To the 70 or so people who seem to be viewing Beautiful Monsters through early versions of Netscape, I send my sincerest apologies for the crapness of my stylesheet through your browser. It looks prettier with anything else, honest. I have no idea why, or if there is anything I can do about it. Sorry.
And a pretty red binding.
I’m wandering around with it cradled in my arms like a proud mother with her newly born.
I’m off to celebrate, with cake!
And then, sleep.
Don’t you hate it when you have to get up and it’s still dark and you really haven’t had time to sober up yet? And there’s no food in the house, so you think, damn, I should’ve taken up the offer of crashing at the party, and then I could’ve had cake and tiramisu for breakfast. Never underestimate the goodness of leftover dessert for breakfast. Not that there was much leftover (but I had nothing to do with that because I was allergic to 99% of the ingredients).
Hey, it was almost a blogapapartywhatsit. In that there were at least four bloggers there. Possibly more, but if so they weren’t wearing their domain name plastered across their chest like I was. It was also the first party where, instead of the usual “so, who do you know here” question, someone opened with, “so, do you do this blogging thing?” But on the other hand, most people opened with the standard, pre-internet lines, and when they asked “so how do you know Giles?” and I answered “oh, I met him on the internet,” most of them looked really surprised. Which made me feel kinda old. “What, you haven’t been MSNing since you were in kindergarten? You didn’t meet your first girlfriend on the net? You don’t… oh, never mind.”
During the party Iona claimed that I am good at blogging about social events because “you actually remember stuff.” To which I can only reply, “Who could not remember the talking man breasts?” (And isn’t Iona the one who takes a notebook along so if anyone says anything interesting she can note it down and blog about it?)
Well, I’m sorry to disappoint, but I won’t be good at blogging about this particular social event. Largely because my memories of the evening are excessively cloudy. A distinctly sauvignon blanc shade of cloudy. But I do vividly remember reaching the bottom of two bottles - luckily I didn’t start at the top of both of them (Hey Reb, you know that bottle you left behind, you weren’t coming back for it, eh? That was your wine, wasn’t it?) and then I vaguely recall begging Giles to open another one…
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, everything is very fuzzy, so don’t expect – Noooooo! Wait, it’s all coming back to me! Groan.
There was the guy from the soccer team. *Shudder.* Very friendly lot, the soccer team.
And I walked into a lot of conversations I didn’t understand. Either there were lots of people speaking German, or I was a lot drunker than I thought I was. But even when I found people speaking English I didn’t know what they were on about. Like “the problem with stealth bombers is that you can’t breed them. You put two stealth bombers in a garage together, and… low and behold… nothing happens!” I have no idea how this snippet of conversation fitted into the context of the evening, I can only testify that it occurred.
Phlogiston got hideously drunk. Again. And made a fool of himself. Again. Honestly, sometimes I worry about that tiger.
Giles lurked in the shadows, wielding a cigarette in one hand, a glass of wine in the other, and a beard of ROGUE DEMON HUNTING sprouting from his face.
Carla managed to demonstrate that, after a couple of beers (British, not African) not only can she match my Slightly Tipsy Rapid Babble word for word (in fact I think I was stumbling a few times), but she can also dance Meringue better than I can. You’d think, after six months in Costa Rica, I’d have the hang of it.
I’m not even going to mention the boy who tagged along with us, because the last time I saw him he was saying something about “eleven inches and shoulders like a Buick,” which Iona seemed to take rather literally, “But Buicks don’t have shoulders.” I was still spluttering in the corner. Eleven inches? Cripes!
Towards the end of the evening the guy in the pink shirt walked into the kitchen, pointed at me and said “hey, you look just like this girl, Fiona, from Rotorua. She used to live in Windsor St.” I’m like, “yeah, when I was like seven or something!” How do these people remember? Anyway, once I managed to see him through the alcohol induced blur, he did look a lot like this guy who was a couple of years ahead of me in primary school.
Yeah, it was a good party. Pity about the morning after… one of the little dears found the box marked “musical instruments,” and we had a lively interpretation of Twinkle Twinkle from the two year olds on recorders, accompanied by the older boys with banging devices. Ouch. I really need some sleep. Right after I finish my folio. And go to my best friends 21st. And then it’s our end of course party… But I assure you, sleep will be a feature at some point during the next 48 hours…
Tip for the day – How to make a great party even better;
I recommend the tiramisu.
Beat five egg whites until stiff. Whip about a cup of cream until, well, you know, until it’s whipped. Mix together one packet of marscapone cheese (about 300g) with the egg yolks, half a cup of sugar, and a generous half a cup of white rum. Fold in the egg whites and cream.
Mix together a really strong cup of espresso with a cup or so of Kahlua (or Cafe Brit Liqueur if you can get your hands on it) and half a cup of sugar. Pour the mixture into a shallow tray.
Then take a glass bowl and spread a layer of the creamy mixture in the bottom. Open a packet of sponge finger biscuits, dip the biscuits in the coffee mixture and then arrange a layer of soaked biscuits in the bowl. Cover with another layer of cream and then another layer of biscuits. Repeat until you run out of mixture and/or bowl.
Sprinkle flakes of dark chocolate over the top and chill for a few hours.
NB: This recipe is really not suitable to anyone who is allergic to dairy, wheat, and trying not to eat eggs, sugar or caffeine. Oh and it's from memory, I haven’t made it for years. On account of the allergies…
My folio is due on Monday... and I only really seriously started working on my verse narrative last night. Well, I chose the poems to work around ages ago, but then I just thought about it and worried about it for ages and didn't actually write anything. Now I've got some stuff on paper... but it's nowhere near finished.
The format of the verse narrative is inspired by Love That Dog.
Any feedback on what I've got so far would be greatly appreciated...
really I'm not very happy with it at all
but oh well...
Oh, and it could do with a title!
And please bear in mind that it is very much Work In Progress.
It's really just notes...
it needs lots of work...
oh damn it.
here it is.
What is poetry?
It’s when the words
march across the pages
their footsteps all in time
like so many soldiers
at the end of the lines
they have the same sound
bouncing to and fro
like an echo.
I don’t know
why that’s so
Today we read a poem
about a man
who was acquainted with the night
I don’t think he was really
very well acquainted
he just walked through the night
as though it was just a handful of noises
and places and things
the night must have been different
A poem about the night
The night is like a thick blanket
that falls down
who is awake.
Under the blanket of the night
there are strange sounds
and muffled voices
and whatever the time is
Eagles don’t have hands
but maybe it was hard to find a rhyme
to be an eagle,
to the top
of the world.
I’d like to be
with the sea
and the mountains
and the sun.
I wouldn’t be
Huddled in the doorway, her fingers are numb
as she snatches warmth from the distant sun
watching the road from where they come.
(my rhymes are dumb)
Late at night
she dreams of falling
and wakes with sharp cries
like a bird
I don’t like the poem
about the rose.
I felt as thought the worm
Why doesn’t a bird
the dark secret worm
from the crimson
howling in the night.
Today we read
(such a lovely name
the word is almost
I like the way the lines
circle around each other
in a slow dance
but I feel so sorry
for the old man
there on the sad
his son too busy
thinking of words that rhyme
What if the father is
he can scarcely lift
and his shoulders
sag towards the ground?
What if his tongue
is too heavy
What if he longs
to wrap the night around his shoulders
(If he was my grandfather
I would kiss away his fierce tears
and leave the door
So far we’ve read
lots of poems
We’ve read poems
by William and Dylan
Alfred and John
poems about roses
What I want to know
what did their wives
and their mothers and sisters
with all the cooking
and the cleaning
and the children
(so many children)
there really wasn’t much time
I felt so sad
for the dead man
I wanted to reach out and touch
his cold fingers
I wanted to shout - You are real
I can hear you!
but when I opened my mouth
all that came out
Sometimes I feel
and I wonder
if I am drowning
or if I am already
Stevie Smith is a woman!
Or she was
when she was alive.
She was a woman!
And she wrote
I like her words.
Maybe I could be a poet
and write poems
like Stevie Smith.
Everyone was so
they couldn’t hear
when I tried
on the glass
and opened my
but my breath
She was crying
her small hands
but I couldn’t reach her
I just slipped against the glass
and left her
and the blood
I was not brave
Why do I
have to break
ev ery thin
Louise showed me a poem
by an alive woman.
I didn’t know what it was about
She says it’s lovely
when it comes
the way the earth
It’s lovely, the poem
but I hate it
and anyway the smell
and the aching
come a full day before
when it comes I feel sick
and dirty and I can’t clean away
It’s like being
like a scream
that makes no sound
clenching his fists
the life out of me
with the bits about bleeding?
The alive woman
in Louise’s book
there’s a lot of blood
not to write about it
when it’s there
the dark colours
and the smell.
we read today
made me feel
like someone was grabbing
and shaking me.
