July 31, 2003

my little railway by the sea

The Johnsonville line is really extraordinary. Its defining feature is the way the history of the line shows through clearly in patches, so that the present appears quite marginal.
You start off innocently enough in a venerable train carrige (these guys must be at least 40 years old by now). They are starting to give the impression of being one of those public transport items you'd expect to find in India - a really weird mixture of old metal and new uniforms.
Then you head off through the desert-like railway yards - all brown and no people. Within about 5 minutes you are pulling away from the sea and heading into a series of tunnels along Ngaio george. I've always been facinated by this part of the Johnsonville line. I grew up in Wadestown for part of my life, and was never aware that the Johnsonville line was wending its way through the hillside below me. Literally a stone's throw away (so long as you are in the houses rather than the train).
Fortunately today there was noone throwing stones. The tunnels look positively Victorian (which is probably because they are). They're narrow, brick-lined and short. An early and brave attempt to tackle Wellington's geography. When you're not in a tunnel, you're either looking out over a native-bush covered george or (of you're on the wrong side) a dry, weedly cliff face. A few years ago there was a powerful dought in Wellington, and even the weeds on this face of the hill died. Given Wellington's robust weed population, I was shocked.
Then suddenly you're in a suburban shopping mall. And then a number of backwater stations which appear to have nothing connectected to them. Which became even weirder when 3-40 primary school kids got on. And then off again at another non-descript station 5 minutes later.
And then you're in Johnsonville. Right next to the motorway. And all for about $1.80.
I think I'm in love...

Posted by carla at 06:39 PM

July 29, 2003

I'll be in the band when the revolution comes

Went to see Amandla last night. Not a very good film, but a really interesting topic. Well, I should expand on that. It was beautifully shot, and had good interviews with very interesting and influential people. But I didn't end up much better informed than I had been. And the range of people interviewed was a bit limited. It compared poorly with the Charlie Chaplain documentary I saw tonight, which was stuffed full of information and still managed to evoke a sense of the artist. Benefits of a smaller topic I guess. And rampant opinionatedness on my part :)
The main theme of Amandla was the place of ingoya (songs) in the freedom movement of the blacks in South Africa.
Some thoughts came and went while I was watching. I'm pretty much just noting them here, and I'll expand later.
Firstly, the places where songs are limited. There were some places where music was used during the Holocaust. But you don't hear of them being used as resistance tools or methods of warming the spirit.
Also the places where songs are used for political reasons in Western culture. Most of the songs that evoke a need to take action again injustice are union songs. The songs of workers who worked and died without ever getting enough money to build a better life. And some of the older hymns and the spirituals. Amazing Grace is a beautiful expression of hope in the face of an experience which makes you just wish to lie down and die. Also the role of song in the queer community. Not necessarily so many songs that were overtly written by and for queer people, but there were many songs which were adopted and subverted for queer purpose. Often by drag queens. 'I Will Survive' is one hell of a song.
I was also struck by the similarities between the white opinion of black music and musicality and pakeha opinions of maori music and musicality. Here were black people singing cheerfully about how they were going to kill the white people and the white people were saying "How nice, what lovely singing. How talented these blacks are. Can't work or vote, but very musical."
I was left thinking about the process of colonisation - particularly what the big fights are over; often land. But in this case also language (also true of New Zealand and Wales). It made me wonder what I'd choose to loose: land, language or history. Then I included food into the list.
I come from a very long list of migrants, going back 4-5 generations only a handful of my ancestors were born and died in the same place. So land would be my first to go.

