holidays, or even the three weeks for the cheap Grabaseat deals for NZ and Oz.

I need to walk out now or I will explode. Or is it implode?

Anyway I did get professional advice to "disengage completely" and I do believe in listening to the experts on such things. I don't seem to be able to do it without outside permission, though...

So having seen sense, where do you go for a holiday if you already live at the beach - the place where everybody else comes for their holiday?

Why you take a road trip to the mountains... And nice it was.

First we went up the Waitaki Valley, following a heavily modified river.

What a glorious country New Zealand is, even when we have done our best to destroy it. When we dam up the rivers, and tame their wildness, their freshness, we still manage to create a strange lovable beauty out of the destruction and domination.

And then you get to the mountains, and gingerly tread along the great alpine fault that is notoriously stretched as tight as a rubber band and at any moment will snap causing a massive shifting and heaving and seismic uplift: "The Big One".

Would the Big One happen while we were in its own back yard?

It didn't, but I wasn't worried anyway. At least we wouldn't have another tsunami scare while we were that far inland.

Anyway, we found quiet vast spaces with fresh mountain air, roaring fires, and hot tubs.

Sometimes you have to go a long way to learn to sit still again, and remember how to relax.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Sea Question

This is a beautiful book of poems by Elizabeth Smither accompanied by photographs by Jane Dove Juneau. (South Pacific Light Press 2010)

It reminds me a bit of the genre of book I was once familiar with, in my past: the devotional prayer/photo book I used to pick up when on a contemplative prayer retreat at a convent or monastery or other spiritual centre.

The aim is not to hurry through the book, but to stop with an image or a word or a line.

And head off on your own direction, or even into stillness.

Smither is a fine poet, so there is no question of this being a mere coffee table book, or even that her poems needed enhancement in any way. They didn't. The addition of the photography is just a gift, allowing for visual as well as poetic meditations, and for connections to be traced or developed if you feel like it.

The book is a treasure. An indulgence perhaps, because of course, including attractive glossy full-page photographs means it costs more than a slim volume of verse, and it's probably too big to read on a bus or a plane.

I think it would make a fine gift, for oneself or for someone else.

It's like a portable refreshment for the mind and heart - and the soul, if you like.

Here's my current favourite phrase from the book:

"all cats are publishers"

(from 'A Cat called Straus')

Friday, November 12, 2010

Kitten season

Still haven't got a cat. Not that the Tabby could ever be replaced. But there's a cat sized hole in my life. And talk of kittens has me as clucky as a chook.

Trouble is, kitten season is also baby bird season. So the jury is still out, and cat hair is poignantly absent from the sofa.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

An ambitious building project

Here (above) is Supervisor Sparrow watching her male tug on a ridiculously large stalk of dry grass as he laboriously pulls it in under the corrugated iron of our neighbour's roof.

The Sparrow family is a sprawling dynasty that supplies endless delightful year-round entertainment to us.

Right now the viewing is x-rated as the courting couples carry out their copulation. (No photo I'm afraid. In any case it's "blink and you miss it" stuff.)

And then, as spring follows winter, the birds are kept busy building their sprawling nurseries.

The snapshot below was taken a few moments earlier than the one above. It shows how large the stalk of dry grass was. I've never quite seen such a grandiose undertaking from such a small bird. A Sparrow Gus is not visible; he's tugging the stalk in, while being carefully watched by the matriarch.

Here is a link to a pic of Gus in late 2009, bringing what we thought of at the time as a large plank back to the nest. He has outdone himself in 2010!

Overheard in the supermarket

"I live next door to him on Farmville."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Not all cats are black

and not all poetry rhymes.

Every self-respecting Tabby knows that.

Here's an excellent article by Emma Neale, who edits the weekly Monday's Poem in the Otago Daily Times. I'm guessing Emma has read one-too-many furious letters to the editor complaining about the new-fangled non-rhyming rubbish that passes for poetry these days.

Great argument.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Do not try this at home!

Lucky to survive!

The only thing we learn from this is that some humans are not highly evolved.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Merbunny

We first saw the merbunny nearly a year ago, while we were returning home from the city to our new beach house late at night, driving along the narrow road, harbour on one side, steep cliffs on the other.

What was that our car lights had picked up, running across the road in front of us from the sea wall to the sheer clay bank? A rabbit? Where had it been? On that side there was only a rock wall and the sea below!

It's a mer-rabbit, not brer-rabbit, we joked, not quite sure if we could believe our eyes. But once or twice in the year since, we have spotted a similar sight at a similar spot. A rabbit, either running to or from the little rock beach.

Was it really a merbunny family? Were they feasting on the sea lettuce?

And then the other day we acquired photographic evidence: down below the road, among the rocks and the seaweed, was the merbunny...