I know someone
who lies all huddled
with bent arms
and such a sad
that won’t look
If I was brave
I wouldn’t lie
in the deep shadows
for the foot
into the room
I wouldn’t be glad
when the footsteps went away
to the other side of the room
I wouldn’t put my fingers
into my ears
to stop the mumbles
and sharp cries.
When the footsteps
across the room
and shake her
by the shoulder
but she turns away
her sad face
with eyes that won’t
Late at night
her sad face looks
Louise read my poem
and her sad face
that won’t look.
Louise said I was
to write that poem
were so kind
when she said I was
all the words
were thrashing around
and the tears
were fighting to come out
until they all came
I was so
I can stay the night
and Chrissy too
and in the morning
she knows a woman
who will know what to do.
She read us a poem
about a girl who was a bird
a girl in New Zealand
It was a lovely poem
like a song
that kept on singing
even after the words
In my nest of blankets
I could hear Chrissy breathing
there were footsteps
into the room
I heard a cry
like a bird
and then the footsteps
and Louise was there beside me
saying shhhhh, shhhhh
and telling me the poem
about the bird.
wrapped around me
to carry me
Iona has been blogging about privilege. Heterosexual privilege is often talked about in terms of bisexuality, eg; “Bisexuals have heterosexual privilege.” Well, I seem to have missed out on my share, because believe me, homophobic people / systems don’t give a damn whether I have ever been out with a guy.
So what is heterosexual privilege?
Well, if I was straight…
I could have access to marriage and all the legal privileges that come with it.
I could take my partner to the school ball without needing to involve the Human Rights Commission.
I could be ordained as a minister.
I would have the right to stay with my partner if they were in intensive care after an accident or emergency.
I could be affectionate in public without fearing abuse.
I could ask someone on a date and they’d no what I meant without me having to spell it out in really big letters.
I could work with children without having to worry that I’ll be accused of corrupting them or abusing them.
I could mention a partner / crush to a counsellor without them assuming that my sexuality was the cause of all my emotional problems.
I wouldn’t have to tell people about my sexuality, it would just be assumed.
I wouldn’t have to listen to any of the following; Maybe it’s just a phase; Maybe you just think you’re queer because you were abused; Maybe you just haven’t met the right guy; I don’t mind gay people as long as they don’t force it on me/flaunt it; But if you raised children they’d be really messed up.
Headline in next month’s Dolly magazine; Blogging, how it ruined my life.
“I had the world at my feet… but I chose to sell my soul to my computer.”
This isn’t me. I couldn’t be typing this because it’s after 11 and I’m having an early night tonight, and all of my writing energy is being devoted to my folio. So it most be a phantom blog. Ooooooooh…
Actually, I’m waiting for my soup to heat up (late dinner) and I came online to check the prostitution reform bill results. We won!! By a hairs breadth. By a fraction. By the lowest possible margin… The bill got through. Yay!
Posted the following on the Stonesoup communal blog, but thought I’d stick it here as well, so it looks like this is a proper blog.
There has been a request for a review of the Stonesoup lunch, but I don’t think I’m the person to write it. See, I didn’t actually understand any of it. Someone started talking about breasts with people growing out of them, and my mind went into a massive tailspin. Ysghhwhat?! It took me several minutes to recover, and by the time I crawled back into the conversation, someone was saying “imagine if you were a lesbian separatist and you had male breasts…” At that point I gave up on trying to understand, and just concentrated on holding the pieces of my brain together and not screaming.
But, to be fair, lunch did have some pleasant moments (before people started hurling breasts around). Toni was there, and it was nice to put a face to another blog. Carla was upgraded to blogger status (she attended the last lunch as an official lurker). Kim wasn’t there, but luckily we’re getting better at managing problems on our own. A bottle of beer was accidentally deleted, there was difficulty downloading the smoothie, and the pepper plugins proved hard to remove… but did we panic, run to the nearest cyber cafe and email Kim? No. We remained calm and dealt with the situation. Mostly by hurling good natured insults at each other and anyone else within throwing range. Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, pleasant moments. Eating and drinking and much merriment. Acutally, I’m not sure if it could really be called a Stonesoup lunch, because 1/3 of the people there were not Stonesoupers (unless one of them was Kitty Lifter undercover). Nonetheless I highly recommend it. You should come next time.
If I am disgruntled, which is unpleasant, does that mean that being gruntled is a good thing? It doesn’t sound very nice.
I’m a bit worried about my folio, I haven’t done any work on it lately. Well, not much. I’ve been busy with Sunday school and IHC work and babysitting, housekeeping, critiquing other people’s writing, blogging, reading blogs, reading books… most of which is my own fault for not saying Noooooo!! and running away screaming.
But the annoying part is that the biggest chunk of the past couple of weeks has been spent trying to get WINZ to give me money.
First I got a letter saying I hadn’t returned my annual review form – which I hadn’t even received. So I went in to the office, filled one out, and handed it back. Then I got a letter saying that I hadn’t provided all the necessary information so my benefit was going to be cut off. I phoned up and asked what I needed to provide, and they weren’t sure, so they said they’d get back to me. Meanwhile my benefit got suspended. A week later I hadn’t heard anything, so I called back and they said they couldn’t help me because my case manager had left and I hadn’t been assigned a new one. Grrrrrr!!
Finally I got assigned a new case manager and set up a meeting. He told me that my old case manager had done everything wrong, and I had to go and get reassessed by a doctor. Had to wait a couple of weeks for that.
Then I the best part of four days (seriously) wandering around the university, from one department to another, begging different people to sign bits of paper. Seen that sequence in Love and Other Catastrophes? Just like that.
Tomorrow I have another appointment with my case manager, and hopefully he’ll give me the money and that’ll be the end of it. Until next semester.
Add to all that a sequence of very late nights, poor diet, chronic back pain, lack of exercise, and you’ll get a picture of how I’m feeling.
I’m tired, grumpy and headachy, and I really need to get my A into G and work on my folio.
These ones are from Cathy.
1. You are told that you can never again in your life watch any film. Except you get to see just one for the first and/or final time. Which is it?
Crumbs. I hate questions like this. One? Only one? I’d watch one that I’ve already seen – because then I’d be certain it was a good one. But something I hadn’t watched over and over so many times that I knew it by heart. Probably something sad and sentimental, cos I’m like that sometimes. And preferably something from Aotearoa. Maybe the Whale Rider? It’s not the best movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s recent so that’s why it’s in my mind. And it’s really sweet.
2. How did you discover blogging and why did you decide to start your own?
I was talking to a friend on the phone one day, and she said “You’ve got to write a list of 100 things so that I can read it,” and I said “Huh? What?” She explained that her friend was doing one on her blog, and then of course she had to explain what a blog was. She gave me the link to her Iona’s blog, the chinashop, and I read Iona’s list of 100 things. It seemed like fun, so I started writing a list too… and then I wanted a blog so that I could put my 100 things on it. And then, well, I love writing and will take any excuse I’m given, so I kept going.
3. Which of your five senses do you treasure the most?
Ooooh. Probably sight. I don’t think I could live without sight, how would I paint? Although I guess I could still read and write, once I learned Braille or something. No, I treasure hearing more, because without hearing I would feel so isolated. And I wouldn’t be able to listen to music, or birdsong, or the wind… But what about touch? Imagine if you didn’t have touch? I can’t even imagine it. No, it’s impossible. So I’m going to go with hearing.
4. How's life going, generally?
Golly. Um… Pretty good, actually. The new medication seems to be helping to keep my emotions under control, so I can finally get on with my life. I’m doing what I love (writing, and also working with children) and I seem to be doing well at it. I’ve got some wonderful friends, a nice balance of younger idealistic hippies, and, um, my other friends, however you’d describe them. Slightly older. And less hippyish. Fun (not so earnest). And generally lovely. I’m having an art exhibition, and I’m really excited about that. I did have some of my paintings in a show in the Fringe Festival, but that was kinda messy. The venue owner messed us around lots, and I was really really stressed, and… well, it just wasn’t an enjoyable experience. This time it will be in a proper gallery, with a gallery manager who will take care of all the practical and stressful stuff. I’m having unrequited crush issues, but that’s usual. I think if I didn’t have any I’d make them up, otherwise my life would feel incomplete. I’m also having financial issues, but that’s nothing new either. So, other than a few minor hiccups, life is dandy. And thanks for asking :)
5. What's the future for Beautiful Monsters?
For the next week I won’t be putting that much energy into BM, because I’ll be working on my folio (at least that’s the theory). Then I’ll probably be busy with courses, so I’ll probably post stuff I’m working on – non-fiction, poetry, prose and fiction, so there should be a good range. And anything else I want to write that doesn’t fit into my courses will find its way onto BM. And after that, who knows? I don’t think I’ll keep going forever. Either I will change, find something else, or the atmosphere will change, blogging won’t be so easy or so fun or something… Can’t see myself stopping in the near future though.