Posted by carla at 11:16 PM

baby chutney

A wee while ago I went to dinner at a friend's house. They have a family member who is about 8 months old and only just bigger than the cat.
Anyhow, this small person had spent most of the evening being entertained by fully grown adults which had just saved her from being one of those annoying babies which cries all the time. Fortunately for her, she currently has a totally delightful smile, and the game of 'can I get her to smile again' proved reasonably rewarding. Funny that. Zebra babies need to be able to walk within hours. Human babies should be able to smile in the same timescale.
Anyhow, I wandered past this small person with a pot with the remnants of the mashed potatoes and kumara we'd just eaten, and I suggested that it was a shame I didn't have a bigger pot to put her in. She seemed to like that. Shortly after I turned around and her father had put her in the big stewing pot which had been sitting on the stove. One of those things you make jam and chutney in. Well, that pot could have been made for that child. I've never seen someone more perfectly snugged into a small space (even in economy airplanes where you'd think they'd been increadibly valuable). She seemed to like it much (I think it was supporting her and giving her a good view of the kitchen at the same time). And yes, the element *was* off.
Personally, I was a drawer baby myself.

Posted by carla at 05:29 PM

July 27, 2003

the lineouts sucked - but not as badly as adidas's jerseys

so, did anyone see the Australian team in the last rugby match between the All Blacks and the Wallabies? I didn't. I saw some people in a strange green, gold and white strip who were referred to as the Australian side - but I certainly didn't see anything resembling the usual Aussie team. Firstly, they didn't win. Secondly, they never looked like winning, nor did they ever look like they were attempting a comeback. This was a new experience for me. And strangely les fulfilling than a hard fought game.
Even less fulfulling was the All Black's strip. It was the one thing worse than the line outs. I was never that fond of the all black idea. I always thought the white collars set the emphasised how black the rest of the strip was (and it was a good way to tell how muddy the field was by half time).
Anyway, Adidas have managed to create a strip in which none of the players look any good. They look suspiciously like someone who's partner bought them something new while they weren't there, and has insisted they wear to a night club. Oh. Except Doug Howlett. He looked pretty damn nice.

Posted by carla at 11:30 PM

July 25, 2003


well okay, it probably wasn't the most pragmatic methods of transport, but it certainly was inventive.
The thing that gets me, is they sank the truck! I'd have wanted it for a museum of some kind. I've often felt vaguely melancholy about people who dislike their home so much they go to extreme lengths to get away. I wonder whether they are leaving something, or going to something..., and I hope they aren't that stuck on leaving something.
Anyway, this time I was positively delighted. I mean really. The truck is even pretty.

Posted by carla at 03:35 PM

July 24, 2003

the magic disappearing mrs hussein

For the most part I could care less about Saddam Hussein or his sons. Or indeed any of his male relatives. I totally conceed the point that they are memorably horrible individuals and are very famous. But I'm currently curious about the women in this family.
I'm assuming that they lack any of the traditionally interesting features of the female partners of male tyrants (no massive shoe collection, for example). I'm also assuming that they don't support the view of the men as evil and inhuman.
What happens if you marry someone who turns out to be a tyrranical psycopath? How you do deal with what that means for the upbringing of your children? Particularly in a time when politics necessitates a hefty armoury.
How is she dealing with the current family fortunes? Given the likelihood that she'll not see any of them again, are the members of her family already dead to her? What are the implications of choosing to be the partner of someone (based on one set of criteria) when other people will judge you based on political criteria?
Is she even alive? Would the news pick it up if she wasn't?

Posted by carla at 05:15 PM

July 22, 2003

Is National recovering?

There has been a lot of writing since the National Party annual conference about how National is putting itself back together.

I'm still thinking National looks like the corrective element of the two main parties. Not the default party that spends the majority of its time in power (think National 1950-1980). I've been interested to note that English isn't making any notable headway with any economic or state sector management policy. Mostly race issues, which tends to be soft support. (If you think of NZ First and ACT in 1996. Though this may change if economic factors stabilise for long enough, and people find a personal reason to vote on race relations grounds.)

I'd suggest that New Zealanders are still shaped by the 1980s and 1990s rightwards shift - and the experience was widely thought to be horrible. Because we don't have the experience of what would have happened under other policy settings, I think bright-eyed economic rationalism still gives people the willies. In a funny way, the more competantly English outlines economic policy and the more he looks like he'll actually *do* something if in power, the more voters he will alienate.