Shocking Times

The top Geonet graph is a record of the aftershocks in the past 24 hours; the one below it is the picture early last week, 3 days after the massive shallow earthquake near Christchurch. I guess the tremors are reducing in magnitude over all, and are perhaps less frequent; but what a barrage!

Couldn't blame the poor locals for still feeling under siege in this extraordinary natural disaster which has done such terrible damage to NZ's second largest city.

And yet because of the timing of the quake just after the Friday night-life dissipated, and before the Saturday morning early birds were out and about, and because of NZ's strict building codes, there was no earthquake injury death at all... a miracle...

The only earth tremor I have felt was the original shock which was huge and terrifying even at a great distance. In Dunedin just after 4.35 am we felt an enormous but gentle swaying and rolling that seemed to go on for over a minute and woke most people. Some cupboard doors opened and closed and lights swayed dramatically and a few things that were poorly placed fell down to the floor. The Dunedin town clock and the University Registry Clock both stopped.

My heart goes out to those who have suffered damage and who are still faced with the anxiety with each aftershock of wondering how big THIS one is going to be...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Keeping up the Standard's

A terrific example of "The Grocer's Apostrophe" noticed in a branch of New Zealand's biggest mainstream bookseller.

This is the chain that is so miserly about shelf space for good literature and for local literature.

Not too fussed about literacy either, it seems.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I'm not scared, yet...

Just about the funniest thing I have ever seen, arrived in the post today.

Probably the first time ever the sight of a dalek has not given me a chill and made me want to find a couch to hide behind.

This knitted dalek is very cute.

Or... Or...

Oh no! Could it be an evil plot to infiltrate Earth once again??

Where's the Doctor??

The ubiquitous tabby

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Now that's Ironic.

"I'll have that chocolate afghan please, and a trim flat white."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

"Solidarity Forever"

Nothing gets the left wing back out on the streets quicker than a looming threat to the rights of workers. Today at very short notice, Dunedin unionists and activists from a variety of political parties and persuasions gathered to raise their voices in a fervent objection to the prospect of a shift to the hard right in the workplaces of New Zealand.

Lots of flags and impassioned speeches. This overlord National/Act/Maori Party Government - that won't be happy until they have instated a situation approximating the slave labour we see in some coutnries - hasn't seen the last of this.

If only we can keep the usual left wing sectarian pettiness out of the mix, that is. Otherwise there will be more ego preening and bickering than barricading, and the elite class always delight in that, they count on it...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Twitterday the 1st of Bono

Yesterday's Woden's Day of the month of Juno ticked over to today's Thor's Day of the month of Julius.

I am so over days and months named after ancient gods and emperors - aren't you?

Let's throw them all out and have an internet poll where everybody gets to vote for new names.

For the days of the week, we could probably keep Moon Day and Sun Day - they're nice - and maybe add a Star Day and an Earth Day. Although the science fiction fans will want to call that one Terra Day. And greenies will want to call it Gaia Day.

In true 21st century style, we'll let the majority txt vote decide...

For the sake of tradition we should keep some gods in the days of the week. The Muslims will want a slot I guess, although they'll probably argue amongst themselves about whether any particular name is blasphemous or not.

If we just had one God-Day, then everybody who believes in a God could just think that was their one, that would save a few other slots for the graven idols so many of the rest of us worship.

Well, and there could be a Buddha Day, and well, anyway, let the peeps decide!

There'll be more slots left over for prophets and deities and their offspring in the names of the months.

It really annoys me that our current label for the 12th month, December, really means "tenth". So first off let's sort that mess out. If we must number them, let's get it right.

Personally I like "January" - that's quite clever naming it for the deity that looks forward as well as back.

But it's open slather on all the others. Julius Augustus just doesn't mean much any more, for heaven's sake.

What's big these days? The current equivalent of emperors and minor deities?

Google, or McDonalds? Harry Potter, Twilight. Fifa. Disney?

Time for an overhaul. You heard it here first.

White rabbits!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wax-eye City

Mutton-fat and sugar-water: they're eating us out of house and home!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Blog of One's Own

It's two years today since I made my first post here on the Tabby's Blog.

"Does the world really need another blog?" I called it, and answered my own question: "Apparently so."

Thanks for coming here to read sporadic and (usually) brief musings or observations on cats, grief, language, poetry, feminism, politics, trains, birds, restaurant meals, and travel... etc...

I honestly don't look at the stats very often, or care about how many readers I get, but at times there have inexplicably been more readers than might be expected for such a slight 'web log'.

I think it's the cats - cat lovers just can't get enough of cats. (That's how I feel!)

Unfortunately the Magnificent eponymous Tabby passed away last year (or so I think - she's in Schroedinger's Box now and there's no way to tell) and since then the blog has tended more to the birdy than catty.

