'Thought I was like you but I'm not...

by tosca on Tuesday, March 30, 2010

...I don't have any potential.'
- Boy (Alamein) from the film Boy (written/directed/featuring the very talented Taika Waititi).

The clip, above, is from Taika Waititi's very moving film 'Boy.' If you haven't yet seen it then move your arse, sunshine! What're you waiting for - Armageddon?! The first I heard about Boy was when @natz2d2 came in to work and said some American critic didn't think it was very Maori. How Maori is Maori, I'd like to know? It's a question Maori themselves try to define everyday. Good luck to the critic if he finds the answer, geez. I was kinda pissed about the comment but hell, it's hard to have an opinion about something I know nothing about so I said very little. Now I do have something to say. Monsieur Le Critique, what the hell do you know about being Maori? 'Boy' is a film that, as Maori, I identified with more than freakin' 'Once were warriors' that's for damn sure.

It's been a few months since I saw any film and, worse still, I hadn't even heard of Boy. Don't shoot me. Admittedly if I'd been following someone who was following Taika's tweetstream I'm sure I would've known. The film is set on the East Coast in Te Whanau-a-Apanui countryside and features Alamein, an 11 year old whose nickname is 'Boy' (if you only knew how many Maori kids I've known who were fondly called 'Boy' or 'Girl' or 'Tama' or 'Hine'!). Boy lives with his gran and brother - 6 year old Rocky who believes he has 'special powers' - and 4 cousins (3 of whom are under 4 by the looks of it). Boy has built up a whole fantasy life around his father that he happily shares with his friends and brother. The truth is not that shit hot. His life consists of school, exploring the area and helping gran take care of the children. When gran is unexpectedly called away to a tangi (funeral) in Wellington (and toddles off in a beat up old Humberhawk that the kids have to push down the driveway - geez did that bring back some memories), Boy must take care of the whanau (family). And then Boy's dad (who wants to call himself Shogun, the idiot) arrives, complete with 2 stupid friends (omg spot the track pants and swanndri). Somehow, Boy has to reconcile the pretend version of his dad with the one who turns up on the doorstep (spot the Valiant - my dad had a bright orange Regal Valiant just like it *groans*).

I loved this film! I laughed until I was almost sick and winced and cringed and groaned in sympathy and, once or twice, even shed a tear or two. Sometimes your pretend dad is better than the real thing. It's a crappy lesson to learn. Sometimes, though, good stuff comes out of that. I spent the whole movie feeling so nostalgic. It reminded me of both the good and the bad parts of growing up Maori in the 80s. My childhood friends of the time would have recognised so much of their own lives, things that we probably thought were particular to Maori: the parties in the shed; sitting in the back of the car parked outside the pub while one (or both) of the parents were inside tying one on (not my dad though, my mum would've hung him if he'd tried that with us); leaving the kids unsupervised for hours at a time (once again, not my mum, she would have castrated him - am beginning to recognise that perhaps mum wore the pants); the very bad 80s haircuts; the terrible shorts and adidas shoes; the bop - seriously, my young uncles used to carry a ghetto blaster everywhere they went AND they had a square piece of lino they'd carry, too, because hey, the urge to drop and bop could strike anytime, anywhere LOL); freedom and safety to run wild and explore; making yourself look like an idiot in front of your crush; trying to grow up before you're ready; the slang of the time; the way Maori would interact with each other; rural life; dad being in jail (once again, not mine, mum would've left him for dust if that had been the case). Hell, hearing the 'Goodnight Kiwi' song again almost scared the crap out of mef - I used to find that song so scary. Probably because of the dratted hissing noise the tv made when it would go off air. And the soundtrack! Poi e, Karu, Thriller, Hine e hine etc. *Le sigh* Good (and bad) times. Definitely. Jotting all of this down I see that perhaps it wasn't strictly a Maori experience so much as it was just life. Fullstop.

Go watch it - you won't regret it. Honest. But don't tell me it's not Maori.