And there is an interesting problem with trying to appeal to the values of industry and self reliance. I'd suggest that too many New Zealanders have been trying very hard to be self-reliant, and feel resentful that it appears to be harder (or less rewarding) to be self-reliant in New Zealand than it does in America or Oz.

I've not read anything that would indicate to me that the people at the conference felt they had anything to do with voters. I'm happy that they feel unified and so forth and it should stop them from fading away (or embarrasing themselves further), but I don't think it will get them over 35% in the election.

Posted by carla at 12:11 PM

July 17, 2003

officer, there appears to be a naked man on my billboard

Anyone noticed the billboards with the naked male cyclist on them?

I'm facinated. After how ever many years with the objectification of women being a hot issue, this billboard seems to have appeared without any comment.

In this case, I think there is an interesting distinguishing feature: normally, the male gaze isn't represented anywhere in the image, but the billboard includes a woman looking at the guy. Also, you often have the female face being edited out (the dehumanising aspect), but in this case the female gaze has no face, and the object (male cyclist) does.

If the roles were reversed, I would expect people to be really, really offended. But nothing in this case.

I'm confused.

Posted by carla at 10:55 PM

July 16, 2003

warning: *grumpy*

If my ancestors promised certain rights to a group of people, I expect to honour those promises. I am really disappointed that New Zealanders seem so hell bent on breaking the promises of the Treaty of Waitangi.

I would have hoped that being people of our word was a fundamental plank of New Zealand culture, but it appears that we prefer to steal things spend 150 years pretending that we didn't and (when the victim actually is about to get their day in court) we decide that we'll change the law to justify ourselves.

Our cardinal values appear to be having bbqs on the beach, and not treating anyone differently from the way we would like to be treated, regardless of whether it is appropriate or just.

As far as my understanding goes, British law (which is not often very supportive of indigenous legal rights) recognises customary rights. All British law. Not just the special New Zealand flavour, but basically all commonwealth countries. customary rights started their life as a legal protection over various behaviours of a bunch of white people in a small island of the coast of europe. It was brought in to give legal protection against the rampant privatisation of land.

Maori are (as is their right as british subjects, conferred upon them by the Third Aritcle of the Treaty) attempting to assert their customary rights to certain areas of land around and under the sea. In some cases this is deemed to be the equivalent of freehold land, in others simply legal recognition of a special relationship or practice.

It isn't even like the New Zealand coast line is thoroughly accessible anyhow. My local seafront was locked up by the Port of Wellington for most of my smaller years, and I was forced to limit my experiences to Oriental Pde. I'm excessively greatful that the harbour has opened up so much. Other areas are inaccessible except over private land (e.g. parts of Cape Paliser).

Which doesn't mean I am a bleeding heart liberal. Bleeding hearts never helped anyone, and they have a strong tendancy to be more about the bleeding hearted than the original victim (can't you just hear the baby-boomers weeping "but it's all about *me* and I'm so sorry about that!").

Neither do I think Maori are not as optimistic as the next group of people with a legal case to argue.

But I don't like being put in a situation where I am deemed a fraudster and a cheat simply because white New Zealand lacks the grace and wit to honour our promises and our own law.

How can we expect Maori to be graceful and understanding of the arrogant and greed-fueled theft of their rightful land, resources and taonga, if we continue to be as mean and petty as we are currently appearing.

In reality, I think most of the preciousness around these issues is doomed to go the way of the Saxon and Norman divisions. We are intermarrying at a veritably heartwarming pace. Who is to say that these customary rights are not a useful way of protecting our grandchildren's rights to a barby on the beach against the hoards of asian immigrants? :-/

Posted by carla at 11:30 PM

July 14, 2003

Well, I *tried* to pay my parking ticket

Since sometime in February, I have been attempting to pay a pair of parking tickets that I accidentally aquired when parking in Napier City on December the 24th (which I assumed was a holiday, whereas it is actually a normal work day).

I paid (3 days late) the two $10 parking tickets. This was because they had sent the reminder notices to my old address, and my old flatmate had failed to forward them. As they had helpfully informed me that they would fine me a further $30 for each ticket if I paid late, I sent the Parking Department a cheque for $80. I rather hoped that this would be the end of the matter.