These ones are from Iona;
1. What's your favourite secret ingredient?
If I told you it wouldn’t be secret… Oh, ok. Chocolate, added to the sauce for nachos. Or a hint of chilli added to chocolate pudding. Or other variations on the chocolate and chilli theme. Just trust me on this one!
2. If you could swap hair with another person, who would you swap with?
Probably Andie MacDowell. I kinda like my curls, but I wish my hair wasn’t so fine and thin.
Really though, I think I’d look silly with anyone else’s hair.
See? Even with Willow's hair I wouldn't look sexy. In fact I’d look bloody awful.
Maybe I’d have a moustache… Do I look cute with a moustache?
3. What's the difference between boys and girls?
Girls grow up and turn into women – boys just get bigger.
But seriously, you really wanna know what I think? OK, you asked for it…
[switching into essay mode]
The identities ‘boy/girl’ ‘man/woman’ and ‘male/female’ are categories that are created through discourse, proclaimed to be natural, and then rigidly enforced. Variations from these dichotomies are ignored or changed, and so they are rendered invisible. Like taking a black and white photograph – all of the colours are simplified down to shades of grey.
The categories ‘female’ and ‘male’ are supposedly based on essential physical differences. Trouble is, none of these differences are as clear as most people believe;
There are lots of variations between the genitals of different individuals. Doctors draw a couple of arbitrary lines, and say “if your phallus is above this line you’re a boy, if it’s below this line you’re a girl, and if it’s in between you’re a freak and we’re going to perform surgery.”
Sex assignment based on genetics is formed around the assumption that males have XY chromosomes, and females have XX chromosomes. Most people haven’t had their chromosomes tested, so they just assume they’ve got the “correct” set. Yet many people have other variations of chromosomes, for example XXY, XO, and YY…
OK, so how about we divide people up based on reproductive function? But what about people who are infertile, or are too young or old to produce children, or who choose not to?
So what about the social differences between men and women? They seem pretty fixed, right? Well, no. There are huge variations in the way gender is defined in different cultures and periods throughout history. And there are always plenty of people who don’t fit the definitions.
So, basically we have a bi-polar model of gender, based on diverse gender identities and characteristics, which are supposedly caused by dichotomous biological sex, which is based on a continuum of physical characteristics…
in other words, there’s so clear difference at all…
Except the way we are treated.
From the moment a baby is born and assigned a gender, the child is treated differently. The first question most people ask is always “is it a boy or a girl?” When people find out a child is a girl, they use a different tone of voice. When they’re told a baby is a boy, they hold the baby differently. If the parents say “we don’t know, the baby hasn’t decided yet,” everyone will feel really uncomfortable and not know how to act around the child.
Girls get dressed in pink booties, boys in blue. Girls get given dolls, boys get toy cars. Boys get taught to apologise for their weaknesses, girls get taught to apologise for their strengths. Boys get socialised to be aggressive, girls get trained to be passive. And so it goes on, for a lifetime.
The difference between boys and girls? Girls are more likely to question these categories. Boys have too much interest in maintaining the balance of power.
4. Do apostrophes matter?
George Bernard Shaw didnt think so - hell always be remembered as the guy who tried to abolish the apostrophe.
I dont believe theyre the only thing standing between us and total destruction, but I wont go into the reasons why the essays assertions are kinda silly. Suffice to say wed survive without apostrophes.
With the contractions going on in text messaging etc well have to see what happens, but for now Id have to say theyre pretty useful, so Ill keep using them.
5. What would you say to your 16 year old self?
I’m taken aback for a moment. She looks so young.
“You look… um, you look smaller than I remember.”
“Gee, thanks. You look… well… I hoped I might be thinner. And with different hair.”
“Kid, the hair is the least of your worries, believe me. God, there’s so much I have to tell you! There’s this guy, at the end of seventh form… he… he… look, just don’t go to that party, ok? And this other guy, a few years later, he seems really nice, but he’s a creep. Just tell him he’s a creep, and kick him in the nuts. Oh and AFS? Don’t go to Costa Rica. Pick Thailand, or Sweden, or just about anywhere else. Oh, and don’t keep a diary, it gets kinda embarrassing. And don’t bother with architecture school, it’s not what you think. And – hey! Are you even listening? This is important! This is our life!”
She looks as though she doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Instead she just shakes her head, and sighs.
“You’re me, in the future, right?”
“So it’s already going to happen.”
“All that stuff you’re talking about. It’s going to happen, it’s already happened to you. There’s nothing you can do to change that.”
“So I’m alive, huh?”
“I get to 21. I don’t kill myself.”
“No. I mean yeah. I mean… alive.”
She looks away for a moment, thoughtful, a little sad.
“Is it worth it?”
I look at her blankly, then realise she what she is talking about. I think about it. Seriously.
“Yeah. It is.” She doesn’t look as though she believes me, but I bowl on. “Over the next six years dozens of people are going to pat you on the shoulder and say “It gets better, really it does.” And you won’t believe them. But you know what? They’re right.”
She looks away. “What would you know about it?”
I want to shake her. “Of course I know, I’m…”
“I’m only kidding. I’ll try to remember.”
“Good. Just hang in there ok?”
“Yeah. So… um, I guess I’ll see you later.”
“Yeah. See ya. Oh, and kid? Just relax about the whole Jamie thing. You’re allowed to like both you know. Boys and girls. And he’s very cute.” She’s raising her eyebrows at me. “And don’t worry so much. Nothing is really that important.”
“Shuddup.” She puts her arms around me, and I hear her mumbling into my shoulder. “Don’t worry. I’m gonna be ok.”
The first five are from Shannon, the latest addition to my blogroll (If I could reach the stars).
1) if you were going to be stranded on an island what three cds would you want with you?
Only three? Yikes.
Well, actually, I’d probably burn three CDs with compilations of my favourite music. One would be orchestral and chamber music, one would be international pop/rock (by the broadest definition, so I could include things like the Chieftains), and one would be music from Aotearoa. But it would take forever to decide and list all the tracks, so I’ll pretend I can’t do that and choose three ready made CDs. You probably won’t be familiar with any of them!
Hinemoana Baker Haere atu raa, or her new album if it’s out by the time I get stranded, because her music is stunningly beautiful, and because it would remind me of all my friends back in Aotearoa.
Faure Requiem and Palleas et Melisande, because it’s incredibly inspiring and uplifting.
Marina Lima cos she’s a cute Brazilian lesbian rock chick who I could jump up and down to if I was angry/frustrated and if I got bored I could teach myself Portuguese from the lyrics.
2) have you read the harry potter books?
Only the first one. Good, but not that good. And I’ve only seen one of the movies. Hermione was cute (and I’m young enough I’m allowed to say that, so there) (ok maybe not really) (but someone sent me this pic of her – well Emma Watson – the other day, and she looked all growed up…) I will read the other books, when I’ve finished my course and I have more time for reading – at the moment I have to read a wide range, so I’m trying not to read more than one or two by each author.
3) if you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what movie would you choose?
Are we talking forced to see it on repeat play for the rest of my life? Because if we are I’d choose anything with a really complicated classical music score for the soundtrack, and then I could close my eyes and I wouldn’t go insane.
But if we’re talking a movie that I could watch whenever I felt like it… um… either Dead Poet’s Society, Love and other Catastrophes, or Pride and Prejudice. I've watched them all a gazillion times and I still like them, so I don’t see why they couldn’t last a few more years…
4) would you rather live without tv or without music?
Definitely without TV. We don’t have one in the flat anyway – I just go round to a friend’s house to watch Buffy occasionally, but I could survive without that. Music, on the other hand, I think it keeps me sane.
5) what is your bigggest fear?
And losing friends because of how messed up I am.
(in the non-religious sense of the word)
Finally. Handed all my paintings over to the gallery – rescued the ones that got splattered, but they don’t look quite as good as they did before. Now I just have to write several short stories for my folio. That’s going to require most of my idea-generating and writing energy, so I won’t be writing really long interesting blog entries (unless I’m really naughty). But I will keep blogging a little bit, because I don’t want Beautiful Monsters to rust up.
Cathy has been doing the Five Things Meme, and I think it’s a damn good idea. That way I won’t spend hours staring at my screen and wondering what to blog about – you can tell me!
So, here’s how it works. You think of five questions you want me to answer, and then post them in the comments section. It doesn’t matter how intellectual, or weird, or personal, or silly, or specific or general they are… if I know the answer then I will answer them (um, unless they’re really awful).
This is just an essay from one of my courses that I wanted to be able to link to (cos I'm really quite tragic like that sometimes...)
Graffiti and Politics on the Streets
What role does graffiti play in the creation and suppression of political realities?