'Language shapes the way we think...

by tosca on Friday, March 26, 2010

...and determines what we can think about.'
- Benjamin Lee Whorf

Title: The Arrival
Author: Shaun Tan
Publisher: Lothian
Year of publication: 2006
Star rating out of 5: 5
Summary: In this wordless graphic novel, a man leaves his homeland and sets off for a new country, where he must build a new life for himself and his family. -- Publisher's description

If language shapes the way we think...what happens when anything appoximating a language is removed? I recently read (4 times in one sitting, and each time seeing something new) Shaun Tan's wordless graphic novel 'The arrival' and was blown away by its message and its impact. The beauty of this book is that it is everybody's story. It also nobody's story. Sounds implausible? You obviously haven't read the book, then :-)

Shaun Tan is, in short, a genius - he uses this wordless graphic novel to convey how it must be for a family to be temporarily torn apart. In a possibly-Asian country (the dragon tail shadow that wraps around the buildings) that looks rather European (think World War II) a father must leave his wife and daughter to take a ship to a strange country to ready the way for his family. The fear and oppression and political suppression come through so clearly when the family leave home to see the father off on his trip. Tan manages, through the use of symbols and fascinatingly multi-layered pictures, to depict not just the father's journey to start anew, but the journey of those he comes into contact with as well. I enjoyed this book so much. It really did blow my mind. There are no names, no recognisable landmarks, no identifiable cultures, no particular class or caste system - in short, nothing is anything you would recognise except the journey of the characters. The start of the book sees the family (mum and daughter) helping the father to pack a case of belongings in preparation for his journey to a new land, where he will set himself up with a job and accommodation before sending for them. His experiences - the isolation, the loneliness, the struggle to find a home, a job and friends - are very cleverly depicted in Tan's artwork. I'm absolutely stunned that all of his emotions and thoughts can be expressed without words. 'The arrival' is heartbreaking, eye-opening and oh so very clever.

In March of this year I flew home to Wellington to participate in the last part of the International Arts Festival and was able to see the Red Leap Theatre play of 'The arrival,' and it was as fantastic as I had hoped it would be! It probably helped that the venue was the Wellington Opera House (did you know that they actually have boxes? One day I'm going to sit in one just because I can). I must admit to experiencing some slight disappointment that the characters spoke. It threw me for a moment. I guess I wanted it to be exactly like the book - wordless. So the occasional English word took me aback. Their made-up language seemed too Eastern-European sounding for me to relax and believe it was invented just for the play. I will gladly admit to shedding a tear or two (if I am honest it was much more). As someone who had returned to my childhood home for a long weekend I was able to remember the heart-wrenching move, 26 years ago, from all that was familiar in Wellington to the faster-moving Auckland - I guess I felt that in some small way I identified with the father. Weirdly enough, I went to see the play with my gran, an activity we have never really done in any of my 34 years. It was a very enjoyable experience so I hope that, in the near future, I can take in more with her. She loved the play, although she did make the comment that she kept trying to relate all of the characters (including the animals) in the play to something physical she knew in this world :)

Readers of graphic novels or sophisticated picture books will really get something out of this. And it makes for a great discussion book/topic with children. There was a young boy at the play who had obviously gotten so much out of the book that he was fair squealing with excitement while providing a running commentary. How could you not love the enthusiasm? Read it - that's about as blunt as I can get. Thank you, Monsieur Tan, Red Leap Theatre and Gran. We really must do this again sometime.

'I'm not gonna live my life...

by tosca on Monday, March 15, 2010

...on one side of an ampersand...'
- 'Ampersand' by Amanda Palmer from the album 'Who Killed Amanda Palmer'

I am a recent Amanda Palmer convert, and that was purely by happy accident. Playing around on YouTube early last year I came across a live clip of 'Missed Me' by the Dresden Dolls and also 'Girl Anachronism.' Both clips totally blew my tiny mind. There was rage and passion and quirk and brutal honesty and loads of talent being spit out at such a furious rate and at full volume. The likes of which I hadn't seen in quite a while. I was hooked.

Imagine my delight to learn that Amanda Palmer had collaborated with Neil Gaiman to produce a book called 'Who Killed Amanda Palmer?' to serve as an extension to the cd of the same name. My cup truly runneth over. Then I heard through a friend of a friend that she would be playing in Wellington at the same time as I would be down there listening to Neil Gaiman speak (I wonder, if they hadn't been engaged, would it still have worked out that way for me?). With much excitement, and a little apprehension, I booked a ticket. My younger sister Jax decided to invite herself along, too, sight/sound unseen. At any other time I might have exhibited worry that she wouldn't enjoy it but I was too wrapped up in whether or not I would to take note. But all my fears were for nothing.