In the meantime both tickets had indeed collected the $30 fine, however I (intermittently) received correspondance from the District Court threatening me with further finage should I not pay. For various reasons I have found myself paying these new fines a few days late on a regular basis. Some of these included them sending new reminder notices to my old address, despite me finally updating my car registration with the aim of actually receiving correspondance that was intended for the owner of the car.

Most interestingly, the tickets have somehow ended up with different reminder notice schedules, with one ticket acquiring a final notice on the 9th of June, while the other (received half an hour later originally) had a second to last notice on the 16th of the same month.

I eventually sent the District Court a cheque (for $140) on the grounds that this would help somehow. I wrote my new mailing address a number of times on the envelope and cheque itself. They accepted and cashed my cheque, and sent me back a cheque for $60 for overpayment (I have no idea how they arrived at this number, nor whether this has stopped both tickets or merely confused one of them and cause the other to send my mail to an entirely new address). I rang them to confirm that there were no outstanding tickets.

Today, I received my original $80 cheque and the original notices back with a small handwritten note explaining that I had written the incorrect amount on the cheque and could I please correct the amount (presumably to $20) and resend. I can only assume that they could only cash the cheque for the original $20, and not the further $60 for the fines for late payment. As I have since closed this account, I sadly cannot comply.

I could cry.

I am seriously considering sending both the City Council and the District Court a collection of cheques in different denominations so that they can figure out exactly what I have to pay and rip up (or send back) any unrequired cheques.

I am also reminded of the dial soap correspondance (which is more evocative than anything I can organise here). http://home.uchicago.edu/~rascalzo/arch/palace/library/humor-misc/bathsizedial.html

Posted by carla at 11:41 PM

July 12, 2003

what temperature am i?

okay, so it's a bit weird, but apparently your base body temp is a good indicator of ovulation. I could care less, as I often notice my ovulation as very invasive pain in the lower abdomen (it may just be seasonal apendicitus).

Either way, I've been taking my temperature recently on the off chance. And I'm fast coming to the conclusion that my body temp definitely reduces when I'm not properly kept warm. So, for example, I went out on the beach again tonight (v. windy, v.cold) and when I came in my body temp (according to the themometer) was 35.65 degrees c. Or "heading for hypothermia".

I'd always suspected that it wasn't just me 'feeling the cold' but was an actual change in the way my body was. Now I have incontrovertable proof. Especially as my temp continued to rise as I spent more time inside (with heater).

Or possibly I am just a freak :)


Editorial note: For anyone who is freaking out that I'm about to sprog - I'm not, we're just checking options.

Posted by carla at 12:30 AM

July 10, 2003

couldn't think of a heading for this one

Just went for walk on beach. Specifically not a beach so much as a fairly evenly distributed mix of rocks and sand and more rocks. Moon is doing what the sun does in summer at the moment, and was riding very high (almost directly overhead). Noone around at all, cept me.

I miss Aro Valley much. I really liked living somewhere where the majority of my friends and memories (and a fair chunk of my family) are. It is comforting, and due to being so close to town, is also full of promise of interesting things to do.

But it is indecently pleasing to be able to put on scarf and walk about in the big blue nothing and listen to the waves on the beach. I'm often aware of the history of Moa Point, in terms of there having being two Maori settlements nearby. I can imagine people walking around the same area fishing from the rocks or collecting shellfish or flax. Mostly I am aware of the sea as an active part of the people-oriented geography. Maori would have been paddling past Moa Point on their way round to Makara or Titahi Bay or heading over to the Wairarapa. The sea dominates everything around here (only slightly less than the airplanes and the sewerage).

As someone who tends to be aware of history, this connection with a time prior to the Treaty enables me to make sense of the land. It is partly important as it gives me a sense of belonging, and it is also important as it enables me to acknowledge the lives of the people who were here before me. I've often found that New Zealand feels dissociated from itself, as if it just plopped out of the sky 150 years ago and before that there might have been some birds or something. Perhaps it is part of my european heritage that insists that there must have been something here before that. Perhaps it is just a sense of being in someone's living room without having been introduced.

