Tuesday, June 28, 2011

We Happy Few

It's been hard figuring out how to say what I want to say about Slutwalk; it all keeps coming out in short sentences and lots of emotion. In short, I've never felt so vulnerable in a march, and I've never done one that meant more to me. 

It was cold. A woman who looked off her head started yelling at us as soon as we started. There were almost more spectators than marchers, and they all had cameras and clicked away at us as if we weren't people anymore. But we began chanting, and the guy with the wheelie-bin stereo started playing music, and I stopped feeling so vulnerable and began to look back at the spectators and smile at the cameras. When we reached Aotea Square, I wished we were marching all the way up to K rd. 

There were several speakers, including Louise Nicholas which was pretty exciting, but it was the last speaker who really got me. I'd like to write about this properly when I can properly get my head around it, but he was so sincere and just so right that I wished everyone could hear what he said.

I feel really lucky and proud to have been part of Slutwalk, and I couldn't be more grateful for and proud of my beloved sister and my Vincent for doing it too (part of the last speech was about how crucial the involvement of men is to its success). It's one thing to do what you think is right, but when you have the people you love best doing it with you (even unwillingly, like my excellent little niece), it makes all the difference.

PS Excellent niece questioning her uncle during the speeches 
"What's R-A-P-E?" "Um, that's rape." "What's rape?" [Defers to her mother.]
"What's S-L-U-T?" "Oh man..." 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Saturday Flotsam

Bowling was GREAT. After a strong start I bombed and came fifth, but no matter. Some highlights:
1. Little Missy hiffing her ball so hard it bounced into our lane so we had to ask for our scores to be adjusted.
2. Vincent swearing and then apologising for his language.
3. The alley switching into disco mode shortly before my father's final turn, prompting him to pull out some gangsta poses and then two strikes in a row.
4. My sister taking it out with strike after strike.
5. Being home in bed watching Sopranos at nine.

Today is Slutwalk, and having alienated myself from nearly everyone I know by ranting about it, I'll just say a couple of things. NZ may have been the first country where women could vote but that doesn't mean shit when imbeciles like Alasdair Thompson are in positions of power (let alone in existence). As well as being about victim-blaming, this protest is about basic women's rights. It's not enough for us to sit back and enjoy the rights we have; it's not fair to the women who fought for them, and it's not fair to the women who come after us. I owe it to my nieces as much as myself to try to make things better for them; it baffles me that people will pass up the chance to do the same for the people they love, and that's everyone - a fair society benefits everybody, not only those disadvantaged in an unfair society. This protest is an incredibly easy way to do something. Okay. I'm not really done, but I'm done. And going off to get ready for the march while listening to this. 

Friday, June 24, 2011


I don't have much time today (off to work in a bit and after work - no pub - my excellent little six-year-old niece has filled her sticker chart so we are going bowling!) but I feel like I really have to say something about this. Tomorrow is Auckland's slutwalk, which I will be attending with the sign Vincent is going to paint me as soon as I come up with something clever (suggestions?). I've been reading about it for months on the feminist blogs I follow, trying to decide how I felt about it and which feminists I agree with, before realising that doesn't really matter. What matters is that I know what that policeman said was wrong, and that not doing anything about it would be wrong for me. Most people agree that victim-blaming is ludicrous. But for some reason, when it comes to women's clothes, they don't care anymore (actually, when it comes to women full-stop).

Please read this and this.

I have lived my whole life avoiding parks at night unless I had male company (and didn't feel safe unless there were three or four of my male friends). If I had to catch the bus home when I lived out west, I had to run home from the bus-stop. If I drove at night, I would lock the doors. This list could go on, full of actions I take that are second-nature to me. I do enough; it is too much! I am going to wear what I fucking like.

(Image from socialistrevolution.org)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

International Success

We may not look like much in NZ, but you should know that in Denmark, Vincent and I are kind of a big deal. While we shared our meatball footlong in our little apartment at lunchtime yesterday, we watched Oprah (who was touring countries and comparing the ways Americans and other cultures live), and happened to catch her when she was in Denmark. Separating the gist from the wibuwibu (some nonsense about a bread she's obsessed with that is like "eating earth"), it transpired that in general, people in Denmark care less about possessions; they value lifestyle and people. They pay slightly more tax than most countries and as a result have free education and healthcare for everybody, and students are given money to attend university. Denmark has the smallest gap between the richest and poorest 10% of all developed countries, and very little homelessness and poverty. When Oprah asked her tour guides Nanna and Stine how success is measured in Denmark, they told her it's by happiness.