We arrived at Bodega early and spent a good (or bad, depending on your point of view) 20 mins cooling our heels outside watching outfits range from the mundane (jeans and running shoes) to the more outré (a coffin satchel, a parasol, a few corsets, a couple of victorian mini topper hats, striped tights, some awesome knee high boots and way out makeup). Every now and then I'd sneak a peek at the line-up board - an alternate way of pinching myself, I guess, to prove I really was there.

I can't be 100% certain because I wasn't right up by the stage, but I think she passed out dildos. Either that or they were funny shaped carrots and honey, if those were carrots, I'm never eating them :-) There were so many diehard fans in the audience and they went bonkers when she came out.

What can I say about the gig itself? And the dynamo that is Amanda Palmer? She knows how to play a crowd, and play to the crowd. For her first song she sang accompanied by a ukulele and it was simple. It also served as a great way to settle the crowd. And then she sat behind the keyboard and, in 3 words, she went insane. Totally insane. I have never heard anyone play the keyboard with such animation and, while she might have had a prepared set to get through, she was quite willing to be led by the crowd and let them choose a song every now and then. At one point the audience asked her to play the Ches & Dale song (yes, as in Chesdale cheese, geez) and when she said she didn't know it the crowd obligingly sang it for her. If they asked for something she didn't want to play she'd straight up say, 'I haven't played that in ages so I'm sure I'll fuck it up.' Respect. Occasionally she would start singing, 'Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah-ah!' from Lady Gaga's 'Bad Romance.' When the crowd started heckling Gaga, Palmer coolly told them, 'Lady Gaga is like Madonna, she's a necessary part of the cultural continuum.' Mucho cool, as far as I'm concerned. She also thanked the people for choosing to see her over Ravi Shankar who was also playing at the same time somewhere else (don't laugh but I did hear a lot of ppl say, 'Who the fuck is that?' Some people are appallingly stupid). If audience members gave her shtick she gave it right back, in spades ;) She played 'The Black Death' which is all about how she hates vegemite and was written a week or two ago while in Australia. I love the lyric 'It is the vegemite, my darling, or it's me...'. At one point she read a piece from 'Who Killed Amanda Palmer' that was written by Neil Gaiman and the crowd was absolutely still, just listening. Her ability to know what to give the audience and when was just uncanny. My favourite song from the set would have been 'Missed Me' if only because it seemed so much dirtier and bawdier and louder than usual with all of those almost discordant sounding notes. Organised chaos ;)

At times it was loud and raucous and then simple and low key and then she'd amp it up again and she'd be bashing away at the keyboard and then tone it down so much it'd seem incredibly intimate, making me feel almost like a voyeur. I truly believe that hearing her on cd in no way prepares you for the pure genius of Amanda Palmer. It probably helps that I think she's totally mental :-) I'd do it again in a heartbeat. By the way, my sister is now a fan, too. Yay Jax.

'Would you not like to try all sorts of lives - one is so very small...

by tosca on Saturday, March 13, 2010

- but that is the satisfaction of writing - one can impersonate so many people.'
- Letter from Katherine Mansfield to Sylvia Payne, APril 1906

Quick fly-by post, much like a one night stand, only slightly more classy because it involves Katherine Mansfield. Any ardent Mansfield fan will know that 25 Tinakori Road is historically significant - and if you haven't yet got it, the pic (check left) should be a dead giveaway as to why. And cheers to the guy tooting his horn while I was trying to take the shot - almost scared the crap outta me :-)

My parents left Wellington when I was about 8 or 9, and I hadn't yet discovered Mansfield's writing. I can't say I love her work, but I did enjoy it quite a bit when I finally did get around to reading her stories in intermediate/high school. Each time I come back to Thorndon I tell myself I'll visit her birthplace but I never do. Today, I finally did. And it's a beautiful day for it - such a huge difference from the freak storm of yesterday. When Wellington turns it on it really turns it on.

25 Tinakori Road is almost miss-able, if you're not looking. And I wasn't. I was plugged into the iPod and almost walked straight past on the opposite side of the road (in spite of the ornate signage and huge OPEN sign eek). Took some snapshots of the outside (we're not allowed to take pics of the inside) and spent ages mooching around inside, generally haunting the residence, and thinking how very much I would like to have lived there (although from some of her writing it wasn't a place that she liked all that much). Take away the dainty furniture and the chamberpots and I'd like it fine.