Either way, it is a truely beautiful place and I feel embarrased by the luxury of it all. At some point I'll sort out my wetsuit and go for a midnight kayak. :-)


Posted by carla at 11:07 PM

July 08, 2003

new job ii

in the interests of having nothing to say about my life to anyone in person, because they'll all have read my blog...

the new job is currently looking pretty good. i was expecting to not do anything of a revenue generating nature and to enjoy watching the tumbleweeds (on crack or otherwise) rolling gently between the desks on their way to the outer reaches. however these were the only things that were quite like I'd expected.

first off, my team is quite chatty. before lunch we'd managed to cover 3-4 members of the royal family, a number of collagues, the weather, my boss's puppies, and quite a number of potential cures for back strain. my worries of serious, professional, librarian types were quite unfounded.

i was expecting coffee, but the presence of biscuits *and* fresh fruit was grand (and saved me eating any actual lunch).

other, more distant colleagues were helpful, intelligent, reasonably well spoken on average and occassionally funny. people talk to each other in the kitchen area...

I only made one embarrassing gaff, which wouldn't have been too bad except it was in an email, and I'd just been hired for my writing skills. urgh.

this was in no small amount due to my huge 21 inch computer screen (I literally can't write on the thing as the sentences get lost in the corners). my desk and chair were comfortable, and I have the interesting new experience of a split keyboard. I also get a partial view out through the State Highway 1 cutting to Johnsonville, which gives me a really valuable sense of space.

so far, everything has been intelligable (except why I can't import a csv file of contacts into Outlook) tho everyone keeps telling me that nothing will make sense for the first year. i suppose i'll get scared and confused in time.

must sleep now, so i do not yawn copiously through all my meetings tomorrow.

all in all, v. odd, but with considerable promise.

Posted by carla at 12:00 AM

July 06, 2003

okay, the weather report was a little premature

and after I got home, there was all kindsa interesting weather. hail is very, very painful when it hits your exposed skin at whatever kinda speed it was going at.

I was walking around on the beach when I discovered this. Mostly, I didn't notice the weather because I was wrapped up in the ubercoat and had a cap on. Inside that outfit there isn't much that is going to bother me.

(oh, it is hailing again)

I've always been surprised how people seem to ignore the joys of being warm. Properly warm, even when you are walking right in the weather. The point where smug actually takes over from snug.

In the interests of feeding my smugness, I've collected the following:

* The Ubercoat: At least Nato produced something worthwhile. These coats are basically a heavy cotton outer and a fake fur inner. It has a hood and covers a good portion of the legs. Mine was built for someone at least a foot taller than me, and consequently it runs right down to my knees (apparently I also look like a snow person in it).

* Possum fur scarf (wool and possum actually), long enough to go round neck twice, and about the warmest fabric I've ever run into (barring a particular wool blend I found in Melbourne of all places). Much love to my partners in crime Ceri and Eleanor for this one.

* a black caps cap or stockman hat (keeps rain, etc off face).

* add in boots (and warm socks) I'm basically impervious to harm.

after I'd put all this lot on (over a normal set of street wear) I mostly wandered around the beach giggling happily to myself and throwing stones. Which is why my hands got hit by the hail.

(okay, it is *really* hailing now, lots and lots - there are handfuls of ice on the front deck. I'm fully expecting interested descriptions of snow from Fi later.)


Posted by carla at 12:38 AM

July 05, 2003

weather report

Well we made it back from the holiday before *all* the roads back from Napier were closed (I think the only way from Napier to Wellingon today would involve passing through New Plymouth). The Moa Point perspective of the storm is that there is no snow, no hail, a pretty damn strong southerly (much, much sea spray over the end of the runway), but nothing too much of the bad. Just a normal Wellington weathery thing.


Posted by carla at 11:45 AM