I will begin this essay by explaining my definition of graffiti. I will focus on graffiti as it is used by social movements, particularly in Wellington. I will explore the social and economic conditions that give rise to these social movements, and the factors that force these movements to adopt practices on the margins of legality. I will discuss why graffiti is seen as criminal and how authorities try to suppress it. I will discuss some specific examples of graffiti used by social movements in Wellington, and outline how the messages of these movements have been suppressed. I will discuss whether graffiti is likely to become more or less legitimate in the future.
Phillips (1996) defined graffiti as “institutionally illicit marks in which there has been an attempt to establish some sort of coherent composition.” Phillips noted that while graffiti has been found on ancient sites, the term is now associated primarily with modern urban environments. Graffiti is difficult to limit or control, because almost any media or tools can be adapted and used to create graffiti. Phillips differentiates between cryptic graffiti that communicates to others within a closed community, and political graffiti that aims to communicate a message to a wider audience. In this essay I will be focusing on this later form of graffiti.
Many official bodies and commercial groups regard stickers and pasted posters as closely related to graffiti. Whitford (1992:15) included both of these activities in his list of graffiti types, and argued that posters and stickers caused similar problems to spray-painting and other forms of mark making. For the purpose of this essay I will define graffiti as any message that is illegally applied and that changes the appearance of a public space. I will focus on graffiti that is spray-painted or pasted onto walls, pavements or billboards.
Social movements are connected populations mobilised by a common sense of wrongdoing or a common threat. They have a common discourse that differs from the dominant culture and they conflict with established discourses and structures. Social movements aim to bring about social and political change through the creation of new meanings, practices and institutions. They aim to influence the ideology of individuals and groups, by educating people, using language, images and music to communicate their visions. In their early stages social movements tend to use innovative forms of actions that are on the margins of legality.
Social movements that use graffiti in Wellington include environmental groups, peace activists and the anti-globalisation movement. Tactics these groups use include spray-painting stencils on pavements, altering billboards and displaying posters and stickers in public places. Graffiti has played an important role in the success of social movements in Wellington, for example the peace movement, and Native Forest Action (Hager 1999:81-88).
In order to understand why political graffiti is seen as illegitimate, it is necessary to understand the context of the political and social circumstances that lead to the creation of social movements. Many contemporary social movements have mobilised and united against the threat of economic globalisation, which they see as the cause of many social and environmental abuses (Klein 2001:442). Political power has shifted from governments who may once have been accountable to the population, to huge transnational corporations, controlled by a few wealthy individuals. Public spaces are crammed with corporate advertisements, and these messages are becoming the only acceptable discourse (Klein 2001:281).
Many social movements favour direct action as a way of regaining democratic control within their communities. Most social movements cannot afford to purchase their own advertisements or use other “legitimate” means to communicate (Klein 2001:280 and Hager 1999:81). Graffiti is a low cost media, and has been adopted by many social movements as a way of taking matters into their own hands when other avenues are not available.
Klein (2002:123) argued that the actions of social movements have increasingly been treated as criminal by authorities. Any form of disobedience, including graffiti, has been classified as violent. Some forms of disobedience, such as creating graffiti, may damage property, however this does not constitute violence, as such actions do not injure people or animals. Members of social movements argue that the actions of transnational corporations are violent. Klein (2002:137) claimed that “the right of freedom of expression, so fundamental to our democracy, includes the right not just to speak and communicate, but to be heard.” Graffiti is one way that members of social movements exercise their freedom of speech by expressing opposition to the current political and social situation.
“It is an interesting fact that most scientific research and speculation on deviance concerns itself with the people who break the rules rather than those who make and enforce them. If we are to achieve a full understanding of deviant behaviour, we must get these two foci of inquiry into balance.” – Becker cited in Ferrell (1993:106).
Ferrell (1993:117) argued that “the campaign against graffiti has taught its participants to perceive graffiti as a problem.” By using emotive language and negative images, official bodies and corporations have constructed an image of graffiti as harmful and dangerous (Farrell 1993:134). Graffiti is described as a menacing “scar” spreading across the country and spiralling “out of control” and the graffiti vandal is a dangerous “villain” slinking around in darkness (Ferrell 1993:136).
Ferrell (1993:180) argued that officials create an “aesthetic of authority” and define how a city should look – clean and ordered. Ferrell (1993:185) argues that public spaces are “manifestations of an authoritarian aesthetic” rather than reflections of “the interests of people and their communities.” Graffiti is seen as problematic, not because it is intrinsically ugly, but because it is seen as a violation of ownership, order and control. In extreme cases, graffiti is described as having similar motivations to rape (Ferrell 1993:141). This comparison is unjustified, because while rape aims to control and intimidate, graffiti is a creative action that tries to regain a sense of control.
By constructing graffiti as a crime, officials also construct “victims” - members of the “community” who are “harmed” by graffiti. The people who create graffiti are left out of this definition of “community.” In fact, many people in the community enjoy graffiti. During the Native Forest Action campaign in Wellington, residents saw messages painted on walls “not as graffiti, but more as a community noticeboard...” (Hager 1999:87).
Commercial advertising now dominates the streets of cities all around the globe – it is impossible to escape (Klein 2001:293). Commercial messages change the appearance of public spaces, but they are not seen as graffiti because they are legally sanctioned. Many members of the public may seen advertisements as ugly and offensive, but they are not seen as a problem by officials. Because corporations now have so much political and social control, they have been able to influence what is seen as “acceptable” behaviour.
During the Native Forest Action campaign, Timberlands spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money promoting their viewpoint, and silencing other voices (Hager 1999:81-88). They painted over any graffiti that expressed environmental concerns. The city council, and even the Prime Minister, supported the removal of painted slogans and environmental posters, but tolerated posters created by PR Companies on behalf of Timberlands. As Hager (1999:88) argued “painting a message on a wall and painting out someone else’s message have a superficial similarity. Both use a paintbrush. Both are illegal, although the charge is minor... But ethically they could not be more different: one is exercising freedom of speech, the other is depriving someone else of their freedom of speech.”
Whitford (1992:6) admits that most people make a distinction between “carefully-executed pieces on walls and untidy, indiscriminate graffiti.” However officials seem to see political graffiti as criminal, whether it is carefully executed or not. The public, on the other hand, may respond more positively to tidy and cheerful graffiti.
Some individuals within social movements do create what could be described as “untidy, indiscriminate graffiti.” One example is a message scrawled with red paint across an empty billboard on Victoria St that says “Fuk the USA.” The language used and the messy technique of the graffiti artist means that it is likely that a message of this sort will produce a negative reaction from some people.
Many social movements have been making a conscious effort to create graffiti that is creative and attractive. In the buildup to the 2002 election some members of the GE Free campaign decided that they would not damage private property, but they would use graffiti to brighten up public areas that they saw as ugly. They tried to make their messages positive and enjoyable.
Some campaigners created billboard sized pictures and messages, which were pasted onto empty billboards. These were removed by the council because they could distract motorists and therefore presented a hazard. This is rather ironic, considering the fact that the messages were pasted on billboards that were intended for advertising. Why is a political message more hazardous to motorists than a commercial message?
Other campaigners spray painted carefully designed stencils on pavements. Police and council workers used threats and intimidation to try and prevent the spread of these messages. Many of the stencils were painted over within days, because they were “defacing” public property. Pavements are hardly beautiful, and it could be argued that colourful stencils were an improvement, rather than a defacement. Shortly afterwards, new stencils began appearing with the slogan “approved use of GM is safe.” Exactly the same phrase was used in press statements released by the Life Sciences Network (a pro-GE lobby group) at the time. None of these stencils were painted over. One explanation for this could be that pro-GE groups put pressure on the council to remove GE Free stencils, while pro-GE stencils were tolerated.
More recently, stencils have appeared advertising a website (www.thelink.org.nz) that is run by the council. None of these stencils have been painted out. The fact that certain stencils are removed while others are ignored could be seen as a form of corporate/political censorship.
As social movements gain power and acceptance they tend to move from a few radicals with little influence, to a more powerful, institutionalised movement that is closer to mainstream politics. As the discourses of a social movement become more widely accepted, the movement may succeed in reshaping mainstream political discourses. The practices of social movements may become acceptable. Political actions such as strikes and sit-ins, once considered radical, gradually transitioned into legality or tolerance as the social movements which used them gained political recognition. It is possible, therefore, that graffiti will gradually become accepted at an official level. Tactics that were once seen as shocking and disruptive are now being adopted by ad campaigns (Klein 2001:283).
However it is my view that as many contemporary social movements are actually based around opposition to mainstream politics, these movements will resist moving towards the mainstream. As tactics such as stenciling pavements and touching up billboards become more acceptable, social movements will seek out more radical ways to express their dissent.