What a fascinating woman, and what a life she lived. One of the upstairs rooms is filled with photos of her with various people (family, husband, friends) and they're accompanied by text from her stories and her letters (such as the post title). One particular piece of text caught my eye, if only because it seemed to have an echo of so much of everything else I'd seen in the house. It was in reference to her very English husband who was so proper and how she lamented that he would never be a quick and carefree kind of person, and she loved him anyway. It seemed...sad. And quite poignant, and I ended up leaving then in a reflective mood. Am I going to read her stuff again? Very probably not, although I greatly enjoyed my time in her childhood home. I think, perhaps, she was a woman ahead of her time. I also think she did try to live all sorts of lives in the one she was given. I will be extremely happy if I am capable of saying the same thing many years from now.

'Home is a place not only of strong affections...

by tosca on Friday, March 12, 2010

...but of entire unreserve; it is life's undress rehearsal, its backroom, its dressing room' ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe. Quick-ish post while I wait for the taxi to take me to the Auckland airport.

Today, for the first time in 3 or 4 years, I head home to Wellington. I'm always ambivalent about calling it 'home.' My parents & siblings & I left Wellington when I was 9 and, at the time, it felt like I was losing my heart (I would like to say I was a reserved and circumspect child but truth be told I was a tad overly emotional and and melodramatic). I was leaving behind my grandparents (Trentham & Thorndon), an older sister (Ky was raised by my maternal gran), hundreds of first cousins (please, being Maori it was more likely closer to thousands) and umpteen other relatives for the great unknown. It really hurt and I was bound and determined to hate Auckland with a vengeance. Now, at 34, and as someone who tries to go home (can you ever really go home again?) every couple of years or so, I'm too Wellingtonian for the Aucklanders and too Auckland-y for the Wellingtonians. I feel equally as comfortable sitting at Eden Park cheering for the Hurricanes as I do arguing quite passionately about what I love (and sometimes detest) about Manukau. Maybe it's a little bit like being Maori (is that anything like being a little bit pregnant?) - I can appreciate the best of both worlds. Although maybe that's not the best way to look at it because, thanks to Ma & Pa Kettle I'm Ngati Kahungunu (think Nuhaka in Hawkes Bay), Ngai Tahu (think Kaikoura), Ngai Takoto (think Waimanoni in Kaitaia) and Ngati Porou (think Hicks Bay on the East Coast). Oh, think I dug myself a hole ;-)

I'm headed back for a long weekend break to see Amanda Palmer perform at the Bodega Bar, Neil Gaiman at the Town Hall and The Arrival at the Opera House. I also plan to visit Katherine Mansfield's birthplace (which is a stroll from my gran's place where I will be staying). I also plan to take a nosey at the Writers Walk to see the text sculptures. My sister (who's meeting me down there) has suggested we visit the Taita Lawn Cemetery as well to pay our respects to my paternal grandparents, my maternal gramps and my dad's youngest brother. My uncle Tim was my childhood idol. He would babysit me and bake cakes. For years I thought all cakes came out of little boxes from the shop and you'd just add milk :-) He will be forever young in my mind. Our song was Nina Pretty Ballerina by ABBA.

So, if you see me wandering around Wellington (you'll know me, beaded necklaces up the wazoo and a Manukau Libraries bag happily taking snapshots of literary/writer type places & things) come up and say hello. I don't bite. Much. The pic just above is where I stay when I'm back in Wellington. For years my gran has run Pendennis hostel which is, handily, just up from Molesworth. Yay.