When I was little and I would catch a fairy or pick a dandelion or by some miracle get the bigger side of the wishbone, I always wished to be happy. I didn't even know people wished to be things like married or famous or for cars or dolls (I saved those kinds of things for my prayers; who's laughing now?), and I don't think I felt unhappy, I just wanted to know that happiness was going to be something that was mine. In hindsight, I might have made some wishes for ambition, but if the wishes did come true, I'm glad about what I wished for. I've definitely had troughs in my life, and some really difficult times, but I have always had that happiness, never more so than now. Vincent and I don't have much money, but it's enough to buy chocolate and go to the film festival. We don't have highly-respected jobs (I would go so far as to say mine is lowly-respected/barely-respected/some of my friends don't consider it a job), but they allow us to do things we like and spend lots and lots of time together, and to sleep at night. We don't have a car, we haven't travelled, most of our appliances, clothes and books are secondhand, and we live in an apartment with a bedroom window that doesn't quite shut and where we can't entertain people because we can't fit them. And I have a degree in philosophy.

We are some of the happiest people I know. Fuck capitalism and convention.

Vincent, a toast to our success.

(Image from Denmarkemb.org)

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Hole You Leave Behind

You're already missed.

(Images from blogs.wsj.com, dedica.la, and musicradar.com)

I Sleep When I Breathe

No doubt partly because the only board-games we had growing up were Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble, Chess and Boggle (none of which were new) and partly because TV was never a permanent fixture in our house (and the times when it was there, it was ruled by our father), my sisters and I are all very concerned ("nay, obsessed") with words. We read and write and talk and talk, and do our best to say exactly what we mean in the exact way we mean it. Two of us often use words for evil, one mostly for amusement, but all to try to describe and own, or at least contain, our worlds.

I've often felt like the whole point of life is finding someone, or if you're really lucky: someones, who can understand your language and maybe speak it, and even if they can't, maybe you will understand theirs. You go around saying things like you're waving a green flag in a world where everybody is colourblind, hoping that one day someone will be able to see it, and then finally you'll know that your experience isn't completely unique, and that you can share it; most importantly, you can know that you're not alone.

I think that's what art is, and it's what language is to me, and to my sisters. We kind of have our own language, some from shared experience and then shared tastes that come from that, but also because even though we are very different people, words are ours. Some of our loneliest times have been when we haven't been able to talk; I remember really missing my sister once when we were actually on holiday together, but having another person there meant we didn't get any time to talk properly and it felt like she was miles away from me. If I don't speak to her, sometimes I can forget how I feel about things... When I am with my sisters, I think I remember who I am supposed to be, and it's partly in relation to who they are. I thought for a long time that people who couldn't use words the way we do were stupid; now I know there are a million ways to communicate and that words are only one, and the way they can be used changes their 'language' completely. We were just lucky to have each other, right there in the same grapefruit tree.

Schopenhauer talked about art being a way to see things how really are. I liked that, especially because I love music and books. But I don't know that I completely agree with him anymore. I think the way to see how things really are is to know how they affect us. Art has the power to connect people in feeling, and that is how we see how things are. A religious friend of mine was telling me about a friend of his who was complaining that god isn't here helping us, even though we clearly need help, and my friend said god is only here as much as we are; if there is no-one to believe then there is no god. I thought about how I enjoy beautiful things but only as much as they are meaningful to me, and that my most prized possessions have always been those with sentimental value. When my sister was also studying philosophy, we agreed that we preferred that which we could apply to make our and others' lives better (and our favourite Malcolm Gladwell book is Outliers because we thought it was the most useful). Do you know what I'm trying to say? I'm not sure I do, but these ideas all seem to come out together as if I know them to be connected.

I don't know how to end this when there isn't really an end, so I'll tell you about a dear friend of mine who is not a word person. We were arguing, and he said I was a work of art.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Please Whisper

Learn from my experience. Lemonade is much more lemony on the way back up. If there's a chance you'll puke, I'd recommend something else; milk curdles a little but it doesn't hurt the throat, water is good but doesn't disguise the taste of bile if that's in the mix. One of the best things I've ever vomited was a berry smoothie (strawberry - no seeds); it was exactly the same as before it went down and still cold as it was made with frozen yoghurt - very refreshing. Unfortunately it had been made by Boost who are no longer in NZ (what are you going to do?).