It is also possible that instead of the tactics of social movements becoming more legitimate, authorities will seek to increase their control by criminalising more actions and enforcing harsher punishments. This sort of attitude is becoming evident, as police are becoming more aggressive towards dissenting members of the public. The response of many social movements is not to react aggressively or even defensively in return, but to act creatively. This results in scenes that are so ironic they are almost humourous. Protestors who created a community garden in the route of a proposed bypass were almost outnumbered by police, who stood by grimly as the gardeners planted broccoli, sunflowers and native trees.
It is my view that it is possible that the forms of graffiti we are familiar with today may tolerated or even seen as legitimate in the future, but it is also possible that authorities will seek to gain even more control and suppress these voices. However, whatever happens, it seems that new forms of graffiti will continue to challenge the boundaries of legality.
In conclusion, graffiti is adopted by political movements because they do not have access to other ways of communicating their concerns to their fellow citizens. Graffiti arises within the context of social and political inequality as well as unequal access to resources and public spaces. Graffiti is a creative reaction to feelings of powerlessness and marginality, and it is a defiance of official and corporate control. Members of social movements use graffiti as a way of influencing the political reality of the public. Officials and the media use sensational stereotypes to portray graffiti as a violent activity carried out by dangerous criminals. By constructing these myths and trying to suppress graffiti, officials and corporations are expanding their own political and economic domination. They are creating their own political reality and suppressing conflicting political ideologies. Within Wellington, social movements have used innovative and creative forms of graffiti to communicate political messages. These voices have been suppressed by corporations and official bodies, and this denies social movements freedom of speech. As social movements move towards the mainstream, some forms of graffiti may be seen as legitimate or at least tolerated, but some forms of graffiti may be forcefully suppressed. Either of these possibilities will probably result in the creation of more radical forms of graffiti.
Ferrell, Jeff 1993, Crimes of Style; Urban Graffiti and the Politics of Criminality, Garland Publishing, New York.
Hager, Nicky 1999, Secrets and Lies, Craig Potton Publishing, Nelson.
Klein, Naomi 2001, No Logo, Flamingo, Great Britain.
Klein, Naomi 2002, Fences and Windows; dispatches from the front lines of the globalization debate, Flamingo, Great Britain.
Phillips, Susan 1996, The Dictionary of Art: Graffiti Definition, Grove’s Dictionaries Inc. Macmillan Publishers, London,
Whitford, M.J. 1992, Getting Rid of Graffiti; A practical guide to graffiti removal and anti-graffiti protection, E & FN Spon, London.
I only applied for three writing workshops because I didn’t think I’d get into them all. I wanted to do at least one, maybe two, so I figured I’d apply for three and then do whichever ones I got into. I got accepted for them all. For a couple of days I agonised, because I couldn’t decided which one to drop. I had ideas I wanted to work on in all of them, all the tutors (Dinah Hawken, Harry Ricketts, Kate de Goldi) are fantastic… I just couldn’t bear to drop out of any of them.
I felt a twinge (or rather a great big wallop) of guilt, because I know people who didn’t get accepted to these courses (and they’re damn good writers too). It seemed selfish, wanting to do all three, when other people were missing out… But then my friends started saying “you have been given an opportunity, what’s selfish about that?” Or, as Kate put it, “Get that puritan dog off your back!!”
Suddenly I thought, yeah, this is what I really want to do. And hell, I’ve been through enough shit the past few years, for once it would be nice to do what I want to do, not what I feel like I should do.
So yesterday I went up to the institute and talked to Fiona. “Spoiled for choice, huh?” she said, smiling at me. “I really want to do all of them,” I said. “Can I?” She thought about it for a minute, then she said “No one has ever done three before, but I don’t see why you shouldn’t. I’ll go check with Bill.” She seemed to take ages. I sat there twiddling my thumbs and counting my nervous breaths, in one, out one, in two, out two… Finally I heard her bounding back up the stairs. “Go and have a talk to him,” she said. “He can probably help you work it out.”
In my year of hanging around the institute, I’ve never actually been inside Bill’s office. I was nervous. Not because I was in awe of Bill (who seems to have been crowned the director, not just of the institute, but of literature in NZ), but because I’m pretty sure he’s convinced that I’m completely mad. I was scared he might say something like “I don’t think you’re really up to this” or “you’ve been disturbing the other workshop participants” or something.
“Come in, take a seat,” he said. I was calmed a little by his soft voice and his smile. “I feel I must point out a few things. First, there’s the fact that these papers won’t count towards a major…” and he went on to recite all of the arguments I’d been through a dozen times in my head – except he left out the selfish on.
Then suddenly, he smiled. “Right, taking off my wise academic hat… I think it sounds great! What are you going to write?”
I grinned. A whole term writing. Three workshops. I skipped all the way down the hill, and I didn’t care who stared.
I’m going to write. Lots. Watch this space.
(In celebration of my position as official workshop junkie, I'm going to post a poem that features a number of characters from the institute (last year at least). Disclaimer thingie; only one of them ever said or did any of this... the rest is (mostly) fiction.
A Bad Dream
Chris eats a banana in the bath, waves
a soggy wad of pages with one hand
It’s Political, It’s Too Bloody Political
words drip into the bath
Everything is political I say. Even eating
bananas is political - think of the poor
workers choking on chemicals...
Chris holds a banana like a gun and
aims at a word –
Pow! Pow! Pow!
Bill is hovering in the shower cubical.
He is wearing a nightgown and white
lace scrapes his shins. I realise I have
never before seen his bare feet.
Is there a poet here? Yes, yes, I cry –
that is , I am I . . .
Bill peers disdainfully at the trail of words.
He steps carefully around them
You’re Bleeding Everywhere
[ ] is hopping around in his underwear
You’re Deliberately Trying To Attack Me
his voices rises like a kettle on the stove
a trickle of red smoke leaks from his ear
Chris rips off a chunk of wet paper and
stuffs it into his mouth.
It’s Personal, It’s Too Bloody Personal
I can hear him mumbling as he sinks
under the water. I peer over the edge
of the bath, but all I can see is a trail of
bubbles leading to the plug hole
Now Look What You’ve Done
[ ] glares.
I’ve been down in the basement, doing a few last minute touch-ups, because I need to hand my paintings over to the gallery manager tomorrow. I decided to add a tiny bit of gold leaf to one of the paintings. I’m still chuckling because I thought gold leaf would be really expensive. I bought 25 leaves, and it actually cost more for the gold leaf size (the stuff to stick it on with) then it did for the leaves. Anyway, the lid was hard to get off, and somehow, in my tired doofusy state, I managed to send the size flying. And did I splash one of my paintings? No. I splashed five, and completely soaked one of them with sticky white liquid. Great Fi, just great. I think I’ve managed to rescue the four that were only splashed. As for the other one (a painting of Kapiti Island inspired by one of h's pics) I’ll have to wait and see what it’s like in the morning, when the everything has dried.
Trying really hard not to burst into tears.
Carla blogged about this. It’s a familiar story. National, Act and New Zealand First (the parties to the right of NZ) often spout slogans along the lines of “one law for all, one standard of citizenship, etc…” (This sort of concept was not so popular when Maaori outnumbered non-Maaori New Zealanders).
It sounds nice and fluffy. Treating everyone the same is a good thing, right? It’s fair. Kind of a variation on the Golden Rule. Trouble is, you can’t treat everyone the same when they’re not.
I wish I had two of my favourite cartoons nearby, so I could scan them. One has a picture of a tiny, skinny little guy, looking up at a huge Goliath like giant, in the middle of a perfectly flat sports field. One of the spectators is saying to another “It should be a great game, on account of the level playing field.” In the other cartoon, an assortment of animals are lined up in front of a desk; there’s a penguin, an elephant, a goldfish in a bowl, a bird, a seal, a dog, and a monkey. The man behind the desk is saying “For a fair selection, everyone has to take the same exam: Please climb that tree.” The monkey is looking pretty pleased with itself. The point of both cartoons? Equality is not the same for everyone.
Bill English and his mates often use the third article of Te Tiriti o Waitangi (a treaty between Maaori and the Crown) to attempt to justify their stance. The third article guarantees Maaori the same rights as British subjects. Act/National/NZF have tried to twist this article so it fits with their notion of “one law for all.” But the article is about protecting the rights of Maaori people – and sometimes that may involve treating people differently. Maaori are a minority within the population, and as a group they continually experience social, economic and political disadvantages. The government has an obligation to address this situation, and that’s going to mean treating Maaori as unique.
Treating everyone the same tends to result in assimilation and control.
I worry about the future of Te Tiriti. Children aren’t taught about it in schools, they aren’t taught much about the history of this country, about the injustice, the blood that has been spilled on this soil. If they don’t know about the issues, how can they make informed choices? What’s to stop them going along with Bill English and his “one standard of citizenship” slogans.
Then there is the fact that more and more people are immigrating here. They don’t know anything about Te Tiriti, and they don’t have much of a reason to care.