Anyways, I'm very very grateful for this forum and for the fact that as far as I know none of my stalkers have found me here - or if they have, they haven't bombarded the Tabby with any of the abusive comments that I regularly get on my "work" blog...

It's been good to be me, here, as paradoxical as that may seem.

For a brief moment the Tabby was mistaken as a left wing blog, and that was a great honour if not exactly accurate. (The blogger is definitely left wing, but a little too fond of the good life to claim to be a true revolutionary, and too busy and distracted to be able to offer more than an occasional diatribe agin the evil right wing gummint and their dastardly media flunkies.)

Actually having a blog is great practice for learning to compose these little sound bite essays, no bigger than a quick snack.

Keeping the brain alert and alive.

Keeping friends and family amused and informed.

And I've made some lovely new friends.

So many people have now swanned off to Facebook, and beyond that to the intellectual waste land that is Twitter.

But I don't think the Old Girl has had her day yet.

Happy Anniversary to me. And thanks to you for listening.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"A fresh poem every Tuesday"

Another excellent poem on the Tuesday Poem Blog today, this time by (in the Tabby's opinion) New Zealand's greatest living poet, Bill Manhire.

And look at the links on the blog to find your way to more thought provoking and/or beautiful original verse and some old favourites.

Today's poetic flash of the gold-scaled fins of a disappearing carp as the Tabby swipes at it, overbalances and nearly falls in the pond, comes from the ever-relevant William Blake:

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infnity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

~ from 'Auguries of Innocence'


Can't blame an oil spill for this death at the edge of the harbour, but it did bring to mind how fragile and rich the unseen fauna is as well as the visible wildlife that teems around this coast.

More dead ringers

Found a whole crop more lookalike book covers on Pop Culture Junkie.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Doppelganger book covers

The same photograph used on different book covers.

It's a fascinating phenomenon discussed in various places around the net. And of course it is the result of the growing practice of the use of stock photography for book covers.

It's trendy to use photographs, but it's also cheaper not to pay extra for exclusive use of an image.

It leads to the possibility of a new pastime: spot the duplicate book cover image.

Here are a couple of links to some sharp-eyed commentators:



* (The 3 books pictured above were identified by Kevin on the Caustic Cover Critic comments thread.)

Take a rain check

Dear Reader, that is if any Readers bother dropping by to the Tabby any more,

I am Very Sorry that I have not been Blogging here much lately.

Blame the rain. The incessant torrential rain. Or the work. Or the trip away.

Or... Or... Or... well, Facebook...

And as of this week I have a new excuse. Football.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tuesday poem

The cat ate my Tuesday poem yesterday.

And every other poem I can think of posting here is still in copyright.
But fortunately I can go to the Tuesday Poem Blog and read the fine offerings there.

Storm Warnings

The usually sleepy Leith this morning in raging mode through the University of Otago Campus.

I've seen it far worse - up over the banks - and who knows what it'll look like when the water drains down from the hinterland.

We've had rain for days and today expect a southerly change with snow.

Better batten down any hatches that weren't already safely bolted.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mecca Cafes

Plum Crumble at Mecca Mission Bay

Mecca Devonport - something with mushrooms on top

Family Reunion

This is the Tabby's close family member the Birman.

The Birman has a built-in comfy bean bag to recline on...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tuesday Poem: 'On Fame'

"You cannot eat your cake and have it too." - Proverb

How fevered is the man who cannot look
Upon his mortal days with temperate blood,
Who vexes all the leaves of his life's book,
And robs his fair name of its maidenhood;
It is as if the rose should pluck herself,
Or the ripe plum finger its misty bloom,
As if a Naiad, like a meddling elf,
Should darken her pure grot with muddy gloom;
But the rose leaves herself upon the briar,
For winds to kiss and grateful bees to feed,
And the ripe plum still wears its dim attire;
The undisturbed lake has crystal space;
Why then should man, teasing the world for grace
Spoil his salvation for a fierce miscreed?

~ John Keats

More Tuesday Poems

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mr Key you do not have a mandate to sell the family silver

Tshirt seen at the recent enormous demonstration on Queen Street Auckland, against the mining of New Zealand's Scenic Reserves.

The National-led coalition got into charge of the government Piggy Bank by pretending to be "Labour Lite".
The truth of their right wing agenda is becoming more clear to more people.

Tuesday Poem: 'Before I get into sleep with you' by Janet Frame

Poster produced by Phantom Billstickers

for NZ Poetry Day 2006

Poem (c) Janet Frame Literary Trust.

First published in THE GOOSE BATH (Random House New Zealand 2006)

Short and sweet! It's already a classic!

And it's wise relationship advice too.

I heard Bill Manhire yesterday on the Lynn Freeman arts show on Radio NZ saying that he has seen this poster on the walls of student flats.

More Tuesday Poems at Tuesday Poem Blog.