Last night after drinking quite a bit of beer and quite a lot of cider I went to McDonalds and ate a dodgy Big Mac. My reasons for blaming the Big Mac are the following: if I was going to puke from the drinking, I would have! and as soon as all of the Big Mac was out (in the middle of the night; luckily I woke up first. Once I made a curry with chicken that wasn't good for myself and two of my friends before going out, and ate more when I got home to help my hangover, and woke up with bits of chicken stuck to my back and a little pile of chicken spew beside the bed. Fortunately we had wooden floors.) I was able to sleep again (until I had the lemonade). My poos smell like cigarettes. But I'm on the mend; my status has gone from I Wish I Was Dead to I Wish I Was In A Coma to Lousy to Pretty Bad. Now I'm just Not Good.

I decided early on that where I couldn't be a good example to my niece, I would be a horrible warning.

(Image from The Publican Post)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Know Thy Enemy

Know thy enemy:
he does not care what colour you are
provided you work for him
   and yet you do!
he does not care how much you earn
provided you earn more for him
   and yet you do!
he does not care who lives in the room at the top
provided he owns the building
   and yet you strive!
he will let you write against him
provided you do not act against him
   and yet you write!
he sings the praises of humanity
but knows machines cost more than men.
Bargain with him, he laughs, and beats you at it;
challenge him, and he kills.
Sooner than lose the things he owns
he will destroy the world.

        But as you hasten to be free
And build your commonwealth
Do not forget the enemy
Who lies within yourself.

Christopher Logue

From The Penguin Book Of Socialist Verse. More to come.

(Image from Wikipedia - Industrial Workers Of The World Poster, 1911, via my fellow socialist sister)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Old Friends

Today was actually more like A Hazy Shade Of Winter with moments of El Condor Pasa and America (for me, every day has at least one moment of America) but I've loved and been comforted by this song since I was about eight; I loved the possibility of hitchhiking a hundred miles and the romance of being a ragamuffin child (and then wasn't really sure what he was saying... Berkeley to Carmel!). Simon & Garfunkel have been part of my life for almost as long as I can remember; they're like the opposite wall in Sylvia Plath's Mirror, I've listened to them so long I think they are a part of my heart. (Actually they are a part of me; I had a line from America tattooed on my arm on my 25th birthday.)

It's hard to explain Simon & Garfunkel to someone who doesn't know them. You have to have earnestly written bad poetry about nature and feelings (and still do so, occasionally).  You have to have felt constrained and wanted to run away. You have to have taken acid and marvelled at the wonder of your own hands. And even then...

Anyway, tonight is two years since I saw them: Simon & Garfunkel, live in concert. It was at a time in my life when everything seemed to be in a state of flux; so different to just a few months before when I had bought the ticket, and thought my life mapped out. I went expecting to relive my childhood and lose myself in an imagined memory of the early seventies. Instead, I heard them in a completely different way... the only way I can think to describe it is when you go to someone you've known all your life, like an aunt, for comfort and find you've grown so much that it isn't just a case of being hugged and told it'll be alright, anymore, but a conversation that means next time you might be able to comfort yourself.

I love Simon & Garfunkel. I love what they sing about and how they sing it and that to most people they are nerd music, and I love in Almost Famous when McDormand holds up the cover of Bookends and says they're on drugs. If I could be named after a song, it might be Cecelia.

One more here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

One Of A Million

I really like reading other blogs. Some of my favourites are, of course, Miss Moss, who is not only one of the best internet curators but is also articulate and original, and Jezebel and Feministe, which are always extremely funny, informative, and make me want to do things. I like blogs that show and tell me about things I wouldn't know about otherwise, and how other people see things.

What I don't like on other blogs are photo after photo of someone's outfit and where they bought everything from, frame after frame of a movie someone watched recently, and too-pretty pictures of food. (This isn't to say I don't spend a good deal of time on blogs that do just this. But I also watch ads on TV just to yell at them.) I like pictures of food. But why would I want to see your stupid bagel your flatmate made? I like other people's clothes. But why would I give a fuck what you wore to meet your friend Tweety for hamburgers? And if the movie was good, tell me. If I want to see what it looked like, I'll fucking watch it. And please stop using the cutesy language. It makes me want to hurt you.

However, people seem to love these blogs, and suckers like myself keep checking them, so it must be what what people want. So here we go:
Last time Vincent and I were at Charity Barn (even better than it sounds; the first time we went there the first thing I saw on entry was a sweat-stained wheelchair) he found an Esquire cookbook from 1956 [there should be a photo of it open to the title page here, taken on a white floor, but our floor is not white and I can't find my camera]. (We bought it for 30-ish cents - books at Charity Barn are three for a dollar. It's like the shop the March sisters went to [sentence ended with preposition on purpose.]) It has recipes with names like Fried Chicken A La Louis Armstrong and Prince Edward Island Fish Chowder. Vincent made Breast Of Chicken Brazilian, and it was delicious.