And of course, there’s talk about the country becoming a republic, which throws up a whole new question. If the treaty is between Maaori and the Crown, what happens if the Crown is taken out of the picture? We’ll probably have to come up with a constitution. Hey, that sounds like fun. I vote we don’t ask Mr English for his input.
On a more trivial note, this is my 100th blog entry. I feel as though I should throw a party or something :)
This made me laugh. “Friends don't let friends do Microsoft Internet Explorer.” Hee.
OK, so maybe it’s time to install Netscape / Mozilla. I’m sick of my browser having an allergic reaction every time I go near Java.
The first time someone wrote a poem about me, I felt awful. “I made you feel like that? I’m sorry…”
I’m used to being the one drowning in angst, not the one causing angst. So this is what it’s like? To not be able to love and care for someone, no matter how much they adore you?
I felt a similar emotion reading this lyric. It’s beautiful, but it hurts.
I’m sorry. I was scared and in pain – I was blind. I didn’t mean to cause anyone else sadness.
After all that, I’m so glad we’re still friends. One day you’re going to go on and do amazing things, and I’ll say to everyone “she was my girlfriend once. I didn’t deserve her, but she accepted me anyway.”
of your body
your skin melts
at the slightest
Your hands explode
all over the keyboard;
if you should be
driving that thing
under the influence
Everything hurts. Well, not everything. But lots of things. Mostly my back. Ow. It’s been getting worse for a while – a couple of mornings I couldn’t actually walk because it hurt so much. I had to sort of crumple to the ground, do some stretches and whimper lots.
I should *so* be in bed. But I’m kinda getting into the swing of going to bed at 4am. And then getting up and turning the alarm off at 6:30, and then at 7:00 and then at 7:30, and then lying in bed groaning until about five minutes before I need to be somewhere important.
Actually, I’m wondering if I should give this blogging thing a rest for a while.
I don’t seem to have much to say at the moment, and I should really be devoting my writing energy to my folio (and sleeping). Hmmmm… so I might cut back. Just not tonight.
I went out for brunch yesterday, with lots of people. Actually, I was late and only caught the tail end of brunch, but still, it was very exciting. Well? Ok, I’m easily excited. And I don’t think I’ve ever properly been out for brunch before. I’ve always wanted to have friends who go out for brunch, it seems like a very mature and sophisticated thing to do. Hee… if you have a weird idea of sophistication that involves lots of people laughing very loudly, calling each other slutty love sardines, spilling tea, and demonstrating very weird dance moves that were obviously before my time…
Last night I went out with my ex-girlfriend and her girlfriend plus her ex-girlfriend, who is also sort of my ex (I think).
There were two girls at Pound who were the most amazing dancers. Seriously, they must have come straight down from Te Whaea or something. And they were gorgeous too. I was mesmerised. (No, I wasn’t perving. They were obviously performers, they were loving it, and I was just enjoying the show…)
Then we went to Barneys. Golly. I haven’t been there since first year (and it hasn’t changed a bit). I discovered their kamikaze shakers… mmmm, taste like alcoholic Frujus!
Town was crazy last night. They should have some sort of warning system so people like me can avoid town on rugby nights. Especially matches involving the All Blacks.
Actually, last night wasn’t too bad. It was just crowded with drunken rugby fans, but they weren’t as nasty as they can be. (Mind you I didn’t venture down towards Courtney Place).
Two of my girl friends were hugging each other near the bottom of Cuba St, and this guy walks past and yells “that’s right girls, tip the velvet!”
Rugby nights are weird. Because on the one hand, there are all these drunken guys being wankers, yelling obscenities, pissing in the streets, hassling people… But on the other hand, there is this crazy feeling of conviviality and camaraderie. People talk to each other so much more than usual. People who normally wouldn’t even look at me smile and yell some friendly comment (or slur some weird drunken comment). Truth be told I’ve never watched a rugby game in my life, but the people in the streets don’t know that, so they include me in this atmosphere of togetherness.
Sometimes I’m not sure that I want to be included.
Eventually I fled to Bodega, where Tommy was playing and most of the hippies in Wellington were taking refuge. It was packed! I’ve never seen so many people in the new Bodega (but then, I don’t go there much).
It was a great gig. In some ways I don’t like the music they play now as much as their old songs – but I get such a kick out of seeing them live, because they have such amazing energy and they have a wonderful relationship with each other and with the audience. I love being part of that.
I have a huge amount of respect for Tommy - he lives his life with a helluva lot of integrity and dedication. (And I’ve been living with him for a year now, so I should know!)
Don’t you love how helpful Google is these days?
“Your search - lesbian liturgy babtism - did not match any documents."
"Did you mean: lesbian liturgy baptism?”
Yeah, woops. Whose idea was it to spell it like that?
(I can’t spell for shite, so Mr Google often asks me what I mean).
Coming soon to a gallery near you...
(but only if you're in Wellington).
Confabulation, n. 1: An informal conversation. 2: A plausible but imagined memory that fills in gaps in what is remembered. 3: The intermingling of art and poetry, memory, imagination and conversation.
Faded yellow photographs
crayon drawings, and a few scraps
catching tadpoles in the muddy creek
dancing under the sprinkler
or making rainbows
with the hose.
The cotonus by the letterbox
bursting into autumn flames
splattered with bright leaves
the honey scent
of beeswax candles
soft and steaming.
Plastic rubbish bags
for sliding down the winter slopes
squealing with delight
and later, packing snow
inside the wooden churn
till the ice cream thickens.
Snowdrops in spring
daffodils pushing through the earth
rolling around the lawn
the baby lamb
tethered in the back yard;
the warm bottles of milk
its soft greasy wool.
and left me all alone, confused, uninspired and desperate.
I’m reading the latest issue of Landfall. I’m trying to workout if it’s really cool or really lame. I think possibly both.
They’ve got this poem by James Brown, it’s a pantoum using found elements from spam subject lines. It’s kinda cool. But is it really poetry? “Free one day of hotties / Is it me or is this programme amazing!?!?! / Size and stamina do matter / Marry a nice girl…” etc. He did the same kind of thing once with instructions from a cashpoint machine.
There’s also a piece by Dinah Hawken. It’s basically a series of journal entries, and it’s lovely… but no more interesting, original, well-written than various weblogs I’ve stumbled over in the past couple of days. I’m wondering whether it’s in there because it’s an original, excellent piece of work, or because it’s by Dinah Hawken. It does contain some of the thoughts along the way to creating a poem.
I’m probably just sore because they rejected my poems (in a very nice, encouraging way, but nonetheless they rejected them).
While I was browsing through random blogs, I came across the “friendship test” on someone’s blog. The idea is that you take the test to see how well you (supposedly) know your friend. I took a test to see how well I knew the person who's blog I'd come from, and I got 72%, but that’s probably because I’d just finished reading her 100 things list.
Anyway, it was kinda fun, and I was bored, so I made my own test. See how well you know ME! I’m going to be very amused if people I’ve never met in “real life” score higher than people I’ve known for ages (there's a challenge to you). Hee…
Hey, you could make a test to screen potential lovers... hmmmm (not that I've done that. Mine is done purely for fun, because I'm interested to see how close people get, and who gets the highest scores, and all that...)
Keep in mind that I wrote the questions in the middle of the night without putting a great deal of thought into them...
Take the test.
(I should do it myself in a couple of days and make sure I still have the same answers...)
Why do all the parties I ever go to seem to end up with the guys all talking about compost or wearing lacy dresses (depending on the kind of party) and the women always end up talking about the Cup? Do other people go to parties like that, or is it just me?
My flatmate actually ate an entire 2 litre carton of icecream in one sitting. I don’t know whether to be impressed or horrified.
In desperate need of procrastination, I did a survey of the books on my shelves. I have approximately 368 books on my shelves. Of these, approximately 36 percent are non-fiction, 32 percent are children’s literature, 17 percent are fiction and 15 percent are poetry. The publisher that occurs most frequently is Penguin, followed by Victoria University Press. Most of my favourite fiction books are published by Flamingo (Harper Collins) or Picador. My favourite children’s books were published by Oxford in the 80’s. The non-fiction publishers I refer to most frequently all start with V; Viking, VUP, Virgin, Vintage, Verso, Vermilion… oh and Reed, so there goes that theory.
They tell me it’s my age. At 21, no one knows what they want to do with their life, but everyone’s in a big hurry to do it.
This is probably true, and it probably doesn’t matter if I know what I want to do… but still, I like to have a plan. If not for my life, then at least for next semester.
Part of me is really sick of university. I want to get on with the next stage of my life. Trouble is, lots of the things I want to do require a tertiary qualification. And even if they didn’t, I feel like I’ve got this far, I’ve spent this much time and money and energy, it would be nice to walk away with a bit of paper in my hand. Ya know? But the major I would really like to do (Maori) would take me three years to do (I could have started this year, but for some reason I got cold feet and pulled out at the last moment). Another three years at university. Could I bear that? Of course I could do something else (like linguistics) purely on the basis of the minimal number of papers (four) required for a major. I could finish next year. But do I really want to do linguistics?