From Twitter 03-09-2010

by tosca on Wednesday, March 10, 2010

From Twitter 03-08-2010: watching Wolverine and likin' it ;)Mr 6's lunch done. playlunch ready (1 apple, 1 banana,... http://bit.ly/9v0wBM
other people's Facebook friends are always somewhat of a revelation. well, sometimes. other times they're just about what you'd expect #fb
RT @WendyWings: Good morning Tuesday, no parties, excitement or events today, hurray for a quiet day at home eating grapes ;)
@WendyWings sounds like an ideal way to start the morning
@GreerMcDonald ditto! you start the movement and I'll follow...
@Wossy I have. Wedding cake!
wrestling with dratted Facebook and trying to add photos. it won't let me. pfft
idea: branches submit photos of staff working around the libraries for our Facebook page. might make staff less remote...? and might not O_o
bottled ghosts. seriously? people. really?
@MagLib good point! oh hah that would definitely be stated
I don't like Good Morning. watching it now. just remembered. ugh. ok off to work for a meeting & then home again. annual leave rocks #fb
Took to my biological clock with hammer (figuratively speaking) yet the sight of 11 daycare chn on bus made me go, 'AWWW.' Warm fuzzies #fb
my warm fuzzies AWW moment was killed by Mr 6 walking home from school. 10 mins from home and he loudly yells, 'I need to pee!' #fb
E matakitaki ana ahau I te Te Karere. E korero ana a Ururoa Flavell e pa ana ki nga take putea mo te - mo te aha? I missed the first bit grr
mahi patu tohora - whaling oohh
one too many 'te' doh
whakatuwhera I te kuaha umanga - nice! never heard it put like that before ;) #fb
@WendyWings has you changed your pic? when? i like! please dont tell me its been there for ages and i'm so not observant O_o
@WendyWings looks good!
@WendyWings argh! you dressed up for the Oscars! that's fantastic 8D
I think i'm getting old. had a 'nap' earlier. now i think i'll be awake for ages. doh. #fb
isn't it funny how some ppl improve by remote?
updating work Facebook page before finding something - anything - else to do to kill time
I guess Logan was here earlier today. His hotmail is still signed in. Doh. Lucky I'm not the type to read his emails - ooh err #fb
@WendyWings g'nite, Mary Ellen :-)
i am convinced that ppl i didn't like so much at 21 have definitely improved 13 yrs later. or else i have. geez. sobering.

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'There are two reasons for reading a book...

by tosca on Tuesday, March 2, 2010

...one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.' So sayeth Bertrand Russell. Meh. I'm not sure if my book motives are less than pure with this post. Am I bragging? Am I sharing? Am I wasting my own time? Am I wasting yours? This post is my public to-be-read list for March 2010. In any one month I will read anywhere from 20-30 books. About a half are set as challenges for my GoodReads online book club, and the rest are ones that catch my interest/eye/fancy. I should probably point out that as I edit our library Romance newsletter these are mostly all romance titles. Some of them are silly, some of them are good, some of them are great - all of them are another way for me to turn on, tune in and drop out (adios, real world). In some ways, publishing my TBR list keeps me on track.

Monthly Challenge - 10 romance titles:
1. Book titles starts with M -
Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind by Heidi Ashworth
2. Birthday celebrant: Danielle from NZ -
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
3. Geography: France -
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery OR The Brooding Frenchman's Proposal by Rebecca Winters
4. St. Patrick's Day -
Bride Of The Emerald Isle by Trish Wylie OR Wedding at King's Convenience by Maureen Child
5. Military/war -
Dark Stranger by Susan Sizemore
6. International Women's Month -
Lessons From a Scarlet Lady by Emma Wildes
7. Romance genre: historical -
The Duke's Cinderella Bride by Carole Mortimer
8. Middle Name Pride Day - No Regrets by Shannon K. Butcher
9. Of shelves and lists:
Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie
10. Reader's choice - TBC

Read the Month of March:
M -
The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie by Jennifer Ashley
A -
Accidentally Demonic by Dakota Cassidy OR The Accidental Countess by Michelle Willingham
R -
Runaway Miss by Mary Nichols
C -
Captain Wentworth's Diary by Amanda Grange
H -
How Do I Love Thee; Stories to Stir the Heart edited by Valarie Parv

NZ challenge (personal challenge)
Children's junior fiction:
Snake and Lizard written by Joy Cowley & illustrated by Gavin Bishop

Boonie author (personal challenge)
An Italian Engagement by Catherine George. I read a title of hers a week or two ago and got lost in the plot and ended up more confused than happy at the happy-ever-after ending *frowns* I don't have hard and fast rules about books - I don't have hard and fast rules about anything much, so if I come across a book that I don't like, I don't automatically think everything else she/he writes is crap. I'll try to find one they've written that I do enjoy - no author can be total kaka, right? Right.

Happy to say that all of the books listed in my Feb list were finished by 9:35pm Sunday 28th February 2010. Who's the (wo)man?! My rational side has just pointed out that I also edit the Maori, Pasefika, Science & Nature newsletters also and none of the above titles match those subject areas. Piss off, rational side, I say :)