Poor lighting, lack of skill, and impatience to eat it makes it look a little bit like I vomited on my plate. Actually it looked as pretty as it was pleasing to the palate.

Another day I hung out with my friends and I wore jeans, a jumper, and some boots. Then I put a duvet over the top. I looked like this.

[There should be more pictures including one of me jumping but jumping would have required getting up and I wasn't about to do that. When I woke up and wanted to go inside, Vincent carried me.]

Lastly, last night we watched Paris, Texas. It was bad (as in not good).

This is a bit where she asks if she should take off her top and begins to do so. I was so bored I found myself really disappointed when she didn't. That is how bad the film is. I can see boobs anytime (that's not to say other people's aren't interesting). This particular scene was so painful I wanted to smack my head on the windowsill. Since Gommorah, I have had very little faith in awards given at Cannes. Had I known about this film, I might have been aware of Cannes's limitations when I was one. As it is, I'll never get those three plus two and a bit (both of which felt like five) hours of my life back.

Cute cute giggle giggle.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

For Your Weekend Listening Pleasure

A song that drove me crazy for months trying to find out its name and artist, hearing it late at night at parties and bars, in a state to forget if anyone ever told me. It was like Cinderella.

I found it mesmerising, and sickening. I would look around me, in a haze of drugs, drink and lateness, and feel uneasy, realising how temporary everything about my life was. I wasn't always going to be friends with the people around me. If they were dancing to it with their eyes closed, beside me, we weren't experiencing the same thing. I was alone, and so were they. And we were all going to die, one by one, and when we did it wouldn't make much difference to anyone else. Maybe it was something about the mention of infinity, but without being conscious of it, it made me aware of what we were all doing, and why, and how little it would matter except for having been how we passed time.

I was right. One party was the thirtieth of someone in whose face I'd like to spit now, and I danced to it at the end of the night, sharing the dancefloor with only one other person whom I don't much like anymore. And it's okay. New people have taken their places, and when they go, there'll be others. I don't need numbers anymore, and I know that it was part of growing up to have needed them then. The people who really matter are still there, although they look different and act differently - and so do I.

I still love the song. I like that it takes me back to those nights. I like that in the early nineties, four kids in Oakland just wrote it. And I like that whatever it means to me, it's not mine, and that it will be around long after I'm done.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Look Look Look

At what my clever husband did for me! (Up.) And if you think that is impressive, you should see him mashing potato in the kitchen right now, to serve with his Stew Made With Stout. I'd give you the recipe if I knew it; all I know is that it has stout in it and it's delicious. Congratulation to myself.

Yesterday we got our enrolment confirmations so, come November, we're ready to hit the polls. I was pleased to see they had accepted my occupation of Shop Girl (and very diverted by Vincent's Homemaker). Since then I've been thinking about my job - what it is, and what people think it is, and all the little rules no-one who comes in really thinks about. And I've been thinking about the Very Interesting, Very Orthodox Couple.

They come in every couple of months, usually to buy an engagement present, or a house-warming present, or a wedding present. The first time, it was just him, quiet but friendly, looking for a present for her birthday or something. He finally settled on some earrings. I couldn't imagine them on a girl on his arm. He returned with her, and the earrings, a week later.
There are special rules with couples. Even if he asks the question, you reply to both of them, switching eye contact equally, especially if your answer is going to elicit a laugh. If the girl is plain, equal eye-contact is no longer enough; everything has to be directed at her, with a few acknowledging glances at him as if he might be her dog, or her baby. What he looks like is completely irrelevant.
Both of the V.I.V.O.C. are plain, but there is something thoughtful in his face. She looks as if she is holding back, and that it isn't an effort anymore. I'd really like to see her drunk.
Last time they came for a wedding present. As I wrapped it, they told me it was the third set of the same dishes they'd bought (one for another wedding, one for themselves), and then stood watching awkwardly. I tried to make conversation but ended up conducting an interview. The wedding was the next day, somewhere near Brisbane. She couldn't go because they'd just been on holiday and she'd used up all her leave (and had his mother bought the art for the happy couple as she said she would?). She was going to have a girls' weekend with her mother, who was coming up from Tauranga. I think we were all relieved when I tied the ribbon (and he remarked that I'd done that before).
The entire time they stood without touching, about a foot apart, and I couldn't help imagining them in bed together, and then in bed the first time, and how they ended up there. I imagined them at a couple of mutual friends' party or bbq in summer, he in ironed jeans and a thin shirt, she in slightly heeled sandals and a short-sleeved cardigan (partly for warmth, partly to balance the extra centimetre of cleavage her dress cut under). They didn't really speak that night, except for a quick introduction and maybe some small talk outside the bathroom, and if they remembered each other it was more because they remember everyone and didn't smoke weed at school than any lasting impression they made on one another. Now, at parties, he makes his way over to where the boys are, she to where the girls are (inside), and he'll come and top up her wine, until the groups merge and then they support each others' stories and everybody thinks what a great couple they make.