And yes, I do have to angst over all this right now, because I need to work out what I’m doing next semester. Should I do more creative writing workshops (cos I love them) even though they won’t count towards a major? Or should I knuckle down and do something that might actually count towards my degree?
Will it really matter, down the road, if I spent an extra two years at uni? I just feel so sick of it. But then, I guess I only have to study part time, so I could do plenty of other things while I finish off my degree. Keeping on working with kids, painting, writing writing writing…
And then? Nah, I don’t have a plan for that bit either. I want to be a writer, but the trouble is I can’t just go ahead and do that, I have to get approval and acceptance from other people. And in the meantime it seems a wise idea to have a backup plan. I think maybe I’d like to do some sort of art/music therapy with special needs kids. Or journalism. Or teaching. I’d like to do writing, paining, music, swimming etc with kids with mental health issues. Yeah! That’s it! That’s what I’d like to do…
…so how do I get there?
Have you ever given a joint present to a young couple, and then wondered who would keep it if they split up?
I made a plate for my grandparents. Square, and slightly curved, like a sushi plate. I pushed leaves into it so the veins left indentations in the clay, and after it was fired I glazed it a rich earthy brown.
I never thought about who would keep it. I never thought about my grandparents splitting up. That’s not something grandparents do. Teenagers split up. Young people. Celebrities. And occasionally someone else’s parents. But not my grandparents.
It’s hard enough making a new start when you’re 21. Imagine making a new start when you’re 84! Imagine going into hospital for what should be fairly routine heart surgery, then something goes wrong and you end up back in hospital for another operation and they have to put you in restraints for a couple of days because you’re thrashing around in agony and you might disconnect the life support… and then, weeks later when you come out of hospital you find out that your wife has left you and she’s sold the house.
When I was a child my grandparents lived in a beautiful house by lake Rotorua. There was a slippery brick path that led down from the house. It always seemed to be cool and dark in the garden. There were mosses and violets, ferns and lilies underneath the trees, and a rough stone seat underneath an old rhododendron.
Down by the water grew harakeke, and my grandfather planted Jerusalem artichokes in the sandy soil. He used to chop them up into a soup that always tasted a little earthy.
There was a boat shed, with a little dinghy. And an island, so close that I could leap across from the shore, so tiny that it was home to only one willow tree. A tangle of bright red roots like veins trailing through the water.
The house had huge windows overlooking the lake. The living room always smelled old and musty. It was filled with treasures – fragile books, antique Chinese vases, precious rugs, and beautiful paintings.
The kitchen always smelled like freshly baked bread, rich with whole grain flours, and vegetables roasting or steaming on the stove.
Downstairs were the looms and the spinning wheels, the floor covered in scraps of cloth and piles of wool. I used to watch both of my grandparents at work, pulling and threading and turning until the beautiful fabrics tumbled out of their hands.
My grandmother always made me squeal with laughter, pulling silly faces or putting on voices, or rubbing my feet until I writhed helplessly.
My grandfather was involved with the peace movement, and he had a badge making machine that he used to make peace badges. Sometimes he would let me draw pictures and turn them into badges.
He loved travelling, and throughout my childhood he brought me back so many wonderful treasures. The ones I loved most were the glossy red yukata and the green Spanish dancing dress. I wore them until they were ridiculously short and the sleeves cut into my arms.
It’s painful to seem him so frail. Until last year he was still looking after a huge vegetable garden, bee keeping, learning new hobbies, travelling… He’s done so much in his life. So many stories. In 1923 he and his family went on the first campervan trip ever in this country. A few years later he told his mother he wasn’t going to eat meat any more, and he’s been a vegetarian for 78 years and counting. He’s worked on ships, and as a film cameraman. He’s been involved with the peace movement and the environmental movement. He’s a great supporter of herbs and natural remedies. And until recently, he’s been incredibly healthy. Even in his 70s he could beat Thomas - a strong young Swedish man - at arm wrestling.
Now I’m pushing him around in a wheelchair.
I don’t feel old enough to care for him.
I don’t feel old enough to bear my grandfather’s tears.
I was going to write a real blog entry. Honest. For the past 48 hours it’s been my intention to write a blog entry soon. But life kept creeping up behind me, and walloping me over the head with a soggy banana, and, well, I just haven’t gotten around to it. Sorry.
In fact, I might be not getting around it quite a lot for the next month or so. You see, right now there are lots of family dramas (involving pushing my grandfather around in a wheelchair and trying not to throttle my uncle) and work dramas (although mostly the work ones have been successfully performed, and now it’s just back to normal every day work stuff).
And then… on the 30th of June I have to hand in my folio of Children’s Stories. And on the 3rd of July my art exhibition opens, and it’s also my birthday. And on the fourth, weather permitting, I’m tramping up Mount Holdsworth because my parents will be down in this neck of the woods. Then on the 5th of July I’m one of the guests at the Eisteddfod spoken word night down at the Bluenote. And on the 6th of July I’m getting babtised.
And then I’m sleeping for a week.
Oh yeah, and the other thing is that if I’m not hammering away at this keyboard, I’m probably playing around with this other keyboard which is new and spunky and oh so very very cool.
So, if blog entries are slightly shorter and less frequent than you are used to, I apologise in advance. Normal blogging will resume as soon as… well, as soon as I get around to it.
I will write a proper entry soon, I promise. In fact, maybe even later tonight. But right now I have a date with Buffy and fish and chips, so I’ve gotta run for the bus…
We had an end of course potluck last night. It was so lovely to sit around the fire, drink wine, eat good food, and talk about stuff that didn’t involve critiquing each other’s work!
Someone brought along a yummy salad that had bean sprouts in it, and I helped myself to some and munched away. It wasn’t until I’d cleaned my plate that I thought to check if there were any azuki beans. Golly, I thought. I could’ve died just now. Doh! But there didn’t seem to be any azuki beans (they’re getting quite common in sprout mixes, so I really should be more careful) and I still seem to be here.
So who are you anyway, and what do you want?
I know why I blog. I just love writing. Blogging gives me the incentive to write regularly, and I genuinely believe that my writing is improving – or at developing, changing, broadening, whatever.
OK, so I kinda get a buzz out of the fact that so many people are reading Beautiful Monsters. I don’t pretend to understand why anyone (other than me) would be interested in reading my rants, but I’m glad. It gives me the motivation to keep going, and I really appreciate the feedback. I also like the fact that it’s instant publication and instant response. And I like the sense of being connected to others in a community. I like catching glimpses of other peoples lives, glimpses of a particular person at a particular moment in time.
So, that’s me. But what are you doing here? How did you find my blog? Why do you keep reading? Seriously. I don’t mean to be nosy… well, actually, ok, I’m just being nosy. But it would be interesting to find out what people enjoy about Beautiful Monsters, and what puts people off. Not that I’ll necessarily change anything, but I might, if a suggestion grabs me. So what do you like reading? The non-fiction? The poetry? The fiction? The diary entries? Which bits bore you to tears? What kind of writing do you want more of? Do you want shorter blogs? Do you want me to shut up?! Be honest. Be brutal. Say something interesting. Answers on the back of an envelope (preferably filled with chocolate) in the comments section or via email.
The Psychology of Blogging
This guy reckons that blogging is essentially no different to newsgroups or discussion forums or mailing lists or other forms of online conversation. But I disagree. Because blogging isn’t really about community, or conversation. It’s about ME. It’s my writing about my thoughts and my ideas and my experiences. Ok, so other people read my blog, but most of the time the communication is one way – from me to everyone who wants to listen. It’s far more self-centred than newsgroups and mailing lists. And I kind of like that. I mean sure, I’ve had some great times in Usenet. But I like being able to get my thoughts straight and get them out, without having to worry about anyone else having time to speak.
He also says that blogging isn’t much different from personal websites. But it is! Because a website, you just put all this stuff about yourself, and then you leave it, and it sits there gathering dust until you forget you ever had a website. But a blog! It changes all the time. You never know what it’s going to be about tomorrow.
The same psychologist goes on to say that, “ultimately, all blogs die… nearly everything once good becomes worn and replaced by something or someone else. When a particular weblog no longer fulfils [its] mission – whether through intentional neglect, a lack of quality links or commentary, or its readership moving on to the “Next New Thing” – people will start to tune out… Online journals also lose peoples’ interest when the person’s life itself is no longer very interesting or of any interest to the readership. Even the best books and stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. A lot of authors don’t realize this and continue the story long after the interesting part of it is over. The climax has passed, the readers move on, but the author still toils because nobody told her the story has ended. After all, when it’s a person’s life, and it’s still continuing, how can it have ended? That’s the paradox that most journalers don’t resolve very well.”
Oh dear. How depressing. Someone tell me if I’ve already died and I haven’t noticed.
I thought the essay Rebecca wrote about blogging was much more interesting than that psych dude's ramblings.
This story follows on from Katie
Mark parked the car three blocks away. Light rain was falling and the streets were glossy. The bottoms of his trousers dragged through the puddles, and the water crept up his calves. He kept walking purposefully, as though he was heading somewhere up the street, but at the last moment he glanced over his shoulder and then ducked through the doorway.
The darkness seemed somehow gloomier than the night street outside. Mark hesitated at the bottom of the steps. What if she didn’t want to see him? What if she was with someone?
She was with someone. The blond girl was on reception. She leaned forward and whispered to him, “Kimberly is with someone, love. But Estelle is on, and there’s a new girl, Kaylee, an Asian girl. She’s very pretty.”
Marl blushed, and stared at his feet. “Um, is it ok if I just wait?”
She winked at him. “Of course, love. You can sit and have a drink with the other girls if you like. I’ll get Estelle to take you through.” She pushed a button on the wall, and a few moments later Estelle was opening the door beside him.
“I’m just here to see Kimberly,” he whispered.
“Aren’t I good enough for you?” She giggled and took him by the arm. “Well I hope you’re at least going to buy me a drink.” In the lounge the other girls gathered around to introduce themselves, but Estelle waved them away. “Mark is waiting for someone special. And in the meantime he’s going to buy me a glass of white wine.” She fluttered her eyelashes at Mark, and he blushed again and fumbled for his wallet.
The new girl was very pretty. She had short hair that curled under her chin, and big dark eyes. Too skinny though. Like Estelle. Skinny as anything, Estelle was, but she had a beautiful smile that seemed to spread over her whole face. And she was kind.
Mark sat on the edge of his chair and sipped his coke, and tried not to keep turning around to look at the clock. He didn’t want the other girls to think he was rude. He wanted to talk, he just couldn’t think of anything to say.
Finally a door opened and there she was. For a moment she stared at him, and raised her eyebrows. Then she looked away, and walked down the hall. Mark turned to look at the guy she was leading. Big muscles. Shaved head. Mark swallowed and stared into his glass.
She spent about fifteen minutes in the shower. Mark finished his drink, and spun the glass round and round on the table in front of him. Estelle and one of the other blond girls disappeared with a short Indian guy. The Asian girl came and sat beside him and tried to start a conversation, but gave up after a few of Mark's muttered one word answers.
Finally she emerged. She walked past without looking at him, and disappeared into the other lounge. Mark swallowed hard, and glanced apologetically at the Asian girl. He got to his feet, took a deep breath, and followed her into the lounge.
She swung around and glared at him. “Don’t call me that. I’m not Katie here.”
“Sorry.” He stared at her. She was wearing a short green dress that laced up at the front. Behind the criss-crossing ribbons he could see her pale skin.
“What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to see you.”
Katie sighed. “You can see me without paying, Mark.”
“I know, but…” Mark shrugged, and looked away.
The silence stretched between them.
Finally, Mark took a deep breath.
“So, could I, um, spend some time with you?”
“Sure.” She looked at him expectantly, but he didn’t move. “Oh alright. Fine. Room nine, ok? I’ll wait for you.” She turned and stomped down the hallway.
Mark watched her leave, then he took out his wallet and headed for the reception desk.
The sleep-deprivation has caught up with me. After weeks of insomnia, suddenly I’m sleeping again. Unfortunately, I’m still not sleeping enough at night. But I’m dozing off on buses, and in class, and slumped over my desk. I suppose any sleep is better than no sleep, right? Only right now I feel as though someone has hit me over the head with a sledgehammer. Ouch. And stars.
Today is a wildly exciting day at home with Beautiful Monsters. I tidied my office, swept the floors, did my washing, cleaned the kitchen, washed the dishes, answered a few phone messages, and fell asleep no less than three (3) times. Gripping blogging, I know.
While I was cleaning the kitchen I noticed that my flatmate had a huge bag of sultanas from Moore Wilsons, and I grabbed a handful. It took me a moment to realise that I had a handful of chocolate drops. She has FOUR KILOGRAMS of chocolate drops. Or she had. Looks like she’s eaten about two and a half… How is she not fat? (She also goes through five litre tubs of ice cream at an alarming rate).
Went to a friend’s house the other night, and watched lots of Buffy (I’m up to the second box of season two – wooo, go me) which involved lots of Willow and Oz cuteness.
Then we watched Proof, an Australian movie starring a young Russell Crowe and Hugo Weaving.
Nurse: "You've been blind all your life!”
Martin: “I know.”
Nurse: “What were you doing driving a car?"
Martin: “I forgot.”
Martin is a blind photographer. Yup, you heard me. He believes that through photos he can prove that the reality he experiences is the same reality that we see. Trouble is he never trusts anyone to describe his photographs to him. Until he meets Andy. Eventually he learns to trust Andy enough to let him describe the photo he has kept locked in a safe for more than 30 years. A photo that will either confirm or deny his lifelong belief that his mother was ashamed of him because he was blind.
I’d never thought about how much you’d have to trust people, if you were blind. By describing Martin’s photographs, Andy became the dictator of what was real to Martin. He could have said anything. I don’t know if I could have trusted someone so much – but I would have asked the questions anyway. I would have felt the same need to know.
I could really relate to Martin’s need for proof. So often I feel that truth and reality is eluding me. However, instead of relying on others to tell me about the world around me, I rely on other people to tell me that I am real, that I am a part of the world.
Everyone dissociates from time to time. You know those times when you’re driving? Suddenly you’re pulling into the garage but you don’t actually remember anything about the trip home. You’ve been on autopilot. Part of your mind was focussing on the road, but you were miles away. Or those times when you’re walking home from a party, and you feel totally “out of it.” Or that time when you found out someone had died. It felt as though everyone was so far away - like looking at the world through the wrong end of a telescope - and everything moved slowly. Your feet barely touched the ground.
Well, for some of us dissociation is so frequent or so extreme that it seems we are falling apart. There is no reality to fall back to.
What is it that defines you? What is your self? How do you know that even though your body grows bigger and then older, even though you stop eating fairy bread and develop a taste for wine, even though you stop playing with sand and toy trucks and start dragging yourself along to an office five days a week… you’re still the same person?
I have no history, no stable sense of “myself” over time. I am trapped in the present moment. If I am lonely, all I have ever felt is loneliness. If you are angry with me, I feel your anger for an eternity.
My memories are like scattered puzzle pieces that seem to have no connection to each other or to me. They create a fractured image that makes no sense – when I try and pick up the pieces they slip between my fingers, or crumble in my hands.
I am someone different with every person, with every group of friends. I put on different masks in different situations. Sometimes it feels like I am nothing but a collection of masks, and if I were to take them off I would disappear.
You are the mirror in which I can see myself. I know I am real because when you hold me I feel comforted, when you say you care I feel loved. Without you, I am nothing.
Sometimes I feel completely numb. I’m conscious, but I cannot feel anything - like being under anaesthetic. Other times I leave my body, I walk away. I do things that I have no recollection of doing. Sometimes I hurt myself without being aware of it. I worry that one day I will do something drastic and I won’t see it coming.
Who is in my body when I’m not there? Is my body an empty shell, or does someone else take over the controls? Who am I when I leave? Am I a lost soul? A ghost? What about the times when I go so far away I’m not aware of anything. Do I still exist? What if one day I go away and I can’t get back to my body? Will I die, or will I just wander around, lost and lonely? What about the voices that I sometimes hear? Are they part of me, part of my own consciousness? Or are they really coming from someone else?
Looking around my room you’ll see evidence of my frantic attempts to create a sense of my self. On the corkboard by my bed I have letters and print outs of emails from friends, telling me that they care about me, telling me that I am worthwhile. My bookshelf is like a catalogue of things I would like you to know about me. These are the things that are important to me. See? This is the kind of person I am. Please believe that I am real.
Ultimately it is not a healthy or sustainable way to live. My self-esteem is defined by my interactions with other people. If someone is angry with me, then I am a worthless and horrible person. If someone praises me then I am a worthwhile person. But as soon as I have a new interaction, everything changes.
All of this makes the ending of my writing course seem almost unbearable. For twelve weeks I have had something stable to hold onto. I have had twelve wonderful women who have made me feel supported and valuable. My sense of myself has been stronger. I am someone who writes. I am someone who is a part of this group.
I always find endings so painful. When I am with someone I feel more alive, but as soon as they leave I feel empty. When people are not with me I do not feel their love and support, and I cease to exist.
I find it so hard to let go.
That’s why I check my email every two minutes - I’m searching for proof that I am real.
That’s why as soon as I hang up the phone I want to call you again – I want to recreate the warmth I felt talking to you, I want to prove that it was real.
That’s why I want you to hold me – to keep me from falling apart.