Part of me is horrified by them, and part is fascinated. Is there enough comfort in buying a present together that they don't need to touch? Are they following rules when they interact with me? Are they really robots? I'll tell you more next time they come in.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Goddam Mexican Stand-Off In Fuckin Mexico

I was hoping to get in one of these before I left.

To Dorothy

You might not have known it as you went about your business today, looking for your scarf this morning and picking something up for dinner on the way home from work, but today was a special day. It was forty-four years since the world lost a woman of incredible insight, wit, and humanity. Today was the day Dorothy Parker died.

I don't think I need to say Dorothy Parker is one of my heroes. At first it was her reputation as a writer and a drinker; I lapped up her stories, memorised her poems, pretended to be her when drinking in bars, and felt a little glow when she was referenced somewhere. Then I learnt more about her; her advocacy of civil rights and leftist causes (the genius of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi league makes me so very happy), and I was her woman for life. When she died, she left her entire estate to the Martin Luther King Jr foundation; in 1967.

If you haven't read her, please go and pick up a copy of The Portable Dorothy Parker. Read Diary Of A New York Lady, and laugh. Read Just A Little One, and feel sheepish. Read Big Blonde, and cry. And next time you have a drink, have one for a truly great broad.

Here's to you, Dorothy.

(Picture from Life - best photos on the internet)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Wouldn't It Be Nice

It isn't my favourite but, lyrically, this is the song by The Beach Boys that means the most to me. I remember listening to it and dreaming of a time when it would be true for me, in a way that only someone who passed adolescence in a house like mine could. I've never really understood people describing childhood and adolescence as the happiest time in life. For me, adolescence was a time of confusion and above all, powerlessness. This song was a dream, and not one related in any music of the time; that was all adults pretending to be teenagers, prancing around in things I'd have to have a cardigan over if I expected to leave the house, singing about problems I couldn't relate to at all. Even angsty teenage music was for kids who had a luxury I didn't - they were allowed to get angry, something I was only able to do alone in my bedroom with the door closed, smoking out my window and occasionally doing some recreational cutting. Pop music was for my friends, who never had curfews and with whose parents conversations went two ways, not one. But this song - written in the time my parents' values and expectations were moulded - this was for me, and even though it was embarrassing to be able to relate to it, it was kind of beautiful to value something my kids will be able to take for granted.

Listening to it now, I don't think about those times. I've been listening to it this morning, looking around my little house, waiting for Vincent to get back from a run so we can go to visit my family, and I just think how nice it is, to be older, to live in a (little) world where I belong, and especially the bit didn't seem to matter so much; to be married. And happy.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bada bing

I'd like to introduce you to some of my family. On the left is my eldest sister. She is fast-talking, quick-thinking, and proficient in fist-fighting and speed-dressing. She's been described as a hot-head, and she's always been popular with the ladies. Next to her is our father. He has heart problems so is not as active as he once was, but we all remember what he was capable of in his younger days. Now my eldest sister is his go-to man for things he wants carried out. He more or less brought himself up and was alone for a long time, but now he looks around at the family he and our mother made, and can be happy. He has a distinctive mumble that only we can understand, and inexplicably avoids oranges (and a number of vegetables). And to my father's right, in uniform, is me. My life has not been so bad, but I have a lot of frustrated anger. I like to think out my responses to things that happen to me, and take my time about carrying them out. I have a strong sense of what is right and wrong, and when someone does things that are wrong, I like to mete out justice. My hands are always cold.

There is someone in particular whom I'd like to meet these members of my family. She is making life hell for one of the people I love best in the world, and if you want to live a long and happy life, you really shouldn't do that. And all over my nice ivy-league suit...